I have lived in Florida since attending college in 1997. I’ve experienced hurricanes here before. However, I have never experienced one like Irma. Hearing about how big and powerful Irma was on the news did not help. As they talked about it possibly being a Category 5 when it got to us was terrifying. When my husband, who is usually cool and calm told me he was a little nervous about this one, I really started getting nervous. We talked about evacuating but we knew it was still a couple days away so we decided to watch the news and wait and see. My family in NJ was concerned as well. As Irma got closer, we started preparing.
On Tuesday night we went shopping. We decided to go to Walmart at 10:30 at night thinking other shoppers would be gone by then. Nope. It seemed many people had the same thought. So we shopped like we would normally shop. Sticking to the perimeter of the store for preparing for a hurricane was not as easy. We started off in the produce section. We took note to what foods were not in the refrigerators. We grabbed some grapes, oranges, potatoes, and corn. I wanted to make sure we tried to stick to healthy items. In the past, I would go right to the bakery aisle and grab brownies and cakes to bake.
Next, we went to the canned food aisle to see what was left. We grabbed a couple cans of beans and some beets. Lately, we have been trying to stay away from canned food, but we were getting ready for a hurricane so we grabbed a couple. We already have some dried beans at home, so we just grabbed one or two cans.
This is the bread section.
Wednesday I went to work and kept a close eye on the storm. It was hard not to because everyone was talking about it. We were told by our principal that we were possibly going to be a hurricane shelter so we would need to start getting our classrooms ready. So I’m thinking, shelter? This is getting serious. We also found out we would not have school on Friday and Monday due to the hurricane.
Thursday at work, students and I started getting the classroom shelter ready. Much easier to do when you have some kids to help you out. They cleaned out their desks, and we moved the tables and desk in case people needed to sleep on our floor.
Back at home we still talked about evacuating but on the news, it seemed that the storm had calmed down a bit. Still, I was worried. My husband started the process of boarding up the house. Not an easy task. We also had two other houses to board. (When I say we, I mean Luis and his awesome friends, Nick and Mike.) The guys spent most of their Saturday boarding up our houses, plus theirs. They are awesome.
Friday I was off work and grateful for the time to get ready for the storm. Although I had hopes of working on my blog, it seemed it would have to wait. I started a list to make sure we were as ready as could be. Between Friday and Saturday, I started working on it. I started by getting our food precooked. Beans and quinoa are excellent sources of protein and would last for a while in jars.
My family thought I was crazy for cooking this food. My brother made a note to make sure he never got caught in a storm with us. I was trying to take a different approach. It was definitely different from what I would normally cook for storms, but I was excited to try to stay healthy during this time. I made sure we had enough water, and since there was no water to be found at stores, I filled up every jug I could find and filled them with our filtered water. I filled up our bathtubs with water, which I had never done before. So again, this was getting serious.
On Sunday we kept an eye on the news. By now it was not the hurricane that worried me, it was the tornados that it would bring. I emptied out the floor of my closet, moved some clothes around and made sure I had plenty of space for me, Luis and the two dogs.
Luis’s aunt and husband came over because they live really close to us and it would be great to have more people around to make it not so crazy which definitely helped. We had great conversations and tried to distract ourselves.
By now you could see and feel a difference in the weather. Most of Sunday it was extremely windy and we had some rain. The four of us and of course the dogs stayed out on our back patio area for as long as we could. We figured once the storm hit, we would be in the dark boarded house. We had breakfast, lunch, and dinner outside. It was pretty cool to see how amazing the weather was. After dinner, the rain seemed to be coming from all sides and we were starting to get wet. We went inside and watched the news. I wanted to make sure if there were any tornados in the area, we would know about it right away.
As the night went on, the wind outside started picking up. The sound of it was so scary. I thought for sure I was going to have an anxiety attack. Thankfully my dog Luca felt my energy and came over and sat on my lap for most of the evening. It wasn’t until around 11:30 we lost our electricity. So now we were in the dark. We lit our candles and listened to the news on our radio. It is so much worse when you can’t see the storm, only hear it. The radio announced that the eye of the hurricane would be passing over Lakeland. By now it was either a Cat 1 or 2, I’m not sure, but I knew around the eyewall is where the ferocious winds were. All we could do was sit, and listen. We heard so many different noises from outside. The wind was howling and we could hear things being knocked over. Some noises we could not figure out what they were. I just prayed for no tornados.
Finally, at around 2:30 we hoped the eyewall had passed, we were all exhausted, we felt it was safe to go to bed. I still slept in my closet because I was still not sure about tornados, and I couldn’t hear the wind as much in there.
Monday we woke up and right away went outside to assess the damage. Luckily we did not have much. We still did not have electricity, and we only lost one screen panel. Thank God. I started getting emotional at realizing how lucky we were. From what it sounded like all Sunday night, I expected much worse. Looking around our yard we discovered the strange noises were trees falling over. Driving around town we quickly realized how hard our town got hit. So many trees were down. You could see their whole root system out of the ground. Utility poles were broken, signs were mangled, so many places without power. Luckily we got our power back on Monday around 8:30 P.M. We were so excited, the first thing we did was take a nice hot shower. It felt good to be clean.
Today is Wednesday. I have the rest of the week off. Teachers do report to work on Friday to get classrooms ready for students on Monday. I am very grateful to have this time to get my head back on track. I now have to get my house back to normal living. I need to put my closet back together, and figure out a menu for this week, well, the rest of this week. I’m so thankful for staying safe and being part of a community that was ready to help right away. Facebook posts went out asking who needed what, what restaurants were open, what gas stations had gas, who had water. Just amazing!! Also, thankfully there were no reports of tornados in our area.
If you went through a hurricane like this before, I would love to hear about your experience. I told my husband next time, we are boarding up the house and leaving. This was too much for me!
Just remember you can still be conscience about how you live through a hurricane. Prepare so you can continue to eat and snack healthy.
Here are some more pictures:
The Eye Wall. I live in Lakeland. Our house boarded up. My sweet dog keeping me calm.
These were some trees we saw while driving around.