As one of the largest hurricanes in recorded history barrels towards us I’m…riding a bloody bicycle.
It’s 2.12 PM, the wind has began to pick up and people are flooding into the nearby North Port (Atwater Elementary School) shelter. My day has been a mixed cocktail of anxiety, preparation and service. No mini umbrella on this occasion.
I haven’t wrote on my blog for quite some time, but I thought I’d provide a quick update to friends, family and those who are interested in my perspective. Perhaps it’ll build a better picture for you?
Back to that bicycle…
We pack the ol’ Honda CRV up with food, water, blankets, clothes and our valuables, anticipating that we could be away from our house for a couple of days (or worse, we don’t have a home to come back to). I’d already put up the hurricane shelters and prepped the house.
Then, we race over to the shelter, pass through the registration area (we registered the night before…phewww) and found a place on the floor in the cafeteria of the school. It’s the “family” area: A melting pot of different people, cultures, ethnicities, languages and snoring abilities.
Carly runs the car back home 3 miles away so we can store it in the garage and rides back to the shelter on a bicycle. The tire is flat. It has no breaks. It’s 90F degrees. We don’t care if the bike is destroyed.
So, I’m tasked with the job of figuring out where this bike goes. As I ride around the back of the school to ditch the bike behind some dumpsters (I don’t have a lock and I don’t want the bike flying into a car), I’m still flabbergasted at the fact so many people remain in their houses — many of which are not strong structures. That doesn’t seem to compute for me.
However, I do now understand (I think) why so many people do not evacuate an area when faced with the imminent danger that is a hurricane…
- Access to the best information available
- Access to a car to leave
- Access to gas (more to follow on this)
- Access to a place to stay
For the poor and elderly, this is the reality. I didn’t really get that before.
Florida and much of Georgia has not been prepared as far as gas (petrol). And many of the hotels across the states were filled up 5-6 days prior to today.
And while we are fortunate to have resources unlike so many, we too find ourselves stuck here. With a fairly rapid change in forecast (from an East/Atlantic forecast to a West/Gulf Coast forecast), we face one of the largest hurricanes in recorded history. Our chance to leave some 3-4 days ago with Carly’s grandparents quickly faded when we realized we wouldn’t get too far on a tank of gas only to get stranded somewhere above Tampa, FL.
Despite this harsh reality, there has been much to glean.
We’ve both spent much of the day assisting the elderly and families move their belongings into the shelter. It’s been rather rewarding.
One lady Carly helped was actually having the time of her life. She met new friends in the senior “wing” of the shelter, there was plenty of banter, games, and free food. She was absolutely loving it! For the time being… Only a couple hours later Carly crossed paths with her outside walking. While still in good spirits, she went on to tell how she had already been accused of stealing a gentlemen’s belongings. She hadn’t and her new friends had her back.
I too have had all kinds of interesting encounters. I’ve reunited an elderly man with dementia with his wife, befriended a Cuban family who wants us to come for dinner at their house and met American’s and immigrants from all over.
More updates to follow. Tomorrow, like it or not, promises to be the main event.
See you on the other side.