Irma. She’s Violent. Rude. Irrational. And destructive. And she taught me a lot.

As a relatively new Floridian, I have only been through one hurricane.  And that was Hurricane Matthew.  And for those that are in Central Florida during Matthew, it didn’t seem much more different than a regular summer thunderstorm, it just lasted longer.  So, when the news started talking about Hurricane Irma, I wasn’t scared – I wasn’t nervous – I was just like… “I’m sure it’s not gonna be that bad…”

Well, first of all, I will openly admit when I am wrong.  I WAS WRONG!  I WAS SO WRONG!  COMPLETELY WRONG!  Now, people are gonna ask why I stayed.  Here’s why.  This is my home.  This is where I live and work.  I was never in an evacuation zone, had I been in one – I would have went.  But when I started getting nervous – and feeling like I might should leave, I couldn’t.  I mean, I could have – but that was scarier.  There was a gas shortage.  Traffic for days.  And the thought of getting stuck in a town, during a hurricane, not knowing where to go to – or getting stuck on the side of road stranded and unable to get gas – was much scarier than just staying put. 

And, I want to educate anyone who hasn’t been through something like this – because I didn’t know it until I lived it – but guys, a hurricane is expensive.  So all these people you see going through this – don’t just think about the damage to their homes, there I a lot of money that goes to prepping.  And prep properly.  If you board up your windows, figure about $20.00 per window.  You need 20 sandbags?  Add another $50 to $100.  Now, plan on a week without electricity, water, and having food to eat.  Prepping for a hurricane can cost up to $1000 or more.  Depending on the level of prep – and the size of the family. We aren’t even talking about the clean up, deductibles, time of work because your job is out of power – etc.  This can really, really hurt people’s lives, and knock them so far down on their feet they can’t get back up.  I was blessed in this aspect.  But I see it all around me everyday since.  And it’s so sad.

This hurricane was the absolute scariest thing I have ever been through.  When you have three kids all looking to you for assuredness that everything is gonna be okay, that’s a lot of pressure.  Especially when you are scared yourself, and have to act like you aren’t.  It was at it’s worst in my area from midnight to about 4:30 am.  That is a long time of wind screaming.  Trees bending sideways.  I was sure, that when I went upstairs, there wouldn’t be one.  Water coming in from the floorboards.  And pitch darkness.  It was worse than any horror movie I have ever been in.  And all the while, I had friends texting me – checking to make sure that I was okay. And I was doing the same back.

And then, the sun came up.  And destruction was everywhere.  Shingles littered the ground like French fries in a McDonald’s parking lot.  It resembled a war zone.  People out walking just stunned.  Neighbors I haven’t seen outside before are out and talking.  People are hugging, and asking if you need anything.  When the sun came up – the outpouring of love of my neighbors, my friends, and gratitude came with it.

We were without power for 3 days.  And that was awful.  But not near as awful as the people who still don’t have power.  I never realized how much I depend on electricity.  And here is an FYI also, no electricity – no cell phone towers – signal was blah.  Just trying to call someone was a nightmare.  Our houses are built to be energy efficient!  Which keeps the house warm in the cold months and cool in the warm months – IF YOU HAVE POWER.  If you don’t… your house becomes Satan’s playground.  Your home smells weird, from lack of air circulation.  Your dirty clothes pile up.  You can’t vacuum.  Inside starts looking like a war zone, too.  And then the day that you get glorious power back.  It’s a huge relief.  HUGE. 

So here is what I have learned.  I hate hurricanes.  I never want to ever go camping.  I love electricity.  But most importantly – I am so grateful that God had his hand on me and my family and friends – because he is the one who protected us.  I am so thankful for my amazing work family  and friends – who all texted me throughout the night, just checking on me.  I am so thankful for my friends who did the same.  For everyone who offered me a place to stay when we were powerless.  But I also learned I am a true Floridian.  I love this place.  I love the people.  I love my neighbors.  I am madly in love with the people I have met here.  I have also learned, if they ever call for a hurricane that size again, this girl is out.  But, I will come back – because Orlando is home.

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