Hurricane Irma: The Experience and Aftermath

Hurricane Irma
One of the many uprooted trees from Hurricane Irma

First, I just want to say how grateful I am that my family and pets are safe. My home and car are safe. I haven’t been back to work yet, but I’m confident that my job is safe. I know many parts of Florida did not fare as well as Southeast Florida, and my heart goes out to those that live there and the Caribbean Islands.

I’m going to be doing some complaining in this post, because that’s what I do. But I am grateful and I realize what a lucky girl I am.

Saturday

On Saturday morning, my husband, little sister, and two dogs packed up all our valuables, some clothes and toiletries, and snacks, and made our way to my sister-in-law’s house. It was perfect timing, as winds were just beginning to pick up and the rain bands were starting.

The apartment my husband and I have lived in for almost 4 years sent out a letter to renters earlier that week, stating that we were NOT allowed to board or shutter our windows. This worried me greatly. I didn’t know if our windows would stand up to the high winds predicted (over 100 mph at times), and I was fearful that I would return to an apartment with shattered windows, and all my belongings destroyed. Therefore, I stored and packed everything I could.

It’s a weird feeling, leaving your home and not knowing if it will be the same when you return.

My parents have a house with shutters a little farther south than us, so they decided to hunker down there (fun fact: a local radio station told everyone to take a shot whenever someone said the words “hunker down”). I am happy to report that they are safe, and never once lost power.

We stayed at my in-laws shuttered, two-story townhouse for the whole storm. Saturday afternoon through Monday morning, when curfew was lifted for our area (we were told to stay off the roads until 10:00 am). I heard the winds start to pick up outside, but as long as we had power I wasn’t too worried. We watched movies with the dogs and my 4-year-old nephew, and taught him how to play Monopoly.

It was around dinnertime that we received our first tornado warning. I mildly freaked out, but our power was still on, and a quick look on Facebook told us that the tornado was not spotted in our immediate area. I relaxed for the moment until bedtime, when my sister and I stayed in my mother-in-law’s room. I was nervous to be away from my husband (he calms me down whenever I get bad anxiety), but I was not in my house, and I didn’t want to fuss over the sleeping arrangements too much.

The storm raged on through the night, and it was the eeriest thing. The wind was literally howling, and I could hear things being knocked about outside, like there was debris picked up by the wind. All I could think about was my apartment and my car. Luckily, the power put up a fight through the night, and didn’t go out fully until 11 am the next morning (Sunday).

Sunday

We spent much of the day Sunday taking hurricane naps (well, everyone but my nephew), and snacking on chips and popcorn. Another tornado warning went off on my phone while I was napping, and I am ashamed to say that I never took proper shelter. I figured since we were shuttered up, we were okay. Later, I learned that we still should have went to a closet or another safe space. Oh, well, live and learn! (Luckily, we lived).

My anxiety only grew worse as night fell, and we plunged into total darkness. We had two flashlights, no cell service, and two candles. We also had a little boy that was getting increasingly antsy, and who kept asking to watch movies and play iPad games. This was understandable, of course, but didn’t help my nerves at all.

The heat got to all of us. I tried to remain in high spirits, but I knew tempers would soon run high. We went to bed early, but I hardly slept. It was hot, my dog was having as much anxiety as I was, and the wind was SO loud. I ended up going downstairs and sleeping on the living room couch next to my husband around 4 am, thinking it would help my dog calm down (he’s used to us sleeping together, and I think he was upset at this lull in his routine).

The hardest part was feeling so disconnected from the world. I know next time I need to get a radio, because all I wanted was news on where the storm was. I couldn’t send or receive texts. It wasn’t until after the storm that I found out Irma had shifted East, and was travelling right through the middle of Orlando. It had recently been on track to stay West, and I was worried for all my friends who had evacuated to Naples.

Monday

I woke up on Monday to relief, with a major migraine on the side (I blame the change in air pressure for this- that migraine still hasn’t disappeared). I was overheated, but glad the storm was over.

I walked my dogs quickly, and saw with even greater relief that my car was still standing (with no trees on top of it- others didn’t get so lucky).

I was eager to see how my apartment fared. As soon as 10 am came around, my husband and I packed up our belongings, thanked our hosts, and left for home. The roads were littered with uprooted trees and some flooding, as well as down traffic lights.

As soon as I stepped into my apartment and flipped on the light switch, I felt a relief so strong it almost knocked the wind out of me. We had power, and our windows were intact. Even though we have renter’s insurance, and I had filmed/photographed all our belongings, I was so happy that everything had survived. I unpacked for a few minutes until desperation took over, and I jumped into a hot shower.

Texts came pouring in from friends and family, and once I was sure everyone was okay, I finally allowed myself to fully calm down. It was over.

How Did Disney Do?

 We only just got internet back yesterday (9/12), but as soon as we did, my eyes were glued to the news, and pictures of the damage. Of course, I was interested in how Disney did.

It turns out that Disney survived, with most damage surrounding the resorts and Animal Kingdom. Trees were uprooted, and a few rides shut down after the park re-opened on Tuesday (Disney World was closed for the 5th time ever on Sunday and Monday). Disney Cast Members took great care of the guests staying in their resorts, and I really hope everyone taking refuge at Disney thanked them.

Fort Wilderness Campground is closed for the foreseeable future at Disney World, as it looks like that resort sustained the most damage. However, it could have been a lot worse. I’m thankful my happy and magical place is still there.

Now What?

As of this writing (9/13), my work will reopen to employees’ starting tomorrow (9/14). Gas is still scarce, and traffic lights are still out (not all, but some). Stores like Publix (the main grocery store) are still low on items like bread, milk, and soda. Roads are still scattered with uprooted trees, and my closest CVS is still without power.

My sister’s school, Florida International University in Miami, is closed until next week, as well as most schools in all of Florida.

It’s a surreal environment right now. I always thought it would take a disaster to show a person’s true colors, and it has. I’ve seen people downright nasty, fighting over the last gallon of water at the store, to extremely kind, offering their homes with power to those without. It’s a strange and uncertain time, and I don’t know when things will get entirely back to normal.

Again, it could have been worse. If you can, please donate to the Islands, and parts of Southwest Florida that were most affected. If you can’t, please send good thoughts their way.

I want to thank everyone who called, texted, and messaged me their wishes for my safety. I am safe, and my family is safe, and at the end of the day, that is all that matters. Here’s to hoping we are free of storms for a long time now!

Also, always remember the wise words of Edna Mode:

“Luck favors the prepared.”

 

Did you experience a hurricane? Have any stories to share? I’m here to listen!

Hugs and Fishes,

Arielle

About Arielle

Former Cast Member and author of Arielle in the Animal Kingdom! You can check out my blog at https://littledismaid.com, or my books on Amazon- I would love to hear from you!

9 thoughts on “Hurricane Irma: The Experience and Aftermath

  1. I’m so glad you’re safe, I’ve been waiting for the email alerting me of a new post from you! You must be so relieved that your things are safe & that your family are all okay. I’m not sure what else to say because I’m in the UK so I have no idea what you’ve experienced; I’m just glad you’re safe. I also love that you wrote about Disney because I’ve been wondering how it faired! Sending you lots of well wishes! 💝

    1. This is such a sweet comment, thank you! I’m glad we all fared pretty well down here, we got so lucky! It was a surreal experience, scary and funny and bizarre at the same time. Life is finally returning to normal. I was super interested in how Disney dealt with it, they always do such an amazing job. Thanks for your concerns and your well wishes, it means a lot! I hope I can visit the U.K. soon! Thanks again dear 💕

  2. We lived through a pretty historic time! Now I can say I survived 4 hurricanes, lol!

    Yeah, UCF is closed until Monday as well. And Publix and other grocery stores here are kinda low on supplies too as well as gas. I’m sure things will be back to normal by next week.

    1. Yeah, I have friends in Orlando that are still without power. I’m so glad you are safe, and hopefully everyone will go back to normal soon! At least we are all hurricane experts now!

    1. Thank you for the sweet comment, I’m glad we’re all safe too. Writing about it was definitely therapeutic! Thanks again 💕

  3. I couldn’t imagine going through a hurricane. It must have been so scary! I love in Michigan so the worst thing we could get is a tornado (maybe) or a snowstorm. Happy to hear you and your family are safe!

    1. To me a snowstorm and a tornado is scary! I guess it’s fear of the unknown- I’m used to hurricanes, but this was the first one I was really scared about. And hurricane season isn’t even over yet! Anyway, thank you so much love! 💕

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