We’ve been living in Central Florida for 5 years now, and Hurricane Irma was our first Hurricane to bother us! We experienced only Tropical Storm winds and rains from Matthew and that I can handle! As a Northern girl living in a Florida world, I am used to snow and the occasional Nor’Easter storm. We originally decided to head up to our friends in North Carolina, but the track changed so many times that we ended up deciding to stay on Wednesday. The storm was tracked to hit Central Florida Sunday Night into Monday morning during the night. On Thursday morning the track completely changed and when the meteorologist on the news said “Central Florida will get a direct hit from the eye of the storm as a Category 3”, my hubby looked at me said “Let’s get out of here!” I agreed as nothing is more important than the safety of my children. We had agreed that if a Hurricane was to hit, we would evacuate if it was a Level 3 or higher. My dear friend who lived in Florida for several years and went through the series of Hurricanes that came one after another back in 2004 & 2005 always said, it’s all the Tornadoes that spawn from the Hurricane that does the most damage and kills people. I always remembered that! In addition, our home is partially located in a flood zone so we knew flooding could be a possibility.
I love to chronicle life events like this, so be patient, as this experience will be covered in more than one post.
I had only a few hours to decide how to handle this situation. So here’s what I knew had to be done before we could get on the road and leave. Hubby wanted to leave super early in the morning due to all the traffic reports and gas outages. We knew (at least we thought we knew) all the tracks were taking this thing up the middle or east coast, so we decided to head west.
- Made a run to the gas stations and filled up our truck plus a small gas can to top it off before we left so we could go at least 200 miles before needing gas.
- Went to storage to pick up Mini Pearl and bring her home so I could load the fridge and a few pieces of furniture I refuse to leave behind.
- Took video and pictures of the outside and inside of the house in case we hand damage, we had something to share with our insurance agencies. (Home Owners and Flood)
- Let our neighbors know we were leaving. (we have the BEST neighbors ever!)
- Download the GasBuddy App
- Bring in ALL the outside furniture and move all the potted plants to a safe location
- Pack up all items that are irreplaceable (photo albums, kids trophies, family heirlooms, laptops, etc.) Everything else I could replace and that’s the mindset I had to be in because there was only so much room in the truck and the camper. We had to take the pets and live in the camper, so room was essential!
It’s a weird feeling when you’re taking pictures of your home and know it could be the last time you will see it, or at least see it like you left it!
I didn’t even had time to cry until much later that night. All I could focus on is my babies and getting them out of harms way. I am the type that will do whatever necessary for my kids and don’t care much what others say! Yup, that’d be me! My favorite saying is “Whatever” because that’s how I feel many times. I try not to judge others as I’m not living in their shoes, but expect the same from them.
Many of our locals on our town’s Facebook pages were making all sorts of comments on the people leaving and people staying. I think you must do what is right for your family and possibly what’s right for your family might not be what is right for mine.
So heading out wasn’t that bad, although we were both very tired at this point and the kids were asleep in the back seat along with the pets. Route 408 Florida video of 1st part of our evacuation.
So somewhere along the way (I really don’t remember where we were at this point) we used the GasBuddy app and found gasoline. We waiting in a long line to get gas and of course, in any situation, there always has to be a jerk! Well, this was the case as this person in the small car decided they didn’t have to wait for gas and literally but in line as you can see in the picture! There is two cars in front of us they just plopped them self behind the person who was pumping gas. I really had to calm hubby at this point! I don’t blame him, but these days, you never know.
So off we headed to Panama City Beach, FL where we were able to score a reservation at a little place called Campers Inn. We were somewhat familiar with that area since last time we camped there at St. Andrews state park. It was unbelievable we actually got a spot because most places were completely full with campers from Southern Florida, and coastal areas (both sides of FL) having to leave because that is their primary home. That might be us one day since that is the dream, to live in an RV full time and travel.
It obviously took a much longer time to get there due to all the traffic on the road moving at a snails pace. We were actually pretty fortunate that we hit I-75 at a decent time considering the traffic. We were steadily moving, just slower than normal. Since we left in the middle of the night 12:10 am.
I have to say seeing soooo many people evacuating was kinda creepy. It was like nothing my family has ever experienced. Even the rest stops were at overfilled capacity! There were so many people there that people were parking on the highway because no parking spots were available. Rest Stop on I-10 Florida during Hurricane Irma
It was very late and Hubby was getting tired, so we decided to find a spot to sleep for a few hours. Luckily, we pulled off at Live Oak Florida and a Walmart was allowing truckers and campers to park in the parking lot overnight (Even though they had a sign that said otherwise). Ok, so this is where it really hit home how serious this situation really is getting! Shed my first tear seeing the parking lot filled completely with people evacuating. Not knowing if these people were going to have a home afterwards and seeing the fact that Walmart allowed this after changing their “overnight RV” rule really hit home! Yes, I’m a sap and starting to cry! Some of it was relief that we were in a safe area, and the other half was just everything hitting me at once. This was the first time I had a chance to take it all in and breath! Plus, I was really tired! It normally would only take 3 hours to drive to this point, but had taken a little more than 6 hours! Walmart Parking Lot – Hurricane Irma
So here we slept for 2 hours and when we awakened I went outside and there were 3 Walmart employees walking around making sure everything was ok. I thanked them so very much and told them we were very appreciative to have somewhere to lay our heads. They were very gracious and assured us they understood and it wasn’t a problem. I have to admit, I wasn’t a huge shopper at Walmart. Maybe 1x a year at most. I will most certainly give them my business now!
We finally made it to our desitination in Panama City Beach, Florida. We were tired and set up camp, ate, then slept! It was so nice knowing we could finally relax!
Till the next morning……(to be cont’d)