This is something that has come up a few times over the past several days. A few people have asked why I decided to stay in Orlando and ride out Hurricane Irma, instead of evacuating to a place far away from danger.
I remember talking about hurricanes a lot when I lived in North Dakota. I remember saying that, if I lived in Florida, I would just fly home if/when a hurricane was approaching, and then I would go back to Florida after the storm had passed. Some people have asked why I didn’t just do that. And, well, there are many reasons.
Things seem so simple when you live in a place that is 1,500 miles from the nearest ocean and you have no chance of being affected by a hurricane. Hurricanes tend to not pop up suddenly. It can and does happen. Usually, you know days in advance that a hurricane could be headed your way though. Irma traveled thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean. People knew about it for over a week. But, this storm had a mind of its own. The experts who have been studying and forecasting weather for decades didn’t know exactly where this storm would pass through Florida until it started to happen. It’s a bit of a surprise when you wake up in the morning thinking you will be 75 miles from the eye of a hurricane that day, and then you end up inside of the eye wall of the storm just a few short hours later. That’s life. Life throws you curveballs sometimes, and you just have to roll with it and adapt.
Irma was expected to turn to the northwest. The storm moved due north. Almost nobody predicted that. Everyone was surprised. That is not the point I want to make though…
When people go on trips and fly across the country, they plan those trips well in advance. Travel arrangements are made and money is saved months before the trip. When you find out that a massive hurricane is headed directly toward you less than a week before it hits, you can’t always just get on a plane and fly across the country. Flights are expensive. Taking a trip and being away from home for several days is expensive. There is planning involved. Even in an emergency, packing up and leaving your home suddenly is not as easy as you think it would be. Flights fill up quickly as people start to decide to evacuate. Airports close as the weather gets too bad. You only have so many options. There are only so many flights and only so many seats in each plane.
During a hurricane, when evacuations are ordered, millions of people have to try to leave the area at the same time. When the Florida Keys and Miami were evacuated, millions of people tried to get out as fast as possible. Roads were jammed. Traffic was stopped. You can’t just get in your vehicle and leave Florida quickly when millions of other people have the same idea. Many coastal areas were evacuated, but Orlando was not. This is one of the places where people came to take cover when they had to evacuate their homes.
As I said already, everyone was completely caught off guard by the exact path of Hurricane Irma. When everyone was told that Orlando was not expected to be in the direct path of the worst of Irma, none of us who live here had any reason to believe that evacuating was necessary. Some people chose to leave, because they felt safer not staying here and riding out the storm. If they felt safer elsewhere, then they made the best decision for themselves.
Orlando is in the center of the Florida peninsula, so there was no chance that we would have to deal with storm surge. That is key. That is why people were not evacuated here. Storm surge is the biggest reason that people die in hurricanes. We were prepared to deal with the wind and rain, but storm surge was never going to be an issue here. Everyone has their own set of circumstances and comfort levels, but I would not have planned to evacuate even if I had known well in advance that I would be in the direct path of the worst part of the storm. I know that a lot of people worried about me and were concerned for my safety. I really appreciate their concern, but I never felt that my life was at risk. I don’t want to die. I would never intentionally put myself in a situation where I could lose my life. I planned all along to ride out Irma at home, and have no regrets about that decision.
I remember watching news coverage of several hurricanes while I lived in North Dakota. Specifically, I remember Hurricane Andrew. I remember seeing the damage and destruction that storm caused. That is something I have never forgotten. I remember thinking how scary it would be to experience a storm like that. There have been a few pictures that have popped up on the internet that compared the size of Hurricane Irma to Hurricane Andrew. I’m sure a lot of you have seen that picture. Irma was MUCH bigger than Andrew. I don’t know how many people really understand just how massive Irma was. This storm was enormous!! It was definitely something I will never forget.
Since I experienced it for myself, and it was my first real experience feeling the full effects of a hurricane, Irma will always be more memorable for me than it will be for some Floridians. You can see pictures and watch videos of hurricanes, but you will never fully understand the power of these storms until you experience one for yourself. The power of nature truly is incredible!!
I could probably make many more comparisons between talking hypothetically about a hurricane and actually living through one, but I will just discuss one last point. The times in North Dakota when I said I would just leave during a hurricane and then return to Florida later seemed a lot easier, because, at the time, Florida was just a vacation destination to me. I live here now. This is my home. This is my life. I can’t imagine just leaving behind a place I love so much just to avoid a storm. If I felt as though I were putting my life in jeopardy, then that would be a different story. Just leaving to avoid the storm itself just doesn’t make sense to me though. Abandoning my home and the people I have met here just doesn’t make sense to me. I love this place and I love the people here. We’re all in this together. We experienced the storm together, and we will recover and rebuild together. I’ve said this in previous posts, but this storm will bring our community closer together. It just wouldn’t have been the same for me if I had left. Everyone views things differently, but I am glad I stayed. If I had the option a million times to go back and do things differently, I wouldn’t have changed anything about this past weekend.
I don’t know if anyone who asked why I didn’t leave will ever read this, but, if they do, I hope this gives them a better idea of why I made the decision I made. They still may not agree with me, and that’s fine. Everyone is entitled to their own views and opinions. Staying here and experiencing the full force of Irma seemed like the right choice for me, and I still fully stand by it.
Unless you’ve experienced something for yourself, you really don’t know what it’s like, and you can’t honestly say for sure what you would have done if you were in that situation. You can’t judge people for doing what they feel is best for themselves. Hypothetical situations versus reality can change in an instant. There are just too many factors involved to really know what you would have done in any given situation. Remember that things always seem a whole lot simpler when you’re on the outside looking in.