After our stint as Hurricane Irma evacuees, we are finally back in our apartment and slowly returning to normal. We are beyond lucky. Our home is intact, my car is right where I left it, we are happy and healthy. Many can not say the same.
As we made the drive back to Miami, Chet and I reflected on a few takeaways from the past couple weeks regarding Hurricane Irma (in general), our evacuation (in particular), and how we would apply them to future preparedness efforts.
1. Fake news. Social media ran rampant with false information before, during, and after the storm. Emotions are already running high and stress levels are at their peak. Make sure you’re following a few trusted sources and ignore the rest until you can verify them.
2. Predictions are not certainties. Irma didn’t make up her mind on a path until she was barreling through. Sometimes you gotta make moves based on possibilities and pray it was for nothing.
3. Bring bedding. Kind of random but I’ll remember this for any future evacuations. We ended up staying at a sparsely furnished cabin at a campground in Lake City, FL as we made our way out of the state. It was a bring your own bedding situation but luckily the campground sold us sheets and a towel. If you’re evacuating, it wouldn’t hurt to toss some blankets and towels in your trunk just in case. You never know where you’ll end up staying!
4. Gridlock traffic isn’t fun. We were on the highway during the largest mass evacuation in United States history. And it wasn’t fun. At one point we were in stand-still traffic for over an hour, 6+ lanes across, no cell signal. It was claustrophobic and panic-inducing. Make sure to have food, water, and a first aid kit in the car when you choose to get out of dodge.
5. Mike’s Weather Page FTW. The Weather Channel is exhausting and alarmist. Mike analyzes data and gives you the facts. We love him!
6. Expect to stay. Returning too quickly after a natural disaster is a bad idea. Wait for word from public officials that it is safe to return. Our social media feeds let us witness a ton of folks who tried to head home only to be met with road closures, no gas, and floods.
7. The right time to talk climate change is NOW.
Honestly, I could probably share a ton more but for now, I’ll leave you with this —
How to help victims of Hurricane Irma…
Donate to UNICEF. They are focused on getting children back to school in Irma’s wake.
Donate to SPCA. They give shelters and rescue groups support to help animals affected by natural disasters.
Donate to The Miami Foundation. They support recovery and rebuilding on the ground in Florida (especially in marginalized communities) as well as in small Caribbean island nations and territories, including Antigua & Barbuda, U.S. Virgin Islands and the Bahamas.
Volunteer to assist the affected through Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). They are registering volunteers to assist with relief efforts in Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.
As soon as affected areas get back on their feet, VISIT. Chet and I decided last night that we want to head down to The Keys as soon as humanly possible. We want to support the businesses that rely on tourism dollars. They have a long road ahead of them and many local businesses and jobs are at stake. We want to stay at a hotel, eat meals in local restaurants, and buy a gift or 2 from a local shop.
I know it’s easy to think of the areas who found themselves in Irma’s path as vacation destinations, upper class playgrounds, and landing pads for rich retirees. Surely such folks had the means to weather this storm, right? But the huge number of working class people, who largely labor in tourism/service industry jobs, don’t. Their livelihood could be adversely affected long after the detritus of Irma is cleared.
And I’d love to know…
Have you had a first-hand experience with a natural disaster? What did you learn? What organization do YOU recommend donating to?
Sending warm and powerful thoughts to anyone who needs them. xoxo