Preparing & Enduring Hurricane Irma

Let me start by saying, I’m a South Florida native. Hurricanes are simply a way of life for us. I’ve lived through Andrew, Charley, Ivan, Jeanne, Wilma, Katrina, Frances, and Matthew to just name a few. Truthfully, Hurricanes don’t typically shake me… but Hurricane Irma was different. It shook me to my core. This last week was a complete emotional rollercoaster.

We had almost a week to prepare for Irma’s arrival. Here’s what each day was like:

Sunday:

A gorgeous day at the beach with my friend, she was panicked it was going to hit, I felt like there was no chance it was coming for us. She kept saying “this is different” referencing several hurricanes we road out in ’04 and ’05.

Monday:

Labor Day! The beach was definitely choppier and started to feel eerie. But still, I didn’t believe it was coming. We ran normal errands and didn’t pick up any supplies. We really didn’t realize how big of a deal it was (we don’t have cable and I don’t go on Facebook every often).

Tuesday:

My intern comes over and asks if I have supplies, this thing is coming right for us at a Category 5:

As the updates rolled in that day, terror and panic continued to grow. Friends on the West Coast are telling me they are out of supplies over there already. Ultimately I made my husband come home from work so my intern and I could run errands. I reached full on hysteria and was afraid we wouldn’t have a home in a few days. I kept trying to stop thinking that we would be homeless and focused on getting supplies. The stores were completely out of water. The streets were crazy. Thousands of people already evacuated our area.

The next few days are a blur so this is a Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday recap:

The Governor calls for a mandatory evacuation on the east side of my street. The storm is heading directly for us with 10-12 ft storm surge. We only live a half a mile from the beach and less than a quarter of a mile from the intracoastal. We take a walk and the drains by the intracoastal are already overflowing. Okay, it was high tide, but still freaked me out. I started looking for flights out, but couldn’t get any. The knot in my chest made it difficult to breathe. I could barely sleep. The question, “do we evacuate?” haunted me.

Everywhere was a ghost town. The calls and texts saying “get out” started to come more frequently, and pure terror began to sink in. During those days, I basically had anxiety build to hysterical tears to “we got this” and felt confident we could ride it out. This cycle continued on repeat every few hours those days. It was exhausting.

PSA to Snowbirds

Every time I looked out our window, I saw some dumb neighbor who didn’t properly secure their home before heading up north. We had neighbors with satellite dishes out still, people with entire screen doors just resting on their balcony. All I could see was deadly debris when I looked out the windows and glass doors. If you or someone you know has a home in South Florida, make sure they always secure it before leaving, especially during hurricane season. Meaning bring all the patio furniture in, looking for anything that could become a deadly debris in a tornado and bring it in! Have someone nearby with keys to help double check your property or cut back your trees in case a storm is coming. Don’t let your ignorance take someone’s life or damage their property!

Why we didn’t leave

Florida is built for hurricanes. It’s not like other states. I kept seeing this awful video get passed around on facebook:

But you see, that home isn’t built anything like Florida homes. First, Florida doors actually open the opposite way than the rest of the country. Our front doors open out, instead of in, so when winds pick up, the winds can’t blow the doors in the same way the do up north. Our roofs are strapped on using some crazy 3 part system that allows for them to withstand stronger winds. We have some of the strongest building codes in the world. That’s not an exaggeration, that’s a fact. Anything built after Andrew and even after Wilma must adhere to improved and strict codes. Every time a storm hits, Florida figures out how to become stronger and withstand that much more.

Our home

We live in a three story town home, built after Wilma’s hit, with two “safe” areas (interior walls with no windows). We moved everything of importance from our bottom floor up to safe places on the other floors to prep for flooding. Our doors and windows are hurricane resistant. Nothing is full proof you guys. Even if you have “hurricane windows and doors” it doesn’t guarantee they will hold! Those windows and doors are not tested in Category 4 or 5 situations for that long of a period of time. It doesn’t take into account the tornadoes that will inevitably happen or the 185 mph gusts. They stop testing them above 140 mph! We tarped 2 areas of our house that I was nervous about the windows breaking from flying debris. The inside of our house was as ready as it would ever be.

Maybe we should evacuate…

Like I said, directly across the street from us was a mandatory evacuation zone. My anxiety finally got the better of me Friday. Our city had a curfew in effect from Saturday at 2 am to Monday -even though the rest of the county’s started at 3 pm. So Friday night we headed to the husband’s bosses place. He has huge walking closets in a brand new apartment building. It was more inland and felt like a safer place to ride out the storm.

At the same time, we were monitoring the storm closely on The National Hurricane Center’s website and it started to move west. Little by little. Until the Friday night updates, when it moved drastically west. The Euro model (usually the most reliable hurricane prediction) originally put the storm on the exact path it ended up taking), so when we started to see the big strides west, I decided to have faith in the Euro and knew it would keep going west. Saturday morning we packed up our stuff and headed back to our home.

 

While this shows our area “out” of the cone of uncertainty, the entire state of Florida was hit. This storm was wider than the state, not one person wasn’t impacted. We were just no longer in the “worst” spot.

Saturday

Saturday we spent at home, like life was normal. Watching TV, walking the dog, cooking dinner. I started to fill small ziploc bags with drinking water and put them in any empty space in our freezer. They basically turned into big ice cubes and actually kept everything in our freezer completely frozen even though we lost power for 30 hours.

Sunday

Sunday morning the winds were still calm enough to get Tucker out for a quick walk at 7 am. After that, we locked ourselves inside. Watching tv and trying to relax. Thankfully we only had one tornado warning for our street. It was at that time I’m pretty sure we lost this tree:

We also lost our power from the tornado. It took about 30 hours to get back on, which in the grand scheme of things, is nothing. Huge shoutout and thank you to FPL and the FL officials who have made unbelievable strides with getting people’s power back on as quick as possible. Our area, while it faced a lot of trees down, and some power lines, was truly spared. Everyone with homes in Palm Beach County wondering if they survived, most likely they are okay. The hardest thing for me to see was Veterans Park, a place where I truly grew up, but again it was just trees:

How You Can Help

Other areas of Florida did not fair as well. We are still waiting to hear if my mother-in-law can go back to her home or if she needs to find a new place to live. Entire buildings roofs were ripped off in other parts of Florida. The Tampa Bay was stripped of all its water at one point, beaching the manatees. Millions are still without power, and the rescue and relief efforts are just getting started in Florida and the Caribbean islands. You can donate to the Red Cross here or check out all these other ways the New York Times put together to help here.

Hurricane Preparedness Tips:

1) If you’re a snowbird, always secure your home before leaving town and make sure someone nearby has access to your home to help out.

2) Bring in any patio furniture, satellite dishes, loose screen doors, or any object that could get picked up and by strong winds and cause property damage to others

3) Cut back any foliage before the storm – make sure you do this before last call on garbage truck pick ups or else you’ll have to bring it into your garage/home (re: deadly flying debris)

4) If you’re in a flood zone, get sand bags to line your garage and doors to slow the water from coming in

5) Stock up on non-perishable foods, sterno burners, batteries, flashlights, a generator and gas to power it, and a first aid kit.

6) Put drinking water from your sink or Brita into ziploc bags and freeze. Fill every area of your freezer as possible. This will turn your freezer into a cooler/ice box – increasing the odds your food will stay frozen for as long as possible in a power outage, and also gives you clean drinking water when they melt!

7) If you’re in a storm surge or flood zone, consider moving items to a higher floor and tarping things inside your house to limit water damage if it floods or a window breaks. Again, not a necessity but if you have the time!

8) Hurricane windows and doors are not full proof- still consider boarding up with shutters or wood

9) Do all the laundry and dishes before the storm. And fill up your bathtubs with water. You may not have running water after or the sewage stations may not have power to pump the draining water out (which can cause sewage back up in your home!).

And remember…

It’s great to offer help before the storm, but most people need it after the storm. Double check on your neighbors, friends, and family.

 

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  • Brooke Pollard

    I’m so sorry you had to experience this. I have some family in both the Orlando and Clearwater area so it’s been frightening to watch the news. Praying for your family and everyone affected by the hurricane.

  • I actually posted a very similarly formatted post about Irma today! Waiting this storm out was such a terrifying, anxiety inducing process. I’m happy to see that your home didn’t suffer too much damage. We were lucky as well, but I’m so sad for other cities who were not so lucky.

  • Wow, I cannot begin to imagine. I am glad y’all made it though ok. My family lost power for 8 days when Isabell came though years ago. And I hadn’t even thought about how the dog would use the bathroom in a storm?! Ahhhh

    • So I forgot to include this in the post – but it was kind of funny, we put out a big square of 9 pee pads, and put him on his leash and “walked” him in a circle around it haha but he refused to go! He finally went when he thought we weren’t looking and missed part of the pee pads! haha! Honestly, I’ve been through a lot of hurricanes and have never seen power come on so quickly for so many. They were beyond on top of it! we lost power for longer in past storms as well and I have a lot of friends who never lost it at all. We got lucky, but a lot of other areas aren’t so lucky <3

  • Nicole Coppins

    Wow. I am so glad you and your family are ok. This is a great post for reference to help those in future hurricanes and to show what it’s really like. I think it’s so important to stay supporting affected areas AFTER the storm, as you said! Even though the footage stops playing on the news doesn’t mean it’s over…

    • Yes! There’s a huge benefit concert tonight they are airing on a lot of networks (or maybe it was last night? I’m so confused haha) – for relief efforts to Harvey and Irma!

  • Yikes. Such a scary time for so many. Glad you are safe!

  • Wow, I can’t imagine how you must’ve been feeling leading up to the storm and during the storm! It sounded like it was super scary for everyone! I’m glad that you and your family are safe!

    • Thank you! Unfortunately we just found out my MIL’s home was destroyed… luckily she was only renting and had no possessions there she cared deeply about! It’s still a long road to recovery for the state and islands!

  • Sarah Jean

    So glad you all came out safe in the end. I can’t imagine going through that many hurricanes either! These are great tips for anyone not as hurricane-savvy as you guys have learned to be.

  • mckenna bleu

    So scary! I’m glad you are safe. I’m hoping Jose doesn’t hit the east coast. Ugh. I’m over these hurricanes.

  • So glad you are okay! We were lucky to be out of the direct line (but within “the cone” for tropical storm winds). We ended up having a few microbursts around town but remained relatively unscathed. It’s always such a scary thing to decide whether to stay or leave. Great tips for Jose coming up behind Irma!

    • Yeah we weren’t in the “cone” of uncertainty but we still had Category 1 or 2 winds. and my MIL’s home wasn’t in the “cone” anymore but she still had cat 4 winds and actually lost her home we just found out… :- Hopefully Jose stays farrrr away!

      • I am so sorry to hear that your mother in law lost her home. Sending you guys lots of strength and well wishes as you sort through everything!

  • So glad you are okay! I was thinking about you. I had no idea that Florida houses were built so securely like that. That’s amazing. My husband’s grandparents live in sarasota area and they fortunately were up here visiting when Irma hit. Their house is okay!

  • Kelsie Kleinmeyer

    Wow, what a crazy ride you were on! Glad that everything worked out. Thanks for sharing ways to help!

  • It sounds like you prepared well! I used to live in a state where we got tornadoes, but I can’t remember anything as scary as this sounds!

  • I love seeing your thought process through this whole thing. I swear hurricanes are 5 hours of bad weather and 5 days of sheer panic. I was lucky enough to be out of the country when it hit, but my parent’s home (who did not evacuate) were right in the line of the storm. I had so many sleepless nights worrying about them. So happy it has passed us.. it would be great after all this panic if one didn’t hit for another few years please!

  • Wow! Super informative. I’m from Kentucky, so hurricanes aren’t a thing here. But I’m glad you’re safe and made it through!

  • I am so glad that you are safe! I understand it’s hard to decide to evacuate or not. 30 hours is a long time to lose power, but it’s fixable in the end of the day!

  • Kaitlyn Fickle Killebrew

    I was actually in Orlando up until Saturday morning with a girlfriend for a fun Disney trip! Luckily we got out in time!

  • My parents just flooded from Harvey and Irma has been really devastating as well. I’m glad you didn’t get too much damage.

  • I have been watching the media and it is just devastating. We had the worst summer for forest fires where I live. It has been terrible and also devastating. Nature is tough to deal with sometimes.

    • Totally agree… It’s unbelievable what’s happening around the world right now! Then the earthquake in mexico… I hope things calm down for everyone!

  • Nicole Leith

    Wow! Water already scares the daylight out of me. Add in wind and I’m just plain terrified. (I’m a mountain gal, if you couldn’t tell!) We knew a few people down there who chose to ride out the storm and I was terrified for them. And there’s things that you never really even consider – like there not being enough gasoline for every one to get out. Crazy! Best wishes to you as you and your state recover.

  • read this last night in bed lol. I thought it was so interesting to hear your perspective about the entire thing!

  • I grew up directly across the state from you, in Fort Myers, and my entire family is there. As the storm started moving west, they became under mandatory evacuations with talks of a 10-12 foot storm surge. That would have put my entire neighborhood under water. Thankfully they never got the storm surge there. The had all evacuated to the other coast (your coast), and just got home Monday afternoon. Then finally got power restored late yesterday afternoon, but so much of their area is still without power. I’m in Houston now and hardly slept watching the storm and knowing the potential for my family and my hometown. I was there during Charley, we didn’t evacuate. It was intense, but as you said, everyone learned so much! Glad to hear your home survived!

    • Ahh i love fort meyers! Happy to hear your family is safe! Hope they didnt have any damage!

      • They only took minor damage. A few pieces of soffit, a shingle or two, screen from the pool cages blown out…. worst was my aunt lost a huge tree between hers and my grandma’s houses, but it fell straight back so didn’t hit either home.

  • It all sounds so stressful. My friends drove to Tampa when they thought it would hit the East Coast, and then when the track changed they wished they had stayed home. It was their first time dealing with a hurricane because they just moved from Phoenix this year. Crazy!

    • Yeah that’s the struggle we were going through!! I was going to go to a friends in Sarasota… happy we ended up staying in the end! Hope their property was okay!

  • Ashley Vickney

    This sounds horrible, I’m so glad that you’re alright! My fiance has some family that lives in Houston and they had no idea how to prep their houses for Harvey beause they’re not anywhere near a flood zone. We’ve been donating to a couple of local charities, it’s hard because we can’t physically go down there to help.

  • Oh my gosh, I read your entire post at the edge of my seat. I’m so glad you guys were safe and didn’t have to deal with any major damage.

  • I was so glad to see you all were okay! I’ve never had to go through anything like this and can only imagine how scary it must have been. Praying that things calm down in the weather arena now, and prayers for your state as you all start to recover!

  • This was really interesting to read to see how you prepared for Irma. I kept checking Instagram to see how you and a few other Florida bloggers were doing. So glad to see you made it through safely.

    Also, side note, but I love Delray Beach! My dad spent half a year working in Boca Raton, so we actually went to Delray Beach quite a bit whenever I visited. One of our favorite restaurants was there and we just really enjoyed that area. I never had a big interest in Florida (although I also loved Sanibel Island when I visited in high school), but I loved Delray Beach. If I ever decided to move to Florida, I think that’s where I’d go.

    • Awe no way! Well first, thank you that’s so sweet! I love Sanibel too! I grew up in Delray so it definitely has my heart, even with all the changes in the last few years. What was the restaurant??

  • Jos A

    So glad you made it through safely! It must have been so scary going though it, but hopefully that’ll be the last one for a while 🙁

  • So glad to hear you are safe! I have relatives in Florida but honestly never thought about all the steps you have to take to hurricane prep your house.

  • Angeline Holub

    Very interesting information. Glad you’re safe and sound!

  • Oyinkan Ogunleye

    I can’t believe you went to the beach on sunday. I would be scared But I guess it’s safe if you don’t get on the water.

  • It was the exact same here in Houston with everyone going insane with the hurricane coming. I’m from Louisiana, so hurricanes are nothing to me. Of course hurricanes are scary for sure! I’m so glad that we always have a ton of water already and always keep our fridge and freezer stocked. Before things got to crazy we filled up all our vehicles to make sure we had a full tank of gas. Glad y’all were okay!

    • Yeah it’s been 10 years since a real hurricane came through our area, and I definitely didn’t have anything stocked up. Lesson learned for the future!

  • So crazy! That’s such good advice about filling up your freezer with baggies of water. My parents were without power for a little over 24 hours (in Atlanta) and they had to throw out everything in their freezer. So wild how big this storm was.

    Tori

  • I’m so glad you are safe! This storm was nuts. Atlanta lost power for awhile–My sister was without power for 42 hours. But this is nothing compared to Florida. I’m so glad you prepared properly and are alright!

    • Yeah I heard a ton of my friends in Atlanta say they didn’t have power! They were so annoyed because there parents in FL all got power back before them and FL had the GA power trucks!

  • Anna Hubbard

    So glad to hear that you were able to safely ride out Irma! I was watching news coverage on Sunday morning and it just looked awful!

  • Babies to Bookworms

    Wow I am so glad that you made it through safely! We are way up North, but we were watching the news constantly, checking on friends and family in the path.

  • Patricia Conte

    Oh! So, so scary. I’m glad you made it through in tact. I learned a lot about some of your “tips and tricks” from all the new-watching and reading I did. Like, I never would have thought about patio furniture (or anything left outside, for that matter). I saw friends on FB who put all their patio furniture in their pool! Again, so glad you’re okay!

  • I’ve been monitoring the hurricane and checking in on friends that live in the area, as well as my friends and former co-workers working for Carnival. Many ships had to wander around the ocean because they couldn’t return to port. I’m glad that y’all weathered the storm okay. I’ve been trying to do as much as I can to help. I’ve met a couple evacuees that came to Shreveport.

    Also, I had no idea that Florida’s doors opened the opposite way. That’s so interesting and clever.

  • Amanda Faber

    I’m so glad you and your family are safe! It sounds like an intense week for you

  • Thena

    So glad that you are safe!! I can’t imagine going through something like that. Stay strong!!

  • Exactly! Have you heard anything about it?

  • So glad that everything ended up being okay. These tips are also so helpful for those that haven’t really dealt with these kinds of storms before. Thanks for sharing!

  • I cannot even imagine what you went through. I’ve never lived anywhere with hurricanes but all I can imagine is dread and anxiety. I am so so happy you are okay! <3

  • Ahh! I was watching your InstaStories to keep updated! We have A TON of family and friends in Houston and Florida and we felt so helpless just sitting in our safe living room lol.

  • I’m so glad the damage to your area was minimal!

  • Hurricane Irma scared me to my core, too! My family is from the southern tip of North Carolina on a little 10-mile-long island, so very different from Florida for sure but still prepped for hurricanes. My parents were packed and ready to roll just in case Irma kept on the path she was going when she was heading towards your home – she would’ve swiped us too and I am certain my parents would’ve lost their house.

    Your list is so smart. My other advice to people (that I know you know!) is that even if you don’t live near the water, you can still be in huge danger from a hurricane! Tornados, rivers and creeks flooding, power going out, trees, etc. – all things that most inland houses are NOT prepared for!

    xoxo, Paige

  • That video is terrifying – thank the LORD that FL houses aren’t made exactly the same. I was a nervous wreck for you all weekend – so thankful you guys are OK!!!!

  • Oh, I hope you’re safe! I live in Austin and we got hit by Harvey a few weeks ago. Not nearly as bad as Houston had, but it was a lot of rain. And everyone panicked beforehand. I also love that you made this detailed post, because I’m definitely sharing this on social media!

  • So glad you stayed safe! Ever since Katrina and the horrible flooding last year, we’ve been on edge every hurricane season. We always go out an buy supplies over the summer in bulk to prepare which helps with stress so much. But such a good point about making sure every single thing is picked up or secure. You’d be so surprised what “heavy” things can get blown around and can hurt people or damage buildings!

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