It’s hard to make a decision to leave.
It’s an agonizing, worrisome, “what-if”, decision. There are pros and cons but that doesn’t make the choice any easier.
It’s bad if you leave. It’s bad if you stay.
You don’t have a split-second to make a decision – you have days and days and more days to think about it, worry about it, stress about it.
Such is the way of life during Hurricane Season. Every other time, we have stayed. We’ve been through Tropical Storms and a Category 1 Hurricane.
This time, we did not.
Almost two months ago, Hurricane Florence rambled into Southeastern NC and left a wake of destruction behind. Of course, we had prepared to stay but we also had a plan to leave.
We were one of the fortunate ones that had a place to go – me, the two boys and the four dogs.
My husband would have to stay behind because of his work responsibilities.
Every year, around September 11th, I can feel the emotion of that day seventeen years ago begin to well up. Over the years since, it doesn’t cause me as much grief and anxiety as in years past but those feelings are still there. Everyone remembers where they were that day and I am no exception. However, my world would be turned upside down by the additional stress, worry and anxiety of sending my husband off to war on September 20th, 2001 – just 4 months after we were married.
The irony that I was planning to evacuate from a Hurricane at the same time of year that he left to go off to war was not lost on me. It actually just added to the stress and anxiety of the moment.
My husband didn’t have a choice to go off to war.
I had a choice to stay or go but I almost would have preferred not to have to make the choice.
“If you leave, you might not be able to get back home” said friends who had been through Hurricanes of this magnitude before.
“If you stay, and it actually is higher than a Cat 2, it could get very dangerous, very fast.” said others.
If I left, it would be me, the boys and the four dogs in a car for several hours.
If I stayed, it would be me, the boys and the four dogs in what could be a potentially dangerous situation.
When Hurricane Florence became a Category 4 storm AND they closed school three full days before the Hurricane was expected to hit, the decision was made – we were leaving.
With that decision came some lessons I learned from the experience:
Lesson 1: Stuff is Stuff
Even though I had been embracing the process of minimalism for about two years now, this really hits home when I had to decide what to take with us when we left. Stuff is stuff.
Lesson 2: The Less Space You Have, the Less Important Stuff Is.
In case you didn’t know, I own a Prius. They aren’t exactly big cars with lots of storage. I had to fit the boys and the four dogs in the car WITH our stuff. The important stuff.
As you might imagine, four dogs and two boys take up quite a bit of space. Fortunately, I was able to buy a rooftop luggage carrier that did not require a roof rack and we put duffel bags of clothes up there. But, there still wasn’t space for much of anything else. Things I had thought I wanted to bring quickly became eliminated from packing in the car simply because there was no space.
Sometimes, when we have too much space we just fill it with stuff. It’s ok to just have space.
Lesson 3: Organization is KEY
I cannot stress enough the important of having all your stuff organized. It makes it less time consuming to pack in a hurry, especially during an evacuation.
The original plan was for us to leave Wednesday, which gave me all day Tuesday to get ready to leave. When school was canceled for Tuesday, our departure got moved up a day. I went from having a day and a half to get ready to go to only having a few evening hours and a few morning hours.
It was easier to pack because we were organized and knew where things were to pack them.
I knew where all the important documents were.
I knew where the all the things we needed to take with us were located.
I didn’t spend time trying to remember where things were or time looking for things I knew where “somewhere in the house.” The process of embracing minimalism really paid off in this situation.
Lesson 4: Insurances are Imperative.
The day you are leaving for a Hurricane is NOT the day to wonder if all of your insurances are up to date.
Homeowners/renters Insurance, flood insurance, life insurance and vehicle insurance. You should know what your deductibles are, you should know where all your declaration pages are and you should have each one paid and make sure you have enough coverage for each insurance.
I was not running around making sue all of our insurances were up to date OR wondering where all the information was because we had already gone through this process and had everything filed.
Lesson 5: We Can have Hard Conversations
Our boys are 13 and 12, respectively. They are old enough where, sometimes, we have to have difficult conversations. One of the hardest I’ve ever had with them was telling them – very matter-of-factly – that there was a possibility our house and its entire contents could be destroyed.
This house is the only house they have ever known.
But, with that statement came a discussion about insurance and that our stuff is just stuff and everything can be replaced. Houses can be rebuilt. And, everything – with the exception of my husband/their dad – that was important to us was in the Prius. (Other things of importance were packed in totes and sealed with duct tape OR placed in the safe.).
That’s how long we were evacuated. Our little town was horribly impacted by the storm, schools were canceled for almost a month. The roads for us to get home were impassable at times so we had to wait for the “all clear”. Even with that, I had to take a different route home because our normal route was still flooded.
The downside was that aside from his deployment, 18 days is the longest I’ve ever been away from my husband. It’s the longest the boys have ever been away from their dad. That was hard.
The upside is that we spend a wonderful 18 days with family in a beautiful location and in a home where we were taken care of, loved on and made to feel very welcomed.
It’s hard to make a decision to leave. To pack up everything that is important to you in a Prius and drive 6+ hours away from home. It’s hard being away from home and it’s hard returning home and adapting to a “new reality” of dealing with post-storm damage.
But, I learned, we can do hard things.
I am thankful for the lessons learned and will certainly feel much better the next time we are faced with this situation.