Preparing for Dorian: A Lesson from Irma

This week, Florida residents began preparing for hurricane Dorian. Forecasted to make landfall as a category 4, this storm has the potential to be very dangerous.

Hurricane over the Atlantic

Floridians are no strangers to hurricanes. But despite a history of destruction caused by these storms hitting our shores, many of us still don’t take them seriously. I didn’t, until 2017, when hurricane Irma taught me a valuable lesson. Never underestimate Mother Nature.

Before Irma

Having spent most of my life well inland, I’ve never really worried about hurricanes. Growing up, we seemed to be situated in a part of Florida that wasn’t affected much by this weather phenomenon. I don’t recall a single memory of my mother talking about or preparing for one. As far as I was concerned, this was only a concern for those who lived along the coast.

Beach house after a hurricane

Right before my 31st birthday, I made a move to Northeast Florida. It had been eight years since the last massive storm had made headlines in the US. Katrina had completely devastated New Orleans in 2005 and had confirmed my idea that as long as I was well away from the beach, I was safe. But all that changed with the 2017 hurricane season and a storm named Irma.

I had not prepared for that storm. Or any storm prior. I assumed it would be like every other hurricane I had experienced. Some rain, some wind- basically a welcome relief from the blistering heat. I bought a gallon of water (because the news said I should) and prepared for a relaxing day off from work, courtesy of Irma.

The Day Irma Hit

The day she hit, it was as I had expected. Rainy and slightly windy. I enjoyed sitting on my front porch and watching the small squalls ruffle the trees. By the time Irma had reached my area, it had been downgraded to a tropical depression. No biggie.

Storm rolling in over the sea

But as the evening turned into night, the winds began to pick up and the squalls became more frequent and more powerful. I’m not going to lie, it was a little intimidating, but only slightly. I passed the time watching YouTube videos on my phone and occasionally shooting some footage of the storm to share on my own channel. I still had electricity and I felt safe. All was good.

Until it wasn’t.

The rain hadn’t stopped in hours, my yard was completely flooded and the wind was bending the trees. I kept thinking, “this is the worst it’s going to get”. But I was wrong.

Storm surge pushing water ashore

Irma’s Power

Irma was hell-bent on teaching me a lesson. As I sat on my couch, watching the weather channel, the lights went out leaving me in the dark save for the blue light coming from my phone which, I then realized, was dangerously close to dying.

Sometime around 3 a.m, when my phone finally gave out, I decided to try and sleep. But sleep did not come.

Irma was making her way over Jacksonville and I began to realize just how powerful Mother Nature could be. The wind shook my small, 1900’s wood-frame house and it howled so loud I was convinced a tornado was coming for me.

The trees towering over my house were huge and I heard branches hitting the roof every few minutes. I knew the house had good, strong bones but it wouldn’t be enough if either of those trees came crashing down on top of it.

Needless to say, I was terrified.

I lay there in the dark, on the floor under a doorway, praying those trees held up and that I wouldn’t be taken out by a rogue tornado. Around 4:30 a.m, I finally passed out from sheer exhaustion.

The Lesson

The next morning I went outside to survey the damages and noticed a difference in scenery. The neighbors across the street lost one of their biggest trees. Thankfully it had fallen away from their house.

Flooded neighborhood

That was the night I learned not to underestimate Mother Nature. Even as a tropical depression, Irma caused considerable damage and heavy flooding in my area. I can only imagine what could have happened had she hit us while she was still a hurricane.

As I write this post, I’m remembering what Irma taught me and this time, I’m preparing for Dorian. Even so, I know that you can never be fully prepared for something as strong and unpredictable as Mother Nature.