This is a personal story about how we weathered “Irma.”
It was one year to the day we left Pennsylvania to move to Venice, Florida.
Wednesday, September 6th.
With the threat of Hurricane Irma coming, our adult children urged us to leave while we can and made hotel reservations for us. So my husband and I and our 11-year old dog and 11-year old cat left in our 2 cars. We evacuated our home and headed for a hotel in Dothan, Alabama. All pet-friendly hotels were booked solid with no rooms to be found when they reserved our room. We were grateful.
We left on what we thought would be a 7-hour drive – completely doable in a day!
It took us 15 hours. The roads displayed a mass exodus.
There we were…. Sweet Home Alabama. The song was ringing through my head.
Our hotel was filled with Florida evacuees. We met many wonderful people, had numerous conversations about the storm, its potential effects, what we heard from home and what we heard on CNN. We found a new appreciation in just being safe.
I had safely packed up my 27” iMac desktop computer so I could continue and complete two CotterVisual projects that were in progress. With wifi and computers we can work anywhere. We also have redundant back-ups – one in the cloud, one time machine back up on the desktop and one external hard drive so the work is always accessible. But I needed the safety and comfort of my large screen iMac.
Thursday through Monday, September 7th-11th.
The local church brought lunch and dinner for us each day — even when there were tropical storm conditions. 48 hours before Irma hit Dothan, everything closed down in anticipation of the worst. The people knew they had hundreds of Florida evacuees in the area and they were incredibly kind and generous.
In the time spent before and during the storm, many friends reached out to us offering places to call home — if the worse were to happen and Irma took ours.
We thought about what we left behind, what might happen with our stuff and what might be in our future. We thought about the predicament of where to go if our home wasn’t livable. From the sounds of it, we knew there would potentially be nowhere to live nearby in Venice and we might have to go elsewhere until we could rebuild. Who even thinks about this….until faced with this possibility?
For me, this was a mentally exhausting and an emotionally draining experience.
In running all the possibilities through our minds, we knew the only one was that — we wanted to stay in Venice and rebuild — if it came to that. We might live in Austin, Texas or Chapel Hill, North Carolina temporarily but we wanted to continue to make our home in Venice — the area we have come to love and call home.
Tuesday, September 12th, 7am.
We got our 2 cars all packed up with our stuff and the 2 animals and their stuff. We were ready to go. I put my key in the ignition, turned it, nothing…. the battery was dead. People at the hotel quickly came to my rescue and gave my car a jump. I drove on to AutoZone for a battery. Once the battery was installed I had to enter the security codes for my car radio. I had the right codes. They just wouldn’t work. So I drove 15 hours in the sounds of silence. It gave me much time for my mind to wander and think. In the scope of things this was minor. It was just another reminder of all we had NOT lost.
We had reserved a “hard to get” pet-friendly hotel room in Gainesville, Florida in case we could not get enough gas to travel all the way home. As it turned out, we did find gas. We had a 1/2 hour wait. We couldn’t stand the thought of being away another day… so we kept on driving for home.
My neighbor had texted me earlier that our home was fine and the power had been restored … so that much we knew.
As we exited the highway heading for Venice in the dark, everything looked normal. A wave of excitement ran through me as we approached our street. We saw a lot of tree and plant debris in the road but there it was, our home… standing there waiting for us. The electric garage door worked and opened for us as if in a greeting. Welcome home.