Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Hurricane Irma Stress

Written By Don Shetterly
Wow, this has been a very difficult couple of weeks where I live in central Florida.  We just went through Hurricane Irma and in fact, this is the first time I've been back on my blog.  Often I write far in advance of the published date, just to be able to keep up and manage my time.

By the time you read this, several weeks will have passed since Irma came through.  As I look out my window to the street, I still see a lot of hurricane debris waiting to be picked up.  I feel fortunate though as other places did not do so well during all the hurricanes that have hit.

The week leading up to  Hurricane Irma was stressful.  No one truly knew where this storm was going and so the uncertainty led to so much stress.  When we saw the images of the 185 mph winds hitting the islands, it kicked up the fear and intensity for us.  I'm always amazed at how the forecasts mislead you into thinking a hurricane is going one way and inevitably it always changes course.  You would think as humans we might learn this, but we get swayed by the hope we'll be spared, and so we don't truly listen to facts.  There are far too many armchair forecasters sitting in homes, thinking they know what this storm will do.

Bryan Norcross is a good one to listen to on the TV or through his Twitter and Facebook accounts.  He went through Hurricane Andrew in South Florida while at Channel 4 in Miami.  The reason I like Bryan Norcross is that he gives you facts.  He doesn't sugarcoat them, and he has a good handle on what to expect.  Too many of the news media outlets sensationalize the storm, which does no good for anyone.  You can find Bryan on Twitter at @TWCBryan

Frantic People Buying Supplies...

The stores were filled with frantic people buying supplies that in my view, many should have already stocked up on at the start of hurricane season.  Complacency is a big problem, so things like water, bread, and other basics quickly were hard to find.  I didn't see a loaf of bread all week on the shelves of the grocery stores.

People went from stocking up to hoarding which made it more difficult for everyone to get supplies they needed.  It was frustrating, and the stores were so busy that just navigating the aisles was a nightmare.

Then we hoped for the best when the storm got closer.  The winds began to howl and hit the house.  The walls trembled from the pressure and force.  It didn't let up.  It went on for hours.  While we had power, we would follow along with the weather stations.

Tornadoes, Sounds, and Power...

Tornado alerts would come out on the phones and at one point, I know there was one close to us.  I could hear it.  It was eerie.  It was frightening because you could not see a thing and it was almost hard to distinguish from the hurricane force winds that would appear.

The power flashed a few times.  In the distance, you could see the flashes of lights of blue and green from what I suspect were the transformers blowing.  We were feeling good but scared and frightened and wondering just how bad it would get.  The uncertainty shakes your mind and body to the core.

Then the power went out.  The house grew dark, and the winds continued to howl.  We wondered just how bad things would be.  Would our house be intact after it was all over?  Would the new, year-old roof hold up?  Would the windows and the front door make it?   Water was already seeping in the front door, and I had towels down to help mop it up.

Growing more tired and struggling to stay awake and alert, the stress increased.  My mind tried to stay in survival mode, but with each hour, it wore hard on us.  After the worst of it had passed, I finally gave in and fell asleep.

The house felt cool at the moment, but I knew that this would not last.  It was now a matter of how badly the power lines were battered and how long before we would get power back.  The power company workers work so hard trying to restore power, but the main power company officials could do a far better job of informing people.

The next day wasn't too bad, weatherwise.  Normally after a hurricane, I've found that the weather is pretty nice.  Then when the regular humidity and heat arrives the following day, that's when living becomes much more challenging.

Noisy and Poisonous Generators...

The noisy generators of the neighbors were fired up, and many didn't give any thought or respect to where they were placed.  We were so tired of hearing the loud noise.  The worst part though was when the night air was still, the exhaust of them running made us feel sick and lethargic.  Also, the government officials continued to wake us up multiple times a night warning people about carbon monoxide poisoning from running generators in their garages or homes.

The heat grew tiresome.  There was no cool place.  Every day the temperatures outside got up in the 90's, and the humidity stayed in the 80's, which just added a weariness to the frustration and overwhelming stress that didn't stop.

Fortunately, the damage we sustained was minimal.  The cost is not high enough to meet our hurricane deductible so the repairs will come out of pocket.  However, between those costs and losing everything in the refrigerator among all the other supplies you buy before a storm, this takes a financial hit on the wallet.

We were only without power for five days and while I say "only," 24 hours without AC in this hot heat and humidity feels like a year.  It is a cumulative effect that gets worse as the days get hotter.  There is no place to cool down.  The air is hard to breathe.  You get tired of having to carry a flashlight everywhere you go, but at least we had our house intact.

As I write this, I've got friends that are still without power, and we're trying to offer all the help that we can.

Hysteria of Evacuations...

Everyone wants to know why we didn't evacuate and my first question is "where do you go?"  Where is the safe place from the storm, because no one knows where it will go when it heads inland.  On top of that, how many people can just afford to sit in a hotel room for days and weeks should your house not have made it.  It isn't easy doing that unless you're quite wealthy.

In addition to that, you've got things that you need to protect from those who want to rob, steal and loot.  If your house is damaged, making some temporary fixes can prevent further damage, but if you're not there, you can't do anything with it.  Sometimes if you're hit hard enough, you might not be let back in to start recovery for days.

If you have pets, it isn't easy to just take them anywhere.  It makes evacuating much more challenging.

Just to find gas available to evacuate is difficult.  I have a friend who would have been stranded trying to escape the storm, had it not been for the help of some nice people.  Gas was scarce, which was further complicated by the people buying it for their generators.

Trying to get anywhere on the only two main roads going out of this state was a nightmare.  People were inching along in traffic only going a few miles per hour.  There is no way this state could evacuate soon enough and get everyone out.  Again, where would they go?

Too many employers keep people working until the last minute.  The school districts didn't want to shut down which prevent many from leaving.

There are so many factors to evacuating an area, and the media is often misleading on this.  They crank the fear factor up in their broadcasts but don't tell the underlying story.  I cannot name how many people contacted me wondering when I was going to leave.  It isn't as easy as it sounds.  If you had to pick up today and evacuate for an undetermined time to an unspecified place, how would you do that?

What Well Meaning People Said...

There were well-meaning people that made statements that just shocked the daylights out of me.  I had people freaking out because they thought I was going to die in the storm.  I have to say that this was the most difficult thing to hear from others.  It wasn't just one person, it was many.  When you're trying to prepare and do everything you can to stay safe, hysterical comments like that do not help!  Turn the stupid TV off and ignore the fear-mongering, please!  The media (and I mean ALL of the media) reports the hysteria, not just the facts.


Unless you're in the middle of this storm, it is hard to know how people should react.  It is easier to sit on the other side of the TV and proclaim you know all based upon the biased news reports out there, but in all honesty, you don't.

Yes, if you lived in a home that wasn't built well or in an area that floods, you definitely needed to go where it was safer.

This storm was over 400 miles wide I believe, and so there was no "escaping" it.  It covered the entire state.  Everyone focuses on the hurricane eye, but in all reality, the winds stretch for hundreds of miles.  It isn't like a small thunderstorm that most in this country experience.

Some wondered why you couldn't just get a plane ticket and fly somewhere safe.  Again, where do you go?  How do you pay for this when the airline tickets were into the thousands of dollars to fly anywhere?  How many of you have that kind of money lying around?

And no, we don't need politicians or religious people claiming that God is mad and angry and he's taking it out on our homes or our state.  I'm sorry, if that is what God means to you, then you know a different God than I do.  I find that talk appalling and less than human.

The other thing is when you lose power, you've got to conserve phone battery since more than likely, it is all you've got.  Home phones may or may not work.  In this case, the cell towers were not working at full capacity after the storm, and so the battery power on our cell phones would drain quickly.  No, you can't just run and charge them at Starbucks or get wifi because they were without power too! 

Disconnected From The World...


So be patient and keep cellular communication down to a minimum.  Don't send lots of pictures.  We're trying to conserve the battery.  Yes, I can charge it in my car, but when gas is scarce at the gas stations, I'm going to conserve the gas I have.  I have no idea how long I'll be in this situation.  Don't assume the worse if you have not heard from us, because we may not be able to communicate.

There were far too many in our local government and media that just assumed everyone could go to their app on their smartphone or a website address.  I'm not sure if their brains shut down or what, but most of the time we could not get out.  We found one talk radio station that was trying to help get information out, but it was mostly for Orlando, not the surrounding areas.

Not knowing what was happening or when things would get better was difficult.  Trying to drive anywhere was not easy, as traffic lights were out and it was dangerous.  Drivers were going through intersections as if they were the only ones on the road.  Plus, there was nothing open, so again, where would you go?

It was a stressful couple of weeks.  I'm frustrated with so many aspects of it.  Some made it more difficult for us and others seemed to care only on face value.  We've still got repair work.  We're still waiting on a roofer to inspect our roof.  We're exhausted and worn out, trying to get our lives back to normal.

http://mindbodythoughts.blogspot.com/2017/07/traumatic-effects.html

Just because the storm passed and the media begins to report on another sensational headline of the day does not mean everything is back to normal.  As I write this, there are people I know still without power.  And I know just how difficult that is.

One final thought:  instead of sitting inside your home with power in a disaster like this, go out and check on your neighbors.  We had one neighbor that did that.  All others seemed to just stay to themselves.  I'm afraid of what would happen if this would have been 185 mph winds that hit us.  I think of the images and stories coming out of the island nations and am not sure humanity here would be much different.  That's a sad and sobering thought.

Hurricanes like Irma are stressful on our mind and body.  We need to acknowledge and realize this because if we try to hide our heads in the sand, it will only impact us later.  If we deal with it, the long-term effects will not be as damaging.








Blog Post And Images (c) 2017 by Don Shetterly
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