Sunday, September 10, 2017

In Advance of Hurricane Irma: 5 Reasons People Can't Escape

Our house, Seaspray, sits thirteen feet above sea level, on Jupiter Island, a barrier island in Florida. The house was built in 1982, before many of the code changes to harden a structure in case of a storm. Thankfully, it's concrete block, a sturdy little cottage that's seen a lot of storms.

But there's never been a storm like Irma. Ever.

The entire island has been evacuated. The town authorities sent out this...

Then they went door to door to make sure everyone had vacated. That prediction of 39 mph? Doesn't mean much. In fact, I'm sure that's a typo. The other forecasts are Cat. 3 or higher with wind speeds of at least 60-70 mph. It's not the wind that's worrisome. It's the water. The sea surge will be 4 to 6 feet. That's a wall of water, 4-6 feet above sea level, not counting the cresting waves. And that wall is coming at you with no warning when it arrives.

If you don't live in Florida, if you are watching television, you might be thinking, "Why don't those people just hop in their cars and leave?"

Fair question.

But there are harsh realities that happen behind the scenes, and these realities deserve to be considered.

Here are a few of those:

1. They can't get off work or leave school. In one hurricane, my youngest sister was the last adult out of the school building. As a teacher, she felt responsible for the students. At the time, she didn't have kids of her own. Even so, the schools are often the LAST to be called off when a storm hits. My brother-in-law and other sister both work in a hospital. They can't leave. If they did, they would be unemployed. If you can't get off work, what do you do? Send your family away?

2. They have animals they won't/can't leave behind. Right now, the shelters are accepting pets. That's not always been the case. Typically, they didn't. One of my friends has a dozen cats. To move them, she would need a dozen cat carriers and a luggage cart. Not going to happen. Also, in advance of the storm, my husband and I were on the phone all day trying to get a hotel room for my son and his fiance. They own a pit bull. Sweetest animal on earth. The weight limit for accepted pets was 50 lbs. Juice weighs about 80 pounds.

3. They've tried to make the drive to safety--and that didn't work. My sister drove from Orlando to pick up her daughter in Tallahassee from college. The trip usually takes four hours. It took eight. That was three days ago. My sister is more worried about running out of gas on the highway than sheltering in place. She couldn't leave without her daughter, and college classes weren't cancelled until the last minute. (Ignore the spokespeople you see on TV. Yes, the state is telling people to leave, but unless they cancel school, a lot of people simply can't.)

4. They don't have anywhere to go.  Florida is a very, very, very long state. To be precise, it's 447 miles long. As a point of comparison, California is 840 miles long. To drive out of the state, to safety, is a long trip. Originally my sister thought to drive to Statesboro, GA, where my aunt lives. But Statesboro is right outside of Savannah, also in the path of the storm. As I noted before, hotels as far away as Atlanta were full as of three days ago.

5. Their vehicle won't make the trip--and there's no gas. I'd never had a tire blow out until I moved to Florida. I've replaced my tires more often living there than any other place I've lived. I've been told it's the road surface. It could be the vast distances I drive or the heat of the roads. Imagine fleeing Irma in a car with bad tires. You could easily be stranded on a congested highway. As for gas? We heard reports of gas shortages days ago. If you wanted to leave early, you might have spent more time in line that on the road. Also, the last flights went out days ago--and what do you do with your pets? Leave them behind?

So now you might be wondering, did they board up their houses?

The cost to board up a house is $100 per plywood board. To cover all the windows of a house, might easily cost several thousand dollars. My son and his fiance just bought their house two months ago. They were saving to buy upgraded windows.

And so they've hunkered down in a relative's house in Orlando. I hope they'll be safe.

Meanwhile, I hope that all of you are snug and safe.  If you don't have a good book, I can help with that. I'm extending my special offer through the first of next week. Grab a book, charge your e-reader, and try to ignore the roar of the storm outside your window.


Feel free to share these links. 

Love, Die, Neighbor: The Prequel in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series is free. Go to --

Paper, Scissors, Death: Book #1 in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series is 99 cents (and an equivalent amount in the UK and other countries).


Cut, Crop & Die: Book #2 in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series is 99 cents (for the first time ever!) And an equivalent price in the UK and other countries. Go to –


Ink, Red, Dead: Book #3 in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series is free
Go to --


Linda O. Johnston said...

Oh, my. I hope you, your family including pets, and your property all come out of this okay. I hadn't thought of all those reasons not to leave, but they unfortunately make sense. Let us know how you do.

Jill Rueber said...

I hope you are safe. Our family of 3 plus two cats is still not home. We left Brunswick, Georgia last Friday and Glynn County is finally letting residents back in tomorrow. And yes, there were many local emergency police and medical workers who stayed on during the worst of the storm. Many thanks for their dedication and sacrifice of their personal safety.