Hurricane Survival, What this Designer Learned

Hurricane Matthew, what a nightmare! I lived in Florida forty-three years before relocating to Georgia, never have I ever evacuated. Please know that I am not a rebel who refuses to leave, we just never got to that point where it was a mandatory evacuation. This time, it was no joke and with kids in tow, we weren’t taking any chances.

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Wednesday, October 5th – Storm is approaching. People ask the Floridian (me) if she is evacuating. I jokingly say, “Nah, I am a Floridian, we don’t leave for hurricanes.” Seriously though, I was kidding when I said this but truly in my heart I never thought it would get to the point where I actually considered leaving. Some of our neighbors already started to leave in the neighborhood. Electricity is still on.

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Morning of Thursday, October 6th – Storm is flipping huge and it’s coming to us, directly in our path and it’s a category 4 storm. Now, I am considering leaving. By noon nerves are completely shot with worry. Thoughts like did we get enough insurance, did we wait too long, why did I say I was working on this day when I can barely think, should we just hunker down or go now? And by the way, the “hunker down” word currently makes me cringe because until you actually have to do it, it has a completely different meaning. Facebook posts are running wild at this point with people posting that they are leaving. A Mandatory evacuation of Zone A in Glynn County comes over the news, we are Zone B. Real worry sets in. No work done. Electricity is still on.

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Afternoon of Thursday, October 6th – Our neighborhood is windy and overcast, many have already left. We are preparing to leave. We hadn’t fully committed but we were packing and getting things ready so in our hearts I think we were ready to go. Two kids, two dogs, the cat and two very nervous parents. Around 1:30 p.m. the mandatory evacuation came over the tv, we decided to listen and leave. We took my husband’s car, it’s smaller than mine but I need new tires and didn’t want to make a long trip longer. We only had room for the living things in our home, important papers, hard drives and a couple nights of clothes. The good things, the things you really wanted to take like my grandfather’s 100-year-old toolbox, had to stay. Although I know what matters in life and that this is just a thing, it is still a memory and it was difficult to leave it and many other items as well like photographs, just in case. We evacuated to Florida of all places, my hometown of Inverness. No work done. Electricity is still on.

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Morning of Friday, October 7th – Mentally exhausted from the whole ordeal and the trip that took almost six hours instead of the normal three. The hurricane is still moving at a snail’s pace in our minds. Spent the day trying to entertain the kids and checking in with the neighbors who stayed. Went to the movies with the kids, did a little shopping, never acknowledging the fact that there was a tropical storm warning in the town where we were staying, that explained all the wind. Checking Facebook, storm is still moving, would make landfall that evening at our home in Georgia. Those who stayed kept in touch. No work done. Electricity still on.

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Afternoon of Friday, October 7th – Lots of news channel watching, we were like deer in headlights as we watched these colors move across the screen. It was moving with the shape of the coast, slowly. Reports coming in of damage it left in it’s path. St. Augustine, one of my favorite places, took a monstrous beating. Our neighbors at home sent video of the wind and our house before it actually came. I worried, I wanted to know if the pines in the backyard would still be standing when we returned. Nightfall came and at 10:35 they lost power, the storm was at full force. No work done. I barely slept.

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Morning of Saturday, October 8th – It was gone. We waited patiently for those at home to report and no damage. We were so relieved, we had a home to come back to. There was no flooding, at most we would loose the food in the fridge. A sense of relief came until we started watching the news. Those around us were not as lucky. Shrimp boats sank, trees on roofs, they wouldn’t even let people back into their homes, we were one of the lucky ones. We packed up, anxious to return but State troopers blocked the exits into the county. Again, social media is our friend and with these reports, we sat tight because we didn’t want to pack up the circus only to be turned away. No work done. Electricity still off.

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Afternoon of Saturday, October 8th – Still determined to leave to come home. Unpacked and decided to go early morning instead. Better safe than sorry, poor husband is officially sick. No work done. Electricity still off.

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Morning of Sunday, October 9th – We are going home. Packed up everyone headed out. Many trees down along the way. Closer to home we see power lines down, homes with trees, very large trees toppled over, some were not so lucky with trees on roofs. After seeing this I am glad we left. We set an example for the kids and they understood why we did go. Our house is fine, our neighbors are fine, their houses are fine, everyone else has started coming home. We shared things like stories and food, we took care of each other, any differences of any kind were put aside. The kids played together outside, the sky was clear and the temperature was in the 70’s. We couldn’t have ordered a more perfect day after all that chaos. I felt connected to living here, I felt like this was my home for the first time since we moved here. I wanted to paint a wall. I know this will sound ridiculous, but I have never moved into a house that didn’t need something. This house was complete when we moved in, we bought it so we wouldn’t have to do anything since we worked so hard on our last house. However, I never felt like I owned it or that it needed me until we returned home. Tragedy, of any kind, whether you actually experience it or were grazed by it affects us all in the oddest ways. For me, this was something that I did not expect. Living here now instead of just being here. I found my place, right here where I had been all along. No work done. Electricity still off.

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Evening of Sunday, October 9th –  The sun went down and we had lost light for less than an hour, candles were going and the kids were putting on a show to pass the time when the electricity came back on. For a moment we were pioneers, it was nice. To my surprise they were disappointed, I was too. We lost power for a less than 48 hours, thanks to the awesome folks at Georgia Power.

I lost two days of work, just two. Many businesses couldn’t even open once they finally got back to work until a week later, some had damage and lost two weeks or more. For any small business, one day lost is huge, more than that can be crucial.  This act of mother nature, while it put things into perspective for me, affected so many people up and down ourFlorida and Georgia coast financially. It was a lesson on many levels and I asked myself what I had learned in all of this. The people, the places you worry about while you are gone, take note of those. Support those businesses after they are back up and running. We can’t do everything alone, but we can support each other by going to dinner at a local restaurant, by buying gifts in a local store, hiring professional services locally, it’s the little things that really add up. Have your friends and family come and visit where you live this year for their vacation to help put money back into this area, support the trusted people you know. At the end of the day we are all in this together. We are a community that supports each other. Electricity is back on and I am picking out paint colors.