After evacuating our senior living community for Hurricanes Matthew and Irma, which came through Georgia just 11 months apart between October of 2016 and September of 2017, I was somewhat lured into a false sense of safety and illogical thinking that I would not have to evacuate for another hurricane in 2018. At least I would not be in charge of having to make sure that 40 elderly residents were moved to higher ground - if by chance another hurricane hit our area. Frankly I was getting too old to go through that again. It was time for younger blood to lead the effort.
Evacuating for any type of weather event is very difficult. Add to the equation that the people you are moving are ages 80 and above for the most part, and your hurricane preparedness plan better be spot on in every s way imaginable. No details left undone and no room for mistakes. The emotional stress toll is much higher than any physical challenges that are present with such a task. And unfortunately the emotions can be lasting far after the event itself. More than a few of our readers know the feeling because many have had to conduct your own evacuation plan which possibly included a senior loved one. It is “trying” to say the least.
Fast forward to our current 2018 hurricane season and voila; Michael is our next uninvited dinner guest. Only this time I’m not really worried about all the details. Heck, I’m not even preparing to leave and I’m pretty sure that we will be able to handle this. As the storm grows to a category 3 with the chance that it might be a 4 by landfall, I begin to rethink my strategy, of which I have none. I know, I’ll ask one of the neighbors what he is doing to prepare for this event. That’s always a smart thing to do because neighbors always have the right answers, don’t they? They have been through this before so they have experience and wisdom to impart.
I was reassured by our friend, we’ll call him Tom to protect his stupidity, that everything would be ok and to come to his house if needed. “I have a pickup truck and plenty of beer”, he exclaimed!
Is it me or does his plan sound a little-lacking in the details? Of course I relayed this information to Jennifer, my wife, and she was not very reassured. Maybe we should evacuate, she said.
During the next couple hours it was a back and forth chess match between me and the reporters of The Weather Channel. I kept justifying that we could ride this one out and Jim Cantore kept telling me otherwise. Then, news-flash, Michael is now approaching category 4 status and could be close to a 5 by landfall. It’s now time to “Get Outta Dodge” and we haven’t even rounded up the cattle yet. Within 15 minutes we were in the car with two cats in tow and an overnight bag. No destination except to head west; away from the storm. Finding a hotel room that would accept pets was our next task. “This would have been much easier if you had made plans earlier”, declared Jennifer. Needless to say the car ride to Pensacola was eerily quiet.
Our town of Santa Rosa Beach was spared from the storm this time. Sixty-five miles east of where we live the town of Mexico Beach was destroyed. Ninety-five percent of the town is no longer there. A shift in the wind and that could have been us.
The moral of this story: Have a plan and stick to it. It could save your life; and your marriage, my friends.