Hello, friends! I am back with part two of my Hurricane Irma lessons. Here in Tampa, we are definitely still thinking about this hurricane, especially considering some people in the area just got their power restored. It’s on everyone’s minds and it’s all everyone wants to talk about. When I was at the hair salon this weekend, I talked to my hair stylist about it. When I was out to dinner on Saturday night, I heard the people around me talking about it. When I was at the grocery store, I heard people talking about it. It’s permeating our every conversation. But there’s a camaraderie to it. We’re in this together. We’re fine. We made it.
Here are some of the other lessons I learned from Irma:
11) Hurricanes are emotionally exhausting. I can’t deny how emotionally exhausted I was after going through Irma. It was hard to give myself grace to feel this emotion because I got really lucky. My home was not damaged and even though I lost power, I just stayed with my mom for a few days, which honestly wasn’t a big deal. Yeah, it sucked not being in my own space, but it’s not like other friends who were staying with friends and feeling totally misplaced. But I am allowed to feel drained after dealing with the anxiety of this storm. A Cat 3 hurricane is no joke and our city is not prepared for something like that. (See: this Washington Post article.) I was terrified of what my apartment was going to look like, of what our city was going to look like, of how we would rebuild. And coming down from that level of anxiety would drain any normal person. It’s okay that it’s taken me up until this week to finally start to feel a semblance of normalcy.
12) It’s not as simple as “just evacuate.” If you’ve never actually been through a hurricane, then I beg of you, please stop pretending you know what it means to evacuate. You have no idea. It may seem like an easy decision, but it’s not. If you have pets, you have to either find family to stay with or a pet-friendly hotel or a pet-friendly shelter. You have to deal with stand-still traffic on the roads and to find gas stations that still have gas. You have to board up your house and protect your valuables. You have to prepare as if you won’t have a home to come back to. And speaking of hotels? By Thursday, just about everything in Florida and Georgia was booked. It is actually a really difficult decision to decide whether or not to evacuate. There are a lot of factors that come into play. I’m definitely not commending people who lived on the beach and decided to “ride out the storm,” because no. If you were under mandatory evacuation, you should have done everything in your power to evacuate. But I also want people to understand that the decision is not an easy one.
13) I live 5 feet above sea level. That was fun to find out, when the storm surges were estimated to be 10 feet or higher, and I live right by the gulf. The price of living in paradise?
14) I would never, ever, ever leave Dutch. One of the sadder realities of hurricanes is how many pet owners leave their dogs to fend for themselves. There were reports of some owners in Florida tying their dogs up outside. It was unfathomable to think of ever leaving Dutch. As a pet owner, I have been entrusted to his care. He depends on me for everything and to break that trust, to just leave him during something as scary as a hurricane, is something I would never do. We’re a package deal. If I couldn’t find a shelter or a hotel that would allow him, I would have made other arrangements. There is never a good reason to leave your pet. Ever. You want to have a dog, you have to take care of that dog always.
15) Another benefit of renting an apartment: cleaning up hurricane debris is not my responsibility! The area outside my apartment building was filled with debris. We had some downed trees and there was so much debris in the road circling my apartment complex that I could barely make out the color of the concrete. And none of that was my responsibility! While all of my friends were posting about cleaning up their yards filled with debris from the hurricane, I was tucked away inside, reading or napping. Muahahaha!
16) I will wait in line for 30 minutes for Chick-Fil-A. Oh, yes I will. Chick-Fil-A opened up on Tuesday (after being closed since Saturday), but only for drive-thru customers. The line was wrapped around the building twice, but you best believe I got my car in line and waited patiently for my turn. And that meal was the best I’ve had in a while, no joke.
17) Restaurants and grocery stores have limited options following a hurricane. It’s been interesting watching my community try to get back to a place of normalcy following the threat of Hurricane Irma. From Saturday until Tuesday (and, for some places, Wednesday), everything was closed. On Saturday afternoon, my mom and I tried to find something open for lunch and we couldn’t find a single place! Not even McDonald’s! And I’m not complaining because I’m glad these restaurants took precautions and closed so that the employees could evacuate and be with their families. It’s just interesting. Places slowly started opening up on Tuesday. I couldn’t find an open Starbucks, but Carrabba’s (an Italian chain) opened up with a limited menu on Tuesday and Publix was also open, albeit with bare shelves in some parts of the store. The limitations come from the fact that these restaurants and stores weren’t getting their normal deliveries due to the storm, so they could only offer what they had on hand. It’s crazy times! I can’t imagine what life would look like if the storm actually had hit us as a Category 3, though.
18) The reason it’s so important to keep a full tank before a storm: gas stations will be closed. Since I wasn’t planning on leaving the area, I wasn’t as concerned with keeping a full tank of gas in my car. But on Thursday evening, following a class at the gym, I found an open gas station that didn’t have any waiting, so I decided to just top off my tank. At that point, I had about a half-tank of gas, but figured it was better to be safe than sorry. And I’m so glad I did that because gas options were so limited following the hurricane! As of Friday, there were only one or two open stations around me. Everything else was still closed. Now I know: fill up that tank, even if you don’t plan on leaving the area!
19) There’s something apocalyptic about empty parking lots and roads on a Saturday night. Saturday night was when my anxiety ramped up severely because we were getting tracks from the meteorologists that showed the hurricane hitting our area directly. So basically everyone in my area evacuated that day, if they hadn’t already. This led to empty roads and parking lots and there’s something super creepy about that. I went outside with Dutch on Saturday evening and it was silent. I was at my mom’s at this time and she lives right next to a major highway, so I never hear silence outside of her apartment. Even the parking lot at her apartment was nearly empty. It really did not help the anxiety I was already feeling!
20) Being with my mom was the best antidote to all my stress and anxiety. Man, I may be almost 30 years old but I still want to be around my mom when I’m going through something as stressful as a hurricane. I was happy that we decided to ride out the storm together and it really helped me to have a feeling of calm. Plus, being with her, I didn’t have to worry about her well-being. We were together and that put me at ease. There’s nobody else I’d want to experience a hurricane with!
What was the last natural disaster you’ve been through (if any!)?