In the summers when I was growing up, my mom always kept several gallons of bottled water on the floor of the guest bathroom. During bad years, the bottles would duplicate and selections of canned food would work their way into towers alongside. Many years, I found myself on my hands and knees, reorganizing these nonperishables against the wall to make room for more. Thankfully, we almost never needed them. But every hurricane season, Mom took the extra oil for her hurricane lamp and the water in the guest bathroom seriously. Today, she’s evacuating from Dorian.
We always evacuated growing up. The Atlantic was very active in those years, and Mom always said that we were blessed to live in a beautiful place and blessed to live in a time with technology that told us when to evacuate. One season, we evacuated five times. We kept all our family photos in a single backpack and my brother and I each kept a huge box of toys in the living room, ready to be sealed and loaded up as soon as the governor gave the evacuation order. I learned to read maps on the evacuation route. I learned latitude and longitude as we tracked the latest storm locations on a family map with a green Expo marker. Our schools built hurricane days into the calendar instead of snow days.
Because these memories were so common in my childhood, and our home always survived, many of them are fond ones. I loved putting puzzles together by the light of Mom’s oil lamp. I loved the rumble of thunder and watching the lightning flash outside as we watched a movie, all of us safe and cozy inside. I loved charting the hurricane’s new path and getting to ride up front with my mom, controlling the walkie-talkies while my brother and dad rode in the car behind.
Thankfully, we always had somewhere to evacuate to (grandparents’ house) and a mostly backroads route to get there. We didn’t have to drive for 24 hours like one classmate when evacuating from Floyd. We didn’t have to call ahead and ahead and ahead, praying for a hotel room, praying for a place that takes pets. We didn’t have to sleep in our cars outside a Walmart, where we could go in and use the bathroom 24 hours a day. We did sit in line for half an hour to fill up with gas. We did leave everything behind, wondering if we’d ever see it again. We did take refugees from Katrina and other massive storms into our schools and church and community.
As an adult living inland, my relationship with hurricanes is different. During Irma, we lost power for 4 days, and it got cold and dark and no number of candles were as good as a lantern so I bought a lantern. I could take a hot shower, but only by candlelight. The house was so dark, the neighborhood so quiet, and I desperately missed my roommate and Tyler. I would have abandoned the house to sleep on a friend’s sofa if I hadn’t had my roommate’s dog with me. Even after the rain passed and my roommate got to come home, the nights were mostly long and miserable and the days were crowded and stressful.
In light of Hurricane Dorian’s trek through the Atlantic, I decided to pull together my hurricane stores over Labor Day. This required some digging through our many moving boxes for the supplies I’d somewhat haphazardly packed away, vastly overestimating how quickly I’d be unpacking and underestimating how soon I’d need these items.
I already had gallons of bottled water and canned food stored for us and our cat, as per my mother’s example. But I needed to find lighters, batteries, candles, our battery-operated lantern, and our phone-charging battery packs. My search was somewhat successful (the lantern remains elusive, but we bought a spare). We caught up on laundry and texted with friends who might need a place to stay. I watched the radar and checked on friends who live in places Dorian’s already devastated. We aren’t expecting any rain from this storm, but I’m still filling up with gas, going to the grocery store one more time, and checking on Mom’s progress to the place where she’ll wait until it’s safe to return home. And I’m thinking eastward thoughts toward Dorian.
What kind of prep do you do for hurricanes? Do you have any good memories associated with hurricanes?