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How I survived a hurricane. Matthew knocked and I ran!

Updated on December 28, 2017
Don Bobbitt profile image

Don is a Writer and a Storyteller. He has published over 7 books on varied subjects along with many articles and commentary on his blogs.

Hurricane Matthew beach scene near Daytona.

Beach goers on the beach near Daytona after hurricane Matthew has passed.
Beach goers on the beach near Daytona after hurricane Matthew has passed. | Source

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

Eton FRX5 Hand Crank Emergency Weather Radio with SAME, NFRX5SWXBG
Eton FRX5 Hand Crank Emergency Weather Radio with SAME, NFRX5SWXBG

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

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    • Don Bobbitt profile image
      Author

      Don Bobbitt 18 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      Glenn Stok - I love Punta Gorda. We run down there for short RV getaways occasionally.

      As to the Hurricane, one of the worst things for anyone living near the water when one goes by, is the Surge.

      And, the projected Tidal Surge made me be wary. It turned out to not be a problem, but I felt caution was in order.

      Thanks for the read and the Comment,

      DON

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 18 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Interesting story Don. I'm glad the two of you made the right decision and are safe. Being in the Florida Keys, and especially in an RV, during a hurricane is definitely life-threatening.

      My sister lives in Punta Gorda south of Tampa, and I remember her experience when Hurricane Charley hit in 2004. Her neighbors roof got blown off and landed on top of her car. Even the safety of a secure house isn't always the best either.

    • Don Bobbitt profile image
      Author

      Don Bobbitt 19 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      teaches12345 - This Mr.Matthew was my first hurricane experience on land since I lived in Virginia and Camille devastated so much in the area where I lived, then.

      They are nothing to take lightly and thanks for agreeing with my cautious decision.

      DON

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 19 months ago

      You made the right choice. We pulled our shutters and prepared for the worst in South Florida but we only had a tropical storm from Matthew. Thank the Lord for his grace and mercy! As they say, it's better to be safe than sorry.

    • Don Bobbitt profile image
      Author

      Don Bobbitt 19 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      BlossumSB - Thanks for your kind words. Yes we did have to shorten our holiday, but we did sleep a lot better after we got out of the way of the storm.

      DON

    • Don Bobbitt profile image
      Author

      Don Bobbitt 19 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      MsDora - If anyone understands the dangers of hurricanes it has to be someone like yourself, living in the Caribbean.

      My decision to run was right for me, obviously. Thanks for the read and comment.

      DON

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 19 months ago from Victoria, Australia

      What a wise decision! We watched Matthew's progress on TV here in Australia, and it was so devastating in places. Although the weather people can make great predictions, these hurricanes seem to have a mind of their own and can change course. It was a pity to have to curtail your holiday, but so sensible!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 19 months ago from The Caribbean

      "Hurricanes are nothing to mess with." I totally agree. Good for you that you, your wife and motor home are safe. Better safe than sorry! Here in the Caribbean,we experienced long showers and heavy winds, but nothing compared to the disaster we watched on TV.

    • Don Bobbitt profile image
      Author

      Don Bobbitt 19 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      Sunshine625 - Thanks for the comment. And you did make sure you had the Beer! LOL!

      I was watching and I noticed that they were a little over the edge with their worst-case predictions for central and even western Florida.

      Luckily they were wrong again, and we Floridians can get back to our tropical lifestyles.

      DON

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 19 months ago from Orlando, FL

      Hey Don, I would have left the Keys too! A few of my friends in Orlando ran to Tampa. I hunkered down expecting the worse. I did all the prep work to my house. I ran out of time to buy food and water, but I found time to buy beer. On Wednesday evening they were predicting up to 150 MPH over Orlando but luckily Matthew shifted east overnight. In the end Orlando got VERY lucky. Very sad for the east coast, but they will rebuild.

    • Don Bobbitt profile image
      Author

      Don Bobbitt 19 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      vocalcoach - So you know these monsters are an experience like no other. I have ridden through one on a ship when I was in the Navy, and I have stayed in a house when one blew over. Neither experience is worth repeating.

    • Don Bobbitt profile image
      Author

      Don Bobbitt 19 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      Mel - Good analogy with the closing Bar. Thanks for commenting.

      DON

    • Don Bobbitt profile image
      Author

      Don Bobbitt 19 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      RTalloni - Your comments are right on! Of course I didn't want to give up another week of camping in the Keys, but logic told me to get to the other coast and be safe.

      Thanks for the read and your comment.

      DON

    • Rachel L Alba profile image

      Rachel L Alba 19 months ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

      Hi Don, You know what they say, "better safe then sorry". I'm so glad you and your wife are safe. Things can be replaced, but, not people. You made a wise decision. Thanks for letting us know.

      Blessings to you.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 19 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      I survived hurricane Iki that mangled Kauai back in the 80's. It was terrible. Very wise of you two to pack up and go when you did. Safe is better than sorry. Take care.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 19 months ago from England

      Watching it on the News over here in England I don't blame you for cutting and running! so much safer, and I am glad that every one is okay. But poor Haiti, what a nightmare!

    • Don Bobbitt profile image
      Author

      Don Bobbitt 19 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      Mixbejabbers - Thanks for the read and your kind comment.

      I admit, that the temptation to stay was strong, but the thought of a "floating motorhome", even as a very small possibility was just too scary for me.

      Thanks again,

      DON

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 19 months ago from San Diego California

      I think you did the right thing. I think once the bar closes I'm out of there, because then there wouldn't even be anything to dull the horror with. I vote wise choice.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 19 months ago from the short journey

      It's easy to try to rethink decisions with hindsight, but you definitely made the best decision! These storms are so unpredictable. "They" say they are forecasting, predicting, even tracking, but all they can do for sure is say what such storms have done. Is there any word about whether the woman who died from a heart attack ignored evacuation warnings? At a certain point EMS cannot go into the storm no matter what, but people who refuse to evacuate run some pretty good risks.

      We have relatives throughout Florida, mostly Central, but from Gulf to Atlantic. Thankfully they are all doing well, waiting now to hear from Jacksonville… Panhandle relatives have seen next to nothing. Here in the Carolinas we are waiting and watching, thankful for the mercy of no more damage in S. Florida than there was–it could so easily have been so much worse!

      Local guy on radio is talking about being prepared before there is a need, making a plan before emotion is high and wisdom is low, then sticking to the plan if there is an emergency. Glad you and your wife are both safe!

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James-MizBejabbers 19 months ago

      Don, I'm really glad that you and your wife made the decision to leave and that you are safe. Better safe than sorry. Yes, you can always go back. Too bad some people won't exhibit as much sense as you did. Great hub.

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