It’s really hard to describe the roller coaster ride the last few days have been so I guess I’ll just start at the beginning. Early last week, we got our hurricane supply kits out to make sure everything had been restocked from Hurricane Hermine. I know. It feels like we were just cleaning up all the limb debris from that storm too. We gassed up the cars on Tuesday night and headed to the grocery store sure the storm would miss us. Once we got home, we checked the weather report before going to bed and there was nothing more than heavy rain bands and tropical storm warnings forecasted for our area. Then Wednesday came…
Wednesday morning, we woke up to coastal winds that had picked up significantly and rain that hadn’t stopped falling for a few days. We saw elected officials on TV and weather authorities saying the track of Hurricane Matthew had wobbled east overnight and the storm would be closer to the coastline than previously anticipated. Next came the evacuation orders…
When you live on a tiny secluded island with one way in and one way out, you know in advance you’re taking a bit of a risk living so close to the water. You know you’re living in a flood and debris zone. You know your house cannot be built without hurricane straps. You know your insurance policy will require you to have hurricane shutters. You also know you’re going to be evacuated before anyone else because you live in Zone A. And yet when you heard those words…mandatory evacuation…it’s a heart racing experience even though you know the risks well in advance.
It took a good part of the Wednesday to clear everything off the front porch and back patio. I mean hours. It was all but dark by the time we got the hurricane shutters on the house. It rained the entire time. At this point we still had electricity so we immediately started packing valuables into plastic bins, securing important papers, packing up food and making last minute preparations unsure how much longer the lights would stay on.
We woke up before sunrise on Thursday morning and loaded the last of the belongings in our cars. It’s really surprising the things you choose leave behind when you’re faced with decisions like these. The only noise on the island was from wind, rain and the sound of our drill as we put the last panel of our hurricane shutters on the front door…
I can’t even tell you how eerie it is to see your home like this with no idea what you’ll find when you get home…
We headed to Loblolly Manor about 2 ½ hours from our home as per our evacuation plan. We were sitting on I-10 when I heard my parents and sisters were also being evacuated just an hour south of our home. It actually didn’t come as a big surprise because the highways were already filling up…
Several hours later, we all made it safely to Loblolly to ride out the storm. If you’re wondering if 8 adults, 2 small children and 4 dogs was a circus I can confirm it was a welcome distraction. By Friday night, we were searching for pictures/posts/updates really anything we could find on our respective cities. The coverage of the flooding and damage was so hard to watch. It was around midnight when I found this picture on a community Facebook post (via L.Balll) that stopped me in my tracks completely…
The road you see pictured above is the only road on and off the island. We were getting messages of the bridge being washed out and the entire island being under 3 feet of water. No one had had any power since Thursday. There were reports of trees blocking roads and debris scattered everywhere. The scariest part about that photo is we live at least 2 miles or more from the bridge. Needless to say, I didn’t go to sleep that night at all. I was just too sick with worry.
The day we left Loblolly to come home and assess the damage, we had no idea if we could get on the island or even to our home. I didn’t care if I had to leave my car on the side of the road and walk miles through water or marsh to get there. I just knew, that I knew, that I knew, I would not be able to rest until I could see the house for myself. I needed to lay eyes on the home we had spent so much time, money and energy creating no matter what state it was in. The closer we got to the island the more we saw scenes like this and realized not one house we passed had power…
We got to the bridge and thankfully, the downed trees and power lines seen in the bridge photo had been moved to one side of the road. All that remained was remnants of storm surge. Further down the road, we saw debris so thick in some places we were driving down the middle of the lane just to get through. Everything was piled up on both sides of the road.
By the time we pulled into the driveway and I saw our home had been spared, I was overcome with a gratefulness I honestly haven’t felt in a long time. I sat in my car sobbing from a mix of exhaustion and joy. It still gives me chills just thinking about it.
The yard is a total mess from flooding,
we have multiple trees down all over the property,
there is sand and grit all over the hurricane shutters,
the house got pelted with wind and rain so long, it’s still not completely dry days later,
the dining room looked like this earlier today. PS – that is not a potty you see in the front. I would NEVER show you guys that…it’s a dog food container.
But all of those things are nothing compared to the loss of life, damage and devastation Hurricane Matthew has caused for millions of people up and down the East Coast, Haiti and the Bahamas. The scenes are heartbreaking.
My soul has been touched at how many of you checked on us during the storm. It is overwhelming and humbling all at the same time. Truly, I am grateful for each one of you and your sweet messages. They mean more to me than I could ever convey.
If I haven’t responded to you already, I will be checking in with you guys soon. I know some of you have lost everything, some no longer have bedrooms or furniture because a tree fell on your house. I know that some including my own family members are still without power, gas for the generator and water is in short supply. I know some of your businesses have been flooded and the thought of rebuilding both a home and a business at the same time is numbing.
At the height of the storm when I couldn’t sleep I got an interesting message at 3 am. It simply said “I lived through Katrina. I’m with you.” It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it but that is my declaration to the readers and friends that support this blog every single day…”I’m with you.”
In the next few days, weeks and months to come we’re going to be partnering with other businesses and agencies to support the people and families that have been devastated by the storm. Please let me know what you guys need so we can find a way to help you if possible. This sweet girl, I have no idea who she is, was collecting shells to take to her classmates. Melt my heart.
If you’re reading this thinking, “What can I do to help?” there are many ways to support those in need. Here’s a quick list of things you can do…
- The Red Cross has already started mobilizing volunteers across the affected areas. They have several ways you can donate your time, money or other resources via their website.
- Help clear storm debris with other community volunteers.
- Help your family/friends/neighbors by making dinner, washing clothes, babysitting, pet sitting, grocery shopping or cleaning out storm affected areas around their houses.
- Donate food, water or gently used clothing items to community organizations that are assisting hurricane and flood victims.
- Donate school supplies and toys to families/schools that have been affected by the storm.
- Buy lunch for your local power company employees. They’ve been working around the clock to restore power.
- Offer to take a family member/friend/neighbor on a coffee date. This is a stressful time and trusted friends are a gift.
- Leave notes and care packages for those affected by the storm. They still need support when everyone else has gotten back to “normal.”
- Check on elderly neighbors and those with special needs. You may be able to connect them with support services they’re not aware of.
- Donate your time, money and talents to the Humane Society
I know this process is going to take time. It’s like building a house, it doesn’t happen overnight. I’m hoping to post more now that we’re home, our power has been restored and we’ve started cleaning up. I have a few posts from before the storm that I should be able to share this week. Thank you so much for your patience with everything. I didn’t want today to go by without giving you guys an update nor did I want to disrespect the people that are still hurting with a “business as usual” post.
I truly believe we all have gifts to give and a part of ourselves we can offer those in our communities and for me, that includes compassionate blog content. Please let me know what you guys need. I’m here for you.