Surviving Hurricane Irma

Surviving Hurricane Irma

They were saying Hurricane Irma was like no other hurricane anyone had ever seen…

 

Below is an account of the events that took place between Friday September 8th and Wednesday September 13th.

 

When news first started spreading about Hurricane Irma I wasn’t too worried about it. I mean, I’d been through a few hurricanes throughout my 30+ years on this planet. I’d even been through Hurricane Andrew, one of the worst hurricanes to hit the US.

 

Hurricane Andrew

 

I made the trip up to Gainesville as planned, where I was working with their tourism board. I started seeing that Hurricane Irma was getting stronger and was heading straight towards Florida. From what I could tell though, I’d still be able to drive back to South Florida that Friday afternoon and do whatever prepping I might need to do. The problem, however, was that Hurricane Irma was proving very difficult to track. Speeding up, slowing down, heading more north, heading more south. I swear, this hurricane was the most bipolar, most inconsistent, hurricane I’d ever seen.

 

early forecast of Hurricane Irma

 

I started to realize that driving down that Friday afternoon probably wasn’t a good idea. For one, there was the possibility that I’d be driving straight into the storm because at first they were predicting an earlier arrival. And two, they were saying it was going to hit South Florida directly as a Category 5, so I’d probably be safer staying in northern Florida. At that point, I had to figure out where I was going to sleep. My hotel reservation in Gainesville was only through Friday morning, and with evacuations starting, the hotel was completely booked for the next few days as well as all other hotels in the area.

 

evacuations from Florida

Heavy traffic on Interstate 75 moves slowly, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, in Forrest Park, South of Atlanta. A massive evacuation has clogged Florida’s major highways. So what they are doing is opening up the shoulders to drivers on Interstate 75 from Wildwood, where the Florida turnpike ends, to the Georgia state line. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

 

So, I reached out to the couple that I had house-sat for in Ocala a few weeks prior. I started house sitting through TrustedHousesitters when I decided I wanted to start blogging full time. Without hesitation, they said I could come and spend a few days with them. I was so grateful and relieved! I drove the 45 minutes south and got there just in time to help them start prepping the house. We moved potted plants, tied down the shed, and boarded up windows.

 

Map of Florida and where I was during Hurricane Irma

 

Back in South Florida, one of my best friends stopped by my apartment and moved everything away from the window I have in the living room (Kela, you’re the best!). I was worried that if the window blew in, I’d lose all of the shot glasses and knickknacks I’d built up through years of travel.

 

Kela sent me this photo after she’d cleared off the shelves and tables and pulled things away from the window.

 

Then, we waited.

 

Hurricane Irma’s path changed. Now she was going to hit the western side of Florida. She also slowed down. There were memes all over Facebook about people trying not to eat their hurricane snacks while waiting or just being so bored while they waited for this ginormous hurricane.

 

Hurricane snacks meme

 

Because this biatch was huge. Two things that made how big this hurricane was really sink in: 1. a picture they showed on TV comparing the size of Irma and Andrew and 2. at one point while it was still hitting Cuba they were feeling the outer bands in Washington DC. I mean, really think about that for a second. Cuba to DC. That’s frickin nuts!

 

Hurricane Andrew compared to Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Andrew on the left, Hurricane Irma on the right.

 

For the most part, I was in constant contact with friends and family back home. It broke my heart that I couldn’t be with them. And I’ll be completely honest here… I was scared. Scared for my loved ones. Scared for my apartment. Once people started loosing power, I heard less from them because they were trying to conserve their batteries. I understood, but I hated not knowing what was going. Not knowing frightened me even more.

 

Fallen palm tree from Hurricane Irma

My brother was sending me videos and photos the whole time.

 

Hurricane Irma eventually made another path change and ended up going right over Ocala around 3 am on Sunday morning, but by that time it had deteriorated a lot. There wasn’t as much rain as I thought there would be, but the wind was pretty bad. The next morning when we went out to assess the damage, we were still getting wind gusts of between 30 and 35 mph. Overall, the house did well. The back yard had debris, but there was no major damage or flooding and we never lost power.

 

Back yard debris after Hurricane Irma

Back yard debris

 

We spent Monday cleaning up the yard. We hauled off big branches and raked leaves. I even got on the roof to pull off a branch and to unclog the gutters.

 

Pulling branches off the roof after Hurricane Irma

Cleaning the gutters after Hurricane Irma

 

It seemed things were getting back to normal and I planned to drive home on Tuesday. Yeah… that didn’t work out. There was no gas. I found the last gas station that still had fuel, only to be three cars away when they ran out. Livid does not even begin to describe how I felt!

 

Luckily, fuel had been delivered overnight, because the next morning I got up early and was able to get gas with a minimal wait. I paid $3.39 a gallon, because they only had the most expensive gas left, but I didn’t care. I would have gladly paid more. I drove the next five hours without stopping.

 

What I saw along the way was heartbreaking. Trees snapped in half. Palm trees at 45 degree angles. Light poles down. When I finally got home, I was completely in shock. My apartment was fine, but the apartment complex itself was a mess.

 

Los Prados Apartments in Plantation after Hurricane Irma

Los Prados Apartments in Plantation after Hurricane Irma

Los Prados Apartments in Plantation after Hurricane Irma

 

Obviously, what’s happened over the last few days is awful. As I write this there are still millions of people without power. But I do want to take a moment and focus on something amazing: The amount of concern and well wishes we received from around the world was astonishing. As the days went by, I was trying to keep everyone updated on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. So many people reached out to us, asking if we were ok. It really tugged at the heart strings. Even afterwards, people were still asking how things were going and asking to be updated once we were safely home. Really guys, it meant so much.

 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

 

Now it’s time to try and get back to normal. Hopefully it doesn’t take too long. Thanks again for all of the love. #FloridaStrong

 

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Hurricane Irma proved to be unlike any hurricane anyone had ever seen before.

 

2 Comments
  • Erin says:

    So glad you guys are OK! I’ve been in hurricanes and also away when they hit my hometown, so I totally get all those rollercoaster emotions…even the ones in which you want to eat all your disaster snacks 🙂 Seriously, though, I couldn’t believe how big Irma was and am sooo glad to hear you’re ok!
    Keep us posted!!

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Hi! I'm Vicky, a South Florida-based blogger traveling around the world with my stuffed monkey Buddy. We show you how to make travel a priority while working a full time job. Click on the photo to learn more!

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