Over the weekend my family and I experienced our first hurricane in over a decade. I’ll be 33-years-old the last day of this month, and I’ve lived in Florida my entire life. I’ve been through more hurricanes and more tropical storms than you might imagine, but it has been over a decade since the last time we had a direct hit. Thankfully, our direct hit from Hurricane Hermine was removed at the last minute thanks to a change in direction, but we were on the southeastern side of the storm; and that is often the most dangerous.
Our family was prepared; we always prepare. You don’t live through dozens of storms like this and not prepare. We aren’t typically worried or scared, even though we are 7 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. We have a sturdy home, we don’t live on the water, and we are aware of what might go wrong. Nothing, however, nothing is as scary as going through a hurricane’s landfall in the middle of the night. The power is out, the wind is howling, you can hear trees snapping, the rain is pelting the windows and glass doors in our house so hard you’re positive it’s going to break the glass and come into the house.
It’s terrifying because you cannot see it. In my experience, it’s far better throughout the day. At night, however, it’s terrifying. We lived through with no major or even minor damage to our home save for one very scary moment in the middle of the night just before we lost power. The glass French doors upstairs leading to the second floor balcony were not locked properly (probably because we now have kids that can reach handles and doors) and somehow we missed that. The chain at the top of the doors was secure, though.
At one point just before we lost power there was a massive crashing sound and our home alarm system began wailing. We panicked, jumped out of bed and ran to see what happened. ADT was kind enough to send an immediate alert via text that I was able to check as I was jumping out of bed so that I could scream over the noise to my husband where the problem was located. It was the balcony doors upstairs. We didn’t know if there was a burglar in our home or not – but we knew our 2-year-old twins were in their rooms upstairs and we needed to get to them. Thankfully, it was not a burglar. It was simply the wind – hurricane force at over 80 miles per hour; it blew at the doors so forcefully it pushed them open as they were not locked, ripping the chain open. It was our mistake, and all is well. We were able to dry everything, make sure the kids were all right and secure the doors.
However, it reminded us very quickly that even the smallest moment of forgetfulness or lack of preparedness can be dangerous in bad weather. We were fortunate. Five miles away from us in our darling little Oceanside community, however, nearly everyone has lost everything. The water rose so high it completely covered doors for almost a solid mile inland, and the damage we are seeing is devastating. The entire downtown, restaurants, businesses, roads, streets, and homes are completely covered in water, and it’s not subsiding very quickly. The roads are closed, the entire city is closed, and people are panicked.
We know there is nothing you can do to prevent bad weather from occurring, but we do know there are things you can do to protect your home in case of approaching bad weather. Being prepared never hurts; and we have some of the simplest advice that might make a huge difference to you and your family; your safety, your sanity, and your home.
Remove all outdoor furniture
We have a house we like to say is made of glass and doors, and all our doors are glass. We know that the most important thing we can do before a storm like this is get our outdoor furniture off our deck, our wraparound porch and our balcony and get it in the garage. We don’t want it to become flying objects that are thrown into our windows or doors.
Have ice and water
We fill our Yeti Coolers with ice (because it takes about a week to melt in the sun) and we make sure we have that ready to transfer items from the fridge and freezer so that we still have milk for the babies and things of that nature when the weather is bad and the power is out.
Have flashlights and batteries
We become so reliant on our technology that my husband and I actually forgot about this last week. We use the flashlights on our phones to see, and we use the weather apps and internet to find out what’s going on with the weather. However, when we have no WiFi at home, we have almost no service. It takes a stroke of luck to send an email or text and see it go through, and we cannot connect to anything online. When the power is out, it’s a problem. We didn’t have flashlights or radios or batteries. Thankfully, our power came back on within 7 hours.
Park the car outside
You might not want to, but when we woke up Friday morning to no power and the realization that my SUV – the only car we have big enough to fit our family of 6 – was in the garage and the door was shut, we panicked a little. We can’t open our garage door manually. Thankfully, our door opener has a backup battery that allowed us to open the door and get my car into the driveway this morning just in case. If you have to evacuate suddenly and have no power, you do not want to find yourself without the ability to get out.
Finally, listen to the authorities
If you are being told to get out, get out. Don’t wait. Don’t be stubborn. They’re not telling you to get out to ruin your day or stress you out; they want you to leave because they want you to be safe and live through this storm. Additionally, do yourself a favor and stay out of standing water. I’ve already seen dozens of reports of alligators swimming through streets, in buildings and under cars that are submerged thanks to flood waters – and even more snakes. Stay safe.
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