Even though Irma has passed, it seems that she is still the topic of nearly every conversation. As people return from evacuating and emerge from their houses, everyone is talking about their experiences during the storm.
It’s like Irma was our baby, and we all have a crazy labor story to share.
I have enjoyed hearing many different perspectives and tales of anxiety, joy, adventure, and even frustration. As I reflect on the past few weeks, this is what I learned from Hurricane Irma.
The decision to evacuate or stay is almost impossible to make.
Never before in my life have I had to make a weightier decision. As the strongest storm ever recorded changed course and flip-flopped from the east coast to the west coast, so did my thought process.
If we evacuated we ran the risk of hours of traffic, no gas, no place to stay, and no timeline for our return. We would have no idea what was happening at home, and could not be of any assistance to those who remained behind.
If we stayed we ran the risk of endangering the lives of our children, causing them emotional trauma, living in fear and anxiety for days on end, having no power for an indefinite amount of time, and watching our beloved town get ripped to pieces.
Neither option seemed good, and there was no way of knowing if we were making the right one for our family.
In the end, we chose to stay.
Having lived in Florida almost my entire life, I am guilty of ignoring pretty much all hurricane hype. “I’ll believe it when I see it” has been my attitude toward all previous hurricane threats. This was the first time I actually took a storm seriously, and even as I was buying water and digging out my hurricane shutters I was still skeptical.
As the storm grew closer and I watched supplies disappear, I was so thankful for the few early preparations I had made. When we discovered that some of our storm shutters were too short to cover our window and that there were no holes or screws around our sliding glass door, we were able to trouble shoot and get the supplies we needed before everything was completely sold out.
Having a few extra days to feel completely prepared really helped my husband and I to remain calm, and also freed us up to help others around us. Also, just know that it’s completely normal to go to the store about 1 million times no matter how prepared you think you are.
Normal life ceases to exist, and that’s ok.
Let’s be honest. In the days leading up to the storm, we lost all semblance of routine. Bedtime, meal time, normal conversation – all thrown out the door in the flurry of hurricane preparation. My kids were running through the neighborhood having Nerf gun wars, and most of the time I had no idea where they were. It was pretty much like Lord of the Flies around here and I did not even care.
Even with little damage, it takes a while for life to return to normal.
Once the storm had passed and we realized we had not suffered any damage but a power outage, I immediately wanted life to get back to normal. I was tired of living in this crazy, roller coaster ride of anxiety and needed some routine in my life.
But as you know, that just did not happen. School was cancelled, stores and restaurants remained closed, and the grocery stores and gas stations remained empty. Plus it seemed like half the state had evacuated, so most of our friends were not even around to hang out with!
It is easy to move on with life and forget about those who lost everything. Don’t let that happen!
I am so incredibly thankful that Irma turned north and we avoided a direct hit. As soon as we regained power it seemed like nothing had ever happened. But I also know that might not be the case next time. And that other communities weren’t as lucky. I am so thankful for my husband, my church, and my friends that found ways to help out and invited me to be a part of it. From helping neighbors take down shutters, to offering a place to stay, to donating supplies, and even traveling to more damaged areas – everything helps.
If you would like to find a way to get involved and help those affected by Hurricane Irma, here are some resources for you:
- The Food Bank of Manatee is accepting donations and providing relief locally
- Charity Navigator has a list of charities involved in Hurricane Irma relief
- This article from the Naples Daily News has ways to help in both Lee and Collier County