My Irma Experience

My First Hurricane Experience

I have to admit that as I was watching the first reports of the hurricane forming and where it might be headed they seemed to be as full of speculation and bullshit as a Fox News Story. Some of the ensuing stories about how Floridians were dealing with it seemed equally full of shit. I read some good scientific articles that brought the message home a bit better, but I wasn’t planning on panicking.

How could I judge the stories to be so? Because I was living in Tampa and working in Clearwater, and I was watching it unfold. I got to watch the strange pressures play out as the path of this thing shifted around on an hourly basis. Listening to the radio and looking at the spaghetti models could drive you mad.

I do not disagree that there is a great advantage in having this science which gives us such great prediction over where these things might go, and perhaps there is no other way to get the news to everyone other than the media, but the media was driving a lot of panic, and making it difficult to get things done.

It wasn’t easy to get gas. Water started to empty from the shelves pretty quickly. And it’s not like I was in denial about the storm; more that I was holding fast to the belief that these things bounced around our area as they had in the 10 years I’ve lived here.

Saturday morning; the day before Irma was predicted, my fiancee was sent home from our church, where she works, with the communication that they were shutting down for 3 days. To say that this is unusual is a massive understatement. Still, I was reluctant to leave.

Our local government officials had stopped the Mayor from issuing a Mandatory Evacuation, which would have applied to our zone if we had been just one county over.

My fiancee was panicked though, so what was I going to do? We went to the beach and we dug up sand, because the people supplying sandbags locally had shut down. Someone loaned us a spade at the beach because we only had a jug to dig with. We got home and we sandbagged.

We went to Walmart and we got what little food we could still get from the shelves, in the time we had left, because they were closing Walmart because they had run out of stuff, and to let their employees evacuate.

We then went to MacDonalds because we were starving, and people seemed more polite than usual.

We sandbagged our porch, packed our food, loaded the car, and then worked out how to transport our cats (another failure to prepare on our part, because we had one carrier) and ended up with the most boisterous of our cats in the carrier, one loose in the back who has a good temperament, and me holding the smallest in a blanket that pacifies her.

We went up to my future father-in-law’s farm in Brooksville, and on the way I was told I was expected to help with some stuff.

We started boarding up the house and making it hurricane proof on Saturday, and we finished at 3 on Sunday, then headed over to the shelter, which was the local school. A decision had been made not to stay in the house because Irma had changed course and seemed to be heading straight for us. Because we didn’t have carriers the cats stayed at the house (they were in a safe and protected room before anyone freaks out (believe me I was freaking out)).

I didn’t sleep that night because there were too many people snoring and I was worried about my animals. I sat up and started on 3 different novel ideas and kept active throughout. My fiancee was doing a jigsaw. We talked to these two great older ladies, one from Arizona, whose mother was in a local hospital, who was treating it as a big adventure.

The wind whipped around outside, making something boom intermittently, and a lightning strike took out the electric, and caused the emergency lights to come on. It was a friendly place.

I came to a realisation there and then — that if it came down to it, and I had been left to my own devices, I wouldn’t survive something like this. Why? Wilful ignorance, laziness? A bit of that, with maybe a dash of arrogance. That whole thing of prepare for the worst and hope for the best was more than a little lacking in my own life — this is all well and good and if you are only responsible for yourself. I felt like a bystander until I helped with the hurricane proofing, but that wasn’t off my own initiative. The men that can build things, and who have practical skills, and have availed themselves of the knowledge needed to survive these things — they are important, and they are the unsung heroes of these things. Volunteers and officials are owed thanks, obviously, but the men who know how to make a place able to withstand a hurricane? I learned something from them.

I made a Hurricane Survival List on Amazon yesterday, and I intend to be prepared in future. I looked at other areas where my preparation is out, and I am looking to fix that. You can move from the bystander camp into the camp of those willing to learn how to do things, and that is where I want to be. I don’t want to put the people and the things I care about at risk, so I will be working to minimise that.

You have to learn from your experiences, right? Irma taught me something.

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