What a week it has been. It is one that I will never forget, nor should I forget.
At the age of 59 years I experienced something I have never experienced before and hope I never experience again.
I have learned valuable lessons, lessons I must never forget.
Last Tuesday was my birthday and on that day the weather forecast became very dim. On that day Hurricane Matthew was forecast to strengthen to a category 4 storm and head my way.
My wife and I live on the central east coast of Florida and the consensus was that this powerful storm was going to track right up the coast.
A part of me was attributing these forecasts to the weather hype machine and my assumption was we’d get up the next day and the forecast would finally show the storm drifting harmlessly out to sea. But the next day was worse.
On Wednesday I awoke to the consensus being that this storm was going to track right over my location and my home would be right in the center of the eye of the hurricane.
The computer model forecasts had my home experiencing the eye wall winds of a category 3 and probably a category 4 hurricane. My home was going to get hit by 130 and maybe 140 miles per hour winds.
Here it was. The “what ifs” coming true.
My wife and I had been living our dream for one week and now finally it was to literally come crashing down before our eyes.
Every hour, as I was battening down the hatches, installing hurricane protection on my windows, I was checking for that one glimmer of hope. I was looking for that one forecast showing the storm drifting east into the Atlantic Ocean and sparing all of us along the coast.
But each time I looked the storm was drawing a tighter bead on my home.
Finally the mandatory evacuation order was given and hastily my wife and I packed up a few of our belongings and our dog, and we headed inland.
As we pulled away from our home we wondered what will we find upon our return.
About seventy miles inland we found a hotel and hunkered down, every minute watching the nonstop coverage. All the forecasts were continuing to predict the devastation and destruction heading our way.
We finally resigned ourselves to losing everything. I said to my wife, “Let’s just watch something else. What’s done is done and there is nothing we can do about it.”
Thursday’s forecasts were the same. All through the day we listened to the same predictions of the possible catastrophic event about to unfold.
That night we laid in our hotel bed watching whatever had nothing to do with the storm predicted to make landfall right over our home. My wife fell asleep. Around 11:00 PM I decided to check the weather one more time before I tried to get some sleep.
And then there it was! The miracle we had been praying for!
I woke my wife to show her the track of the storm had changed. It was going to stay off shore just long enough to miss our home. The eye wall which contained the devastating winds was going to remain just miles off shore.
Although still nervous about the effects that could come from this storm I was able to sleep just a bit easier that night.
We awoke the next morning to find the storm was about 20 to 40 miles out to sea. This meant 80 to 90 mile per hour winds over our home versus 130 to 140 miles per hour.
Although the lesser winds did cause widespread damage up and down the east coast, the earlier predicted catastrophic damage did not come to pass.
The next day we eagerly returned to our home.
There was damage to several homes in our neighborhood. Many shingles were missing, fences blown over, trees toppled and siding stripped from homes.
The beach had suffered significant erosion. At some locations the sea had claimed sections of the coastal highway.
My home had one old bush blown over and the top of a tree snapped off but the only actual damage to my home was the cover to the one attic vent on the side of the house was blown off.
The next day I replaced the vent cover at a cost of $35, and I cut down what remained of the bush.
What are some of the lessons I learned from all of this?
I live in Florida and the possibility of this happening again is just a fact of life. Even though all the long term residences say this was one of the worst storms they have experienced, I have to be better prepared.
My wife and I have to be prepared if this happens again. We have to plan for what we are going to take if we have to evacuate and have it organized and ready to go at a moments notice. We have to plan on how we leave the house are where we are going. We have to be ready.
But the most important lesson, the one that I can never forget, is perspective.
The perspective of what is really important in life and just how blessed my life has been.
When the reality of losing all your possessions is staring you in the face you realize what is truly important in your life. Believe me it’s not just a hollow cliché.
When you drive through all the damage and return to find your home and dream virtually untouched you realize how blessed you are.
I have come away from this experience with one simple thought.
I owe God big time!
This I must remember throughout my life. This debt I must repay.
© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.