It is interesting how you can lose all sense of time and consistency when something like a hurricane impacts your life. On September 10, 2017, Hurricane Irma did just that. She made landfall not far south of where I live, and her eye wall eventually made its way overhead. This was 57 years to the day that Hurricane Donna also ripped through the area of SWFL that I live.
Hours of watching, sitting in our safe area, and then waking in the morning to find that we were flooded in and without a hope of power returning soon was dumbfounding. To say it felt surreal would be an understatement, for sure. We went from a fairly happy and content Labor Day on September 4 to finding out our offices were closing on the 7th & 8th to prepare or evacuate from the storm.
Originally, we planned to evacuate, but traveling with 2 cars, 2 dogs, and 3 humans became logistically impossible with the gas shortages and traffic throughout the state. So, we stayed. It was a nerve-wracking next couple of days. We prepped and we cleaned and we gathered the supplies we thought we would need. I prepped a safe room in my walk-in closet and we made sure to have batteries, flashlights, and a plethora of non-perishable foods. We were as ready as we were ever going to be.
I will admit there were a few break down moments where I considered going to a shelter and a lot of times I nervous baked while watching the storm track shift more to a direct hit. I honestly could not have told you what day it was most of the time. Thanks to the calendar on my phone for telling me when I really got twitchy about it.
On the day of the hit, we were watching this one tree in the back yard. I call it the “Resilient Tree”. It earned the name when it was just a little sapling that I thought died after the first cold snap in my first year living in this house. It defied the odds and grew back with 2 trunks and a strong root system. This poor tree was beaten repeatedly by Irma, and I am happy to report that despite a bunch of breaks in the branches, she still stands.
Being as far inland as we were, I can admit that I never thought the second half of the storm would have been more damaging than the head-on hit from the first part of the eye wall. However, as it got later and darker, we could no longer see what Irma was doing outside the house. We knew it was raining and we were still getting major gusts of wind, but it wasn’t until the morning that we learned the truest impacts of Irma in our neighborhood.
Irma will not be easily forgotten in our home for a long time. In her wake, we went over 5 days without power in 90+ degree heat. We lost all the perishable food in our refrigerators, we were prisoners in the house while we waited for the flood waters to subside, we had relatively no cell service to contact family/friends, lived on pop tarts and beef jerky (my intestines are still trying to recover!), our house sustained some external and internal damages, but at the end of it, the house still stands and we are all in one piece.
Now, even though September feels like it is passing in a blur, we work to get back on track and put it all behind us. We have A/C going, internet up and running, the house is being put back together, food is being restocked in the fridge and freezer, and next week I get to go back to work for additional normalcy (currently working remotely).
My heart breaks for those still suffering the effects of Irma, and yet I feel a sense of relief that we did not get hit harder than we did. I still have trouble looking around town at the things that are still broken or in mid-repair. I have an even harder time looking at images of damage cause by Irma as well.
I will say, next time (if there is ever another major storm like Irma), I will evacuate without hesitation.
https://www.disasterassistance.gov/ – 1-800-621-FEMA
http://www.redcross.org/get-help – 1-800-RED-CROSS
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A few images from the Hurricane Irma experience: