The Unforgettable Experience of Natural Catastrophe

Credit to Public Domain Pictures on Pixabay

Some of you might remember the horrendous hurricane Irma, which devastated the Caribbean Islands and left a path of destruction over the state of Florida in the fall of 2017.

I got to witness it…

Here is how it happened…

“You have to evacuate,” was blasting from all the major TV channels, when the media was painting the darkest pictures of the upcoming hurricane of category 5, called Irma, which was quickly approaching Florida. Beware of the ferocious hurricane, dramatically called Irmagedon, was the warning from everywhere.

According to the media reports, that was supposed to be the biggest and the most destructive hurricane in the history. People were panicking, uncontrollably buying food and water, leaving the empty shells in the major markets at 9 am; filling up gas tanks, making the queues of three to four blocks. Key West, Florida Keys, and Miami were cities in chaos.

I happened to be in Miami during this time, staying over at my friend’s apartment. My friends were making fun of me, saying I picked the worst time ever to come back Miami (I used to live there).

I would jokingly respond that I was in the search of adventure. And that was quite an adventure that I would not agree to experience again.

However, prior to the beginning of the hurricane, I was a bit skeptical about the magnitude and the pressing significance of the consequences. Media is always exaggerating, finding the worst pictures possible and blowing them to enormous proportions in order to create a sensation. So, I was filtering the drama with common sense and calm attitude. I was on the 22 floor in a building that survived not one hurricane.

I would be fine I thought. And I was. Except, I wasn’t. I did survive, but some of the pictures will stay with me forever.

The announcement of the quickly approaching hurricane, which was sweeping everything on her path on the Caribbean Islands, causing major flooding and tearing down trees, constructions, and buildings was made on Tuesday, September the 5th 2017. The news reports were disturbing, I must say.. But it was a gradual effect. The media initially was adding fuel to people’s panic, blowing the facts.

owever when the forecast was backed up with graphical pictures and actual videos, I began to realise the devastating and destructive impact Irma was causing in the Caribbean area. As they say, the proverbial penny dropped.

It is not that I didn’t believe in in the consequential impact of the hurricane. It just seemed a bit far from me emotionally.

And to be really honest, I was curious. Curious to witness the unstoppable force of nature. I thought it would be fascinating and exciting to go through that experience. Although the feeling of excitement was present, I was more filled with fear and being trapped inside the building and my friend’s apartment.

On Wednesday, people were in active preparation for the hurricane, protecting their homes and businesses, attaching shutters, putting sand bags, and then massively leaving.

80% of the residents of my building evacuated. That didn’t help in keeping my spirits up. My friend and I had some food and water supply, but the overall turmoil and hustle the city was wrapped up into was making us nervous more and more.

It was Thursday already. And we were still in Miami, potentially dangerous zone with mandatory evacuation orders. Last minute evacuation thought did cross my mind with an intuitive hunch that it would be the right move. We started looking at ways to escape.

Alas, that was too late. The I95 interstate highway (the only way out of Florida) was packed with cars that were barely moving at 5 miles per hour. Besides, the petrol was running out faster than the queue was over. Not the option.

Almost all airlines stopped operating. Those airlines that were still flying, were charging ridiculous cosmic prices in the amount of three to four thousand dollars.. Not the option either.

What was left was to get enough supplies: food, water, flashlight, candles, and lots and lots of courage.

So we did. Friday was, as usual, gorgeous and sunny. Still big lines for water and gas. But the city was getting emptier.

Saturday arrived and greeted us with yet another typical Florida sunshine and a clear blue sky. The calm before the storm. One could never tell there was a huge danger approaching in a couple of hours.

We decided to drive around the city. I had never seen anything like that. Ghost town. Empty streets. No traffic. No people. Luckily, we managed to find an open supermarket and get more water.

Then we headed towards the beach. Crazy?! Maybe. But again, my curiosity overruled the sense of fear. And the weather was beautiful.

As you may probably guess, the beach was empty as well. Besides the two of us, there was not a single soul. Stunning but eerie scene. It was real! It was happening.

I took a minute to appreciate the magnificent nature: stunning and captivating but powerful and dangerous. The endless turquoise ocean was a bit uneasy, as if sensing the arrival of the hurricane, which just 100 miles south was pounding the islands.

You’ve got to respect Mother Nature. If you take it for granted, you risk being on a nasty end of the game. And the winner in that game aint going to be you.

After a daring visit to the Miami beach in the “ghost town”( 90% of Miami’s population got evacuated), we got home, made sure everything was ready to meet the angry lady and while watching a nice movie on TV, we had a few interruptions of power and cable signal. It was coming; we were not going to avoid it, no matter how much I hoped for it to slow down and stop… The hurricane Irma was coming..

We were going to bed scared and the wind was picking up its strength and literally pounding our windows and balcony doors. Honestly, I thought it was going to break the glass as it was so loud and everything inside was shaking…

Not exactly nice. All over sudden, we didn’t feel protected and secure any more.

Yet, we went to bed. We had to. There was no escape.

I remember waking up in the middle of the night, around 2 or 3 am, because of the tremendous roar of the wind. The glass was still there. Thank God.

But the electricity was out.

I never fell asleep again, turning in my bed and thinking about everything and about nothing. I did think a lot about Christian, my beloved husband (at that time, he was still my boyfriend). How amazing it would be to be in his arms: safe, secure, cozy…

On Sunday morning everything was grey and the rain was lashing down Miami. The fierce gusts of the wind were so strong and loud that you would think you were watching a horror movie. Except, it wasn’t a movie, it was a reality.

We came downstairs. Very few people who stayed in the apartment complex, were downstairs in the lobby charging their phones, as the whole building lost its power.

Wasn’t fun. At all. Yet, it was fascinating to watch the compelling force of nature. She was in charge that day. No matter how much we, human beings, proclaim ourselves the masters of this earth. That is not true. We might be technologically advanced, but we remain spiritually ignorant. People have been abusing our earth, robing it of its precious resources. It cannot go unnoticed. Cause and effect law is always present on this earth. That’s another topic however.

There was no electricity, no hot water in the shower, no internet, or no air conditioning (it was a major problem in Miami when the temperature is so hot and humid that there is no air left to breath). We tend to take these little things for granted, which are not that little at the end of the day.

Another thing: the elevator was not functioning, so we had to take the stairs (22nd floor), which I am not complaining about. I am always up for a good exercise. However, without AC, by the time you reach 5th floor, you are already drenched with sweat. Wasn’t very pleasant feeling.

Yet, in the afternoon, we did go down again. We weren’t not searching easy ways, weren’t we? What we saw on the lower below us floors brought us into shock.

The hallways were flooded. The water streaming from people’s apartments, as the windows got broken because of ferocious winds.

Honestly, apocalyptical scene. The wind and rain seemed only to gain their power. On the second floor there were big puddles all over. It reminded me of the classic scene from Titanic, when the ship was quickly submerging under water and everything was being destroyed on its path.

Thankfully, we were not in the middle of the vast ocean.

That day passed. It was definitely a unique and unforgettable experience.

Fortunately, our apartment remained intact, unlike many of our neighbours’ apartments that were severely damaged.

The next day, Monday morning, we woke up to a nice sunny morning. The sky was so clear that it was hard to believe that just a couple of hours ago, the wild hurricane was tearing everything apart.

We walked outside. The weather was beautiful and peaceful. The water was gone; it receded quickly. The only present sign of the terrible hurricane was the fallen trees all over the with heavy rain dirty streets.

The nightmare is over! The damage in our area is not catastrophic. No ruined houses (at least, there were no visible damage) Miami for the most part is built to survive strong winds, rain and hurricanes, after all. However, many people in other cities have suffered massive destruction…We were grateful to be safe and intact.

We were happy the disaster was over. But the aftermath of the hurricane turned out to be a much bigger problem for us than the hurricane itself. Power and Air Conditioning Outage was unbearable. No hot water to take a shower, no way to cook a hot dinner, or even make a cup of tea or coffee. And above all, no AC to cool off the extremely hot and humid air (between 87–93F)

On Tuesday morning, we were packing our bags and at noon we were at Fort Lauderdale International Airport heading to Michigan. Miami residents were coming back home after unplanned “vacations”, but we were leaving.

“You girls are crazy!”, our neigbours would say. Maybe, we are, in a way. You’ve got to love and respect nature I was thinking sitting on the plane and reflecting on the recent experience we had. It is powerful, beautiful, awe-inspiring as well as forceful, dangerous and wild.

You cannot control the force of nature. But you what you can control is the force of your mind and your character, which dictates everything you have or don’t have in your life.

So, back to my hurricane adventure. We ended up spending amazing 5 days in Birmingham city in Michigan State, enjoying so appreciated fresh air and beautiful autumn colours of changing trees.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Ukrainian by birth, American at heart, world traveler, who dares to go after her ambitious goals. Empowering women to achieve their dreams www.anna-simpson.com

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