Where have I been? I have been neglecting my blog! I have a good excuse, and no the dog did not eat my blog!
We spent Labor Day weekend largely disconnected from news and TV as we finished up installing new flooring in our house. We awoke Tuesday, September 5 to the news and realization an unwelcome guest was coming over the upcoming weekend named Hurricane Irma.
I decided to get ahead of the Hurricane panic and go to our local grocery store on Tuesday. I thought it was kind of like getting your Thanksgiving food before the Wednesday leading to Thanksgiving when the store is packed with shoppers and low on inventory. I dutifully made a well thought out list that included canned goods, batteries, and water. How shocked was I as I stood in empty aisles! The water was 100% out, canned goods dwindling, bread sparse, and batteries non-existent. I did the best I could with my list and headed home.
In the meantime, my husband was on his was to Miami for three days. I called him and let him know a hurricane was coming. He already knew this from one of his Miami customers who questioned why he was there and not at home getting ready! Needless to say he came home early!
As the days and the week progressed forecasts had Irma’s eye all over Florida – one moment in the middle of the state, one moment on the Atlantic Coast, before finally settling on the Gulf Coast. We live on the ordinarily laid back, beautiful Gulf Coast.
Come Wednesday night we were installing our hurricane shutters for the first time in five years of Florida home ownership. We hung them with many emotions between us. Hope that we were overreacting to sensational news, fear that the eye would come through our town, anticipation of damage and the extent of that damage to name a few. Our hurricane shutters are made of steel so our house was quite dark as we waited and worried.
In the time between Wednesday, September 6 and Sunday, September 10 it became evident and almost certain we were in Irma’s path. She was anticipated to hit the Florida Keys and Naples and from there come up I-75 to Tampa. We live about three miles from I-75. We do not live in an evacuation zone or flood zone being about 20 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. With that shift we cleaned off our lanai and moved all of our outdoor furniture into our garage.
Sunday, September 10 came. Talk about a sense of fear, dread, hope, anticipation and worry all rolled into one big ball of emotions. We waited and watched the news. Irma was due between 8:00 pm Sunday and 2:00 am Monday. We lost our power at 8:15 pm. After killing time and distracting ourselves for a few hours playing Gin Rummy while wearing flashlight headlights we were off to bed.
We fully expected to be woken up during the night by Irma. Imagine my surprise when I was instead woken up at 7:30 am Monday morning with a text from my Mom checking on us. I quickly found out the worst of Irma bypassed us. She went from Ft. Myers to the Winter Haven (Orlando) area. The Tampa area was spared the worst. Relief mixed with sadness for those in her unexpected path washed over me.
We went outside to assess the damage. We had some downed palm fronds (expected) and two of our trees now lean along with two bushes. Some rain came in our bathroom exhaust fan and garage vents, but other than that we were lucky and blessed. All is fixable.
We quickly removed the shutters to light up our power-less house. Power was restored quickly, at 11:15 am and was stable – no flickers. Thank you Peace River Electrical Coop.
Besides preparing for Irma we had a chance to experience how the worst of times brings out the best in each of us. We live in such a tense time. We are told to not trust people who don’t agree with us, to be cautious of people “out to get us”, and to judge people. However, I am glad to say when our homes and lives were threatened we banded together, with no talk of who we voted for, how much we make, or how we live. In our neighborhood we were offering the sharing of water, batteries, phone charging by those with generators, and help getting hurricane shutters up and down.
More unexpected to me was the response of corporations. Again, we are told to expect the worst from them now. The Fresh Market emailed well wishes and store closing and opening times. Verizon Wireless offered talk, text and data overage charge forgiveness September 9-11, and extended it to September 15. Indiana University and Penn State emailed thoughts and concerns to all graduates living in Florida. I could go on and on with this list. How heartwarming.
As we have ventured out to dine and shop today after Irma we feel a true sense of community as everyone checks on each other. Our waitress at lunch asked how we were. We are not regulars at this restaurant. But the feeling that we have all been through a challenging experience while also dodging a bullet is common.
My husband and I live in Florida. Our families are scattered all over – Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Colorado, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Most of our friends are equally scattered with a core group here in Florida. Despite geographic distance we never felt alone this past week. Texts, calls, emails, and social media posts – we have so many people concerned and praying for us. We thank you from the bottom of our heart. To know we had so much support meant the world to us. We hope we never have to repay the favor to each of you, but know if we do we will be the first in line concerned and praying for you.
May we never have to experience this again. Sadly, I doubt that is a reality in Florida, but one can hope.