Since moving to Florida in October of 2013, every June brought the same questions from the local media: will this be the year that the hurricane drought ends? Every hurricane season (June – November) would come, Floridians native and transplant would hold their collective breaths and exhale on 1 December as another hurricane season came and went without issue or incident. Eleven years in all since the last named hurricane hit Florida came and went in just this fashion. Would 2016 be the year that this all ended?
It turns out that this year would indeed be the end of the hurricane drought in Florida. Early September brought Hermine (see NOAA/WU sourced map, right), a Category 1 hurricane up from the Gulf of Mexico, intent on wreaking havoc on northern Florida. Fortunately, aside from the usual torrential rain and a few minor power outages, nothing overly dramatic happened. In our neck of the woods, we saw even less, with a steady rainfall and not much else of report, fortunate because we had absolutely nothing to work with had it come for us. Chalk it up to poverty, unemployment and the never-ending mountain of bills, diapers and grocery demands that come with everyday life.
Fast forward a few weeks later. What was supposed to be but a minor tropical storm in the Atlantic started picking up steam faster than expected, forming eventually into what will forever be known as Hurricane Matthew (see below).
As it inched closer to the Atlantic coast of Florida, I began to worry, especially if Haiti and Cuba didn’t break the storm apart as they usually had the habit of doing, being as mountainous as they are, especially Cuba.
Then there were the questions…
Would I be able to get food in time? Would we have to evacuate? Were we to evacuate, where would we go? I had places, but they were all out of state or closer to the storm. Would we be safe or would the full force the storm leave us in a world of hurt? Would I be allowed to get supplies in time (were there any left) or would it be a ride it out with nothing kind of situation? Is staying the best idea, should things get chaotic or downright dangerous?
Prior to this point, my only real points of reference were the massive storms that made national news: Andrew, Ivan, Katrina. Endless footage of houses that were torn apart, lives shattered/altered and the disastrous, bumbled and often-times questionable response by authorities far and wide.
So many questions, so few answers, so I decided to see how the locals were reacting to the possibilities. Even with the storm about ready to pound their doors down, not many were that worried. Many needed supplies, but there wasn’t a mass influx of call-outs, no-call-no-shows or other behavior on that Thursday to add to any anxiety I was feeling.
Fortunately, I was allowed to leave work early and had been paid that Thursday (one of the many reasons I’ll probably never leave my current bank), so supplies were not out of the question. Being where I was, the closest place was good old Wally-World. I had never been in a mass-buy before, so to see the usually overstocked shelves almost bare was interesting. Almost everything that you could want was gone, snatched up by those who had come before.
Gas was also a concern, as every gas station in the local area was empty, many with guards or lot attendants waving people away, some with shinier badges than others. Many local businesses were boarded up, with many spray painted with messages like “Don’t Loot or We’ll Shoot” and “No Looting… WWJD?” While exciting, the questions of uncertainty haunted me still. Was I making the right decision by not seeking shelter further in land?
Supplies acquired, aside from gas (which was not to be had at any price), the only thing we could was wait. Thursday night turned to Friday morning which, because of the hurricane, we were told not to report to work (but were being paid for anyway). Awoke early to see that the party had already started without me a few hours prior. Trees all around blowing and shaking violently, all outside of course. Inside, all was well until the electricity went out. All was still well, just without power or Internet. Which meant no Curious George, Paw Patrol or anything else that required electricity.
So How Do You Get On Without Electricity?
Being a fan of many places online, going without took a little bit of adjustment. Fortunately, I didn’t have anything available that would allow me to attempt to access the Internet in vain. So, aside from entertain a toddler who didn’t understand what a hurricane was and why she couldn’t watch cartoons, we waited. Fortunately, there was plenty to watch outside, with the winds constantly blowing and rain falling from every direction. Which was all the better, since it meant my SUV was getting the wash of a lifetime (all of these free “car washes” from Florida’s frequent rain will probably come back to bite me in the ass one of these days).
Once the storm passed, waiting was the name of the game. We didn’t suffer any real damage, except for a tiny tree in front of our apartment being pushed over at the roots, caused by the saturated sand and the high-speed wind. Power was still out, so we waited. While I was waiting, I spent most of Saturday purging my sock collection, organizing all of my clothes and drawing a series of small doodles about the events of the hurricane. Night was spent walking about the neighborhood, admiring the stars that are normally hidden in the local area’s light pollution and enjoying the intense, almost unsettling quiet.
While rough in nature, they capture important parts of our overall experience. I aim to have them scanned, touched up and posted shortly.
Special Thanks to Gatehouse Newsroom for their AP styling guidance article for hurricanes.