Floridians like to think of themselves as hurricane experts. We know what to do when a storm is coming, and we are ready. We prepare at the beginning of the hurricane season. We stock up on our supplies of batteries, bottled water, canned foods and other non-perishables. When a hurricane is coming, we are always ready. Last year, Hurricane Matthew gave us a good test run of our hurricane preparedness as we had not had a hurricane in 10 years. We passed with flying colors.
In 2017, we commemorated the 25th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew in late August, so our awareness has been at a peak high. Then, just 2 weeks ago, we watched as Hurricane Harvey devastated Southeast Texas and the Houston area as we kept our eyes on the scary developments in the eastern Atlantic. What happened over the last 10 days has not ever happened here in South Florida. People really took the news of an approaching major hurricane seriously and much further in advance than ever before. Beginning one week before Irma would strike Florida, people began preparations in earnest. We had already begun to feel the residual effects of Harvey at the gas pump as gas prices had risen about 50 cents per gallon. Gas was rumored to be in short supply and by Sunday before the storm, gas lines began to form all over Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. The lines grew longer each day and by Wednesday, stations began running out of gas and couldn’t get new supplies fast enough. This lasted until Saturday when everything had to close as Irma approached.
Our family watched closely and made some new and different plans. Last year, my parents and mother-in-law stayed in their own homes. But things have changed this year and this storm was potentially a category 5 and was headed right at us. My mother-in-law, age 96, had recently fallen and dislocated her shoulder and earlier this year, her 25 year companion passed away. We decided that she could not stay alone. She would stay with us. Likewise, my parents would come to us as my father is planning on back surgery in a month. We would have a full house and needed to secure all three houses prior to the storm. Therefore, our preparations began earlier than usual. On Wednesday afternoon, both my office and my wife’s office announced they would be closed beginning Thursday. I was therefore up early Thursday morning to begin work.
Starting with our house, the biggest of the 3, the plan began as it did last year, closing the most difficult shutters. Then, moving all outdoor furniture inside the house. I moved on to my mother-in-law’s and began to help her pack things up, close her patio shutters and sort through her hurricane supplies which would be moved to our house. The process continued through the day and Friday as I finished with my parents’ house, continued with our house and moved my mother-in-law into our home. My parents would not move in until Saturday morning, but we all had dinner together Friday night. The final shutters were closed early Saturday morning. I made it a point to watch football all day Saturday so we wouldn’t go crazy watching hurricane coverage non-stop. The first hurricane feeder bands began to move in mid-day and the weather began to affect my Directv satellite. Fortunately, AppleTV came through and my football viewing was not affected (ESPN App worked great!).
The storm intensified Saturday night and Sunday morning. Though the eye slammed into the Keys and progressed north up the west coast, we were getting hit pretty hard. There were 6 cell phones in our house that were blaring weather emergency alerts, primarily telling us of tornado warnings in our area all night. When we did turn on the news, we saw that many tornadoes did in fact touch down in our immediate area (perhaps even near our neighborhood).
We were fortunate in that the power at the house stayed on all night. My wife woke up early and made pancakes for us. Then, at 11:40, we finally lost power. No NFL opening day! And the boredom set in. I read, listened to music and napped. We played dominoes. Let’s not forget the wine and whiskey! There was plenty of that. During a lull in the storm, my wife and I snuck outside for 5 minutes to see what was happening. We were able to compare notes with a neighbor and snap a few pictures. The storm continued through the night.
But Monday morning it was quiet. And sunny. It was over. Better yet, at 8:15, the power turned on! How lucky were we! I got up, got dressed, went outside, opened the down stairs shutters and surveyed the damage. Tree branches were down all over our yard and up and down the block. The neighbors started coming out to do the same and we all helped each other clear the street and our yards and get back to normal.
We started calling and texting friends to check in. Most people around town did not have power and, except for our small town, Cooper City, all of Broward County was under a boil water order.
There was no damage at either my parents’ or mother-in-law’s, but they did not get power back right away, 3 days and 4 days respectively, so we had company for a few more days.
We were all extremely lucky. Of course, those in the Keys and on the west coast took a much harder hit and will be rebuilding and recovering for a long time. But, everyone, and I mean everyone, took Irma very seriously. When family and friends from out of town called before and during the storm to check up on us (which was greatly appreciated) many asked why we didn’t evacuate. First of all, we don’t live in an evacuation zone. So, there is no reason to. But also, I always say, where would we evacuate to? This hurricane, in particular, was targeting the entire state. Flights north were sold out. There was no place to go. Those who drove elsewhere in the state were hit anyway. If you were on the road, you were in traffic. The best answer was that we were prepared as best we could possibly have been. And, now that it is over, we learned more and will be even better prepared the next time. And there will be a next time.