I will be the first to admit I haven't experienced a lot of natural disasters in my life. Yes, I've endured the ice storm that befell Southern Ontario in December 2013, and that was quite an adventure unto itself, but nothing as compared to what I have experienced over the past week.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard the news about Hurricane Irma: a storm which achieved monstrous Category 5 status when it first hit the outer Caribbean island of Barbuda last week. The storm brewed a few days after Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 cyclone, laid waste to Southern Texas, leaving the streets of Houston flooded for days, and Irma had her sights set on the Florida peninsula: the area where I currently reside.
As Irma churned through the northern Caribbean Sea, people in my neck of the woods feared the absolute worst. My workplace closed on Thursday to help people prepare, and if necessary, evacuate, in advance of Irma's arrival. The only problem was, no one truly knew where in Florida it would make its' initial landfall. Some early models had forecast the storm to hit Miami, and the southeastern part of the state. However, it was not a true guarantee it would strike there first. Irma continued to churn west along the barrier islands on the northern coast of Cuba, weakening the storm a bit to a Category 4. But Florida was still in Irma's cross hairs. Instead of going up the Atlantic coast, as initially expected, it made a beeline for the Gulf coast, and in turn, the part of the state where I live.
Irma made first American landfall in the Florida Keys at 9:10 this past Sunday morning, and continued to bore a path up Florida's west coast. My wife and I made all the necessary preparations in the days before, and feared the worst. Shelters were at the ready to accept people in the area, and it was something we had contemplated. Alas, not many accepted pets, and we did not want to abandon our two fur kids. Instead the four of us decided to hunker down, and tough the beast out. The worst of Irma's fury began to strike my neighborhood just after 11:00 Sunday night. Rain pelted the pavement of our apartment complex, and hurricane force winds rattled the windows. Our electricity went out at approximately a half-hour later, and would not return until a good twelve hours later.
The next morning, after the curfew had been lifted for our community, I took a short stroll to survey the damage. Some of the neighboring trees had broken branches and the storm sewer grates we're littered with debris; however, for the most part, our area had gotten off relatively easy compared to some areas to the south. There were reports of broken streetlights and flooding in other communities. Businesses were closed up, so the struggle to find a hot meal or gas was a challenge. But the clean-up has begun, and things have started to return to normal.
At the time of writing this, it's almost thirty-six hours since Irma's apex struck my neighborhood. While I'm thankful for all of the well wishes and requests to "stay safe" during her fury, the storm has definitely changed me. A friend jovially told me, "You'll never forget your first." in the days leading up to Irma's impact. While I will begrudgingly agree with her, it's not something I would wish upon anyone. But I'm pleased to say that I've survived my first ever hurricane without no physical damages, the psychological effect will last me for a while.
Then again, any natural disaster would have that effect on anyone.