Photo Essay

Hurricane Michael - a vicious, violent event

Home Sweet Home

I sent a text to my son in TX : "The wind is starting." He returned, "Are you frightened?" I told him, "No, not really." That was 12:37 p.m.. The sky was turning a weird grayish red. The tops of the trees started dancing. We stood on the porch. I took some videos. A friend called from a mile away and asked how we were doing. She and her grandson live in a mobile home. We weren't really afraid. CNN and the Weather Channel had lied on tv so many times and called so many false alarms...besides, the prediction was a Hurricane 2 or 3 when it would hit Panama City. We'd been there; done that.

I opened the door while I was talking to Mariann and it flew out of my hand. I reached around to grab the doorknob and a limb fell on the back steps. I hung up.

I went out to the front porch - now the rain was white as snow and blowing in a sheet that covered the rest of the yard - blowing sideways. I watched a shrub uproot. Then a huge live oak hit the ground. I couldn't see that it had uprooted, too. The wind roared. A deafening roar that at times rose and fell depending on the wind gusts. The mobile home - where never to be in a storm like this - rumbled under our feet.

It took four very long hours to be hammered by the monster that was determined to stalk us violently and smash us. And in the end, perhaps we won. We lived; the chickens in their tied-down pallet and 2x4 coop were delighted to step out. The dogs, cats and birds were fine. Eventually, my stray cat, Kringle crept into the yard - or what was left of it, to come to the table out back and have a meal, and in two weeks, I heard Crip is alive and well.

I had filled only one bathtub with water. We had made no provision for water. We had no electricity, so we bathed and cooled off in the creek, the neighbors did the same, and we all filled containers to flush our toilets and carted them home. We even pounded our clothes clean with biodegradable soap.

The first day was a mad dash for gas. There was none. Gas stations were leveled. Highway 231, a main artery from Florida to Alabama was a parking lot with power company trucks working 24/7 from all over the country erecting new power poles and fixing broken and downed wires. We found no gas; but a Vietnamese couple from Georgia parked in a damaged restaurant parking lot and fed many more than us, from the back of a van. Rice, vegetables and pork. Cold soda in a cooler. How kind of them.

We were all quite stunned at the rubble and the damage in what had been a beautiful rural area full of planted pines, all sorts of mature oak, magnolias, hickory trees - if it stood yesterday, it was twisted and broken amid electric wires hanging in the branches, strewn on rooftops, across the roads, in yards, on vehicles. My neighbor's well house was flat against an oak root and a Bobcat broke it down to remove it. Slowly we were getting supplies - bottled water, canned food, the Mormon Church donated 5,000 lbs of food and her several acres hosted homeless and hungry people for a couple of weeks.

We still looked for gas. None available. We found one sack of dog food, then the Cajun Navy gave us cat food too, fed us in a field. Gave us paper towels! I was so excited with the paper towels. The Salvation Army parked outside of our local Piggly Wiggly with gas pumps - all down - the roof gone, the structure damaged beyond repair. In town, people were scrambling for food and fuel. Two long railroad trains were lying next to each other turned over; power wires everywhere; stores blown away, a bank on a corner had only the front facade - the rest was gone. Emergency quarters were in shopping centers, starting to be staffed. Confusion and wreckage everywhere.

We were all confused and in a sort of stunned stupor. Personally, decisions weren't always good. We made mistakes, but husband charged our cell phones by a solar panel, but that was no good; there wasn't phone service. He nearly was crushed by a tree he was cutting with his chainsaw sent by a friend in Oregon. He put the wedge cut on the wrong side and it twisted and fell the wrong way; I reached down to hold a branch for him to cut and got nicked on thumb and forefinger. The blood was all over and it looked far worse than it was. The neighbor who cut us a path from front gate (not much left of that) to back door, made sure it was healing and kept changing my bandage. Found that MREs are really tasty, even eaten cold; that even a small generator can keep the refrigerator cool and provide air conditioning so you can rest. WATER. Bottled water may have a shelf life, and don''t let it sit in the sun. I think the plastic degrades.

I will never forget that my friend, Celie, who took in her now homeless granddaughters, their kids and husbands, handed me a glass of cold lemonade with ice cubes. The best thing ever to enter my mouth.

Inquiring about the suicide of a friend last Saturday, at a local community church to which he attended, we were offered help with clearing the yard. Truly a miracle we were not expecting. They partner with a non-profit or two - one is IDES, International Disaster Emergency Service, and another is a small but growing one in Pell City, AL, called SendMe. In two days the trees were gone, the roof was cleared, and the only thing they accepted was bottled water - by this time we had electricity.

Neighbors helping neighbors; victims pulling together and making friends, and churches and strangers keeping us alive.

The storm was so powerful, I was resigned to die. I wasn't afraid. It would happen or it wouldn't. So I prayed. And then it was over.

There is destruction everywhere I look. Chainsaws growling were the songs of angels helping with a smile.

The squirrels and migrating birds are refugees. So I'm feeding all I can.

People are afraid of breezes now; big, burly Mike across the street who had major damage from four big oaks to his home, can't watch the videos he made as the trees fell on his house one by one because he weeps.

I cringe going out the back door. Those two kitchen oaks have to go. They are about 80 feet tall. They will crush the house, as the magnolia will also damage the propane tank, and the magnolia caught in the oak tree will crush the toolshed, as the others in the woods crushed our hay shed and barn. Had we had animals in the corral, they would have been killed by flying objects like aluminum roofing with sharp edges, or Frances' flying well house. There's part of a boat no one recognizes as theirs in my corral, too.

I guess God's got something more for me to do. Indeed, it was the Valley of Death in the Psalm.

Our insignificance is overwhelming in the fury of nature.

2 responses

Want to leave a comment? Log in or sign up!