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Reflections on Hurricane Irma

I have several points to make in this post, but first I must say that I did have a very strong dream warning about Irma. Living in Florida, I always have a watchful eye on reports of hurricanes from late June through early November. During the last eight years, my time in Florida, I have not had any dreams of warning about hurricanes. I watched the news and followed the progress of many, but they did not become dangers to the surrounding area or me. Irma was different. A few days after it left the African coast and was reported as a potential major hurricane, I had a dream that was brief and to the point. In the dream, I looked east toward the Atlantic, and I saw a gigantic wall racing toward the coast. I was terrified when I saw the size of it, and in the dream, I said, “There is no avoiding this one. We are going to be hit. There is no escape.”

Irma was still several days away when I had the dream and its final path was not yet known. Now, at that point, I could have left Florida. However, family members, including my son, could not, so I decided to stay. Adequate shelters were available, in the event that I had to leave my home. We all watched its progress, wondering where it would affect Florida. At first, the meteorologists thought it would travel up the East Coast of Florida, but when it reached the Caribbean, it began to move farther west than expected before it turned north. Suddenly, where I live in Tampa Bay was in the target path. Many people decided to leave, but they faced a new problem. The Interstate going north was clogged with traffic of people trying to escape Irma, and gas stations along the Interstate ran out of gas. Fights became cancelled, and those still leaving were booked solid. When it finally became clear that Tampa Bay would be hit, there was no good escape route.

Major supermarkets like Publix were out of water several days before Irma hit. Other items like milk and mayonnaise also quickly disappeared from the shelves. Some batteries were available, but certain sizes were sold out. Local gas stations ran out of gas because they could not get deliveries. Fortunately, I had filled my gas tank right before the shortages developed.

Irma reached Tampa Bay Sunday late afternoon, and soon thereafter, I lost power. I was without power for exactly four days. A family member had power throughout the storm, so we all congregated there during the day. The Publix near me was closed for two days, and when it reopened, some items like water were unavailable. Items like baking soda and mayonnaise were completely sold out. Since people had to clean out their refrigerators because of the loss of power, baking soda was one of the first things people tried to purchase. And mayonnaise was good for sandwiches for quick meals.

Many people are now interested in digital currencies like Bitcoin. They may be fine if there is power, but everything changes when stores cannot process credit cards. On Tuesday after the storm, I went to the small shopping center near me where a Publix is located. Several restaurant are located there, and they were open for business. However, a few had cash only signs on their window. They could not process credit cards. This was the same situation at some of the gas stations.

The major damage in Tampa Bay was to power lines and trees. Several large palm trees were uprooted in my neighbors’ yards, and the sight was common throughout the area. In my neighborhood, the remaining debris from Irma has only been cleaned up this past week.

I think there are several things that I learned firsthand:

First, and most important, my dream did warn me that Florida would be hit and there would be no escape. Irma managed to hit every major city in Florida before it left the state. Some people thought they were fleeing Irma by leaving the Miami area and going to Tampa Bay. They moved right into its path. The path a hurricane takes is unpredictable, and this one fooled the meteorologists.

Be prepared well in advance of any hurricanes. I had plenty of water, but those who waited until the last minute had to drive around to find some. And if you don’t have gas for your car, you would be in trouble.

If you wait until the hurricane path is certain, evacuating by car may not be feasible. You could sit in your car stalled in traffic for hours, and then you might run out of gas.

Make certain you have flashlights, lanterns, batteries, etc., and that they are working. I had checked one of my lanterns a few weeks before Irma hit, but when my power went out, it did not work. Fortunately, I had backups.

Keep extra supplies of items like toilet paper, baking soda, raisins, mayonnaise etc. These items began to disappear from some store shelves three days before the hurricane it.

Make sure you have cash for incidentals, gas, and meals. Power outages affected some stores ability to process credit cards, and without cash, you may not get service.

My cellphone service was sporadic at best. For hours at a time, I had no service. Fortunately, I had battery-operated radios for news updates.

Of course, if you are on medication, make sure you have an adequate supply. If refrigeration is required, you may need backup power. Also, keep basic medical/personal hygiene items like Band-Aids, hydrogen peroxide, toothpaste, etc. on hand in an emergency kit. After the storm, I scraped my left arm and made good use of my medical supplies.

I believe as I have stated in previous posts that the weather is going to become much worse for the next ten years. This could mean larger storms, like Irma that dwarfed the entire state of Florida in size, stronger winds, greater amounts of rain like Harvey in Houston, and severe flooding. Also, weather is not just hotter; it is more extreme. I would not be surprised to see violent storms this winter in the northern part of the US.

I have collected my thoughts in this post as things to consider because I believe many people will experience violent weather conditions in the future. You must be prepared; if you wait, you will discover just how fast stores are stripped of goods. And all escape routes may be closed.

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