No “reflections from my lanai” this week. These random thoughts come from indoors. My hurricane shutters have been up now for five days. Although I see the hurricane shutter company in my neighborhood this morning, I am beginning to feel a little claustrophobic. And I have not been here the whole time!
I want to share a few thoughts about my experience with my first hurricane in Florida.
Evacuation from One’s Home
The decision to leave one’s home is not an easy one. I used to think that anyone who stayed in a mandatory evacuation zone was foolish, to say the least. I have much more empathy for people in this situation. So many people do not have a choice. I was prepared to stay in my home during Hurricane Irma – shutters, food, water, radio, flashlight, batteries, etc. Irma was headed up the east coast. I have family on the east coast of Florida, both north and south. We talked about east coast family coming to the west coast. Then Irma changed direction. When the authorities ordered mandatory evacuations from Zone A, I began to be concerned about possible flooding. The highways were parking lots, and I felt safer at home than in a shelter. I felt that I had waited too long to leave.
On Saturday morning, there was talk that the authorities would call for evacuation from Zones B and C. I am in Zone D. It was reported that the highways between my house and my sister’s were clear. I panicked, and decided to evacuate. I have family that I could go to, no pets or children here, my friends and neighbors were safe, and I had the resources (gas) to get away.
As I was leaving, I blessed my house and wondered what I would find upon my return. I thought about all those people who must flee their homes for natural disasters or war. I wondered what I would find afterward, but I never doubted that I would return. I thought of all the people who flee, knowing they would never return to a place they call home.
I returned to a home that was spared any storm damage. I feel immense gratitude and relief. Yet that relief is tinged with a certain amount of “survival guilt.” What about the people of Barbuda or Puerto Rice or Cuba? What about all those people without the resources needed to recover and rebuild their lives?
Communication with Family, Friends, and Neighbors
I have always been a critic of social media, Facebook in particular because that is the only one I use. However, before, during, and after the storm, it was the way I could let family, friends, and neighbors know where I was and that I was safe. At my sister’s house, we never lost electricity, but we did lose cable (television, telephone, and internet). Fortunately, my mobile phone was still working and I could send text messages and email to those in my contact list. I began to appreciate communication networks in a whole new way.
Support of Friends Who Live in Hurricane Territory
I have a friend in Galveston who just lived through Hurricane Harvey and has experienced more than one hurricane in the past. I valued her words of wisdom throughout my experience with Irma. She knows first-hand what hurricanes are and the decisions that go with it. I am grateful that I was able to communicate with her through Facebook during Harvey and Irma.
Lesson in Humility
During Hurricane Harvey, a reporter interviewed a woman who was among the thousands fleeing their homes. She said, “This is a humbling experience. If this doesn’t humble people, nothing will.” I thought that was a profound statement. While others were saying, “We’re Texans. We can do this,” this woman was acknowledging the fact that we are not in complete control of our lives.
Aah, the shutters are down. Let the light shine!