On a day when we remember victims who’s lives were stolen from them on 9/11, Florida took a hit from Hurricane Irma. The slow moving storm made landfall at the south end of Florida and traveled up the state, leaving a path of destruction for Floridians to pick up the pieces and start over. The Florida keys and South Florida took the biggest impact as the storm was a category 4 when it made landfall in the keys. It had a second landfall at Marco Island as a category 3 hurricane and then made a track up the state from there.
For us at Wellspring, we live in the Northeast area of the state and our worst hours of the storm were between 2 am to 9 am Monday morning of 9/11. I don’t know why, but it seems every time we go through one of these storms, they come in the dark of night. Many in the state that resided near beaches or rivers were evacuated. We were not in an evacuation zone. However, Brian and I typically wait out any hurricanes with my mom and we did for Irma. At the time we were prepping for the storm, Irma was on a course for a more direct impact to our area and so we prepped and prepped for this one. We moved as many sentimental items to my moms as we could and relocated our pets as well. Our scariest moment came around 3:30 when a tornado warning was issued and we spent 30 minutes waiting it out in our “safe room.” Fortunately, we did not get a tornado. We did lose power around 12:30 am but it was back on by 8 am. As we go to bed tonight, many homes are still without power but our linemen are busy…working around the clock to get power restored as quickly as possible.
Before the storm, we heard on the news that there was some who took advantage of the storm to loot closed up businesses and some were even caught on the camera of one of the news stations. It is such a shame that our world has become so full of selfishness that people would take a time of impending disaster to rob and loot. However, we also heard stories of neighbors helping neighbors and communities coming together. In one story, we heard about a woman who went to purchase a generator because her father needed to have electricity for medical issues. When she arrived she learned that the last one had just been purchased. She started crying and when a man heard her story, he offered her the one he had just bought.
Prior to Hurricane Irma, we had a nor’easter that came through dropping lots of rain. Combined with the hurricane, our downtown area is flooded. This photo from a local news station shows the Main Street bridge across the St. Johns River and the Jacksonville Landing in our downtown riverbank.
Throughout the day, we checked in with friends, family, coworkers, and followed all the news stories about the flooded areas, closed roads, and even a house along the beach that fell off its foundation and is now laying on its side as the beach was eroded. There will be much cleanup and for many, a time of starting over. In some of the bays around Florida, the waters were sucked out with Irma approaching leaving just the dirt at the bottom. While it might have made for an interesting treasure hunt, those waters came crashing back in as Irma continued her path. We saw photos of manatees that became stranded and people rescuing them to get them back into water.
My two younger kids who are in college at the University of North Florida chose to stay in the dorm to ride out the hurricane. The dorm they reside in is the newest dorm on campus and was built to withstand a Cat 5 hurricane. They seriously were safer there than with me. However, the momma in me was not happy with not being able to physically see them and know they were ok. I was able to text and Snapchat with them throughout the storm and they were fine. The college did lose power but had emergency backup power.
After Hurricane Harvey’s destruction in Texas and part of Louisiana, gas prices rose. With much of the state evacuating and heading for other states for safety, gas became scarce with many places running out. Items such as bread and water were bought out, leaving only empty shelves in the stores. We not only stocked up on these items, but also cans of food, cereals, PB&J, and snacks that could be opened and ate without having to be cooked.
Overall, we have been very blessed and are thankful for God’s mercy and protection. We prayed for God’s protection over our home and we found very little damage there as we went to check on it this afternoon. Mom has a few loose shingles on the roof. We did not have to eat any meals without power. At the time we rode over and checked on our house it was without power so we chose to stay with mom another night. We’ll go back tomorrow (Tuesday) and if there is power, we’ll begin moving back home. We know that while we came through this storm with very little damage, there are those who will have to rebuild, start over, and pick up the pieces. There will be those who are without power for days. There will be those who have homes that need repaired. I cannot begin to say why some lost everything while others came out with just a few scratches. What I do know is that God is in control. His promises are true. He does not promise that life will be easy, but He does promise that He will never leave us or forsake us. We can have firm assurance that no matter what we go through in life, He is there with us. He has the power to calm the storm, but when the storms come, we can count on Him to ride them out with us.
If you are reading this and you are dealing with the destruction of Irma or Harvey, our prayers are with you. Our hearts go out to you. For those who saw little damage, take time to thank God. If you are able, find a neighbor that needs help and offer what you can. Now that the storm is over, its time for us to put into practice the command that Jesus gave: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you are able to help, find a way to help. Maybe all you can offer is a sympathetic ear or a hug. Maybe you can offer a hot meal. The Florida Baptist Disaster Relief team will be going out into the hardest hit areas as soon as it is safe for them to do so, but the damage and those needing help will far out reach the volunteers that give to serve on this disaster relief team. Other organizations and people from other states have already arrived (some before the storm even came through) to help. Yet, still there will be needs and there will be many organizations looking for volunteers to help. If you have the means to come to Florida to help, please check for highway closures and such as some of our expressways have been closed due to downed trees and power lines and flooding.
Just twenty-four hours ago we sat in the dark without power, listening to a battery operated radio as a storm raged and howled outside. Over and over two songs came to mind and I sang them in my head: Praise You In the Storm by Casting Crowns and In the Eye of the Storm by Ryan Stevenson. Tonight, it is calm and quiet and I am thankful that God surrounded us through the storm and even when huddled in a “safe room” waiting out a tornado warning we can find our peace in Him. Tomorrow, we’ll continue to clean up, try to return to a normal life, and as the floods recede and the extent of damage continues to be reported, we will trust you Lord, for You are in control, the anchor that holds us when our sails are torn.