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Hurricane Irma

By on September 17, 2017 in Community and Volunteering with 0 Comments

“Hurricane season brings a humbling reminder that, despite our technologies, most of nature remains unpredictable.” – Diane Ackerman

Having lived in South Florida for a decade, I became very aware of hurricane season (June 1st through November 30th). I have been obsessed with Hurricane Irma. I still have close friends in Southeast Florida, and my mom lives in Southwest Florida.

When I lived in Florida and there were hurricane-like storms brewing, I would diligently watch the hurricane trackers. Lucky for me, the only major hurricane I sort of experienced was Hurricane Katrina. The others led to fun, boozed-infested hurricane parties.

With the recent tragedies of Harvey, my hurricane radar has been on high alert. As Irma demolished the Caribbean Islands, the anxiety in my stomach only grew. After thrashing around all night, I greeted the morning with bloodshot eyes and an achy body.

The piles of rubble, where colorful buildings once stood, were heartbreaking. I wondered if the islands would receive the resources they need to rebuild. Or, would they be forgotten as Irma thrashed through Florida? The islands took a harder hit, and I assume houses and buildings in the United Sates are better equipped to stand strong against such a powerful force of nature.

My mom booked a flight for herself, her husband, and their puppy . They were scheduled to escape Irma’s wrath late on Friday night. The flight cancellations were concerning, and I prayed they would fly away. Lucky for my family, they were delivered to us safely. However, the emptiness in my stomach was still there.

When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, my roommate, Melissa, fled to Maine with her family. She advised me to head home to Boston if I could. I had no idea what to do in a hurricane. I imagined my curiosity would keep me glued to the window with a camera in hand trying to document the experience. At the same time, I would be holding my breath as the hairs on my arms stood up. What would I do if one of the windows broke? Would I freeze, or would my survival instincts kick in? What room in my apartment would I designate as my safe spot? The bathroom?

Fortunately, I had a free flight and my company closed for several days. I mentally prepared myself for the worst. My gypsy spirit allowed me to detach from my stuff in case it was not there upon my return. I hopped on a plane. I did not want to be stuck in my apartment by myself.

After spending 10 days in Boston, I returned to Fort Lauderdale. My roommate informed me that our electricity and water had started running the same morning I was due back in town.

The 10-minute ride from the airport to my apartment made my stomach flip flop in a sick way. The normal hustle and bustle was replaced by desolate and dark streets. As I caught glimpses of broken windows and shattered buildings, I felt like I had entered a war zone. There was still a curfew in the city.

I felt fortunate to have escaped the worst. The only hit I took were the non-edible groceries in the fridge. I learned not to stock up on food during hurricane season.

Katrina was a 3 in Florida, while New Orleans received the brunt of the storm. I could not even imagine what those people must have experienced. There are a lot of things I remember about how certain corporations stepped in to “help” New Orleans, but they actually profited from the tragedy. LA never jaded me. Florida did.

Irma was rumored to hit Florida as a 5. I think that was why this storm was so emotionally painful for me. A category 3 hurricane had raised enough havoc in the sunshine state. Would Florida have the same fate as the Caribbean or New Orleans? Would those I knew still be there tomorrow? All I could do was pray.

I was either glued to the news or my iPhone trying to stay up-to-date on Irma. I watched as my friends marked themselves as safe on Facebook. I checked their status updates and pictures. One friend posted a picture of a tree that had landed on her car. She had to wait to see if it was still operable.

I texted and talked with a few friends as they waited out the storm, hoping they would be okay. Being trapped in their homes as the winds howled outside was horrific. They had to be alert. Many were without power, while others got lucky. Those who could still watch TV turned up the volume to soften the howling and crashing they heard around them.

Prior to Irma’s arrival, I had asked friends if they had fled or were going to leave. Unfortunately, many did not plan ahead of time. There was bumper-to-bumper traffic, no food, no water, and no gas. If they were not already on the road, they had missed their opportunity. The airlines had also jacked up their flight prices. Friends who were thinking of flying out saw flights increase from a few hundred dollars to well over a thousand. They were stuck. Jet Blue is the only airline that tried to help by offering remaining flights for $99 round-trip. A big kudos to Jet Blue. Shame on the other airlines who tried to capitalize on others’ misfortunes. I also read articles of online companies hiking up water prices to turn a profit. How can corporations be so insensitive? People were trying to survive. Why not help?

My mom and her family are safely back in Southwest Florida. There is still a 9:00 p.m. curfew. The roads are flooded. She has sent pictures of people walking through water that is up to their waists. I have watched drone footage of vehicles driving through ridiculous amounts of of water. Some people have power; others do not.

I hope Florida can clean up quickly. I hope there are no more hurricanes, tornadoes, or rain. I hope corporations stop capitalizing on others’ fight for survival. I hope we can come together as a society and start helping each other. I hope we can navigate through these weather challenges and become stronger together as a society.

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