Hurricanes Will Refocus Your Priorities

There is nothing like a life-threatening category 4 hurricane barreling down on you to make you rethink what you value as important. Unless you were in a coma last week or a foreign country, you are likely aware that a massive hurricane named Matthew was projected to rip through the Caribbean and ride the coastline of the United States from the southern tip of Florida all the way up to North Carolina.

We live right along the path they were projecting the storm to come. Of course, hurricane path projection isn’t an exact science and some projections had the eye of the storm coming over our house and some had the eye passing 100 miles east of us. That would be the difference between the roof getting ripped off your house or simply experiencing the worst thunderstorm of your life. For 2 days straight I was glued to the weather channel. We all were.

It was all anyone could talk about. Hurricane Matthew was scheduled to hit Friday morning, we started closing things down on Wednesday. We needed time to board up, evacuate if necessary and prepare our homes, businesses and yards. I started filling up every jug and empty water-tight container I could find and sticking it in the freezer. Fortunately our recycling day is Thursday, so I had a whole bin of stuff to use on Wednesday.

I filled up the bathtub with water, I filled up buckets with water, I filled up our party drink containers with water. I also plugged in every electrical device we owned to charge it up.  I filled both cars up with gas. I rounded up all our flashlights and got the batteries ready. Then I went outside and started bringing everything into the garage. It took me nearly 2 full days to get it all done. In the mean time I kept checking the weather channel every chance I could find.

All the latest projections said we should expect a category 4 hurricane to pass within 5 to 30 miles of our house. We are not in a flood zone, however, so we would never be given a mandatory evacuation. If we wanted to stay or not would be entirely up to us. The smart thing seemed to be to leave and head further inland to my parents.

But then all of a sudden, the storm was downgraded to a category 3 and was projected to move further east and pass within 30 to 60 miles of our home. The urgency to leave didn’t seem so great anymore. We decided to hunker down and ride out the storm at our house. We also got a call from some friends of ours that live along the inter-coastal waterway and they were hoping to come weather the storm with us for fear of flooding. The husband is a first responder and was being required to work and so his wife and 2 daughters were going to come over first thing Friday morning.

While it was never even a question for a second if they were welcomed, I did in the back of my mind wonder if we’d all go crazy with 10 people in our house without power for an untold number of days, especially if they were unable to go back to their home due to flooding. We went to bed Thursday night after send out plenty of prayers.

We woke Friday morning to find the hurricane had taken even more of a turn to the east than was expected! This was welcomed news. Our friends showed up and we nervously awaited for the first outer bands of the storm to arrive. We watched cartoons and ate breakfast and intently stared out the windows at the ever increasing wind and rain. The rain went from left to right across the windows in the back of the house. We cranked the air conditioner in anticipation of the impending loss of power.

The power went out at noon. Minutes turned into hours. We kept watching out the windows. 3 o’clock was when the storm was supposed to be closest to us. By 3 o’clock the rain was blowing straight into the front of our house and the pine trees in the back were going crazy. I was sure one or two of them were going to fall over or snap in half.

The kids just kept playing. The didn’t care about the hurricane. They were happy to be out of school and playing with friends. Eventually the wind and rain began to change directions again. Now it was blowing the opposite direction as this morning as we were on the other side of Matthew. We kept texting friends and family. Asking them if they were ok and letting them know that we were ok.

By 6 o’clock we were all hungry but the electricity was out. So with the last few bands of Matthew sweeping over our house I headed out to the patio to fire up the grill so we could eat a hot dinner. Soup, hot dogs and macaroni and cheese were on the menu.

It felt good to eat a warm meal. Our friends were able to get word that their house had avoided any flooding and it would be safe for them to return if they wanted to. After much deliberation they decided to return home to sleep in their own beds. The husband came by and took them home.

I was actually a little sad to see them go. It had been nice having them there with us. Hopefully we can hang out again soon without needing a hurricane to bring us together! We went to bed that night feeling very fortunate that things weren’t any worse for us. We wondered how long we’d be without power.

Saturday came and gave me an opportunity to inspect any damage that might have occurred. Other than a few fence panels getting blown down, we had no real damage to speak of.

minimal hurricane damage

Meanwhile I could see on my phone that there was massive damage and flooding only 10 miles away in downtown St. Augustine. My heart went out to them. We took a walk around the neighborhood. Many of our neighbors were also outside, walking around, assessing damage, cutting up fallen trees and getting out of their houses that they’d been cooped up inside for 36 hours.

It got quite hot that night without the air conditioning and I instinctively continued to try to turn on light switches every time I entered a room.  Sunday morning came and we were still without power. After going to church we decided to go out for brunch. No reason to spend anymore time in our hot house than we needed to. We were hoping if we took long enough to get home the power would be back when we got home. No luck. Finally at 6 pm on Sunday we had power again, 54 hours after it initially went out.

Those 3 days really served as a time to refocus what I truly held as important. When you’re faced with the possibility of a life threatening disaster, suddenly so many things that seemed really important yesterday aren’t so important. Things that I had taken for granted (Spending time with my family, having basic food to eat and clean water to drink and of course electricity) suddenly seemed like such precious commodities. Whether or not our front flower bed was properly weeded paled in my gratefulness that we still had a roof. My kid’s bad attitude yesterday didn’t seem to matter because today he was alive and I could give him a hug.

Even though Matthew has long since gone, I hope I am able to retain my newly refocused priorities.

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