Hurricane Irma’s Wrath Part 1: Plans, Preparations & Tornado Drills
By Katie Hurrey
When Irma comes knocking, it’s imperative to have a plan. All your friends across the country will believe their plan is better, more informed, definitely more dramatic thanks to sensational television coverage, but if you trust your preparations and stick to your plan it can pay off.
Our plan as the category 5 hurricane was setting its sights on Miami was to shelter at a friend’s one-story home in an inland non-evacuation area. Built after Hurricane Andrew in 1999, with shutters, a generator, internal safe rooms and two gorgeous dogs, it is my regular hurricane sanctuary. When Wilma blasted through in 2005 leaving us without power for five days, we rode out the storm feeling confident the house would protect us, and while the anticipation of Irma’s 155 mph winds was scary, our plan was no different.
We were receiving messages from friends saying “Get out! Evacuate! I’m so scared for you!” and last Wednesday we were considering backup plans of heading to friends’ homes in Orlando or Naples as a last resort. Once us four choreographers had made the decision to stay – thankfully since Irma took an alternate path which would have put us more in harm’s way in either of those cities – these messages were not helpful, and only added to the anxiety we were already experiencing. Many friends joined the millions on the road, having queued for gas for hours, driven for many more hours and struggled to find hotel rooms between Orlando, Alabama, Tennessee, and the Carolinas.
I live in a mandatory evacuation zone near the beach, and absolutely would never remain in my condo building during a hurricane.
The causeway floods, the power lines are above ground, and we’re completely exposed to any weather coming from the south and east. There are a handful of residents who remained and while it was not my choice to do so, and I don’t believe it is the smartest option, I respect their need to stay on their property and care for it as the storm approaches. By Thursday morning the evacuation orders were in effect and police were patrolling the streets with a loud speaker imploring residents to leave, which was eerie. I took my paintings off the wall, moved furniture away from the windows and boxed up personal items before heading west with my hurricane supplies (water, food, flashlights, batteries, important papers, passport, my pillow and personal items I wouldn’t want to part with) then it was hurry up and wait.
Irma was moving so slowly. We spent Friday securing the outside of the house, putting outdoor furniture in the pool and storing anything that could become a projectile of Irma’s wrath. Having mislaid the shutter keys, one of the shuttered windows had to be zip tied, and the others we would have to drill our way out of after she passed. Thank goodness Hurricane Jose is burning himself out in the Atlantic and isn’t meant to follow his sister! We parked our cars on the street, trying to be scientific about where trees could fall, or objects could fly, or roof tiles could land, and by Friday night were shuttered in, prepared for Irma’s eye to make direct landfall.
That evening she began to make a slight tracking adjustment, the 24-hour coverage on the television was well under way and we watched NBC6’s weather men with bated breath, knowing every minor turn that took her further from us put somebody else in her sights.
On Saturday the gusts began to pick up, and we hunkered down, to prepare for the 400-mile wide storm to do her worst.
One thing we weren’t prepared for was the tornados that spun up, 11 in our area alone, over Saturday night into Sunday. When the cacophonous weather alerts sounded from all four of our phones for the first time on Saturday evening we sat debating whether we should go to our designated safe spaces. Two of us were assigned the bathroom with one dog, and two of us the closet with the other. We now refer to that pre-tornado discussion as ‘death by debate’! That particular alert was to “take cover immediately” and having no experience with tornados, three of us didn’t realize the imminent danger. Once we and the dogs were persuaded into our respective closets with our flashlights and battery-operated radios, listening to the weather man discuss the tornado which was literally at the end of the street, we understood. That was the most nerve-wracking moment of the weekend, and we resolved to be more prepared for the next tornado warning; stocking our cupboards with batteries, valuable documents, water, and doggie treats!
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