Coming from Minnesota, a land of no natural disasters except for the errant tornado or occasional flooding, I’ve been keeping a close eye out for hurricanes ever since we moved to Florida.
Now what is interesting about hurricanes is that they can be predicted when they are over a week away, unlike tornados. And while you know for certain a hurricane is going to hit somewhere, you don’t know where that might be. You could be directly in the path– or, it could turn and hit someone else, or it could be predicted to hit elsewhere, and then smack you anyway.
A week ahead of Ian, we knew he was coming, and we knew he looked like a bad storm, but that was all of the intel we had. Or maybe I should say, we had a large amount of intel, but it was unclear how much of it was useful information.
For those who have not lived through a hurricane, the best analogy I have is birth. You know you’re pregnant, and you know that a baby will exit your body at some point in time, but you have no idea when or how that child will exit your body.
While we have lived here, there have been many hurricanes predicted to impact us. The closest we got was a small tropical storm last year. But this time around, the locals were eyeing the storm nervously. And when school got canceled ahead of the storm, we knew it was a real threat.
And just like during pregnancy, with the news of the impending hurricane, I began nesting, cleaning the house from top to bottom. I got caught up on laundry and moved all of our outdoor furniture and pots inside.
The night before Ian made landfall, tornado warnings blared and the weather forecasters were in blissful states, frantically tracking tornados and using all of their different weather models to make predictions on where Ian would make landfall.
And I was so exhausted from all of my nesting that I slept through it all. Thank goodness Chad was awake enough to monitor the storms.
The next morning the wind picked up, contorting palm trees and ripping out bushes. We hunkered down at our neighbors’ house, given that they have hurricane shutters and we do not. Right after we settled in, the power went out.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of spending time in a home that has hurricane shutters up, it is basically like sitting in a cave, with no view of what is happening outside.
We sat in the dark with four young, bored, kids. Hurricanes always sound so exciting, but this experience was monotonous. We entertained them with magnetiles, flashlights, and snacks.
The storm raged until around 9pm. We brought the girls back to our dark home and got ready for bed by flashlight. We woke up to silence and gray skies.
The thing that will always stand out to me about this experience is that despite the significant impact Hurricane Ian left, the devastation, loss of lives and homes, the sun continued to rise and set. And that one constant has been enough to ground ourselves on.
In the first three days after the hurricane, we relied on the sun’s light during the day and were reminded to sleep when it set. The sunrises and sunsets were made up of muted colors, as if offering an apology for the eruption of the uncharacteristic and catastrophic behavior of the sky.
The other thing that I have been reminded of during this experience is that sometimes the darkness accentuates the light.
Because no one had phone service, people showed up on our doorstep, the most welcome kind of unannounced. Neighbors brought hot coffee, chicken nuggets made off of generator power, and ice. Had it been during any other time, I would have been mortified to open the door, in my often bra-less, unshowered, grunge look, surrounded by a disaster of a house.
There was a vulnerability to it, not being able to hide the fact that I didn’t have my sh*t together. But we were all in the same boat.
Two days after the storm, a pharmacist showed up at our house in his truck to hand deliver my migraine medications. I think I encountered an angel.
One night we walked outside and were stunned by the vast number of stars illuminating the pitch-black sky, surrounding the sliver of a crescent moon. We soaked in a view that would not be possible in a neighborhood with power and lights.
But while that view was magnificent, I would have gladly traded it for power. Each night we slept in our family room, the coolest room in the house. We had weak battery-powered fans strategically positioned to provide the best airflow. We would wake up in the middle of the night when fan batteries died and groggily replace them.
We were lucky to get power the Saturday after the storm. With power, we also got phone and internet service. We were finally able to update all of our concerned people, and for the first time, we were able to watch the news.
While we had heard plenty of rumors about what was destroyed, it didn’t really register until we saw the footage of our favorite beaches, completely gone.
The skies have been full of rescue and coast guard helicopters, a sobering reminder that all is not well. I’ve been filled with survivor guilt, wondering why we came away unscathed while others lost everything.
I feel guilt at being able to return to an almost normal level of life. Sure, the grocery stores don’t have produce or meat, and school is shut indefinitely, but we can still bike to the park, and laugh, and come home to a safe home with power.
I am not alone in feeling this way- almost every person I’ve talked to has expressed similar thoughts. When I texted one of my best friends about it, she nailed the response:
“Maybe take a Saturday or Sunday this weekend and go volunteer somewhere, but I think there’s something to be said for just keeping your family working properly during this time.”
I went for my first run after the hurricane yesterday. Today, I plan to floss my teeth for the first time. Life was shaken up for a bit there, and I lost all of my routines. I’m back in a place where I can slowly re-establish them, but I’m trying to give myself some grace to return to normalcy at my own pace.
We are so grateful to everyone who showed up at our doorstep, let us into their home (thanks, Pauls!), checked in with us, and provided support from afar. You know who you are. Thank you!