All the hypotheticals had prepared my answer for me: our family photos. Maybe it’s the invention of the iCloud or maybe it was just the impracticality of it, but no, when we got the order to evacuate, real, printed on paper, photographs did not make the cut.
We’ve been through quite a few hurricanes. I had canned food and bulk items stocked since summer time to avoid the rush to the store. The only thing we picked up was a few gallons of water. On Sunday, we inventoried our freezers and I made a meticulous meal plan to maximize our consumption and avoid the loss of these perishable items in the event of a power outage. My mind was on autopilot. It knew what we needed to do.
I even toyed with the idea, “We could turn down the thermostat and wear sweaters, so if the electricity goes out for several days, the condo will stay cool a little longer.” Memories of being without air conditioning for seven days during a hurricane a few years ago remained etched in my mind. It was hot on day three and the temperature in our home crept up with each passing hour. It was so stifling, it was even difficult to sleep.
But those memories were in our house, which was located seven miles away from the coast. Currently we are in a condo, half a mile from the shoreline. We are on the east side of the peninsula and the hurricane is making landfall on the west side. Neighbors mocked it calling it “rain with a name.” Sure, we were going to take precautions, but most of us weren’t really anticipating we would be greatly impacted. And if we were going to get some rain, wind or a few power blips, we’d be ready.
So here we are, munching on dinner while watching a really slow and somewhat confusing show on Netflix, when we get a text alert. I read it, dismissed it and then received a phone call a few seconds later for the same alert. Something about hearing it out loud made me pay more attention to it. It dawns on me, we don’t actually know the flood letter designation of our condo. We knew the house one and we also recently found out the flood zones had been recategorized, so I asked my husband to look us up on the FEMA website. Sure enough, we were just alerted to evacuate.
He immediately looks for hotels and in a few minutes, our choices are quickly dwindling as others are clicking and making decisions faster than we are. While he secures our lodging the rest of us disperse to our rooms to pack, for three days,… five days? It’s a guess. The storm could bypass us, flooding could keep us away for a few days or severe damage…well, let’s not even go there.
But you have to think that way. I could pack cute, fun outfits, but this is real. Instead I choose things we can easily wash together. No delicates or reds, nothing that will bleed or require flat air drying. This is not a time to deal with fussy clothing. One pant, two comfy shorts, one nicer short, one casual skirt, and shirts to mix and match. This will cover most occasions. Oh, and a hoodie for when the building interiors are too cold.
But then I’m at a loss. This isn’t like packing for a trip, where you know what you’ll be doing. My husband suggests I pack my laptop. I grab it and a few items to entertain me with and without power. Prescription meds. I read that somewhere in a recent email about hurricane preparedness. Thank you random people that like to post stuff. Some cash. My passport. Looking around, the reality is most everything is replaceable. Our old photos, there are too many and they are sort of in different areas throughout our home. Plus they are wicked heavy to be carting around. They’ll either be safe or be ruined. We have limited space, even with our plan to take both vehicles.
Needing to prioritize, we focus on enough clothing items to get us through and the rest of the space will be taken up with food and household cooking items. The irony is we have lots of provisions because that’s what you’re supposed to have and now we are being evacuated. Can’t say I have ever shown up at a hotel with this much food, even though we’ve left the bulk of it at home.
As for our old tangible photos, we relocated what we could onto upper shelves and onto the kitchen table. We do what we can and then have faith for the rest.
“God laughs while you are making plans.” Yup, that is us right now. All our summer purchases and current freezer meal planning just went out the window. As I type, the synapses in my mind are making a new pathway for “Condo" Hurricane Preparation. It basically says, stock very little, because you’re gonna end up evacuating and leaving it behind.