I had originally only intended on taking time off from writing while my children were visiting me this summer. But upon their return, a weather pattern had caught my attention, and then kept it. I live in Florida, and we were right in the crosshairs of the largest hurricane, Irma, ever to hit the United States.
There are several things I would like to mention. And many are enlightenments, and others relate to my ability to “survive” crisis.
You were stupid for not leaving!
You know, when I lived up north, it was very easy for me to make that comment to those that stayed in high risk areas of a pending storm. What I learned very quickly here in Florida, and this is whether a person chose to stay, or to leave, each individual had their reason. And neither deserves to be judged for that.
Earlier this year, our area was hit with 2 major brush fires. Evacuations were mandatory. If the fire did not burn you to a crisp, the smoke inhalation was going to kill you. There was no alternative.
With Irma having our area in her crosshairs, I, along with others were told we had to evacuate. I do not think any of the majority of us who remained could claim we had nowhere to go, at least for me, I had many friends who offered. The truth is, the way the storm was predicted to travel, it almost seemed I would have either had to travel to California or Canada to escape the path. Many I know stayed in hotels in other states. For me, it was simple, financially I had no option.
While there is the initial expense of evacuating, then you have the expense of daily living while away, and if necessary, having to stay away, and then coming back. Many I know are in the $1000’s of dollars so far, having evacuated.
In the eye of the storm.
I have personally gone through 7 hurricanes now. The first I do not really count “Agnes”, as I was just a child and had no idea. The next was “Gloria” which I do not remember because I was attending a Hurricane Gloria party, and there is a reason I do not remember. Then I went through “Daniel” and “Floyd” where I first heard the words “evacuation plans.” “Rita” was a real doozy. And “Sandy” was one of the worst to impact me personally, until “Irma.”
I had always heard stories of experiences in “the eye” of a hurricane. When the main part of the storm came, I had lost all power, and was listening to news stations via transistor radio. The eye was going to be passing directly over me.
I may never win the lottery, admittedly I do not play, but I can now cross off going through the eye of a hurricane. The news anchors were of course warning listeners not to go outside to exper0ience the eye, which of course, at least for me, meant I needed to do just that. The anchors did stress, or as I took it, gave permission, that if anyone ventured outside during this time, there would only be roughly 10 to 15 minutes before the winds picked back up.
While I did not see glorious sun, or stars, I did get to experience the relative and eerie calm, the proverbial calm before the storm, the other side of the wall of Irma.
The day after.
We had survived. We were all without power. No access to gasoline or food or water.
From the day I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s, I learned very quickly, how to survive a crisis, or at least to have the best chance. Calm, stay calm and focused. You have a better chance of dealing with something critical if you can keep your thought process straight. I have used this process repeatedly, from my cancer, to my heart surgery, attack of sepsis, my first wife’s car accident, and many other events. I would handle Irma the same way. While the majority of the people in my building are older than me, they also made a choice to remain. They were impressed with how calm I was remaining even as the storm neared, and how rational I was acting once we went outside.
If you panic or stress, you are going to make things 100% worse, guaranteed. And nothing will change for the better as a result of panicking or stressing out. And so, as we ventured back outside, we would find our vehicles had survived, clearly landscaping was destroyed, but our building fared pretty well. Next, came assessing, where we would go from there, and what would we do.
We had prepared for the loss of power, and therefore, water and non-perishable food to survive many days until help would arrive. Many of my friends made fun of me, reverting back to my college diet of Chef Boyardee canned ravioli, PB&J sandwiches, and a host of snacks and processed deserts like Devil Dogs and HoHos. But you know what? I was going to eat at least.
Once outside the confines of my building, Irma’s destruction was more visible. No power, anywhere. Traffic intersections with no working lights, in the entire county. Trees were down everywhere, but homes looked good for the most part. There clearly were homes destroyed however.
Patience is not just a virtue.
The first thing everyone wants to do once the storm is passed, is return home. And where I live, it is considered a very beautiful area (though nicknamed “Heaven’s waiting room” because of the average age of the population), it is expected to bounce back immediately. But it did not, and it has not. Many of us have advised our evacuee friends to remain where they are, because, our area is not ready even for them to return.
Though gasoline was near impossible to get with mulit-hour long lines, fuel seems to be more available. Shelves at grocery stores are still struggling to keep up with demand and are emptied as soon as the stores open. We are on a boil water order, because our sewers are backing up and the treatment is not able to keep up. It is a major lifestyle change for those that have lived here any length of time. But for those who left for the storm, you are in better living conditions than what we have here right now. The difference between us, is that we have had a week to adjust to the change. Anyone coming back now, will be hit with shock and emotion, as to what they have, and what they can do. We currently have an ordered curfew for the entire county. Mosquitos are becoming an issue. Schools will remain closed until the final week of September.
For those of us that remained, we can see things improving. And because of that, we have patience, well at least most of us.
Technology was not really kind.
The thing about Irma, it made communicating almost impossible, even for emergency personnel. I make it a point to talk to my children every day via Facetime, and a week later, I am still searching for “hot spots” just to make a cell phone call to them. I can send text messages, but not all go through. It did not matter what carrier you used, communication was affected.
Rumor has it, there are more storms heading this way. I have not seen TV in over a week, so I have no idea. In fact, I have no idea what is going on in the world or our country. I am getting messages now, and I want to thank everyone for your concern. I am fine. I have survived yet again.