For me, September brings to mind hurricanes. It all started the year we moved to Florida.
The Summer of ‘99
We moved to Jacksonville in May of 1999. Our move had been a bit rocky. Wayne and I had been separated for four months until our house sold in Phoenix. (Actually, it hadn’t even sold yet. I just couldn’t stand not living with him anymore, so I decided I was moving. Luckily we got an offer at the same time.) But I had only been in Jax a month when Wayne’s company declared bankruptcy and laid him off.
It could have been an awful time, but it wasn’t. Nerve-racking, sure, but luckily he got a severance and unemployment, we discovered dollar movies and the library’s vast rental collection, and we got very creative with our food budget. Wayne also got creative with traveling –via interviews. He went from Virginia Beach to Reno, New Jersey to Texas in search of a new job.
It was while he was away on an interview that Hurricane Floyd gained momentum and looked to be bearing down for a direct hit on our new home in the First Coast.
Two million people were in the process of evacuating most of Florida’s east coast. Hotels as far as three hundred miles away were booked. Highways headed west turned into parking lots. To get to someplace like Tallahassee, a two and a half hour drive under normal circumstances, now took eight.
In the midst of the madness I found myself heading to the airport to pick up Wayne, who was due back from an interview somewhere. I felt like I was driving in a ghost town. Streets were eerily quiet, everything was closed, and most things were even boarded up.
You see, Floyd was a Category 4 storm. A direct hit would have meant substantial devastation.
All I knew was I didn’t want to go through it alone. When I got the airport, flights were being diverted. For a while it was unclear whether or not Wayne’s flight would make it. It did. His was the last to land before the airport shut down.
We drove home surveying the abandoned scene. Had we made the right decision? Should we have had me evacuate to Atlanta, where we had a good friend, and Wayne could have tried to catch a flight there? Had we been too naïve thinking it was okay to stay? Should we see about spending the night in one of the shelters they had opened?
Battening Down the Hatches
We couldn’t stay in a shelter because they didn’t allow dogs and we had Budly. We didn’t want to fight traffic, so we decided to take our chance in our apartment.
That night we had candles at the ready, the bathtub filled, and enough water to last three days for the each of us.
The winds picked up, the news showed images of the surf rising. We huddled together in bed that night, listening to the storm raging outside.
In the morning, we clung to each other as the wind howled and whipped outside. Would we survive the day? The second we turned on the news, we knew we would. We learned Floyd’s path had changed. It was going to miss us. (Which ended up being bad news for the Carolinas.)
We grew up in Colorado and had known our share of snow days. Even though Wayne didn’t have a job to take off from, looking for a job had become his job. He took the day off from that and we had a Hurricane Day. We watched a movie together on the couch, took naps that afternoon, and in the evening went out to a little Italian place and had a romantic dinner. (It was a splurge because we weren’t eating out much then.)
It was both a great initiation into hurricanes, and a bad one. Good because it turned out better than expected. But it was bad because it gave us a false idea that all hurricanes would turn out so benign.