On a sunny Tuesday at the beginning of October, I picked up my kids from school like most days. But on the drive home, Governor Nikki Haley held a press conference about Hurricane Matthew. Suddenly our week was being upended. There would be no school for the rest of the week. Evacuation orders were starting at 3 pm the next day. The interstate lanes were going to be turned around so all traffic would be forced away from the coast.
Minutes after the governor got off of the air, chaos began. Gas stations began running out of gas by nightfall and all bottled water was gone at the grocery store. My husband and I are pretty rational people but we also understand the power of weather. We calmly made a plan to evacuate (although I would be embarrassed to let you all see the random things I bought at the grocery store that day “just in case”).
We were lucky to have 36 hours to prepare before we evacuated. In Baton Rouge this August, people had 5 minutes. Living in a hurricane zone, we have always planned for the “what if,” but this was our first evacuation. We never thought about staying. School was closed, our offices were closed, and we were facing at best a rainy long weekend stuck inside or at worst, a category 2 or 3 hurricane making a direct hit on our house. We assumed it would be in the middle – probably lose power, maybe some yard debris to clean up and we would return to our regular schedules on Sunday. We even originally planned to be back for church on Sunday.
Evacuations are not easy. We had to pack up our prized possessions and get in the car for what could be a long and trying drive. Some of our friends and family had drives that took 5 hours to go 115 miles. Don’t forget to pack some patience!
In the Morning from The Book of Common Prayer, pg. 461
This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.
My family and I were evacuating Charleston, South Carolina to spend 5 days in North Carolina with other family members. There would be eleven people, including 4 kids between the ages of 3 and 7, and two dogs in a cabin in the mountains together. (Let’s pause to appreciate the joy of that situation.)
We let the kids pick out things to bring, more to keep them entertained than to identify things we didn’t want to lose. It was good to have them on as much of their normal schedule as possible, although with no school for 6 days, this was hard to do. When evacuating, remember that where you are going may not have power. We brought a lot of old-school options – play-doh, coloring books, board games, playing cards, etc…
Also, remember to prepare your children. On Tuesday, they had talked about hurricanes at school and my son came home wanting to discuss it. We talked about the hurricane in very non-anxiety producing ways. “There is a storm far away but there is a chance it will come close to us. We are going to leave to stay safe. You are not in danger. Our family will be together.” My 7 year old’s big worry at the time was that we were going to go somewhere without internet.
This ramped up as they picked up on the adults’ anxiety as the storm came closer to our homes. My son started asking more questions. After the storm passed, he was still concerned about how often hurricanes come and if there was another one coming towards us. We talked a lot about possibility vs. probability. Yes, hurricanes are possible where we live, but they don’t happen very often. We have time to prepare for them.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns. The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
We were on our way – not knowing what we would find when we returned.
(Part II of Andrea’s story will be published tomorrow.)
Have you ever evacuated in advance of extreme weather?
What verse or prayer strengthened you?