This isn’t one of the listed Things to Do which surprises me. The list in the book includes storm chasing a tornado, but yet no experience a natural disaster? Maybe it is because no one goes out of their way to experience a natural disaster which I think everyone should do at least once in their life as it makes people appreciate what their normal day is like. In addition, assuming you are not surrounded by complete and utter jerks, it usually can restore your faith in humanity with everyone helping each other.
It has been a little over 20 years since I experienced a true natural disaster.
In my case, that was the infamous Hurricane Andrew in August 24, 1992.
Until Hurricane Katrina came along in 2005, Andrew was the most expensive and most destructive hurricane to date with over 60 lives lost (estimated nationwide, most in Florida) and over $20 billion in damages in 1992 dollars. While we were told it was a category 4 hurricane at the time, in 2002 it was retroactively upgraded to a category 5 once they reassessed some old satellite footage and it turns out that it met the criteria.
I remember quite a bit leading up to the storm. One I remember being very cocky that it wasn’t going to hit because Florida had not had a hurricane for a long time. I said this even to my old teacher who I ran into in the grocery store. I did not realize this meant we were overdue, but hey I was 11. What did I know?
I also remember when it was gathering strength and we learned people were going to need to evacuate how it went section by section. First no one needed to, then up to I-95 (affecting my grandmother, grandfather, and great grandmother), then up to the turnpike. If it had gone up to University Drive, everyone was going to be spending time with my other grandmother. As it stands, we had my grandmother and great grandmother staying with Mom and me. My grandfather Pop-pop didn’t want to evacuate his apartment. My parents were already divorced so Dad was living a few blocks over. Since he was in television as part of the skeleton crew, he had to stay at the studio so they could continue to broadcast. If I recall, he left his dog Mo in the house with food and water knowing that if something were to happen to him and he could not get back to the house we could check on her. I cannot remember why we did not bring Mo to our house other than the fact was at the time with everyone in my mother’s house we also included another dog, Quantum, two cats, two red-eared sliders, a bird (I think my great grandmother’s parakeet stayed at her house with food and water), two hermit crabs, and several fish tanks. Plus of course, me, Mom, Nana, and Da. All in a two bedroom, 1.5 bath house. Nana was on the foldout couch, Da (my grandmother) was in my bed with all the pets she wasn’t allergic to, while I was with my mother and the dog in my mother’s room, the cats generally didn’t get locked up at night.
If I recall correctly since Mom worked in radio (yes a media family) she was working almost to the last minute which was typical. I think Da arrived first, but Mom can correct me if I am wrong.
The hurricane eventually came ashore and some time later we lost power as you would expect. Luckily, given I was raised in Florida, I am used to thunderstorms and power outages.
We had a lot of supplies so it wasn’t that bad. I remember during this time when the power was out that I won my first hand of poker. And yes we start gambling young in this family! I bluffed when I only had a pair of 10s, my grandmother was upset that I didn’t have a pair of jacks or better. I still stand by the fact, it was a legit move. 🙂
I actually slept through the worst part of the storm when the eye went over us. Really it was easy to do as our house was an older more sturdy house that met a strict building code that was in effect back in the day. The more recent homes had a relaxed building codes as builders just wanted to throw them up as fast as possible and were paying off people to lower the code. Unfortunately that is why the damage was so high and why so many people ended up homeless.
When the storm was over, there were tons of trees down, I think at least three or four trees either fell or were about to fall on our house. Again no damage. My grandmother’s house? No damage. My great grandmother’s house? No damage. Those houses were also older houses. I don’t even think there was a broken window despite them not being boarded up.
One of the largest trees on our block fell and blocked the street… no damage to the house it fell on. Hello building code.
If I recall our power was out for about 2 or 3 weeks and some of us had to start school! Since a lot of schools were damaged, the schools that were functional had to absorb all the other students. Needless to say we had some packed classes that year! All of us tried to make the best of the situation. Everyone tried to help each other out to the best of their ability.
Miami Metro Zoo and things like Parrot Jungle and Monkey Jungle were not very happy as a lot of animals escaped into the Everglades. As if Florida did not have a big enough problem with exotics!
Personally, I enjoyed Hurricane Andrew and I have enjoyed every other hurricane that I have been through. I guess that makes me weird, but my father said when he was a kid hurricanes were fun and not as dangerous. There might be something to all of that.
What is the worst natural disaster you’ve lived through?
Completed : 1992