Hurricane Irma recently barreled her way through the Caribbean, Florida and beyond. Our family lives in East Central Florida, eight miles from the ocean, six miles from the inter-coastal waterway. For days, we waited and watched the weather at 2:00, 5:00, 8:00, and 11:00—everyone did, it was difficult to imagine anyone anywhere doing anything else! Hurricanes are unpredictable and this one was full on crazy town! First it was coming toward the east coast of Florida, then west, then up the center of the state.
Parts of the entire state were evacuated. In other places that I have lived for evacuations people can generally travel in at least two directions to get away from a storm, but evacuating an entire peninsula means everyone goes north, all 8 million people who left (that was the last number I saw on the news so please forgive me if it was not the final number).
Now let me explain that hurricane watches and warnings are not issued until 24-48 hours before the storms are set to hit a specific area. Evacuation orders have to be called long before the weather is even close to accurate—mistakes have been made and political leaders do not want their careers ended by missteps in a potential disaster. In Florida, evacuation orders are issued from the south to north, so that the people who lived the closest to the storm’s path can get out before others clog the roads. It is not a seamless system and a lot of people sit in traffic, like interstate turned parking lot level traffic, but officials worked hard to make it as functional as possible-anticipating issues like getting enough gasoline the best they could.
Back to our story, as I said we live eight miles from the beach. We are not on an island or over a bridge that might become impassable. We have hurricane shutters for our one-story home that was built since the recent hurricane codes were passed. The decision to evacuate is highly personal and you have to make the best decision you can for your family with the information that you have available at the moment. Hind sight is always 20-20 but the pressure to make a decision in the moment is stressful especially if you have special challenges like young children, elderly family members, or health challenges.
My husband had an important international business trip planned—he was to leave just before the storm was to hit. He was ready to cancel his trip. But I knew if we prepped before he left that the boys and I could handle the storm. Let me also say that we try to have most items needed for a hurricane ready at all times. Who wants to fight over cases of water bottles and batteries at the store? My friend was rammed with a cart while trying to pick up a case of water by someone trying to block someone else. Sheesh! No thank you, I’ll find room in our home to store supplies.
We had our generator ready, and got gasoline for it, propane for the grill, plus we have a gas stove and hot water heater, and we had plenty of supplies! We also ended up buying some cheapy flashlights with inexpensive batteries for the boys to play with while we got ready. These ended up providing hours of entertainment and distraction and I wasn’t worried about our “real” supplies being diminished.
We shuttered our house—let me tell you being inside a house once it is shuttered is no fun. It’s like a cave or an industrial building with no natural light! When the power goes out it is pitch black at noon! It is very disorienting. My oldest was especially effected. I found him sitting on the couch looking concerned as he watched the windows being covered and the room darken.
As the storm track progressed it was forecasted to possibly be a category 4 when it came through our area. While I was confident we would be physically safe in our home it was likely to be scary, very scary. The storm was projected to peak for us at night and my boys are light sleepers. I didn’t want a major road trip. While road trips can be fun because of my families’ unique food issues requiring that I need to prepare all my boys’ food myself (none of the protein they can safely eat is available at any restaurant) and that all of the protein they eat requires heat, I was loathed to hit the road not knowing how long I could be stuck without the ability to prepare food for them. Boys cannot live on bananas alone.
I decided that for the scariest part of the storm that I didn’t want to be in our home where I want my boys to always feel safe. As I was trying to discern my plan and coming close to a decision to travel just an hour inland, I got a text which was a tweet from our County Emergency Management that stated, “why go 100 miles when 10 miles is safe?” This settled the decision for me.
Continue to Part 2.
Murphy Benet is the mother of two boys, four and a half and one and a half, who both have FPIES. She is in the process of getting her family started in the adventure of homeschooling using the Montessori method. She and her husband live in Melbourne, Florida – just miles from the beach that she doesn’t get to visit nearly often enough.
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