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Living Through Hurricane Irma

  • Posted on September 18, 2017 at 6:49 pm

I live on the east coast of Florida (Palm Beach County) and we just survived with minimal damage during the passing of “Hurricane Irma” this past week on Sunday, September 10, 2017. While listening to the news warnings to prepare for the impending doom of the Hurricane Category 3-5, the anxiety and hysteria began to build in my community by the flurry of shopping for gas, water, food, batteries and lanterns. I actually had to go to my neighborhood supermarket three times before I was able to buy extra drinking water. The anxiety of the shoppers in the supermarket could be felt with seeing emptied shelves of food and water. I was glad our Governor Rick Scott prepared with repeated influx of gas shipments with National Guard escorts and water shipments to be continually brought in. In the last big hurricanes in 2004-2005, shipments of gas, food and water were being limited because the trucking companies did not want their trucks injured during the storm. Having generators put in to gas stations to pump gas after the loss of electricity was another improvement from our last big hurricanes and I want to say the upgraded electrical grids of Florida, Power and Light really shortened our return back to having electricity when the temperatures rising in the low 90’s. Thanks to all the out of state electrical help from our other states that came to help! It was great seeing neighbors helping neighbors with installing hurricane shutters, and with cleanup of scattered branches and debris.

One of the biggest decisions during an impending hurricane is whether to stay or evacuate. As of Monday-Tuesday, the hurricane predictions were the “eye” of the storm was coming through the east coast of Florida. Later in the week, it was predicted to come through the center of the state and on Friday, the hurricane was moving towards the west coast of Florida. Hurricane Irma was so wide it easily covered the entire width of the state of Florida. Where do you drive to, to avoid the storm? My husband and I decided to stay home with our 80 lbs. dog and two cats. We also wanted to be home if the house needed to be protected by flooding or wind damage. We rationalized that having a poured concrete and steel house with hurricane shutters and a relatively new roof would provide safety, but our house was built before Hurricane Andrew and its new improved building regulations. Would the house withstand a Category 5 hurricane winds of 185 miles per hour? My husband and I stated that being caught in the mass exodus, not knowing where to go, and the uncertainty of traffic jams and having enough access to gas was a stressful experience in itself. Some of my friends flew out of town at great cost and are now having trouble getting a return flight home causing increased hotel and rental car expenses.

Once we made the decision to stay, the phone calls from family and out of state friends came by Thursday asking if we were evacuating. The national news was reporting we were screwed! I even received a phone call from my ex-husband who was very displeased I was not evacuating! It was great to hear from family and friends being concerned, however it did add to the anxiety level of questioning ourselves if we made the right decision. On Wednesday before the storm, we received a call that my sister-in-law and spouse, in addition to 2 extra dogs was coming to stay during the storm. They live in a pre-fabricated home and they felt, they needed to be in a stronger house in the big winds. Now we had 4 adults, 3 dogs, and 2 cats like a Noah’s Ark.

I in my preparation stage also began to pack an “important” box of important papers like birth certificates, passports, and especially your hurricane insurance and photos in a waterproof box. I also had to prepare and pack my office in case of window breakage and rain damage. I was trying to imagine if my roof blew off, what would I want to preserve? Seeing the hurricane damage in Houston with all the floods and people running to save themselves with only the clothes they were wearing, having no home to return to, was gut wrenching. I realized the core of our basic security is having your home to feel safe in. The hurricane threatens our basic need of feeling safe and secure. The fear of the unknown if the hurricane is going to threaten our homes or even our lives upped my adrenaline and put me in survival mode.
I began to selfishly pray a protection prayer and hope that the Hurricane move away from my area and keep my home safe. When the winds increased to 70 miles per hour, intellectually, I knew my home would be safe, but the howl of the swirling winds made me feel afraid emotionally. Having my electricity flickering on and off throughout the day of the storm had me resigned we may lose our electricity and at 3 am Monday morning we did lose electricity due to a fallen power line. It is amazing how you feel when no lights, no internet, and no TV cuts you off from communications and news updates. Listening to persistently negatively charged newscasts of doom and gloom did not help in creating a safe mental space. Some of the newscasters were frenetic and fear of doom was transferred to the public. We lost electricity temporarily for 45 minutes twice and at times, it gave us a sense of peace not to listen to the news anymore. Lying in the dark made me have a fatalistic attitude, that I had no control over what was going to happen during the storm. During the storm, I held stress reducing neurovascular kinesiology points on my head to relieve the stress and decrease my fears!

Waking up on Monday after the storm, we recorded a video of what happened around my home to send to my out of state family members. Luckily, only fallen branches and leaves all over the place, and my house was intact. My sister-in-law and family left to go home to an intact home. A few trees in the neighborhood were down, but all of my subdivision did not have any electricity. The county had us on curfew from Saturday 3pm until Monday morning, so no driving was allowed until the city cleaned up downed power lines. We had 8 pm curfew on the following Monday and Tuesday night and by Wednesday, we were allowed to go out until midnight. My friend’s birthday was Wednesday and we found a restaurant to celebrate our surviving the storm, having gotten back our electricity within 24 hours, and the ability to have cooked food!

After the storm, we began cleanup, taking shutters down, and starting our generator up to power our refrigerator and freezer. However, our generator only last 3 hours. Due to why, we do not know? Maybe not having been consistently used in 10 years was a factor! My husband was so frustrated because he thought he had anticipated everything. Disheartened, he felt he failed me. The temperature of the house was 80 and getting hotter. By 7:30pm that night, we were pleasantly surprised to see our electricity go back on! We danced around the house celebrating and felt lucky we got our electricity back on so quickly!
Now, we are experiencing post hurricane fatigue, as we try to resume our normal lives. We pack up extra food to send to the Florida Keys to help in their rebuilding. We have lost a week of work, the kids are going back to school after a week off, and some homes are still waiting for electricity. We feel thankful and grateful for how lucky we are. Now, we await to see if Hurricane Maria is going to threaten us again. There are costs for living in paradise!