Monday, September 11, 2017

Hurricane Irma: a Reality Check

I will apologize in advance for the lengthy post and low quality photos ahead. 

In the 19 years that I have lived in Florida, I have never been as frightened and unsure as I was this past week. Sure, we have had severe tropical storms and hurricanes before but, it was honestly par for the course to just brush it off and go along with business as usual. I can honestly tell you that I have never felt the need to stock up on water before but last week, we bought 4 cases. 

I am not sure if it is because I am a wife and a mom now but Irma really took a toll on my anxiety. On Monday September 4, I was sitting in bed watching the news coverage of Irma while simultaneously online shopping. At that point the track was still predicted to hit more towards the east coast so I wasn't very bothered, like always, I was just dreading the heavy rains we'd get. On Tuesday, the predicted path made a turn for more of central Florida and our coast.  I came home from work, looked at my husband and started to cry. I told him that I had never been worried over a hurricane and that in that moment I was terrified. He held me and shared my feelings. That day, the track continued to shift more east. I started to look up flights as well as contemplated packing up the car and leaving with the family. John walked around the house looking at the shutter installation points. We also went to Walmart to grab some snacks, non perishables, and water. Never in my life have I seen such a picked through and empty store. On Wednesday and Thursday, over 800,000 people were on our highways evacuating Florida, John was putting up some of our shutters and I was gathering our most treasured items and placing them in safe areas. Our phone alerts kept going off with mandatory evacuation notices, Rick Scott was on tv saying how serious this matter was, shelters were opening up all over the county, stores were completely out of water/food/diapers/plywood/etc, and the majority of Florida gas stations were out of fuel. At that point, we had made the decision to stay. 

We got a lot of flack from various friends/family members/ people that can't mind their own business about why we were being "so stubborn" and not leaving. Us not leaving was not a spur of the moment decision. In fact, it was an extremely thought out decision. At that point, many flights were being cancelled one after the other, the roads were gridlocked, over 70% of Florida gas stations were out of fuel. The likelihood of us running out of gas on the highway or sitting in traffic for 10+ hours to get to the Florida/Georgia boarder was not worth it. We had a plan to be as safe as possible staying at my parents house. 

On Friday, John went to work and I was finishing up packing our items away at home. On Thursday J could only get a few shutters up due to the hack job the people did installing the parts you need for them. We both kind of went into panic mode  Friday as then eye of the storm at this point was set to be a direct hit over our home. J had me go from home improvement store to home improvement store looking for a drill and other pieces we needed to make our home as safe as possible. He ended up leaving work early and finding some of the things we needed and I tried my luck at Home Depot for the drill.  The store was so crazy filled with last minute preppers, lines all the way out to the parking lot of people trying to get lumber and tools. I was walking down a random aisle and saw a box with a drill on it. I called John and asked if that's what he wanted and his words were "I don't know how you found that. Pick it up and guard it with your life." I walked straight to the check out counter and purchased the item that at that time may have been able to save our windows. While the lady was removing the security tag from the box though, a large man came over and tried to physically take the box from her hand. I stepped in and questioned him on what he thought he was doing. He claimed to have had a drill like that one on hold and that that drill belonged to him. After several people stepping in to push him back from the cashier and I, I finally walked out with the drill in hand. I kid you not, it was something out of a movie. Friday night John worked at getting our shutters up while my mom and I talked safety plans and such. Although we had decided to stay in Florida, we did decide to "evacuate" our house and to stay with my parents. We had no doubt that our home would be safe but, my parents house has a hardwired generator. This was what pulled us to stay there over our own house. We wanted to make sure Noah and Yoda would be able to be kept cool in the event of a power outage. John's grandparents however, did stay at our house. 

Come Saturday morning, we weren't woken up by birds chirping. We were woken up by the sound of people's drills, metal shutters clanging against the houses, and neighbors doing all they could to help other neighbors. John, with the help of some friends and family had made our house, the first house we had ever owned, as safe and secure as possible. We packed up the items we needed to go to my parents house and my dad picked us up. The feeling I had in that moment was absolutely indescribable. Although at the end of the day, as long as John, Noah, Yoda and myself were safe, nothing else mattered, it is a very hard feeling to leave what you had worked so hard to accomplish and all the items that made your house a home to hope for the best outcome.



Saturday and most of Sunday was just a waiting game, we carried on with business as usual at my parents, making dinner, doing chores, keeping everyone out of state updated, etc. my mom and I also set up our safe rooms while John walked around securing potentially hazardous items outside. Sunday afternoon around 3pm the wind really started to kick up. Over 430,000 people were without power and there was a boil water notice two cities away from us. Irma was coming. Sarasota county placed a 24 hour 3pm curfew for all surrounding areas as well. We were experiencing 50 mph wind gusts and several palm leaves had fallen. We were watching the new broadcasts of the storm coverage. Although at this point the storm had shifted to be more west and also went from at cat. 5 to a cat. 2, the winds were still predicted to be at 110mph. We got word that in cities very close by, people were posing as power company reps to get into peoples homes to rob them. I don't understand how people can be so awful. At 11pm, Noah and I went to bed in the pantry that was doubling as our safe room. John and my parents stayed up to watch the storm. 



Upon waking up at 5am this morning, there was a creepy silence. I didn't hear the wind blowing or the dogs up walking around, everything was still. I snuck out of the pantry without waking Noah and walked around the house. We, very thankfully, had no structural damage. There were fallen palm tree leaves and debris all over the yard but, that was it. We were still on regular power and everyone was ok. I spoke with John's grandparents who stayed at our home and they said all was well there too. They lost power last night around 8pm but as far as damage goes, there was none. 

Although I had never taken hurricanes seriously prior to Irma, I definitely will be from here on out. Again, I'm not sure if it's because I'm now a wife and mother or if it's because of the devastation  Harvey caused but I was honestly terrified. With each storm shutter John put up and each picture I took off the wall, I started to cry. The uncertainty of what Irma could have been was terrifying. I kept struggling with my decision of stay here instead of leave Florida with my family. When we were leaving for my parents I kept wondering what we would return to. Although we are very fortunate that Irma only caused minor damage to our city, she destroyed many cities and homes in the French Islands as well as south Florida and for them I hope they are able to rebuild quickly. 


If you grew up in Sarasota or any of its surrounding cities, you know that about the "American Indian Myth". It has been said that the American Indians choose this area to first settle because it was a safe area from all harm. Since actual records have been kept starting in 1871, Sarasota and it's surrounding cities have never fallen victim to a direct hit of a hurricane. Minor damage and sever rain has been the most these areas have gotten. Whether this folk talks has any truth behind it or not, I am so thankful to whatever is our there that did protect not only our city but my family from this horrible beast. 

5 comments :

  1. I absolutely do not envy you the choice you had to make in whether to stay or to leave. As a new mom myself, my heart goes out to you and your family and I am so glad to hear that you all are safe. You were so brave and it sounds like you did everything you needed to to protect the most important things in your life. Thinking of you all!

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  2. Oh girl, reading this gave me chills. I am so glad y'all are all safe and sound. I was terrified watching it on the news but I'm so thankful it wasn't worse for y'all. My heart and prayers go out to everyone who was impacted by Irma though.

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  3. It was terrifying to watch Irma approach Florida. I have so many friends who live in the state and I was so worried for them all. I'm so glad the storm wasn't as bad as originally predicted and so glad you and your family are safe!

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  4. I'm so glad you were safe! That is really terrifying to have to wait and go through.

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