No, Irma did not sweep me away! My lack of blogging for two weeks wasn’t because I was blown to Georgia, but because I was packing, storm-proofing, and travelling to crash at my brother’s place in North Carolina to avoid Irma altogether. And then I spent one week catching up on all of the how-are-you-surviving-Irma emails from family and friends. I feared for a while I had writer’s block. But I’ve been simply typed out.
It would have been helpful to issue a PSA of some kind that said: not only am I safe, I am absolutely unaffected in pretty much every way by this storm.
Truly. Few people in Florida have less to do than me. Leaving town for a couple weeks is very simple for me. (Partially because my carryon and toiletries are always packed ready to go in case I feel so inclined in moment’s notice.) I was not put out in any way and it was actually a pretty rare happenstance that I got to spend so much time with my brother, uninterrupted by Christmas, or weddings, or a revolving door of other people.
I say “leaving town” being using the word “evacuate” seems dramatic and like we were in danger. We weren’t. I promise the only thing that would have happened to us if we had stayed was that we’d have spent likely one night without air conditioning. That’s all that happened to our building. One night without power. My car wasn’t washed away, no debris damage. I even forgot to take in my seashell welcome mat before we left, and it was still there when we returned over a week later! Our home, our belongings were all fine. No looters even cared to take my cello.
In reality, I didn’t have any reason to stick around for the storm at all. I could have hopped the next flight out to YYZ, or YYT for that matter, and escaped it all. But I’ve never done the hurricane thing here yet living as a Floridian, so I figured I’d see what it was all about, and also be a supportive spouse since my husband had to stay close to school.
How I prepped for the hurricane:
- Bought a three days’ supply of non-perishable food, at the recommendation of the Florida Governor’s tweets
- Made my own ice packs from the freezer’s ice maker and Ziploc baggies for the cooler because I listened to my husband when he said the town would be SOLD OUT of ice
- Went to Walmart to buy a cooler to save all of the hormone-free, boneless, skinless chicken breast I’ve been hoarding in my freezer from the Buy-One-Get-One sales (#housewifelife) and discovered STACKS of ice cheaper than my Ziploc bags
- Did a few loads of laundry in case we lost power
- Took out some cash in case debit machines went down and ATMs ran out
- Cleaned the bath tubs and sinks once we decided to leave the next day to prevent mildew from growing
- Ran the dishwasher so nothing dirty was left to get gross
- Emptied the fridge of everything perishable and turned down the temperature inside to keep it cooler longer in case we lost power
- Made healthy chicken wraps and other snacks to eat on the road, foreseeing traffic would be bad and we wouldn’t have time to stop for food
- Packed air mattress, sheets, pillows, cooler, important documents like our marriage certificate and visas, my passport (you know, in case I do get the itch)
- Closed all the blinds and curtains to block out sun so that our air conditioning didn’t have to have a heart attack when it returned after a power outage, trying to cool down the place (and save me a heart attack from the bill)
How my husband prepared for the hurricane:
- Put gas in both our vehicles
- Unplugged the tv
- Patted himself on the back for trading in his sports car for his pickup truck
We did leave during the recommended voluntary evacuation when it looked like Daytona was going to get hit bad. I posted a quippy Facebook post from the road to tame the fear mongering back home. While CNN was likely showing footage of highway traffic out of Miami, I wanted to reassure everyone that we were fiiiiiiiine and it wasn’t THAT bad. Turns out it did get THAT bad, especially in Georgia, and then more so in South Carolina. We were crawling at 10 mph at best.
My pro tip for evacuating: DO NOT DRINK ANY LIQUIDS. I was a champ who held it for about five hours, distracted only by the mystery flavour pack of Haribo gummy bears. Skip the coffee before you leave if you’re just the passenger, because you’ll nap from the boredom anyway. Save yourself. The 8 hour drive took over 13 and I ate crow. I could also later safely eat chicken, though, because everything stayed perfectly frozen in the cooler #winning #housewifestsyle.
And while my brother was a terrific host, it felt like at times we had evacuated to a shelter. He’s renting, you see, before moving into a house, so he wisely left most of his things in storage until then. Things, you know, kettles, toasters, FURNITURE. So while I did bring an air mattress and sheets, I did not quite expect to find no other furniture except one very tiny love seat in the whole apartment. We ate every meal cross legged on the floor. I spent my time either watching Grey’s Anatomy from my slow-leaking air mattress, which transitions to a hammock pretty well, or using a Tupperware container of my brother’s kitchen stuff he didn’t care to unpack as a short desk upon which I’d answer emails. Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite like a shelter, but it was like camping indoors. Should have brought my beach chair. Boiling water in a pot on the stove to make coffee and using the oven broiler to toast bread was the closet to camping I hope I ever get again.
By the way, since so many of the emails I got out of love and concern could have been answered with this one reply, I’ll post it here so I don’t have to again: Yes, we’re fine, and no, please do not look forward to meeting a baby Irma, nor Irmo, in June #sorrynotsorry.
And although I was simply in a different apartment, not all that different from my life in Florida, it started to feel like time was crawling. My brother cooked, which was a treat. And it’s rude to clean someone else’s place so there went most of what I do with my time, except that one time his kitchen sink’s garbage disposal clogged and made the pipes spew rotting crap, and I got to sweep in and get my hands in some soap and help! My husband and I got so sick of seeing other all the time, from doing nothing, from sitting on the floor for hours until I eventually wanted to grab my sister-in-law’s yoga ball and scream WILSON!
We headed back the day before his school reopened come hell or high water (too soon?). We left not knowing if we had power, but at least driving back gave us something to do. Greenville seems to have held my attention about as long as Daytona does.
The drive back was equally painful as the way up. Slow moving traffic, inching our way through South Carolina. FINALLY we see four lanes again, and it’s clear up ahead, and we can put on cruise control and just drive. It was a little eery seeing the National Guard posted at every exit, but it was nonetheless delightful to be returning to Florida at such speed. I closed my eyes to doze off again, only to open them to find us EXITING the interstate, onto a small state road, definitely off course, and definitely the WRONG direction from home. My husband decided, clearly on his own, that it was the day (it was not) to taste his favourite burger chain in America, so he was taking a DETOUR from our already 12 hour drive to add another 45 minutes to it by driving to a small town for Whataburger. We were headed east, which is where Irma did her worst, as evident by the missing roof tops on a lot of buildings.
Turns out Whataburger wasn’t even open to eat-in, so we didn’t get to stretch our legs or use the restroom, but instead we sat in the drive-thru for another 15 minutes. And I ate a burger that wasn’t what I ordered.
I’m sooo over evacuating. And I’m restless from boredom, and feeling useless when there’s so much help needed now.
I’ve applied to volunteer with the Red Cross. I’m pretty sure I won’t be sent to Puerto Rico, seeing as how under the section titled knowledge of: I almost wrote “West Side Story.” Didn’t think it was appropriate timing to remind them of the unflattering lyrics in “America.” Even Florida now is prone to tropic di-sea-ses, anyway. I could, though, potentially be sent to the Keys or Miami, because the clean-up down there will take months. I also wouldn’t mind being sent to Tampa where I hear Kristin Bell is still helping out. (We could sing Frozen duets.) They were looking for volunteers especially who had availability to go on two-week assignments. Considering my only true commitments left to 2017 are two weddings and one rehearsal dinner, I’m hoping they make use of me. I don’t, however, have a Social Security Number down here yet, so I’m crossing my fingers it doesn’t get my application tossed out.
But let me reiterate that we were very fortunate. Fortunate that we had nothing damaged. Fortunate we had family to stay with within driving distance. Many people here in our county alone have lost their homes, their cars, their belongings, and had to stay in hotels they could not afford, eating meals out they could not afford, lost time from work they could not afford, and stay in shelters. The shelters were run out of local elementary schools, which are now back in session this week, displacing all of those who needed that service and now have nowhere to go. The local Red Cross is asking for hotels to assist with free rooms, and people with extra bed rooms in their homes to be generous, because there is a desperate need.
I posted my husband’s old table and chairs on a local buy & sell group on Facebook this weekend. In joining the group, I got caught up in all of the ads of people looking for help. For extra paid work. For extra child care so they can go to work. For rides to work because they no longer have a car. But one ad finally broke me, and I cried. One woman needed to borrow four puppy pads until she got paid, because she couldn’t take shifts during the storm, and then she’d replace them for you. My husband found me sitting on the floor crying over that one, and he was the first to say that we should just go buy her a pack and drop them off. I searched frantically for the ad to reply, but I hope its disappearance means someone already helped.
So please don’t worry about how we are surviving. There are many who need your thoughts and prayers far more. Especially any child name Irmo.