Things Irma taught me

I officially made it through my first Florida hurricane!  I have been living here for 9 years and after many threats and close calls we actually got a Hurricane. Where I was the winds were only a category 2, and I say only because for a week my county was predicted to have a category 5 hurricane that would devastate us. As you know Irma weakened and went up the West coast not the East coast so we were spared the catastrophic mess while others sadly were not.

I thought I was prepared. I refused to leave despite knowing that my home floods easily because my boys were staying in town at their dad’s I stayed. I, like everyone else searched for water, waited hours in the store just to get a few cases. I gassed up my car and packed my important papers for if we needed to evacuate. I had got a cooler filled it with ice, packed my home full of food, set up every candle holder with boxes of candles on the counter, ordered a fancy waterproof flashlight from amazon, strategically placed 3M dots lights around the house and even did all the laundry.

For 3 days we were ready and we just sat at home waiting for Irma to come. Every phone and computer was charged in the house. We had the TV on the news all day every day. The kids had no school, Jermaine had no work, this was a big deal….it consumed everyone’s lives. Preparing and praying, that’s all anyone was doing.

The day finally came, Friday night the winds picked up but in a nice way not threatening. Saturday deteriorated fast. We sat on the couch just looking out the sliding glass doors watching the trees bend in half and the water rise in the canal. The lights went out just as I was making my coffee, about 8am Saturday morning. No big deal right…. wrong. We went through a series of tornado warnings that sent everything in the neighborhood flying around. You could hear the tornadoes, like a freight rain coming and then it would get so loud you couldn’t hear anything and the wind was so fierce you couldn’t see anything but white. This lasted all night into Sunday. Sunday was less eventful. Just a lot of wind with high gusts. And then like nothing happened, Monday was back to being a warm breezy day. The kind Floridians dream of but then you look around and see that the destruction was overwhelming.

Days without power, only a charcoal grill to cook on. The Florida sun back out in full force and no AC. All electronics were dead, I felt like I didn’t know the world I lived in anymore. So detached from my family, the media, and feeling hot and hungry. The food was starting to spoil in my refrigerator. We were searching for energy to charge our phones and WiFi to contact family and friends to see if they were OK. I thought I was prepared for a category 5 hurricane and I was not prepared for even the category 2 that hit us.

Next time I have my plan, I have learned that these hurricanes are no joke. We have decided that in the direct path of a hurricane more than a category 3 we will leave our home for safe areas. I know my home will for sure flood and have severe damage in anything more than a category 3. Although it scares me to leave everything I have worked hard for and head out of town, now I wouldn’t hesitate.

I will never let the gas in my car get below half for as long as I live. I don’t care if I have to put $5 at a time in the tank I am not waiting in line running out of gas just to get more. Especially since we are days after and still fuel is hard to find and when you do there is still a line to get it going down the street.

I will always have 3-4 cases of water at all times in my house. We buy cases of water weekly for us to drink anyway but I will always have extra. I will not be going to 6 stores a day and then loiter in a Walmart for 3 hours just to get water. And to all those that took more than 3-4 cases of water I bet you drank less than 10 bottles. The reality is you need it to cook if you have a way to cook and only if the water supply is compromised. You would need it for a sponge bath or brush your teeth again only if the water supply is compromised. You will need it to drink again if the water supply is compromised. But most of you all that got all the water drink soda, juice, tea, lemonade… something else all day every day, what makes you think your a health freak and need a gallon of water to drink when you already filled your house with sodas and juice? I fed into the panic of water when in reality the water coming from the faucet was fine, I even have a Britta I could have used to filter the tap water. I drink mostly water everyday and even I went through only 10 bottles.

I will prepare meals a head of time.  Yes you can be creative and cook on the charcoal grill during and after the hurricane if the electricity is out. I even made meatballs and sauce on the grill….but, no one likes the taste of every meal off the grill. It get sickening. You don’t want that smokey flavor on EVERYTHING you eat. Cooking chicken and other meats, making a pasta dish and other things you don’t mind eating cold like pizza. Doing this ahead of time would have been great. I did make a big pasta dish Friday night but was gone by Saturday afternoon. Also lunch meat and tuna salad would have helped.

Coffee…yes coffee is my drug of choice. I cant live without it. I was in the middle of my water heating up when we lost power. Never thought to use a regular coffee maker and brew some ahead of time and keep in my big carafe or even by the Starbucks or Dunkin already brewed coffee. I don’t care the brand or if its a hot coffee or iced coffee…I just need my coffee!

Batteries Batteries Batteries….. we will be needing lots of batteries and I will be ordering them off Amazon this week along with a battery powered fan and radio. We were lost after the lights went out. The WiFi didn’t work and cell towers were down. We didn’t know if the hurricane turned, if it was supposed to get worse, or how much longer we had till it moved on. Lost. A radio would have been unbelievably helpful. And then come Sunday Night and Monday a fan would have made life less miserable when sleeping. Having to sleep in your 80+ degree home with a window open at night when there are reports of looting is not a calming nights sleep.

A propane camp stove or grill is in my near future. I will not go through another hurricane without one. I will also keep extra propane on hand as the lines to fill tanks were 3 hours long. I’m leaning more toward a propane camp stove as its compact and the propane is easier to get. This will mean we can cook and not have everything taste like charcoal grill. Breakfast could be made, water boiled…. ugh you just have no idea.

Battery backups and portable chargers. I know what your thinking…just get a generator… see I have no where to keep one in my apartment and searching for more gas is not what I want either. But Battery backups to get a few hours of TV or be able to recharge computer would have been great even just a few hours….I would have got my coffee made for sure! And more portable phone chargers (we had one) would have been great. We are lucky that the Tahoe will charge with the car charger even when its off. So we set up a charging station in the car but that was a last resort.

We were good with the flashlights and candles. I believe we had a good plan if our home did flood or a window broke. I’m glad we didn’t have to test those plans but having a plan in place was good. Also I would like to have more medicine on hand.. we ran out of Tylenol and when you are in a high stress situation, no coffee and not eating properly you have to expect to have a headache. Also meds for upset stomach and a cold just to be safe. We have several first aid kits and survival tools on hand that thankfully we did not need as well.

Irma taught me I was not as prepared as I thought I was, especially mentally. I was so worried about my kids and having no cell service I had no idea how they were. Funny enough they never lost power, WiFi, or TV. They did not know anything about what was going on outside due to having been over their dad’s with windows and doors rated to category 4 hurricanes and also metal shutters over that. They were able to eat good meals and continue to do what teenagers do just not leave the house. Of course they were prepared with water, candles, propane, gas, and food just like the rest of us but thankfully they didn’t need it.

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