Evacuating for Hurricane Irma

Our town: Fort Pierce, Florida, USA
It's beautiful here.

Living in Florida is wonderful like 67% of the time. The perks are that it's beautiful year round - blossoming happy plants, outdoor fun, beaches are wonderful, no snow to shovel ... and you don't have to own an extensive wardrobe. It's warm, warmer, and hot. So basically, you can survive with a single-season style wardrobe. That's awesome! The negative things are that it's too damn hot most of the year (sweating sucks and hot cars suck) and then there's that whole hurricane thing ...

Here's the positive aspect about living in a state that deals with yearly hurricanes ... our homes and building codes are pretty solid. Hurricanes (like Cat 4 and under) usually don't decimate our homes and buildings. Storm surge is a different story ... but homes here are built with CBS (construction block and not wood -- for the most part, at least). And, because Florida deals often with storms, the response to them from the state and cities are fairly good. Most of us know how to shop and prepare to ride out storms, prepare houses for minimal damage from storms ... overall, it's a knowledgable state about bad weather and it's handled well.

A regular Florida storm. This is not a hurricane or even a
tropical storm. It's just a regular afternoon storm.

Having said all that, storms are still pretty damn scary and Hurricane Irma was no joke. That Cat 5 beast ripped through the Caribbean and I was hoping it would be downgraded but didn't falter. I was stocked up on supplies (with hearing protection for my girls because storms can be loud and scary - as well as solar chargers, solar lights, food, water, etc) but it stayed strong. DAMN!

I was offered a room with friends of mine who were evacuating to Jasper, Georgia. That sounded better than riding out this beast of a hurricane.

Here's the thing about packing for evacuating. You pack like you may lose everything you leave behind. That's tough. I have my important docs always kept together and fairly organized. I have a small suitcase for my clothes and another for the girls. But after that, what do you pack? What do you bring that you NEED if you lose everything? It's tough to grasp the idea of total loss.



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It's a bit like this though ....


Imagine your house is on fire. Get out alive. Take what you value most. (Hopefully it's your loved ones and pets). In my case, it's my girls and my important docs. Everything else is allowed to be a loss. My few family heirlooms are among those things I'd miss but I'd survive without. I try really hard to practice detachment to materialism. While I have some things I love, I know I don't need them. There's a difference. So packing for the hurricane is a bit like that.

The first thing that happens when a hurricane is imminent is stores run out of water and gas stations go empty. You can effectively fill all bottles and jugs in a house and not have to purchase water. That's the cheap and better way but, without fail, water supplies vanish from the shelves. I cracked up when I saw that all that remained was flavored water and Italian mineral water (I LOVE Italian mineral water!!! hahaha). I also bought wine. It doesn't need to be cooled. Hahhahah I was thinking ahead.

But my car was fueled up, the car was packed, and the storm was imminent. So we took off a few days before the hurricane was going to make landfall. To northwest Georgia we headed.

A huge chunk of Florida decided to evacuate so we flooded the roads. I took 95 North to 10 West to 75 North. Ohhhhh my goodness. A 9 hour drive turned into about 16 hours.  It was torture for my nearly 2 and nearly 5 year old. Ugh. The speed limit was basically 20 miles an hour most of the way.

We stopped in a small Georgia town with a playground for lunch and a break from sitting. But we still had hours to go. And, Atlanta traffic was torture on top of torture!!! But, I was glad Floridians were evacuating. The less people needing shelter and emergency care, the better. Let those who really need the emergency services have the services available to them.

Oh, guess what? While I was driving north, a childhood friend from Jersey reached out and turned out he lived in Atlanta with his wifey and 2 year old. I had no idea he moved down south. We lost touch for a few years but it was nice to have a local friend. He offered his place if we wanted another car break or crash but I wanted to push through and be done with the car for good. However, it was a nice feeling having a familiar face offering temporary shelter.

I left my home at 6am and arrived deep in the mountains in Jasper, Georgia, around 10pm. So, here's the funny thing. I arrived before my friends arrived. It's their house. I'd never been there before. It was dark and creepy and deep in bear country. I couldn't get in the home. They gave me a billion codes to try for the garage door opener. Nothing worked. I was in no mood for any of this. My friend wasn't due to arrive till like 4am (she ended up getting in around 7am -- it was a long day for her and her son, too). The idea of sleeping uncomfortably in the car in the driveway of a house sounded as awful as my general mood.  (LOL)

I had no cell service. No wifi. I struggled finding my way back to the gate to the community in the dark. My high beams seemed ineffective for the narrow poorly lit tree-lined streets. Two good things happened. (1) the gate guards told me dominos delivered and (2) my friends coordinated for the realtor who is selling their house to let me in. THANK THE UNIVERSE!!!

We got inside the house. We ate. We laid down.  Day 1 traveling sucked. LOL

However, my friends arrived in the morning and after resting and showering, I felt much better. Although I had no cell service (WTH T-Mobile?) the club house did have wifi. So, if I was at the clubhouse I could check Hurricane Irma's path, check on the people who were evacuating as well and the friends who decided to ride out the storm.

The place where we were was basically populated with old people and golf lovers. The conversation at the table next to us (old ladies) was about cremation and gossip. LOL Crazy combo.  And, because of the age of the people and the age of the homes, it had a bit of a Dirty Dancing vibe mixed with The Golden Girls.




We walked down to the lake where there was a playground. The roads were steep and tough to walk on my Florida legs (we don't have hills or anything here). I loved the way it exhausted my legs to walk up these streets. We got in trouble for walking on the golf cart path. Apparently it was only for old, drunk golf players and their carts. How dare we infringe on their sacred land. hahah

We had beautiful weather for a couple of days and really made the most of it. We went to a Pumpkin Farm, took a hay ride, sat near a creek for a light meal, we walked up a mountain to see a gorgeous waterfall -- Amicalola Falls State Park. That place was awesome!!!

Amicalola Falls State Park (pics below) has a pond at the base and then the journey up the mountain is by stairs - many, many stairs. Sofia (my nearly 5 year old) ran up the entire mountain. It was nuts. I had Chella in my Tula (baby carrier) on my back and I panted and sweat the entire way. It was TOUGH!!!! But, it was worth it. It was beautiful. My littlest one waved to everyone with a smile as I struggled making it up the never-ending stairs. LOL She is such a charmer!

We also went Gold Mining (fun for the kiddos) and lucked out with the 2017 Dahlonega Trail Fest that was going on. Now that is a cute town!!!!! There were musicians, REI hat coloring activities for kids, tents with cool stuff, street food (including yummy hummus veggie wraps for non-meat lovers!). The stores were charming and filled with local foods and locally-made adorable things for the home. Honestly, this place must be heaven during Christmas. It was absurdly charming.

Nearby is a Gold Mining place were you can tour a gold mine and then also sift for gold. It was a bit much for my kid's ages but I bet it's super awesome for kids 7 and older.

Anyway, we made the most of our time as evacuees until the storm came and screwed up the electricity and knocked down some trees. Losing power wasn't fun. There really wasn't much of a storm but the trees in this area were so skinny and tall that some were bound to topple and take out power lines with them.

I eagerly awaited news from back home in Florida about my home and electricity. See, just because the home is fine doesn't mean it's worth returning to because Florida is damn hot and without electricity for A/C .... life is unbearable. I was surprised how quickly my town got the electricity back up and running. So, as the power remained out in our area of Georgia, we departed and headed back home.

I was grateful for having a place to stay - incredibly grateful. I stayed with a family who I met in a bit of an odd way. I met Susie in 2012 (I think?) when I lived in West Palm Beach and went to the town's Yoga Day. We met briefly and kept in touch online - sporadically. In fact, given how much I enjoy deleting people off of Facebook, it's surprising that my distant friendship with her didn't get cut. Seriously, I delete people for fun when I'm in a bad mood. hahaha Anyway, fast forward 5 years, she invited me down to Jupiter (that's a town in Palm Beach County, Florida) to paddle board with her because I was on mom overload and needed some time for just me. Her daughter (who is my age and also a single mum) met up with us and then we all had dinner. From that one day, I lucked out. Her daughter, Sarah, has come up to Fort Pierce with her son a couple of times and I was grateful that they offered a room to me and my girls to evacuate to. Considering how new our friendship is ... it was incredibly kind of them to let us hang with them in Georgia. If it weren't for them, I'm not sure where we would have gone.

The thing is ... a lot of people are quick to judge those who don't evacuate during a big storm but evacuating isn't always an option. Hotels cost money, gas costs money, eating on the economy costs money, you need a way to leave, a way to return, a place to be housed ... all of these things cost money. And, when loads of people evacuate, they also end up occupying all available hotel rooms. So even if you can get out, you may not have an easy place finding somewhere to say. Now add the element of people with disabilities, people with animals, people whose heartless jobs require them to work until the day before the storm leaving no time to evacuate ...

So, having a free place to stay with friends was appreciated so very much. It cost me a bit of food money and gas money. That's it. It could have cost a lot more to leave. Plus, my daughters were blissfully unaware of Hurricane Irma until her influence knocked out power in Georgia. My older daughter loves my friend's 9 year old son. She was so happy to not have to play with her little sister. hahahahahaha

We left for the 9 hour drive and it again, turned into a hell of a long day. We got hit on the highway by a young woman who was driving too damn close to my car. I'm so grateful that the airbags didn't deploy and that my girls weren't hurt worse. Sofi complained about her neck but still ... it could have been worse. I drove past so many horrible car accidents on the roads.

We returned to our home and saw that there was no damage to our home. The shingles in my yard weren't from our roof. The plants were damaged from the winds but who cares?! Not I. We had electricity. We had running water. We had our house safe as could be.

There are people who lose everything from storms, from storm surge, from general flooding, from fire, from any number of awful disasters. I count my agnostic blessings. I'm so glad we made it through this storm. I can only hope we are as lucky the next time around.






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---------- Now for a political rant -----------

As citizens we pay our taxes. We pay a lot of taxes. We aren't subsidized like big corporations who sit on corporate welfare. We pay for wars, for healthcare for government officials, for luxury vacations for government officials and YET during a crisis, we are all asked to DONATE our money to those in need. Why do we not have a government set up to effectively provide for disaster relief? What are our property, state and federal taxes for anyway? Honestly, we spend TRILLIONS in foreign wars yet our infrastructure is crumbling, the healthcare system is broken, our education system is hurting and during epic disasters in our nation, they ask us AGAIN to reach into our pockets and pay. I want to remove our funds from foreign wars and invest in ourselves. We need it. (this rant does not, at all endorse MAGA or Trump. I support neither the person nor the philosophy of his followers. I do support investment in our nation, our youth, our elderly, our soldiers, our veterans, our environment and small businesses. I will always be more Bernie than anything else -- until something better comes along) 



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