Scratch Hurricane Evacuation Off My Bucket List

    Last Wednesday, many were still without power and wringing their hands over empty grocery store shelves. We dodged a major bullet with Hurricane Irma and were mainly inconvenienced for a few days. We made it through Georgia’s first tropical storm.
    Floridians got the brunt of it, especially the Keys and the Miami area, but it could have been catastrophic.
Meteorologists referred to a shift in Irma’s path that made a tremendous difference.  One article referred to a “bit of good fortune (that) was the product of some meteorological luck.” (“The Monster Surge that Wasn’t,” www.nytimes, 9/11/2017). 
    Instead of tracking further west as was originally projected, resulting in the eastern wall travelling up the west coast, the storm came inland, hit landfall as a category 4 instead of category 5, and then lost strength as it headed across Florida.
    It still caused flooding, loss of power and massive property damage.  Last Thursday, my son-in-law Perry said I-75 South was bumper to bumper, gas availability was an issue, and many stations had no power, so bathrooms were a problem in some places.
    Two Tuesday ago, my daughter called and asked if one of us could fly down to Sarasota and drive her and the kids to Fayetteville Thursday morning. I made a reservation to fly out Wednesday afternoon and delegated prayer meeting. 
    Wednesday morning, I was working when I got a text. 
    “Can you get an earlier flight?” The airline website was slow to open and the customer service line had a two-hour wait time. Finally, the airline website opened and a “chat box” popped up. Manny was able to get my flight changed to an earlier departure.
    I got a ride to Hartsfield-Jackson, caught my flight, and heard several passengers say they were flying one way to pick up relatives and get them out of Florida.
    My seatmate flew from Newark, New Jersey, to pick up his in-laws and drive them to Charlotte. A lady who lives in Murphy, N. C., flew down to drive her daughter back. One man was flying down to pack up his parents and secure their house before driving them out.
    My daughter and grandchildren picked me up from the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport at 3:20 and we began our adventure north. We had a six-year-old, a four-year-old, and a newborn who needed to nurse every two to three hours. 
    Once we cleared Tampa rush hour traffic, we had stretches of 55 mph, but mostly we travelled 30 to 35 mph, along with a mass of vehicles. 
    Our app took us off of I-75 and led us on an easterly route for a while. We had another stop, and then merged back onto I-75 and into a sea of brake lights.
    About 9 p.m., we had not even reached Ocala, and were getting tired. So Rachel called Perry and had him look up hotel rooms along I-75. We dragged on.
    Earlier, I called my brother-in-law living in Moultrie and asked if we could crash there if necessary. They were on standby. After several minutes, Perry called and said that there were no hotel rooms available anywhere along I-75. We’d have to trudge on.
    From 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. was tough. I was fighting sleep. When we reached the exit, we still had 40 minutes to go. At 1:15 a.m., we pulled into Matthew’s and Karen’s driveway, where we bedded down for the short night. 
    We rolled out Thursday at 7 a.m. and pulled into my driveway at 12:30 p.m. A total of 15 hours to make an eight hour trip. But Rachel and the kids were out of Irma’s way. Perry remained behind to stay with his parents and to help his dad with storm cleanup afterwards. There was damage to their businesses, but their homes were okay. Rachel and the kids returned last Friday morning so Harper could return to school on Monday.
    So I can cross “hurricane evacuation” off of my bucket list. Did the storm turn because of “good fortune,” or was it an answer to prayer? Lots of folks were praying, and I was one of them, that the storm would turn and lessen in strength. 
    Plenty of people were impacted, so we need to keep praying. And giving to disaster relief. Much clean up and recovery lie ahead. 

Dr. David Chancey