Up until now the scariest thing about Florida has been how awful drivers are. Now it’s a 50/50 toss up between shitty traffic navigators and a Cat 5 hurricane headed our way. Irma’s a little scary, right?
I just moved in with family (long story for another day) in Naples. I was already in Naples, but thankfully I’m about 10 minutes further inland now than where I was living near the Beach. If you know nothing about where we are, we’re in the south western tip of Florida. It was looking like a pretty bad prognosis for our area until last night. Now it’s mostly likely that Irma will tear into Miami for sure, sparing us a bit of nature’s revenge.
Don’t get me wrong. There are going to be hurricane force winds for over 45 miles from Irma’s center and tropical storm force winds well over 100 miles from her center… “from her center” meaning in each direction… Florida is only 100 miles wide, my dear friends. That is to say, that even if Irma hits Miami, Naples will be getting tropical storm and possibly hurricane force winds regardless, and potentially devastating storm surges as well.
See, that’s why it’s nice that I no longer live on the beach. I never got to see the beach when I lived there anyway, but after this weekend there may not be a whole lot of beach to enjoy anyway.
Like I said, I moved in with family. Right now that means my sister, her husband, their two kids, and my dad who they look after, and who looks after their boys. Plus me! Yay.
We began the debate Tuesday afternoon regarding if and when to evacuate, as voluntary evacuations have been called for in our county. I’d just received notice from school that we would be closed down Thursday through Monday. But it was Tuesday night and we weren’t yet sure what to do. My boyfriend who has been through a Cat 4 hurricane and lived in Florida for the greater part of 18 years urged us to leave. His family was also debating whether to stay or go – but they at least have a brand new roof and windows rated for a Cat 4.
We decided to shoot for leaving in the middle of the night, almost four days ahead of the storm. Water and batteries were already sold out in many local department and grocery stores. Lines at the gas pumps were hours long, and gas stations were running out of fuel. We figured that between trying to beat the bat-shit-crazy drivers trying to evacuate midday Wednesday, that Tuesday night was the time to get out. We were all going to go in one car – a Toyota Highlander with four balding tires, one of which has been getting low on air pretty fast these days.
My dad decided not to go. His sciatica has been bad lately and he decided he wasn’t going to survive a 12 hour road trip. “Plus,” he said, “if I’m gonna kill myself it’d be way cooler in a hurricane than in a car running away from one!” He’s crazy.
After packing a handful of valuables and two babies into the Highlander, my sister and her small family drove away, caravan-ing with her husband’s two brothers and a girlfriend.
I stayed with my dad.
I think hurricanes and big storms and lightning and wind are beyond cool. But I don’t have a death wish. I was ready to leave. I’d emailed school saying “I know we’re not closed Wednesday, but my family is leaving, I won’t be there.” I got a snarky reply about needing to show up, and that if I didn’t, PTO wouldn’t be approved. Screw that. But I was ready to go.
But you don’t leave 63 year old disabled crazy men alone in hurricanes, even if there’s nothing you can do for them if they stay. So I stayed. We’ve smoked a lot of cigarettes, deep fried a lot of chicken, been to mass and confession, and are keeping an eye on the forecast.
Jefferson’s family decided that their home was storm proof enough to bunker down in and wait out the storm, like many others in our area. They’ve welcomed us to stay with them if the storms get bad and our place isn’t safe. Poor Jefferson is pissed that we’re not there now, waiting for our impending doom side by side. But the sky is blue and the sun is out, and for now, there’s no reason to go anywhere.
The storm tracks towards Miami and the Carolinas. We’re gonna get hit with some nasty storms, but we’re going to be okay.
I’m glad my sister left with her kids, despite wanting to stay and experience something so dramatic. I salute her for sucking up her adventurous spirit and bottling it up for another time when her kids aren’t at risk. But I’m also glad I’m not up in the Carolinas waiting out a storm that may not hit us. I have a really bad head cold, and I just couldn’t handle the driving and my dad’s restrained but necessary complaints as we crawled up the highway searching for gas stations to wait in for hours. I’m glad we’re here, even without storm shutters or sandbags. It’s gonna be a wild weekend whatever happens, but we’ll be fine.
If you’re of a religious nature, pray. Pray for the 9 and counting that have lost lives already, for the repose of their souls, and for their families. Pray for the places that Irma hits head on. Say one or two for the places like this city where storm surges could flood everything, and where winds could tear down power lines, leaving us disconnected and powerless for days, maybe weeks. Pray for those braving the ridiculous traffic to evacuate. In my mind that’s just as risky as staying, knowing how Floridians drive even on the best of days. Pray for those staying. Pray for the steel hearted men and women heading south with supplies and rescue plans for those affected. Pray for everyone.
But don’t hold your breath. You’ll pass out and miss the storm altogether.