At present, we are surrounded by the sounds of hope…the humming of a generator, the soft beat of tiny blades from an oscillating fan and the crunch of ice hitting the sides of a large styrofoam cup…it’s the little things, am I right?
I’ve searched over and over again for a poetic way to start this post but I keep coming up empty so I guess I’ll just start at the beginning and share an update on how things are going.
We started prepping for Hurricane Irma last Tuesday. As I’ve shared many times my family are 6th generation Floridians so as you can imagine we’ve lived through our fair share of hurricanes.
There was something about this one that felt completely different though. I don’t know if it was all the 25th anniversary coverage of Hurricane Andrew or if it was the coverage of Hurricane Harvey or if it was the fact we were having flashbacks of Hurricane Matthew but either way, it seemed like there was a quiet panic rising over the state much earlier than what we usually see.
We checked our hurricane kits and made notes of things we needed to resupply on Tuesday morning. By Tuesday afternoon when we got off work, the stores in our area were already running out of many non perishable food items, bread, water, batteries, generators, ice, flashlights, propane and plywood.
We woke up to the fear of a gas shortage on Wednesday as we spent a good part of the day bringing in the furniture off the porches, relocating all the flowerpots and securing large items that couldn’t be moved from the yard.
I’ve never been so relieved to hear my mom’s voice when I finally heard her say, “It’s good to be home, honey, we’ve missed you girls,” on Thursday. My parents had been traveling in Europe and we were on pins and needles wondering if they were going to make it back in time.
Our plan for Friday was to get the last of the hurricane shutters in place and to hit the road for Loblolly Manor just a few hours west of our home on the island. It was early in the morning when we realized the track of the storm had shifted yet again leaving our hometown and our evacuation plan directly in the path of the storm. I can’t even tell you how many times I waffled between leaving and staying. On one hand, we were in a mandatory evacuation zone, on the other, if we left we would be headed straight for the storm.
With time running out, we decided to shelter in place resting on the fact our home was built with hurricane straps, we had our hurricane shutters in place and our kayaks could get us off the island. During that time the storm had also been down graded for our area from a Category 2 to a Category 1. At the time, this decision felt completely unsettling but looking back it felt like our best option. Given all that I know now, I would have definitely evacuated earlier.
Saturday brought lots of rain and gusty winds from a Nor’easter. We made one last check on our neighbors and checked all the salt marshes too. By Saturday night we were as prepared as we could be so we snuggled in for the duration of the storm.
We woke up to more rain and heavy winds on Sunday as we started to feel the first bands from Hurricane Irma. We also lost power and cell service, which meant all hurricane updates, would have to come through a battery-powered radio.
I don’t think anyone got much sleep on Sunday night and into Monday morning as tornado and flash flood warnings were our constant companions on the radio. Thankfully, we had prepared our half bathroom as our “safe shelter” and spent most of the night in that tiny 25 square foot space.
It wasn’t until late Monday we learned a tornado had touched down in our area while Hurricane Irma was blowing through leaving much of the island battered and bruised. The roads and our yards were flooded, trees and power lines were down everywhere and debris lined the streets. Our home was spared but many homes on the island were not.
Transportation was a little dicey on Tuesday as the only road (a 2 lane road) on or off the island was covered in floodwaters and a fallen tree had blocked one of the lanes. Thankfully the water was already starting to recede some because we had to drive the 35 minutes to town in search of a way to charge our phones and call our families.
The events leading up to and post Hurricane Irma have felt like a complete whirlwind but we are all ok and feel thankful to be in full blown clean up mode.
We still don’t have power restored to our home which we’ve heard from the radio is not uncommon. We have water at the well but we do not have water inside the house. It’s been tough to communicate because we don’t have cell service, internet, cable or our landline available either but I know millions of people are in the same boat. We know so many people are working around the clock as hard as they can to even make the rebuilding process possible.
As I shared throughout the course of this year, love shows up exactly when you need it most and Hurricane Irma was no exception…
We met a family from London while we were getting groceries early last week. They had just arrived in Florida because their 10-year-old daughter needed a specialized treatment for brain cancer. This was their first time in the US. It immediately put things in perspective for us early on and has stayed with us during the weary hours.
Love showed up in the way of rubber boots, which as you guys know are a necessity after major storms. I realized I didn’t have any so at the last minute we raced to the store to find a pair. I was just about to give up the search when I found a sales associate restocking the shelves with flip-flops of all things. “You don’t happen to have any rubber boots in the back do you?” I said. “Someone just returned a pair let me get them for you,” she replied. “Please Jesus let them be a size 8,” I said with excitement. “Looks like you’re in luck,” she said as she handed the boots over with a smile.
My sister told me a tornado cut a path around both sides of her home in the early morning hours on Monday. It left a good amount of damage but her house was left completely in tact.
The neighbors that live directly across the street from us originally said they were going to ride the storm out at home. At the last minute, they decided to leave. Their house was damaged by that same tornado system but because they had left they were unharmed.
Love showed up as a young mother working at Hardees the morning after the storm. She had to bring her two little girls to work with her. She was busy serving her fellow hurricane survivors hot biscuits while her own pajama clad kids sat quietly in a booth watching a movie on her phone snacking on biscuits too. Hello, Super Mom!
While we were charging our phones at Starbucks one day, two lines started forming…one for coffee, the other for electrical outlets. We heard a man almost brought to tears as he spoke to his mom for the first time after the storm, “Mom? I’m ok.” Cue some serious heart melting!
At our lowest point when it was SO hot and we found our skin clammy, our nerves totally frustrated and nothing seemed to quench our thirst after days of record heat without power, we rode to the store desperate to see if bags of ice had been replenished yet. We drove up to see a massive ice truck unloading hundreds and hundreds of bags of ice.
Once we were finally able to get gas again, we watched love show up for an 85 year old man at the gas pump next to us. “Is there gas?” he called from the cab of his truck. “There is on this pump do you need us to help you with your pump?” I called back. We watched as he struggled with his credit card. “I don’t know how to do this pay your pump stuff,” he said,” I usually pay the lady at the desk but this is my 7th stop and I need to get home to my wife.” We walked him through the process and helped him get his gas cans filled. As he got back into his truck he had a mix of exhaustion and sparkle in his eyes when he said, “I couldn’t have done this without you and I know my wife will really appreciate you too. She’s 80 and I have a generator at home doing everything I can to keep her comfortable.”
Love also showed up for the heart of our family when his favorite restaurant was reopened just in time to make celebrating his 10th birthday during Hurricane Irma not so bad never mind the lack of presents or the pomp and circumstance.
Over the course of these past few weeks there have been words of encouragement spoken over us, moments of respite, places to stay, back up generators, offers of tree and debris removal and so many prayers for our safety. We cannot say thank you enough.
I know our story is not unique. There are millions of stories of evacuations, of love and loss, of hurting and healing, unspoken heroes and selfless acts of courage all across this state.
Please continue to lift us up and we work to rebuild our communities, our families, our homes and our lives. As soon as we have services again, I’ll update this post with ways you can help if you haven’t found a way to help already. You guys are amazing so I’m sure you’re already ahead of me on that one.
Thank you again for all that you do and for being a part of Team Crowned Goat.
With love for each of you,