Yes, we left Miami behind and with it, “IRMA“. This was not an easy decision to make, but we now know it was the right one. Our apartment is as secured as we could make it, we followed all instructions…..but I am still worried.
We drove without stopping to rest until we left the Florida peninsula. The governor had lifted all tolls, so the Turnpike was a bumper-to-bumper, slow-going ride. At time we were going 8 to 10 miles an hour!!! We did not witness any incidents of road rage or major accidents. People, I am sure, were too involved in their own flight. It was more important to continue moving than to cause more delays.
Gasoline was available in all service stations. They were crazy, but we did not witness any altercations, everyone waited in line for gas or food or the bathroom. State troopers and police were on hand to make everything run smoothly. Still, it was incredible stressful and nerve-wrecking. An experience of a lifetime!!!
It took forever to get out of the Florida peninsula. Turning West, we found as many cars as there were cars moving North. We had reservations at a hotel in Pensacola, but never dreamed we would take that long. When we finally arrived, it was all we can do: take a hot shower and collapse……slept like logs. We got late check-out and after that we sat in the lobby still resting before moving on.
Drove to New Orleans, still encountering heavy traffic. Lots of cars with Florida licenses, I wondered if they had a place to stay along the way. Every hotel, motel and B&B along the way was full to capacity. It was strange to keep driving knowing we had no clue when we can get back home.
Thankfully, we had a special place to stay in the city. The daughter of a dear friend, family really, who opened her home to us. We had a lovely time and are so grateful!!! After that, we arrived in Houston, to spent time with our son. Here we are for the forseeable future…..a short time, we hope.
Now, here is what I learned from my first major hurricane experience:
1- Always plan to evacuate, even when you are securing your home and getting ready to stay. You never know what Mother Nature has in store, all weather forecasters can do is predict. That is not criticism, it’s a sad reality…. look what is happening in Jacksonville, never even mentioned when Irma was approaching Florida.
2- Once you have decided to leave or ordered to leave, plan on flying out. Do not even consider driving, unless you are young and healthy and full of energy. Trust me, evacuation by car is no picnic. You can be stuck for hours or days on the road. Now, if flying is not an option, please make reservations in hotels along the way, it will be impossible to just walk into any of them and get a room. Reservations can always be cancelled!!!
3- If you decide to stay, listen to all directives from authorities. If you don’t lose power, keep tract of the storm as it moves into your area, take cover when needed and make sure you have all you need with you when you do. This can safe your life, stuff in your home can be replaced!!!
4- There is nothing you can do once you have evacuated or decided to stay. Keep calm and relax, you have done all you can. You now have no control of the situation, only of your reaction to it. That will make the difference.
5- It is a sad truth, but I have now reaffirmed my belief that it is in dire situations when humanity is at its best. I cannot thank enough our family and friends who kept in touch, offered help and prayers and kept us hopeful. I saw calm and helpful folks on the road and service stations, people helping people…it was wonderful. Wish it was the same when times are happy!!!
Finally, I am certain that this experience will help me continue with my project to give away, throw away and donate things I really have no use for anymore. I am more convinced than ever that a simple lifestyle will be a happier lifestyle for me and my husband. At the end of the day, we are safe, we didn’t lose our home, we are healthy and grateful. We’ll see what our way back brings, what lessons will teach us and what we will find when we get back home.
P.S. Photo 1: view from my balcony…..Photo 2: my balcony, my happy place…hoping it has not been too badly battered.