Florida had only been my home for two months when Hurricane Matthew stuck last October.
At the time, I faced the hurricane’s landfall with denial: Ignoring news reports and waiting until the very last minute to get gas and groceries (I got three cans of soup, a six-pack of Gatorade since water was out and some Cheez-Its. I figured that would do it).
Right before Matthew struck, it occurred to me I should do a better job protecting my car, which usually sits in a parking space outside. But the parking deck was full. So I moved it into a reserved resident spot in the parking garage, hoping that person had evacuated. I left a note with my number in case I was wrong.
Many neighbors and newly-formed friends in Florida offered to take me in but I opted to ride out the storm with my dog in my own apartment.
Luckily, although Matthew originally looked like it was heading straight for us here in Jupiter, it wobbled at the last minute – sparing us from a direct hit.
I figured I’d gotten lucky with Matthew: Even though I was grossly unprepared, God had protected us by sending Matthew further up the coast. I vowed to be much more prepared for the next Hurricane Season.
So when it became clear Hurricane Irma was heading straight for Florida, I went into preparation mode early.
I filled up my gas tank six days before it was supposed to make landfall. I left my car indefinitely parked in the garage four days before it hit Florida. We got a heck of lot more groceries this time (including bottles of water with electrolytes!). I moved all of my furniture away from my storm-resistant windows and even had time to put up hurricane shutters for my boyfriend’s friends. And I stayed glued to the news reports for the last week, obsessively tracking Irma’s every move.
Originally, Irma looked likely to directly hit Florida’s East coast, including Jupiter. But as the days passed on, it became clear that Irma was headed for Florida’s West coast instead.
And as I write this this morning, Irma’s outer bands are striking Jupiter. But thus far, it’s not even as strong as what I experienced with Matthew. And Matthew wasn’t much at all here save for a few moments of flickering lights and some scary minutes of wind howling and horizontal rain.
Perhaps that will change as the morning wears on. And I know that already, Irma has caused a lot of wind damage, flooding devastation and even deaths across the Caribbean and now the Keys.
But while I sit in my apartment waiting for the storm to pass, I figured I’d take a moment to share my 7 thoughts on hurricane season in Florida:
- A little preparation goes a long way toward peace of mind. If a hurricane even so much as looks like it’s heading toward your area, go ahead and get the hurricane supplies before the crowds arrive at the stores. You’ll save yourself time and maybe even money. Plus, the annoying task of getting prepared won’t be looming over your head. And given that a lot of canned items are good for more than a year, don’t count it as wasted money if the storm never comes. Think of it as an investment in next year’s hurricane season!
- Everybody could use a helping hand or a word of encouragement during a hurricane. At this point, I’ve been on both the receiving and the giving side of this. Last year, as a new Florida resident, it meant the world to me when my neighbors and co-workers that I barely knew as well as strangers were offering to help me with hurricane preparations and were even opening their home to me. And this year, I had the opportunity to help put shutters on an older woman’s house. I also really appreciated all of the texts of concerns I got from friends in Florida and North Carolina. And as I’ve talked with more people this week, I’ve realized we’re all dealing with a lot of stress: Whether it’s the idea of spending days locked in the house with an in-law we don’t like or the threat of damage to our home or loss of life. We could all use a sympathetic ear at this time. Besides, when everybody comes together during a disaster, we’re the best prepared for whatever the hurricane brings.
- Stress-eating your emergency snacks days before the hurricane actually hits is a very real problem. I’ve almost eaten an entire box of cookies and freaking Irma hasn’t even hit the Florida mainland. It’s actually a big joke here in Florida. Everyone seems to break into the hurricane snacks a bit too early.
- No one knows where these hurricanes will end up. So prepare as best you can and then turn off the news. If you expect the worse, there will be no need to waste time watching every single update. And I’m saying this as a former reporter. I just feel so jaded that I spent so much of the last five days of my life being glued to the spaghetti models. I mean, the models literally swung from as far east as just off the coast of Florida to as far west as the Gulf of Mexico. Next year, when a hurricane looks like it’s heading my way, I’ll just go ahead with my worst-case scenario hurricane preparations and then ignore the news until the 6 hours before it’s supposed to hit my area. Otherwise, what’s the point when things can change so much along the way?
- Hurricane impact can sometimes feel like luck of the draw. Right now, I’m sitting in my apartment with the lights on and the sunlight coming in, feeling bored as I’m looking at a glorified overcast day. Meanwhile, my boyfriend (who lives five minutes away) is probably feeling like a mole as he’s staying in a completely shuttered home with the power out. And just 30 minutes north of here, people are dealing with flooded streets and homes. It all doesn’t seem logical but take the hand that’s dealt with you, be grateful for what is going right and navigate conditions accordingly.
- Be patient with yourself and give yourself the grace to do whatever you feel like doing as you wait out the storm. Hurricanes feel like “hurry up and wait” sometimes. There’s all this rush to get your supplies and to get boarded up and then… it’s just a whole lot of waiting. Here in Palm Beach County, a curfew went into effect at 3 p.m. yesterday. And now it’s 9 a.m. here and there still hasn’t been much of anything yet in Jupiter. The cabin fever is real. So be patient with yourself with whatever you do during this time, whether it’s stress eating, binge watching Netflix while the power is on or catching up on work. Heck, Thursday-Saturday, we pretty much just laid in bed and watched tv and went out to restaurants. Today, I’m cleaning up emails, reading and writing. Okay and also eating a whole box of cookies. So whatever it takes to get you through the storm, do it. Hurricane time (and calories) don’t really count.
- Keep your sense of humor. Whether you’re dealing with extreme cabin fever or devastating flood damage, your mental health can really take a hit during a hurricane. So after you’ve done all the preparing and praying that you can do, enjoy a little laugh. I do love that Floridians have a great sense of humor when it comes to hurricanes. And you don’t even have to look far to find some pretty clever memes or some hilarious Dave Barry hurricane commentary. And remember: You’re not alone. We’re all in this together. And when the storm passes, we’ll be there as a community to pick up the pieces – or at least all the empty boxes of cookies.