Going through Hurricane Irma was an experience. A beautiful experience.
I live in South Florida. Those who watched the news this weekend know that we got smashed by Hurricane Irma. But watching and reading about a storm like this is nothing compared to actually living through it. There are things they don’t tell you on the news.
There’s the before.
When you first hear about a hurricane coming your way, it’s several days out. I remember hearing about Andrew when I was younger living in Seattle, and it was this “Miami got destroyed by Hurricane Andrew, and in other news…”
Locally, it plays on every station for several days as it approaches, and there’s this big thing about where it’s going to hit, and how bad. One might imagine a big betting board with odds like I got Ft. Meyers 2:1.
You are likely to get some days off from work or school to prepare, but of course that in itself is an issue, because by the time you get to the hardware store to buy those ¼” x 20 washered wing nuts you need, they’re sold out. Everyone’s sold out, in fact, except the price gougers on Craigslist. And if you don’t have shutters to put up, you could stand in line and wait for hours to get your ration of plywood. You go to the grocery store to get non-perishables, and all the shelves are bare. Bottled water they may have a pallet of it near the front they ration out and you have to stand in line to get. So you pick up two cans of pink salmon and consider yourself lucky. Charcoal’s gone, too, as are gas, gas stoves, flashlights, batteries, candles – you might still find the super-expensive candles, bread, chips, sodas, Gatorade, pretty much anything you can imagine that doesn’t rot or need to be cooked will be gone. But don’t worry, you still have a few days to go to twenty other stores and find the same thing. Don’t drive too much though because you’ll run out of gas, and good luck finding a station that has any left.
You live in a hurricane zone, so you know there’s going to be hurricanes. Don’t wait until one pops up on the news before you get everything you need, or it might be too late before you realize it’s too late. It pays to prepare for things before things impend.
Then there’s the during.
This is the part they show you pictures of: palm trees turned sideways and a world cast in grey. What they don’t show you is sitting in the bedroom on the second story trying to figure out where that leak is coming from and feeling the whole house shake with each deafening gust of wind. What they don’t show you is how the thing lingers. We started hearing the trees dancing late Saturday night, and we lost power by midnight, which woke my baby girl crying terrified. From Sunday morning, the wind battered the shutters and threw rain down in buckets as we ate breakfast in our darkened home. The kids watched a movie on their tablet, and don’t even begin to tell me why streaming is so great and wonderful you don’t need to store the file locally. Then the storm started to get really nasty around 2:00. I watched from the patio as the rain flew sideways, heard the crack of a massive branch breaking amid the howling wind. It wasn’t until around bedtime things started to calm down a little, though the gusts of wind could still be heard outside.
Then there’s the after.
It’s Thursday, and we’re still without power. It’s the same 95° outside that it’s been since May, with full humidity, and little to no wind. Because of the work that needs to be done outside cleaning up and the heat, you need a shower often, and of course the water is cold. Add to that there’s no way to do laundry. FPL says they hope to have residential power restored by Sunday.
And I look around me and I can’t help but to marvel at how beautiful it all is. Call me insane if you like, call me a weirdo, but I find the destruction beautiful. Being outside if even for a moment and feeling the awesome power of the cool wind beat against my skin, and witnessing the chaos in the aftermath. Breathless and amazing. Every tree that falls gives sunlight to the earth beneath.
Every day is the same; we go to work, we come home. We go to the grocery store and buy the same stuff. We take the kids to dance class, to soccer-fu-math-piano and we do it all over again. And then this massive, life-disrupting storm sweeps through and like a big smack in the face reminds us all how little we are. It takes us out of the routine and forces us to face the fragility of our existence, and I felt a connection. I felt a connection to people who a hundred years ago had to live their whole lives cooking with wood and entertaining their children without TV.
There’s a certain sense of closeness that comes out when you go through a disaster together. It makes you appreciate the people you love more. I’ve spent more time over the last few days just sitting down and talking with my wife, playing with my kids, and just living in the moment than I had in a while, and I’m thankful.
So I realize I may be the only one amid a sea of voices cursing the heavens for this terrible, destructive force, but thank you Lord. Thank you for this beautiful storm.