There are several phases that goes through your mind when a hurricane is forecasted and is eminent.
Right now I have so many thoughts whirling around in my mind post hurricane Florence. I don’t know where to begin without being totally scattered. Maybe it’s because I haven’t written in awhile and I feel the need to express myself. Who knows. I guess I’ll start with the phases of a hurricane according to me.
Phase 1. First you hear news about a pending hurricane. I call this phase scuttlebutt. You’re not sure if it will have any impact on your world. It may come near you or it may not. No one really knows. It seems all speculative, which turns out to be something that bares truth through all the phases (according to me).
Phase 2. It’s not just scuttlebutt, it’s the real deal and it’s huge. Where it will land the professional meteorologist can’t say for sure, but it’s looking like the Carolina’s. It’s coming our way.
Phase 3. Okay, time to do something about it. Let’s start “prepping”. This was difficult for me because I had 2 cousins visiting from Norway and we took a little trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains. We have been thinking and planning for this mountain visit for months, so we wanted to try to accomplish as much as possible despite the uncooperative weather. We stayed at a great inn called the Mast Farm Inn which I highly recommend. (Once I get my travel post up and running, I’ll write some more but trust me, if you want country charm and hospitality, consider this destination) We headed back east with a little panic in our gut. At this point it was a category 4 hurricane with the potential of becoming a cat 5. We started hearing that the town I live in was running out of gas and we knew food would be an issue as well. We stopped at a grocery store just outside of the Blue Ridge and bought a bunch of water and other necessities. We filled up my car twice on the way back home. The second fill-up was only 3 gallons but we thought it was best to have as much gas as possible. The prevailing consideration was if you had to leave and there was no gas, you can only go as far as your tank of gas. Then if you need to stop for gas there may not be any so you’d be stuck in who knows where.
Phase 4. Decision time: stay or go. I suppose it wasn’t an all out panic, but the problem was, we didn’t know what the storm was going to do. It would be much easier for us if the weather was predictable, but we all know it is not, so we had to formulate the best decision we could. We agreed that it would be best for the cousins to get out of dodge. We feverishly worked the phone and internet to make arrangements for a flight out. Fortunately we have an airport 5 minutes from here so we went up to the airport and dealt with real people in real time. What an amazing accomplishment that was. Note to self in the future: if you can’t get through on the phone or internet consider going directly to the airport. This was never a thought or a possibility living in New York but in this case it worked. So off they went. Both to Atlanta then one back home to Norway and one to New York to visit more family. Okay, they’re taken care of, now us. I suppose the decision to stay was determined in an earlier phase but we still had the opportunity to leave if we felt we should go. We spoke with a bunch of neighbors, most of which were staying. The main reason- once you leave it’s really difficult to get back and that certainly is the current reality we’re in at present.
Phase 5. We’re all in prepare mode, we’re staying. We already did a bunch of prepping but now it was time to get down to the nitty-gritty. Tying things down, covering questionable windows, making sure we have buckets and towels ready along with all the other prepping stuff: candles, matches, batteries, water, food, water in tub to flush toilets if water is lost, and the list goes on. Our little neighborhood has a joint email sharing called “the port” which provided so much valuable information. It was very helpful and also a comfort knowing we were in the storm together.
Phase 6. The storm. We went to bed Thursday night not knowing what was ahead. There was nothing more we could do. I can’t say I was really nervous. The decision to stay was made, so it wasn’t worth looking back debating that decision. Many did question our decision to stay, and I get it, they all wanted us to remain safe, but we weighed the pros and cons and came up with stay home and hope for the best. Nightfall came with little sleep. The power went out at 3:45 and we were in the throws of hurricane Florence. She pounded us with violent wind. We did what we could, which was really nothing but wait and wait for something to happen, then you react. While the storm is upon you, you really don’t think. Your mind is blank, kind of in neutral waiting to switch gears into high or low or maybe even reverse. During the early morning, (Friday, September 14) we experienced the most terrifying moment. We were in our kitchen getting ready to have a cup of coffee (thankfully we had a generator and I’m married to Mr. Handiman). While looking out the window we watched an 80 foot pine tree land on our neighbor’s roof and onto our house. That moment brought me to tears. It was the only time I questioned our decision to stay. We moved past the terror and surveyed the house for damages. A broken window, some slate shingles missing and wood exposed on our roof but no gaping hole like our neighbors. So far so good.
Phase 7. Waiting through the hurricane. We’re still in it. Waiting and wondering how bad it will become. We’re without power but we still have cell service. Thank goodness. The alerts on our phones keep going off with one emergent warning after another. Eventually, you just ignore them because there is nothing you can do. Just stay put. I did a lot of walking around my house during this waiting phase. Walking and looking out the window. Constantly looking out and wondering if another tree was coming our way. Wondering what I should be doing? I can’t read, no light. You don’t feel settled enough to do anything. So you wait.
Phase 8. The eye. Interesting time. There is a calm. A sense of maybe this is it. We were in the eye for around 2 hours. Before we found out we were “in the eye” we got a little gitty thinking maybe it’s over but the radar made no mistake. The one thing you can count on is radar and we were in the eye of Florence. Once the slow moving storm passed the wind continued with bursts of energy. You don’t know what to expect and you don’t know what has happened beyond your property. It’s a strange feeling. You really are unaware of anything beyond your scope.
Phase 9. Pre-Post hurricane. This is when, according to me, that there are bands of wind and rain and periods of very little wind and rain. This was a very curious and telling time. We all tend to be impatient and curious people, even in a hurricane. We waste no time mobilizing. I found it so interesting, once the threat of danger was somewhat abated, neighbors began creeping from their homes and started to cleanup. We needed to get out and access and fix whatever we could as soon as we could. We barely took a breath. We’re out there with our boots on and rake in hand. Cleaning storm drains, picking up branches and making piles. Piles and piles of branches, sticks and leaves. During this phase you really stay around your property. You check on your neighbors, you share your horror stories but you don’t venture too far beyond a few houses because you still are in a hurricane. You deny this fact a bit, tricking your mind that it is okay to be out here because you need to do something. It may turn out that all your work is for naught but you don’t know this so you continue on.
Phase 10. It’s over Hurricane Florence is now a tropical storm. The night dumped a ton of rain, I think this was Saturday. We had copious amounts of rain. More rain then the prior day. It caused further damage to our house but from what I came to find out, it was minimal compared to so many. We had multiple leaks in our ceiling so the towels and buckets came in handy and the pile of laundry continued to build. Once the rain subsided the cleanup started up again and curiosity set it. What happened to everyone else? I took a walking tour with a neighbor around the block and we were struck by devastation. So many houses had huge trees in their yards and many on their homes. It was sad. Our beautiful historic neighborhood was riddled with destruction. The locals believe a tornado ripped down our road. The twisted trees all seemed to land in the same direction. The wind came straight from the north and whipped down our streets wiping what was in its path.
Phase 11 Cleanup the final phase only because this is getting to be quite a long post. There is much to come as we cleanup and restore but for now we are all busy working to recover what we can from its former day. Some homes will take months and months to repair as owners deal with insurance companies and adjusters. Others can rake, mow and blow out the branches and leaves and there appears to be little reminder of Florence. We were rather fortunate. We clean up, work until we drop, return stuff indoor and out to its proper location and move on with life. We’re all in it differently. I like to put things back as soon as I can in order to restore order. I took the opportunity to rearrange some items just for a little change. The wreath went back on the front door, although it might be a tad too premature and it might cause some angst in the neighborhood. A neighbor said it might make someone smile and give them hope. We can’t predict how others will react. Some fared better than others. Either way, there is much work to be done here and around our state. But we survived and I feel very grateful it wasn’t a cat 4 that hit us; if it was, “phases according to me” would likely be very different.