Hurricane Irma

Last week was a stressful time for many as we prepared for Hurricane Irma. People rushed around trying to gather emergency supplies up until the last possible minutes. Stores ran out of water, food, batteries, and more. Many people who don’t have shutters weren’t able to buy wood to protect their homes. People waited hours in line to fill their vehicles only to find out the gas station ran out of fuel.

Year after year, preparing for a hurricane doesn’t get any easier. We watch the news to keep an eye on storms brewing in the Atlantic, but they may never come our way. We won’t know if a storm will truly be a threat until it is about 1-3 days away. Even then, hurricanes can change direction quickly or even fizzle out completely. We always prepare for the worst and hope that it turns out to be nothing. Unlike ‘the boy who cried wolf’, you have to understand that we can’t pack up and evacuate at every hint of a storm. Most of the time we have to stay home to go to work and take care of our families.

Tons of people evacuated away from Irma, though this isn’t possible for everyone. Flight prices were inflated and many flights were cancelled or over-booked. People who drove away found gas stations without fuel and cars broken down on the side of the road; Their trip could have taken 5x longer than it normally would due to the bumper-to-bumper traffic. My husband and I gathered what supplies we could, put up shutters on our windows and doors and got ready to wait it out at home.

Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – National Hurricane Center
Credit: FOX Local News

It’s very hard to sit idly by and wait for updates every few hours to see where the storm might go. With shutters over our windows, we couldn’t see outside and were left to listen to the storm and wonder about what damage it was causing. Cell service was very spotty and for a long time we didn’t have an internet connection. We were able to periodically switch on the local news for an update.

Though the core of a hurricane has the most power, this particular hurricane was massive. Winds of at least tropical-storm force covered 70,000 square miles, which is just larger than all of the land area of Florida. With a storm the size of our entire state, we knew that everyone would experience it. “It’s not a question of whether Florida is going to be impacted — it’s a question of how bad Florida is going to be impacted,” Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said.

Our house lost power for about 30 hours, though I have friends who were without power for a full week. Sunday night, after most of the storm had passed, we were able to run our generator to power our refrigerator, a lamp, and to charge our phones. Monday morning, after the storm, we were able to walk around outside to investigate the damage.

I consider us to be extremely lucky. A section of our fence was left holding on by a thread after two of the posts broke. There were some casualties in my flower bed and vegetable garden. The strong winds uprooted and knocked over plants and stripped them of their leaves and flowers. The fence can be repaired and the plants can be replaced, but at least us, our house, and our cars were fine.

Driving around our neighborhood showed a lot more damage. Almost every house has a pile out front of broken tree limbs and debris from the storm. Many large trees were completely knocked over. Many fences were damaged much worse than ours, with individual pickets thrown all over the place. Traffic lights were broken, causing chaos at large intersections. Many local businesses were closed for days as they were still without power.

It’s now been a week since the storm and we are still experiencing the repercussions. Supplies at stores are still incredibly low. Yesterday we went to three hardware stores and we unable to get the supplies we needed to repair our fence. One of the stores was open but using back-up power and emergency lights as they were still without electricity. Many local business are without phone or internet and may only accept cash transactions. Just because the storm has passed doesn’t mean that everything instantly goes back to normal.

To everyone who doesn’t live somewhere that could be impacted by a hurricane, I hope that this brings a better understanding to what it can be like.