When the computer models agree that a Category 4 hurricane, possibly 5, is going to visit me and my business—I run confidently away. I’ve posted a brief, pseudo travel journal of our escape from Irma and the surprises it held. Thanks to all of you who checked in with us before, during and after the hurricane. Our customers and colleagues are simply the best.
- 1/3 of Florida residents ordered to evacuate—6.5 million people. Possibly the largest in US history.
- It was the strongest Atlantic basin hurricane ever recorded outside the Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico.
- Irma stayed a Category 5 hurricane the longest since satellite tracking began, maintaining 185 mph for 37 hours.
- A weakened Irma emptied Tampa Bay to create the largest negative store surge in the USA in the past 91 years.
My husband I always book at least three pet-friendly hotel rooms early in a threatening storm’s development. For Irma, we had Atlanta, Orlando and New Orleans booked eight days before landfall.
Trip to Atlanta (actually, McDonough, GA):
The most important priority was to drug our cat. He is a Bengal and notorious for singing the song of his people throughout the day. Drugs worked great. Our Corgi slept unaided. Left Tampa at 4:30 AM on Thursday (storm landed in Naples on Monday) and we knew there was very little chance of using the clogged Interstates. Thanks to Google Maps (traffic) and Gasbuddy, we managed our trip in ten hours without drama using only back roads (some very-very back roads). Gas was non-existent until we were deep into Georgia. I was diligently viewing Google Maps for the best route because it was constantly changing.
Checked into our Hilton Home2 Suites with our pets, and Creative Force was in business at 9 AM on Friday. We talked to people that spent over 36 hours on the Interstates. My husband foreseeing desperate people with desperate stories, went out and bought a massive-sized bottle of Grey Goose vodka, which we offered the pilgrims as they checked in. (The hotel did not have a bar, but staff encouraged us to offer crabby travelers a welcome drink).
Our head of cartography, Dwight Cox, was ordered to evacuate, from the PA system of a helicopter and a squad car. He decided to head into the storm to join his wife who was managing shelters in Melbourne, FL that accepted pets. The stories that Dwight brought back home sent the prophetic message, “Be Prepared!” “Be Way Too Prepared!”
The Trip Home (After 7 Nights):
There really wasn’t a window until Wednesday: three days after the storm. The Interstates were a dangerous parking lot, and of course, no gas. With tremendous luck, we were able to purchase a large trailer-hitch cargo carrier, and to score four 5-gallon gas containers. As we enjoyed what was to be a relaxing last dinner, we got alerts about The Santa Fe River rising, planned closing of our interstate route home, and bridges already closed on alternate routes. We left Thursday morning at 3:30am and constantly monitored the FL DOT’s Twitter page. We passed over the river in triumph, with what we thought were minutes to spare. At least 25 state troppers were present on either side of the bridge. The flooding came within six feet of the interstate shoulder. Carrying 20 gallons of visible gasoline made us quite popular, and we did share as we reached confidence of arriving home.
What I learned:
- Cats do not belong in cars, which causes people to dislike cats.
- Not all “frozen” pizzas are microwavable and taste better frozen.
- The people of Georgia are very kind, patient, and hospitable.
- Crocs are a really comfortable shoe, that you can put in the dishwasher to get off all that red Georgia clay.
Thanks again for all your concern and well wishes. It warmed our hearts.