Irma and Beyond

Some of you have asked about Irma, about our experience with it and its impact on us. I am grateful for your thoughts, prayers, and well-wishes. We have indeed survived Irma, and far better than we thought we would for several days there.

There’s a strange thing about hurricanes; the before is often so beautiful, so misleading. In the days leading up to Irma’s hit, the weather was nearly flawless, the temperatures warm, the skies clear with late-summer brightness. And yet, meteorologists using the best tools humans have told us about this gargantuan mass with 185 mph winds looming like Poseidon in a rage over the Atlantic. Without modern technology, you’d have never known.

After a couple of days, LCB began making calculations given the breadth, the projected paths, and sustained wind speeds of the storm, mumbling numbers to himself and instructing the kids on European models (no, not the fashion kind) and storm physics. We watched footage of the aftermath in Barbuda and wept. As a distraction, I locked myself in the laundry room, my new writing spot, and tried to focus on a post that I’ve attempted to write, a million times over, it seems, to finally finish and post it. It didn’t work, nor did any of the other distractions I tried. Because all the while, all week long, my family and millions across the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, and the Caribbean prepared for the possibility of not just evacuation, but with a storm this size, widespread devastation. From day to day, hour to hour, our plans changed as to whether we would evacuate (and if so, to where?) or hunker down.

In the end, we did evacuate. In our case, we were blessed to be able to secure an “eventual” hotel room, but we couldn’t find an available room for the first night. We left in the evening, and drove into the night. Many gas stations were closed, their signs off or, if we were close enough to see them, bags over the nozzles. The lines at open stations were long. We stopped for a late dinner, hoping to both fill our stomachs and kill time. We stopped at a few hotels, just in case, but all were booked. Finally, exhausted, we pulled over and slept for a while.

The next morning, we parked near our hotel for that night and decided to walk around and find breakfast somewhere. We’d secured an early check-in, and intended show up even earlier, in case our room was ready.

Now remember, at this point, we’d been up all night, unless you count the car nap. The five of us walked around rather aimlessly, really, too tired to even have an intelligible conversation about breakfast, but we tried.  It was at this time, of course, that a man with a giant camera, from some news organization, walked up to us and began talking and filming us, assuming we were evacuees.

LCB acted calm, equal parts mature and polite. I, on the other hand, seriously contemplated running. Why? Think about this for a moment; I have ad nauseam. Do you know why he knew we were evacuees? Because we all looked terrible, as in nasty terrible. LCB made a furtive attempt to straighten his shirt, and I wanted to laugh (even as I patted down my hair) because really? Like a straightened shirt is going to undo all the other drama we have going on with our appearances right now? After twenty-four groom-free hours (my sons’ version of heaven), we all had on grubby clothes complimented by giant bed-heads, dark circles under our blood-shot eyes, food stains on our clothing from eating in our car, a nice thick layer of film on our teeth from twenty-four hours of no brushing, and, well, you get the picture.

This was our one chance at fame (the fact that it was a small news organization is not the point), and we were rocking it with our look. Not once, during the entire interview and subsequent filming of us doing the evacuee walk though town, did I think about how the camera adds ten pounds to your look. Because that was the least of my worries, my friends.

Then, when the segment played on TV later that night, I understood even more why he picked us; the other family they showed looked quite well-manicured (the “mom” had on a super-cute, super-clean sundress with super-cute boots and well-coiffed hair, for instance, like she was on a girls’ weekend at the spa or something) so they needed another family to represent the more ravaged look. They needed a story; we didn’t even need to open our mouths to tell one.

On the plus side, we were able to get into our hotel room early, so we spent the afternoon sleeping the sleep of the sleep-deprived. LCB spent the rest of our stay working like a fiend in the room while the kids and I made food runs and did our work in the hotel’s business center. Over time, reports from home trickled in and we were grateful to find we’d survived the storm rather well, far better than we’d expected and far better than many others. Many at our hotel were also evacuees, so we swapped stories while we waited to return home.

The drive back was beyond long, with five mph speeds for hours on end. At times, roads truly seemed like parking lots. After an hour, we wished we’d gotten up in the middle of the night to start driving. As it was, we were now committed to the drive regardless; LCB had a business trip he couldn’t reschedule, so we couldn’t turn around or stop along the way home.

It was dark when we pulled onto our street; branches were scattered everywhere, but things looked about as good as they can look post-hurricane. Morning revealed a little more damage to the area, but we’d been spared much, blessed much.

I want to thank all of you for all of your thoughts and prayers for all of the areas hit by Irma, and ask that we all continue to remember, pray for, and extend help to our hurting friends in the Keys, in Barbuda, in Puerto Rico, and in other islands and coastal areas hit by Irma as well as those hit earlier this year by Harvey. Their path to recovery will continue for some time.

2 Comment

  1. Brenda says: Reply

    Thank you for sharing.

    1. You’re welcome!

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