A Hurricane Survival Story and the Lessons Learned
Having survived three hurricanes in one year while living in Central Florida in 2004, I learned some valuable lessons as to what you need to do before, during and after a hurricane.Surviving a hurricane is no guarantee, but there are some things you can do to prepare yourself for the many things that can happen when a hurricane is headed your way. The most important thing is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
On August 13, 2004, my family and I were living in Central Florida when Hurricane Charley came to visit. We had never experienced a hurricane before so we were nervous and anxious about what to expect. We had seen movies and television shows showing the destruction of these hurricanes, but we lived further inland so we never expected to be threatened by a significant hurricane. We had watched the news reports all day telling us that the hurricane would be crossing the State of Florida, but the eye of the hurricane would pass farther south of our town. That gave us some relief knowing we could expect a little rain and wind. As the hurricane came closer to the west coast of Florida the forecast track changed and the eye of the hurricane was forecast to cross directly over our town. We only had a couple of hours to prepare for a major hurricane. Hurricane Charley hit the west coast of Florida packing 150 mile per hour sustained winds. By the time it hit our town the winds were close to 100 miles per hour sustained winds. When the hurricane arrived the winds were so strong and loud. I will never forget the sound of that wind. My family and I cowered in a closet praying that we would survive. My feet were pressed against the wall of the closet and I could feel the walls of the house shaking. I thought the house was going to collapse. When the hurricane hit, the power went out almost immediately. We were in the closet, in the dark, just hearing all sorts of crashing and banging going on outside. This lasted for about an hour, then there was an eerie quiet. My husband and my son thought the storm was over so they ventured outside to see the damage and before long they came running back inside of the closet. The eye of the storm was the quiet we were experiencing, and now the back end of the storm was coming through. The hurricane lasted about two hours, but it felt like an eternity. Our front yard was littered with large trees that had fallen, and our fence was completely gone, but we had no broken windows and only lost a few shingles on our roof. We were very lucky, because some of our neighbors on the block were not so lucky. Most of our neighbors lost their roofs, and one of our neighbors had a huge hole in the front of their house. Our street was impassable because of all of the fallen trees and power lines. It looked like utter destruction everywhere you looked, every street you went down there was unbelievable damage to homes and businesses.
The next day all of our neighbors rallied together helping each other clear trees and debris. There was a canoe in our front yard that we had no idea where it came from. Our front yard was buried in trees and debris. The power was out for about a week. Our cell phones did not work either, but our land line worked for a couple of hours after the storm passed giving us time to contact relatives to let them know we were safe. The day after the storm it was extremely hot and humid. We worked all day trying to clear debris, and the first thing you wanted to do was take a shower, but you couldn’t because there was no hot water and the authorities did not suggest you use the water because of contamination. We also could not flush the toilets, so it was clearly a miserable experience, but we were glad to have survived the worst of this hurricane. We decided to try to drive around and check on friends and family. There was no traffic lights at all. Some of the traffic lights were completely gone and the ones that were still there were not working. This made for a harrowing drive trying to cross through busy intersections. We hadn’t thought to get gas before the hurricane, and after the storm the gas stations couldn’t open because the power was out so the pumps did not work. We also had a need for ice to keep some of our food from spoiling. My brother had to travel over fifty miles to find ice for us. The nights were the worst because it was hot, dark and boring. We came out of this experience with some lessons we had learned.
LESSONS LEARNED TO PREPARE FOR A HURRICANE
- Start stockpiling supplies during the year. Shop for cases of water, batteries, flashlights, touch lights, etc.
- Start making or buy ice as soon as you know a hurricane is coming.
- Make sure you have a land line telephone. Cell phone towers are usually the first to go down after a hurricane.
- Board up windows before the storm comes or purchase hurricane shutters.
- Invest in a generator. This will be invaluable to you if you lose power.
- Run a bathtub of water to use for flushing toilets and washing up.
- Fill your automobile with gas before the hurricane hits. Gas stations may not have power after the hurricane.
- Shop for foods that don’t need refrigeration so if the power is out for several days you have food to eat.
- If you have a grill, try to secure it as safely as possible so after the hurricane passes, you can start cooking the food in your refrigerator and freezer if the power is out for several days. We shared meals with our neighbors.
- Prepare your safe room with pillows, blankets and even a mattress if possible to cover yourself from falling debris.
- Invest in a weather radio. It will tell you exactly where the storm is and keep you informed.
One of the most important lessons we learned about surviving a hurricane is that you have to prepare early. You should start preparing all year long because if you wait until the hurricane is coming the stores sell out of needed supplies. I hope you never have to experience a hurricane, but if you do, early preparation can make the experience a lot more bearable.