How I survived a hurricane. Matthew knocked and I ran!
Hurricane Matthew beach scene near Daytona.
Hurricanes are nothing to mess with.
I am presently sitting in my home just south of Tampa Florida, reflecting on what I am seeing on the news this morning. Hurricane Matthew, the first real one to hit Florida in a number of years, is following the weather guru's projected paths so far.
Hurricanes are terrible things to behold, and even worse things to experience first hand.
As I watch, the news media is covering pretty much every city along the eastern coast of Florida a people either leave for safer places to be as the storm passes or are simply "hunkering down" where they are to ride the storm out.
And, I understand both points of view on what a person should do when such a dangerous weather situation approaches a person's home.
Sure, we all hear the warnings and see the devastation whenever one of these monsters sprouts in the Atlantic and comes near to the US. Honestly, the American public are a group of jaded people, if you sit back and think about it.
We love such things as action movies and pretty much all forms of destruction. So, watching our high-tech news crews with their on-site coverage of such devastation wreaked by a Hurricane, is a great form of entertainment. That is, if you’re not in the middle of it!
And, I have to be honest with all of you, just like everyone else, I’m sitting here, now safely on the opposite coast of Florida, with just some high winds blowing things around, and I’m avidly watching the TV as things develop.
Two days ago, things were different.
It was only two days ago that my wife and I were sitting in our RV, in the Keys, enjoying the laid back lifestyle down here.
Eventually this storm called Matthew caught our attention and we began to watch the approaching storm with a heightening level of concern.
As my fellow RV owners know, your motorhome might be big and heavy, but it is not a real house, secured to the ground and safe from storm damage.
Being in the Keys, and in an RV, when bad weather of any kind approaches, is quite different from being on a real piece of property such as a hotel room, a rental condo, or a rental house as a storm approaches.
Weather Radio, a necessary accessory
I believe every RV traveler should have one of these Weather Radios with them at all times. I can crank mine for about a minute and then i get around 20 to 30 minutes of FM music at half volume.
Two major concerns for RV Owners
An RV owner needs to be concerned about two things when camping near any large body of water, even rivers.
The first concern for us is the possibility of high winds. A high wind can not only push that big RV, if there is a strong enough crosswind it can flip the RV over.
The second potential problem is such things as storm surge and other heavy flooding nearby.
Most campgrounds are placed, intentionally, on rivers, lakes and coastal waterways. It’s what campers like and a campground with such water access is always going to draw more campers than a waterless one.
My situation and my decision
Back to my situation.
There we were, in a campground where the high tide line was only two feet below the top of the seawall in most places. And, the campground had only one entrance and exit point onto the Overseas Highway.
Of course, the days was a beautiful one, with plenty of sunshine, and the onsite Tiki bar called The Lobster Crawl, was open.
All of this gave me a certain amount of comfort, and by the way, the storm was supposed to miss the Keys and we would only be under a Tropical Storm Warning for the area.
But after a few hours of concerned thought, I had several things that could turn our next few days in the Keys into a less comfortable experience for us, these were;
- Power - The Keys gets its electricity from the mainland and if they lost power, so would we.
- Flooding - If there was any significant Storm Surge, and they were calling for 1-3 feet, we would be sitting in a lake, hopefully at a level below our camper interior floor.
- Electric Service - If power was lost we would be sitting in the typically hot 80+ degree temperatures without any relief.
- Roads - Most sections of the Overseas Highway are only 2-3 feet above high tide and they would be closed until the storm passed.
- Tiki Bar Closed - Finally, the Tiki Bar would be closed and not serving drinks or food, which would make our stay a much worse experience.
We decided to run home.
The Decision to leave
I decided I safely had a whole day to make my decision on leaving or staying, and we eventually hit the sack.
Once we got up the next morning, we had our coffee, and after much discussion, we decided it was safer to be back at our home south of Tampa than gambling on our lifestyle by staying.
It only took us an hour to pack things up, dump our tanks, hook up our toad and hit the road. We were leaving at least a day before deciding whether to do so would be critical, so the weather was good, with only light rain and occasional gusty winds.
I took the old I-41 (aka the Tamiami Trail) rather than the newer I-75, and the traffic was very light all of the way across the Everglades until we hit Naples Florida where we took I-75N.
The rest of our drive was good as I stayed in the right lane and drove at a steady 5-mph below the speed limit. When we got home, we unloaded the RV and sat down to review our situation and watch the storm as it ran up to the Florida coast.
Back home and considering my decision
Was our decision the right one?
Well, in hindsight, we could have stayed, but my RV, along with my wife and I, are safe and undamaged as this terrible storm continues to wreak havoc along the East Coast.
The Keys will always be there, when we want to go back.
Hurricane Matthew weather footage in Florida
How to prepare for a hurricane
Stay safe during a hurricane
© 2016 Don Bobbitt