We Like to Party
Most Floridian’s are used to hurricanes. In fact, if you are not from Florida and never experienced a Miami hurricane – allow me to paint a picture – the stores become packed with people filling their shopping carts with water, food, flashlights, batteries and yes even beer for hurricane parties of course. Hurricane parties are indeed an actual event in Miami. As the party preparations go underway, the dominoes come out for tournaments, along with game boards. Everyone becomes exhilarated to have school and work canceled.
Some very adventurous people go to the beaches and a few stand outside their homes to feel the “hunker down winds” and feeder bands. I am one of those who has stood outside during the beginning of feeder bands and taken pictures which I do not advise. In a way, storms here seem to bring families and neighbors closer.
A Different Feeling
Hurricane Irma was a different story as everything felt different. It sounded like Florida was going to be the next underwater state. All the watches and warnings were very serious. My house was in really bad shape with a HUGE tree in the yard and all I envisioned was the tree crashing in through my skylight with a tornado whirling my house up up and away. (Tornadoes usually come along with hurricanes.) Perhaps I was a bit overdramatic but that was my thought. I was sure that even if nothing happened I would still be a nervous wreck staying home.
Many areas were being placed under evacuation zones due to anticipated high surges. My nerves were also shocked because my brother’s neighborhood was placed on an urgent mandatory evacuation. It was feared that his area was going to be affected by large storm surges and many would-be drowned due to the magnitude of the storm surges expected.
Where are the Supplies Though?
Merchants restocked as supplies would be specially delivered only for emergency staples to quickly dwindle from the shelves as people looked for plywood, fuel, food and the ever precious commodity of water. Water sources usually become contaminated causing the water to become undrinkable. Neighborhood residents were seen searching high and low in a quest to find these goods.
Finding drinking water was indeed a big ordeal as people stood in lines for many hours to get their supply. Unfortunately many were turned away as water quickly became unavailable. Friends and family would be tuned in to radio and TV stations to hear of any upcoming restocking news to share with loved ones and those in need. When water became replenished, stores imposed a limit per household. Fights began to break out as supplies became few and officials were not only busy trying to prepare to weather the storm but now they were needing to control peace as well. Tensions were high as everyone did the best in their power to prepare for this doomsday apocalyptic storm.
The gas stations became quickly depleted and many people were found driving around frantically during the midnight hours with very little fuel. The lines were very long and the wait times were several hours. Some places even took as long as four hours to then notify customers when they arrived at the pumping site that no more gas was available.
Shelters were being strongly suggested but sadly they have a bad reputation so I did not want to stay in one. Two days before Irma was meant to hit, an amazing friend offered to let me stay at her place in Herndon, Virginia. Naturally like most Miamians, I waited to the very last minute to decide to make a run and escape. Our journey began in the middle of the night as sleep did not come easy. To make matters worse, I now had a fever that was increasing and hadn’t slept for three days because of anxiety and was exhausted.
Escaping in the Night
I literally put all of our belongings into my then 2016 Toyota Corolla. It’s a good thing that the newer models of the Corolla’s come with ample space. My sister, mother, and friend were in that car. We were all packed in that car and somewhat squished like sardines in a can because of all the stuff we had taken along. Having only a limited budget and half a tank of gas we would somehow make it to my friend’s home. Since gas was a sparse commodity at the time we had hope of finding fuel in another town. I thought to myself that at least now we would be safe.
As we were on our supposedly 15-hour evacuation journey to Virginia, we stopped in several locations. My brother and his family were also traveling out to an in-laws home in Virginia to escape, but we were not going to the same city. Our destination was North Virginia about 4 hours away from my brother. We called each other often to check-in.
Something in the Air
The air had a nervous vibe as 7 million people also evacuated. The first stop we took was to Vero Beach to gas up our car. At last, we were successful in locating fuel. Vero Beach had enough gas that we could fill our car. Finally, we could take a breath from the stressful shortage of fuel.
In all rest stops along our evacuation route, people crowded around TV’s and gadgets for updates of the storms whereabouts and progress. We stopped to have breakfast in Cracker Barrel at Palm Bay, FL which I loved. The people we met were very friendly and nice. Next, we stopped in Glynco County in Georgia and it was deserted as they had to be evacuated also, but from what I could see from the brief time there was that it is a nice town.
So Much Driving
Driving at night is something I did not enjoy because it was very dark and I was absolutely drained. In our need to get to where we were going, I continued along the interstate and thought I was getting down in South Carolina. My eyes grew tired and weary along with my achy body and did not see any light posts there either. This was not the best way to be in an unknown town so back on the road we went.
I was unable to shake off the tiredness so I pulled over in a rest stop in beautiful North Carolina. Many other evacuees had done the same thing. This rest stop was a nice spot to stretch for a while and enjoy the cool brisk windy weather of that day.
Even More Driving
I got back on the interstate again after our short nap. As the hours passed, it felt like we were on a never-ending road with no destination in sight. The GPS kept extending the time of arrival to Herndon, VA. Our desperation grew as we felt the roads were going nowhere. The restlessness was now intense. Restlessness, anxiety, and irritableness filled the car as everyone felt trapped on a journey that seemed unattainable. My body was crying out for a warm shower, medicine, and deep sleep.
The traffic and congestion was intense but 32 hours after our departure we arrived in Virginia. Yet our destination had not been reached as we took a wrong exit and still longed for our arrival. Still, our lodging to North Virginia was several hours away so back on the highway we went.
My travel experience was limited and I did not know what to expect from this state. The more I drove the more amazed I was. Living in Miami my entire life and not leaving Florida, I felt as if I was on top of the world since Virginia is so far away from Miami. My eyes opened as I saw the beauty of this state.
Along the way to Herndon, we passed an area that was holding a historical reenactment that looked very nice. Had we not had such a long drive and been so eager to make it to Herndon, we would really have enjoyed to stop and experienced it. There is so much to see in this great state.
Finally, we got to Herndon, Virginia and it was time to shower and collapse in sleep. Later to explore the state and enjoy the company of my great friend and family. Our evacuation turned to be an evacuation vacation and our anxiety eased as we rested but our hearts and prayers remained with all the people having to stay in the wake of the storm.
Please read my second post to see how this evacuation trip ended.