I know about hurricanes from growing up along coastal Connecticut and existing 10 days without electricity or running water after Fran hit North Carolina in 1996. But Florence scared me.
I stressed when early reports predicted a direct hit to my central North Carolina community. When Flo's track shifted away at the last minute, I rested easier until forecasters warned even a slight turn would put us in danger again ... a dance with uncertainty that put everyone on edge.
The storm is gone now. We are okay, but people living along the coast and inland rivers face months of rebuilding. Here’s my Florence pictorial journal.
MONDAY- 4 days before Flo
Spouse JM and I keep a weather emergency kit, but dire warnings of a category 4 storm striking our home near Raleigh, NC, have us scrambling to assemble 3 days of water and non-perishable foods for each of us. I worry about being without power, especially in late-summer’s 90F/33C temps.
Images left/right: NOAA, WRAL Weather
No lines yet at the station when I top off the tank, but people already fill containers for generators and buy extra propane tanks for back-up power.
Abandoning my preferred reading mode of audio and e-books, I swing by the library for good ole print tales to help me escape during potential evenings lit by lanterns.
TUESDAY - 3 days before Flo
Officials predict catastrophic flooding in our area. Local TV and radio stations blast what-to-do-before-disaster-strikes segments that have everyone’s attention. Water, bread, and beer fly off grocery shelves. Hah ... Just try to find a generator!
Mandatory evacuations begin for coastal towns and even along nearby flood-prone creeks.
Our community's Facebook group kicks in. Neighbors asking questions. Others giving advice and reassurance to storm newbies. JM and I have been through storms but have no idea how our new home will stand up to bad weather. More worries.
WEDNESDAY - 2 days before Flo
Good news for us: Florence turns south overnight, sparing us from a direct strike. Still with five days of rain and 40 mph winds, JM and I pack the garage and screen porch with lawn furniture and my garden treasures. Don't want these items becoming lethal projectiles during the storm.
THURSDAY - 1 day before Flo
Sunny skies and summertime temps make warnings feel like fake news. Government officials persist, telling residents in evacuation areas they must leave NOW or they will be on their own if they stay. Schools in eastern and coastal NC close. Businesses let out early.
JM and I make one last trip to the grocery store for prepared salads and then to Subway .... our stash of no-cook dinners to toss in a cooler should we lose power (Yep, can't cook on an electric stove. Sigh.)
By evening, clouds move in. Winds pick up. We will not see the sun for the next six days. We pray those creaks and crashes we hear outside during the tempest are not falling trees or flying roof tiles.
FRIDAY - 14 September 2018: Flo, Day 1
At 2p.m., lights blink back on. And the internet is back!
Cannot believe our good fortune. Like winning the lottery! We hope power stays but still prepare for the worst. We let friends and family know we're okay.
SATURDAY & SUNDAY - Flo, Days 2 & 3
Florence is S*L*O*W in moving across our state and stays with us for five days. I hear one meteorologist say the storm travels at 2 mph, which is slower than most people walk.
JM and I hunker down and exist on TV news running non-stop with tales of devastation. Dams break. Roads wash away. Shelters thrum with evacuees, who have no idea when they might go home or IF they have a home to go to.
There's kindness and bravery, too. We watch the Cajun Navy and others perform swift water rescues as inland rivers crest up to 30 feet above flood stage.
Monday - Flo, Day 4
As Florence dials down, I brave a walk around the 'hood.
Bah! Wind flips turns my umbrella inside out before I can shut the door. Determined, I tighten my slicker, avoiding towering pines that bow too close to the ground with each gust for my comfort.
Other than fallen limbs and rain-soaked leaves clinging everywhere, the 'hood looks ok. Our big spillway at the end of my street, normally a clay-shrouded pit that captures water run off, is holding as it should. Whew!
We dodged the bullet.
Photo right during Flo: Glenn G
Tuesday - Flo, Day 5
Finally peeks out.
Lives reset to normal.
And like Itsy Bitsy spider...
we start to
Looking Back - Flo by the Numbers*
Looking Back - Flo by the Heart
Driving on I-40 two weeks after the storm, I get goosebumps passing parades of line and bucket trucks from Ohio, Oklahoma, and Indiana returning home after traveling to restore power lines.
I'm beyond grateful for these and other first responders who helped clean up, staff shelters, hand out food, rescue stranded motorists, and more. So many doing kind work in times of great need.
Photos: Thanks to Jean Ann A.
I feel blessed to have dodged this Frankenstorm. But I feel guilty, too, knowing it caused catastrophic damage elsewhere to thousands. My hardship, 6 hours without power and minor inconveniences, is nothing in comparison. I feel compelled to help, donating to our church disaster service agency and assembling storm relief kits.
Want to help, too? Please consider contributing to rebuilding efforts through your favorite organization or a reputable relief service listed here by our charity navigator.org. (There's also a new link to help with the Indonesian disaster) Thanks!
If you were in Florence's crosshairs, my best and blessings to you! How are you faring?
What kind of evil weather event have you experienced? I am a wreck in storms! What coping strategies do you use to keep grounded, calm? Please share in the comments section.
* By the Numbers figures from The Raleigh News and Observer, 30 September 2018: "Florence brought relentless rain, epic flooding and an uncertain future to NC."
Photos by Cat Michaels except where noted
10/7/2018 12:35:46 pm
It's scary, K.! We're beyond grateful to be ok. However, folks down east still have a long way to go, so they especially need your continued good thoughts and prayers.
10/4/2018 07:41:41 pm
Wow! For someone who has never experienced a hurricane (now, ask me about earthquakes and I have a few stories!) your well-written article and pics helped me visualize and virtually feel what one is like. Thanks for sharing your intimate story with us.
10/7/2018 12:38:09 pm
Oh my .... hope I *never* experience an earthquake, Julie. At least we have advanced warning with hurricanes! Grateful for your company on my Florence journey -:D.
10/5/2018 01:53:07 pm
Well done and nice job on the preparations! Our first year in Florida, the summer of 2004, we were hit unexpectedly by three hurricanes in about a six week period -- Charley, Frances, and Jeanne -- all passing right over us, with Charley taking one of those last minute, unexpected turns and sending its eye wall right over our home at 101mph. We watched and listened to three tornadoes pass by that night, with one snappying a palm tree in half about sixty feet from our back patio. We were without power for five days. For me, there is no such thing as over-preparing anymore. So happy to hear that your new home made it thru intact and all are well. I too, have endless respect for all those who come out afterwards and travel so far to help others.
10/7/2018 12:42:38 pm
Wow! What a scary hurricane experience, James! Cannot imagine what it is like to be in the eye wall and those high winds before and after dead calm. Few things scarier ... except the sound of cracking trees in the darkness and and days without power. Glad you survived THREE! in one season. Thanks for coming along on my Florence journey.
10/5/2018 02:52:15 pm
We were on pins and needles waiting to hear how you, JM, and our friends in SC were getting through this Cat.
10/7/2018 12:46:19 pm
Rosie, I'm grateful to know that your SC friends are ok, and I appreciate your concern for us. It helps tons to know others are thinking of us!
10/6/2018 06:19:25 am
Fascinating read, I was really worried about you when it was all kicking off. It was nice to get an in depth account of what exactly went on out there. Thank goodness you were one of the lucky ones with minimum damage.
10/7/2018 12:51:19 pm
Corrina, most grateful for your kind wishes! They were scary five days I will never forget ... and we got off easy, unlike others still dealing with Florence's aftermath weeks later. Thanks for stopping by and having a read.
Karen Emma Hall
10/8/2018 05:47:51 pm
I couldn't stop reading! Did you get that scarf finished and you know I suppose it does bring people closer too.
10/30/2018 04:42:05 pm
We are back to normal after a brief encounter with Michael, Karen. Appreciate your concern. Still working on that scarf, LOL -:D
10/8/2018 10:15:34 pm
Hurricanes are called cyclones here. Australia lives with them every summer. I fully understand the devastation they cause and appreciate those who come to help with the clean-up. It's amazing how a community will pull together in times of great hardship and loss. During our 2 years in Darwin we had to keep a cyclone kit ready at all times. That included a generator, portable gas stove, bottled water, canned food etc. When we headed south for holidays, nothing could be left outside in case it became a spear/ dangerous weapon in high winds. That meant BBQ's, outside furniture, even garbage bins had to be packed away in the garage. I watched and listened intently while you were going through this massive storm. So pleased and relieved you survived it relatively unscathed.
10/30/2018 04:45:17 pm
Wow, Sandra, hurricanes and cyclones are evil and chaotic. They throw our life in circles, even threatening it! I sounds as if you are well-prepared for a storm, but the emotional impact is harder to get under control. Thanks for your good wishes -:D.
10/10/2018 11:31:24 am
Pretty complete coverage, Cat! Yes, thankful that we were not harmed either.
10/30/2018 04:46:56 pm
Whew, we both dodged that bullet, Carol! Thanks for stopping by.
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