I spent most of my life in Florida. I had temporary moves around the country but I have always considered the Space Coast of Florida my home. For those of you wondering where that it, it’s Brevard County, Florida. I went to Merritt Island High School which was only miles from the Kennedy Space Center. I grew up watching and hearing the Space Shuttle take off or land. I skipped school on days that the weather was too hot to think so I could head to the beach with my friends. I wore tank tops and shorts on Christmas day and swam in the pool year round. However, there is another season known well to Floridians and that is Hurricane Season. When the water is nice and warm these massive storms form cyclones and leave a path of destruction in their wake. I can’t count the number of hurricanes I have been through because honestly, it’s just too many. We never took a single hurricane lightly. We prepared and evacuated for almost every hurricane regardless if it was a category 1 or a category 5. Then when I graduated and wanted to join the Army, I decided to go into the Army National Guard. I figured that serving my country along with serving my state would be pretty amazing. So after my 15 months of deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom II I became a full time National Guard member and was activated multiple times for fires, border security and of course hurricane duty.
It wasn’t until my first time doing hurricane duty as a National Guard member that I realized just how many people do not prepare (even when told how important it is) and how many people did not evacuate (even when it was mandatory)! See, there are people who believe the storm isn’t going to be that bad. Then there are those who don’t want to leave their belongings behind. The reasons are endless but what those people do not realize, is that if (and when) that storm gets extremely bad and they have nowhere to go, the first-responders (firefighters & police officers) along with the National Guard members are the ones that are now risking their lives to rescue them because they failed to evacuate or prepare.
As I sit and scroll Facebook and I text my friends and family, it’s astonishing to me that so many of the people I know are planning to “ride out” this Category 4, massive and destructive storm that will only be 20 miles from them (if not making landfall right where they are). I mean, HELLO, you are SURROUNDED by water and there is expected to be 10-foot storm surges which actually probably means more because they always under estimate the storm surges. Then add in the last few days of down pour rain the area has been getting and the flooding they are already seeing…it’s going to be disastrous and it’s going to leave my hometown in shambles. I am so scared for my family, my friends and my hometown. So do me a favor, if you are reading this and you live in Brevard County, Florida then PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE prepare! If you live on Merritt Island or on the beach side then PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE evacuate! Staying is NOT WORTH YOUR LIFE! Everything in your house can be replaced! If it’s pictures and pets you are worried about then grab them and head to a pet friendly shelter. Those should be opening up around 3 pm your time.
If you are reading this and you are new to the whole hurricane experience, then here are some of things we did as a family to prepare and evacuate:
- Gas your car and fill gas cans for your generator
- Fill propane tanks
- Drinking Water (A LOT…I think they say at least 1 gallon per person per day and prep for 14 days)
- Fill up as many jugs you can find with tap water for cooking and personal hygiene
- Get a really good cooler and fill it with as much ice as possible. When you lose power you will want to try and preserve any food you can (if you stay).
- Get a lot of canned food or non-perishable food to last 14 days
- You can ever do raw veggies, fruits, canned meat, cereal with canned milk, PB&J sandwiches
- Make sure you have any special food and water for babies and elderly!
- Lanterns (battery or solar powered)
- Power boost batteries for cell phones
- Weather radio is extremely important, your power will go out so make sure it’s battery operated and you have extra batteries!
- Grill and propane (for use only outside once the storm calms but still have no power)
- Matches (Make sure they are in a place they won’t get wet)
- Manual can opener (nothing worse than not being able to open the food you bought!)
- Baby wipes…even if you don’t have a kid…we lived off these for personal hygiene in the military when deployed and didn’t have running water.
- Paper plates, napkins, bowls, etc.
- Duct Tape
- Work gloves
- Garbage bags
- Keep a tool kit close by
- Fire Extinguisher
- Grab all important documents (birth certificates, social security cards, marriage license, insurance paperwork, etc) and put it in a waterproof bag then store somewhere within close reach in case you do evacuate at the last minute
- First Aid Kit
- Any daily medications (have at least 14-day supply)
- Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer
- Food, water, paperwork and medications for your pet (14-day supply)
- Board up windows and doors (plywood or rolling shutters)
- Move all furniture, toys and debris inside the garage or house.
- I even recommend removing everything from the porch because the screens will likely break.
- If you have a garage door then park a car sideways, right in front of the door…it will help block the wind.
- If you have items that can’t be brought inside (swing set, etc) then use a very thick cable and anchor it (tie or lock) it around a very sturdy tree.
- Have your generator properly hooked up and ready to go prior to the storm (make sure it’s secured and again properly set up.)
- If you are evacuating, then:
- unplug all electronics
- move all the furniture to the middle of the room
- stack the furniture if possible
- get items off the floor that you can in case of flooding
- Turn your fridge and freezer to the coldest setting and do not open unless necessary so your food will stay cold as long as possible once the power goes out.
- Unplug and turn off appliances, propane and so forth
- Get sandbags and place in front of doorways, garage doors and so forth.
- Get cash out now. If power stays down long, then you will need cash to purchase items!
- Take pictures of your house and items in your house in case of damage.
- If you are in a mobile home, low laying area or within a mandatory evacuation area then PLEASE evacuate. One the storm starts, if you get in need of help then you may not get it. The first-responders likely will not be able to get to you which is why they issued a mandatory evacuation for your area.
DURING THE STORM:
- Keep the weather radio going at all times
- Do not go outside or open doors/windows. The change in pressure in your house could cause structural damage during the middle of the storm. (Construction person told my family that a while back…not sure how accurate it is though.)
- Stay alert and aware of what is going on around you.
- Only use flashlights or battery operated lanterns once the power is out. (Not candles!)
- Stay away from windows an doors. Debris could come crashing through at any time with high winds such as these.
- Do not leave your home once the storm starts. Stay put until it is deemed safe by the emergency management team.
Most importantly, try to stay calm. If you have children, then they will be feeding off of your energy. Get board games out and play them, buy some puzzles and put those together. The storm or two we stayed for we had a couple of air mattresses in the living room and made it into a slumber party. Although, we didn’t stay for 95% of them because I am deathly terrified of bad thunderstorms and I couldn’t handle riding it out. If you do plan on evacuating, then make sure you give yourself enough time. There will be a lot of traffic and it will be very slow moving so pack a cooler, grab an iPad full of movies to entertain the kids and just relax knowing you are keeping you and your family safe.
Know that even those of us who are all the way across the world are thinking of you and praying for you. I understand what you are going through, as I have been there MANY times in my life. Remember that your life (and your family’s lives) is not worth staying. Hurricane Matthew is a vicious storm that tore through and destroyed Haiti and it’s not going to go lightly on Florida or the rest of the East Coast.
Stay safe my friends, you are in our thoughts and prayers! <3