Epic. Massive. Catastrophic. Unprecedented.
Definitely not words you want to hear describing the hurricane barreling toward your state.
In my last blog, I shared some of my feelings preparing for hurricane Irma. I am happy to report that I survived, but it is an experience I would just as soon not relive. Even though it was not as bad as expected in my part of the state, it was still pretty intense.
As a native Floridian, I am accustomed to hurricanes. Usually, they are nothing more than a rainy, windy day. Often times, if one is hitting South Florida or the panhandle, we won’t even see the effects in Central Florida. We have summer thunder storms more violent than some hurricanes. I have never evacuated for a hurricane, I live in a county where people on the coast evacuate to. The most serious hurricanes I experienced before Irma were the three that criss-crossed our county twelve years ago.
I was not expecting this one to be that bad.
News travels far and wide. My daughter who is currently living in Scotland texted me wanting to know why I didn’t evacuate to Nashville, where my son lives. I assured her that we would be fine, it was going up the east coast and would most likely have little effect on us at all.
My good friend invited me to come to her house in Birmingham to craft our way through the storm.
On Saturday, about a day and a half before the storm hit, I wished I had taken their advice. By that time, the news reported clogged highways and little gas left.
So we prepared for the worst.
The track of the hurricane shifted from the eastern part of the state to the western part and then in the last few hours, right up the center. The prediction was a Category 4 storm traveling up the middle of the state. Interestingly, it was 57 years to the day the last time a hurricane took this path. (I was in my mother’s womb at the time).
It was very windy and very rainy. I thought we would lose our oak tree for sure. We had rain coming down the chimney and through the front door. The wind shook the garage door which made my dog growl. Through all of that, I remained pretty calm. I attribute it to the Bible verses on anxiety and fear I was meditating on and prayer, lots of prayer.
Close to midnight, I heard noises that sounded like a train. I remember thinking “why on earth is a train trying to come into town during a hurricane”. Then, I realized it wasn’t a train but the wind.
That was it. Time to head to our safe space. My parents, who live one street over, texted to say they lost power. A few seconds later, ours was gone and right after that my brother texted from the panhandle. He was watching the radar and told us the eye wall was a mile or two away and that we needed to take shelter immediately. He kept texting us until the worst of the storm passed. I was grateful for his texts.
When the wind died down, we peeked out the front window and saw a lake where our road and yard used to be. Wow! That was a lot of water.
We were so fortunate that by the time the hurricane passed over our county it was downgraded to a Category One rather than the Category Four that was earlier predicted. I can’t even imagine what that would have been like.
My home was not damaged and I didn’t lose any trees. I was without power for about 20 hours. I am thankful, yet at the same time I feel guilty. So many in my town fared much worse.
A neighbor two houses down had over a foot of water in their house. Some friends just now had power restored after five days. Some are still without power. Hundreds of huge oaks toppled in the storm, particularly in the historic district. It’s a mess and it will be a while before everything is back in order.
You know it was a bad storm when there is devastation from Key West all the way north to Jacksonville.
The bright spot in all of this is seeing the human response. Neighbors are helping neighbors. Friends with power are offering their homes, showers and meals. Churches are reaching out and offering help to the community, even when they may not have power themselves. It is an overwhelming sight to see the utility trucks from all over the Southeast.
So, in less than a month, I experienced a total solar eclipse, three large waterspouts and a Category One hurricane traveling over my house. I think that is enough excitement for one month. Unless the Northern Lights appear over Polk County, this will be my last nature post for a while. If that pesky disturbance currently out in the Atlantic materializes, I will be posting from Birmingham or Nashville.
Like many of my fellow native Floridians have expressed – Next storm, I’m out of here!
Any other Irma survivors out there? I would love to hear your stories.
Perhaps they will speak to your soul as well.