Here she comes
The title says it all. I'm in Florida. I'm actually a bit East of Tampa. I'm not in a flood zone. I have not been suggested to evacuate. My family and I are staying put with our house.
This has been a bit of a stressful week, although I would like to say I have been handling it pretty well. We have known about how really serious Hurricane Irma could be to this state since about Tuesday or so and ever since then all of Florida has been on high alert. The last couple days alone of been making people nervous. I have watched it go from possibly anywhere in Florida, to being most likely near the East coast, to then the middle of Florida, to now more Western part of Florida. We have no clue where this is going. The weather authorities have only guess, educated yes, but still guesses. This is Mother Nature we are dealing with here, she does what she wants and we can only predict so much. So, I knew we were staying. I knew I had to prepare so prepare I did.
To fill you in a bit more, in case you don't know, I am not from Florida. Most of my neighbors are not originally from Florida. I am from Canada, around Toronto to be exact. I have been in Florida for just over 3 years. We had some wind and stuff last year from some tropical storm that was around last year but nothing like this. So, this hurricane thing is very new to me. Unfortunately sometimes Tornadoes also follow along with hurricanes and those scare the heck out of me. Hurricanes at least you can prepare for, Tornadoes you can't. They come out of nowhere with very little, if any, warning. They strike fast and they strike hard. Hurricanes can and will strike hard too so I am not discounting that. I am just a bit more scared of Tornadoes.
Well, here is my story.
We have prepared by knowing we would need water (enough for everyone - including pets) for at least a few days, food (that doesn't require electricity to be kept cold - as we don't have a generator and chose not to get one), ways to stop or reduce possibility of flooding into our house through excessive rain, and a sleeping and evacuation plan.
I have that covered. While everyone around me on Wednesday was freaking out about water bottles being out of stock, I decided to stop by the dollar store and grab some BPA free food containers with lids. Each one is at least 3L. I grabbed a bunch, which no one had thought of yet. Although after they saw me doing it a few others started to follow suit. I also grabbed a bunch of empty two liter bottles of soda. I have filled all of them up with my Reverse Osmosis water as I know it will most likely become inoperable during or after the storm. We also did end up grabbing 1 pack of water bottles today just in case since we have used all the containers I got a hold of. Water? Check.
I don't need to include any pictures here as you know what food looks like and I didn't do too much different than others I suppose. I grabbed some cans of soup, protein bars, granola bars, crackers, dry pasta noodles, apples, bananas, peaches, I have potatoes, dried rice, cereal, and I am sure a few other things. I have a charcoal barbecue if necessary, and I am lucky enough to have a gas powered stove and range that can easily be manually lit in order to cook food. Anything that is left in the freezers when/if we lose power will stay there. If the power stays off for a couple of days they will naturally thaw and I will be using them immediately on the grill or stove. I don't have too much in there as I made the point not to go grocery shopping until after the storm except for stuff for the storm and possible power outage.
Ways to reduce possibility of flooding
I have a one story home. My home is predominantly made of cinder blocks. The roof is a different story, but the main parts of the house are made of that. I do however have a bit of a slight hill in my backyard that grades downwards towards my house. It is actually graded to go around my house but the last time heavy rain came a bit of water (not much) seeped onto my back lanai (covered patio). I also do not have gutters so that is made a bit worse as I have a pitch roof and it all comes down mainly in my backyard. So, I knew we had to do something about that.
The public works places in my county opened up for residents to get sandbags on Tuesday. I couldn't make it. On Wednesday my family set on out the the nearest one to us to find that there was at least several hours wait to get sandbags, the line ups were crazy and miles back on each side going into the area. We decided against it. We check our closest hardwood store to find they had run out of sand, even play sand. We then made the decision to dig a trench if necessary. The county only announced that Tuesday and Wednesday they would be offering sandbags. So on Thursday when they announced they would open again I jumped in the car after my husband told me and headed out to one a bit further, but that I had hoped would be less busy.
It was working hours for my husband and luckily he got to work from home but he still had to work. I also knew based on what we had seen the day before with the amount of possible waiting, that it would be better to not take my 5 year old. So I assured them I would be fine, grabbed my shovel, and set out for the location that was a bit further away (30 mins away to be exact). I showed up to a line that was not long. They were very organized. They would tell cars to move up to an area (about 20 at a time). You would then park at that spot and get out and show your I.D. (to proved you lived in the county) and grab your bags (Maximum of 20 per household), I took my 20.
After I got my bags I was told to return to my car and move up to one of 3 lines. You stay in line until the monitor points you to an empty space, where someone who had just gotten their bags filled pulls out and leaves. I only waited a couple of minutes for that to happen. A space came open and I was told where to go and then told to back up to a big pile of dirt where everyone was filling their bags. I parked, got out my bags and my shovel and stepped to the pile of dirt. I opened my first bag and grabbed a shovel full of dirt and put it in my bag. On my second scoop in a gentleman beside me told me he wanted to help. I said "It's ok, you don't have to, you have your own bags". He insisted. He shoveled while I held the bags. Commenting that I had a really good shovel (better than theirs) so it made it easier. One by one we filled about 14 bags before he needed to stop a bit. His brother beside him picked up the shovel and helped with the last ones. While I was moving the half to three-quarter filled bags aside so I could tie them after, I noticed one of the workers in a bright orange vest had sat down and started to tie them. This took the us about 20 minutes or so to complete. I chatted with the men shoveling for me while we filled bags. One man was a deputy sheriff and the other worked in the judicial system. They have lived in Florida since 1973. This was their first time ever filling sandbags, which made me both nervous and felt calm that I wasn't over-reacting.
I turned around and started to take one of the filled and tied bags to the back of my open SUV trunk. As I begin to do that I am told to stop, and instead they say "don't do that, just back up your car a bit closer and we will knock this out". Knock this out they did. Once I backed up my SUV the 3 men (including the worker who was tying my bags) piled them into my trunk. I was so thankful. I could not take a picture of the men but I wanted to say a special THANK YOU to the men that helped me. I made sure to look at them and shake each of their hands to say thank you. So Thank You Randy. Thank you Byron. Thank you Greg.
Today as the line of the hurricane's path moved to more to the west, my area was issued a hurricane watch. I live in the pink area.
This was not the best news for us, so we just made sure to continue to be cautious and keep getting prepared.
Now, tonight we went to dinner. We decide after that that we would stop by the hardware store near the restaurant we decided to go for dinner (since we will be likely stuck in our house for days) and see if they had any more bags. Even though we ended up with 20 we have a very large 3 door glass patio door and wanted to make sure we had two rows of bags piled so that it would have less of a chance to enter our one floor home, which is all wood flooring, and we don't have anywhere to go up since we only have one floor. The store was packed with people. No sandbags or sand available. No tarps available (which we have found is good to line under your sandbags before putting them down). Lots of people getting wood though to board up their houses which we are not doing. We remembered a friend used heavy duty garbage bags to bag some soil in our area so I texted her to see if she had any extra bags, she did and said we could take the bags.
So, we were only left with needing a tarp or a few. On the way home we decided to stop in at another hardware store closer to home to see if they had a tarp. I was immediately told "No" from a man in the painting area. Then from behind him a lady said "Yes we do, I just found a few in the back. It's the last ones we have but they are right over there", she pointed to a shelf on the end of a row. There they were. Four to be exact. I knew I need two maybe three. I opted for three just in case. I didn't want to be short but I didn't want to be greedy and take all four if I didn't need them. That could mean someone going without something they needed.
We are pretty much all set to go at this point. I have some of the extra bags my friend (and also neighbor) gave me and we will go nearby to a construction site (where builders have said we can take the dirt in times of need anyways) and fill the bags up so we can ensure we have two full rows of bags at our patio doors. Other than that our first bunch of bags that the wonderful gentlemen helped me fill and load are ready to go.
We will line this area with the tarps tomorrow, fill the remaining bags, and then place all the bags close together and pack them firmly to help incase of possible flooding. We are ready. Candles and matches we have. Batteries are charging. We will move our bedroom into a room with only one window which is facing another house, but still, it has less windows than our bedroom. We will be okay. Please keep my family in our thoughts as with all of the people behind Irma's path of destruction, in her current path, and anyone in her future path. It is quite likely we will lose power. I may be absent from tomorrow night but will post on here until I can no longer. I will be back once I can connect again though.
I hope everyone stays safe during this Hurricane. I know we have done as much as we can. I have the list of my nearest shelters that I can go to with pets (I am not leaving them behind and I refuse to). If we have to evacuate because of mandatory orders than we will, and our pets will be with us, there is no other option in my mind.
Thanks for reading!