At 11:15am today two women, a mother and daughter, stood in the middle of the meat section in Sylva, NC’s Wal-Mart, staring at a smart phone. Concern and worry clouded their faces. The mother kept scrolling down the screen. The daughter wiped a tear out of her eyes. Suddenly, both ladies smiled.
“It’s moved west,” said the mother.
The daughter pumped her fist in the air and wiped away another tear. “It’s down to a Cat 3!”
This behavior might seem strange on the surface until you find out these women have evaluated Hurricane Irma.
I’m the daughter in this story. I live in Naples, FL, which lies directly in the path of Hurricane Irma. I fled Irma on Wednesday, September 6th with my husband, daughter, and dog. My mom and I were searching a website for the 11:00 hurricane update to find out which path Hurricane Irma was taking.
Many of you have been so generous, giving those of us in Irma’s path a place to stay. A warning, however, You might notice us act a bit odd at seemingly random times, possibly with mood swings and spacey looks. Please remember, we’re putting up a brave front, but we are cracking on the inside.
I thought I might share a few things we’re experiencing to give you a better understanding of our behavior. Trust me, you aren’t getting the full story on our social media posts.
- Many of us have been questing for water and gas since Monday, September 4th. I couldn’t find water in Target or Publix (our awesome grocery chain) two days before we evacuated. It’s now Saturday night, and some Floridians started their evacuation today. That’s six days some have spent scouring Facebook and twitter posts for information on where to find water, gas, and other essentials.
- Many of us have worked non-stop preparing our homes. We’re physically exhausted. I’m fortunate. I live in a second floor condo that’s basically a concrete bunker, and I can’t board it up. Others, however, have been nailing plywood (or custom hurricane shutters) to windows for the past few days, and many have had to search for plywood. Many have been trimming trees, packing valuables, and moving furniture and computers away from windows.
- Some of us haven’t slept in over 24 hours. Several of my friends literally took off the moment they secured their homes, only to spend 10 to 12 hours in bumper to bumper traffic. Some of us have endured the drive with screaming babies and/or whining pets. We are exhausted.
- We’ve all left someone behind. It might be a family member who refused or couldn’t leave or a close friend, but we each have several people we know stayed in harm’s way. I’ve got a mother-in-law and father-in-law who evacuated to Orlando, a sister and her family who finally left Naples for The Villages (near Orlando), and a sister who was supposed to be safe near Tampa. If we keep checking our phones, we aren’t trying to be rude; we’re making sure our loved ones are okay.
- We need tv/internet access at 5:00, 8:00, 11:00, & 2:00 (both am & pm if we are awake). The Weather Channel and other news outlets update Irma’s projected track and wind speeds during these times. The Irma gets to Florida, the more important these updates become. Please don’t take it personally if we have to check our phones or the tv to hear the next update.
- We can’t control what happens during these next few days. Information is our only form of control. Some of us will cling to it in an OCD way. Just a warning.
- Our financial future is uncertain. Florida is a tourist state. Tourism season starts in October. This hurricane is about to destroy all our infrastructure right before our tourist season. Some of us are just finishing up a financially lean summer, and we honestly don’t know if we are going to get through this.
- We don’t know when we will be able to go home or what we are going home to. We don’t want to inconvenience you or overstay our welcome, but we also don’t know what Irma is going to leave us with. A massive storm surge could wipe out most of my hometown. I don’t know when they will get power back up. As of the 11:00pm update, Naples is no longer in the center of the cone of probability (aka cone of terror). These unknowns are dancing around in our heads, even as we laugh and joke with everyone.
- Some of us could lose everything. My condo is in a storm surge zone and today they put Naples in the 12 feet catsgory. One of our cars is still there. I’m expecting we will lose it in the surge. Others have one-story homes in the storm surge zones, and they might lose their homes and everything in them. Many of us don’t know if we will still have jobs when this passes. I look at my 2-year-old daughter and wonder if we will be able to provide for her after this. It’s weighing on me, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. The biggest stress is the not knowing.
- We couldn’t do this without you. We Floridians try to be self-sufficient. We don’t want to put anyone out. We don’t want to clog your roads and interrupt your lives. We can’t tell you how grateful we are to you, and some of us will never be able to fully repay you. We are in your debt, and we won’t forget it. We might be stressing over how to repay you for your hospitality, but we don’t want to show it.
Hopefully, this might explain why your Floridian houseguests might be acting weird. Despite our moods, we love you. Thank you so much to everyone hosting an evacuating family. You’ve helped save lives. We hope we can do the same for you.