Last week Florida endured one of the worst storms in the 11 years that I’ve been living in the Sunshine State. After killing hundreds of people in Haiti, Hurricane Matthew aimed all his strength towards the South Eastern Coast of the US, generating an avalanche of preparations from state governments, law enforcement, emergency services, and the general public.
Before this one, I dismissed all storms and thought the preparations were a marketing strategy from the hardware stores to sell stuff that hardly ever comes off their shelves. Probably it is due to my Colombian upbringing; honestly we never plan for anything and are used to being rescued by the Sacred Heart and the Virgin Mary.
Every year during hurricane season, I made fun of my husband, which infuriated him. I always thought he exaggerated, and I criticized him for spending lots of money on supplies and enough canned food to stock a neighborhood mini market.
A couple of years ago, he even bought several boxes of Tyvek suits–like the ones used in Africa for the Ebola virus–which are still in our storage unit. Everytime I bring this up, he says, “When you are bleeding form your eyes and I am protected by Tyvek, we’ll see who is laughing now!“
Nevertheless, this time around felt different and I finally appreciated my husband’s efforts to keep us safe. What made me change? My five-year-old son. He is no longer a baby, and he now understands danger and fear. Therefore, his well being became my goal throughout his ordeal .
Starting Wednesday, my husband and I debated the possibility of evacuating our home after hearing the disturbing news and forecasts of the deadly storm. After I picked up my son from school in the afternoon, I drove straight to refuel my car, luckily without lines or congestion. Twitter was exploding with pictures of endless lines at gas stations all over the city and stories about people turning into looney tunes.
We tracked the storm with the weather alert apps as it passed other cities south of us, and from Thursday at midnight until 6 am on Friday, the chimes on our phones woke us up every hour. I kept thinking, “This darn thing is moving as slow as molasses!“
On Thursday morning, shy of 12 hours away from experiencing the winds of a category four hurricane, my husband and I packed a bag just in case. We kept going back and forth about leaving, but after surveying our neighbors and the information available about that evacuation zones, we stayed put.
Besides, at that point, the interstate highways were traffic hazards. It was probably more dangerous on the road than at home. Friday morning our dogs paced around the house like bulls in a pen predicting the inevitable, and around 2 p.m., without a water droplet fallen on the ground, the power went out after flickering several times.
You might think that my son or my husband–who always want to be connected to a machine–would lose their cool when the power went out. Wrong! It was me who became a nervous Nelly annoying my poor two men to the point that they wished we had a tranquilizer gun in the house. (I’m sure my hubby already ordered one for the next storm.)
From 6 p.m. Friday until 4 a.m. Saturday, Hurricane Matthew–which by the grace of God changed its path a little bit and decreased to category 3–rocked our coast with a concert of rain and 80mph gusting winds that made the trees dance as if they were at a reggae concert.
On Saturday we ventured out of the house when the sun came up around 7:30 a.m. With the power still gone, we jumped in the car in search for a hot breakfast. No boy scout skills in our house. We found a restaurant open and noticed that the people in line looked like victims of Armageddon.
When we got home, my husband received a phone call from one of our friends and customers. A four feet round old oak crashed through his roof inches away from hitting him and his wife. My bitching about the power outage stopped immediately.
For the most part life went back to normal 48 hours after Matthew’s close encounter. On Sunday we restocked the fridge and relaxed the rest of the afternoon. The sun shined brightly and the sky was so blue, that nobody could have thought a hurricane had just swept by. We were very fortunate.
As I wrote this column I felt shame, because I compared my experience with the people who lost everything in the US and Haiti. Only six years ago–January 12, 2010–this Caribbean island was reduced to rubble by an earthquake that killed over 220,000 people. And today, they are still searching for victims and fighting a cholera epidemic and starvation. I am not questioning God’s will, but I really hope he set a special place in heaven for them.
Thank you reading and sharing.
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