In my last post, I talked about one type of natural disaster. But today, we are talking about another: Hurricane Irene.
Brandon and I grew up in Augusta, Georgia. And one little quirk about our hometown is that if you are traveling and "lost" you just follow the evacuation signs to find your way. I happen to know that it REALLY works because I got turned around on the way home from Charleston, South Carolina, in my pre-GPS days, and tested my theory.
So we've never really dealt with hurricanes. Rain and storms, but never this. So we were naive. But we did the best we could with our (limited) knowledge. We bought charcoal, lighters, flashlights, batteries, and some food that didn't need refrigeration. I made sure we had plenty of diapers, wipes and toilet paper. I bought shelf stable milk for the boys. We filled our bathtub and large pots with water. We put our important papers in a Rubbermaid container with the diaper bags. We set that by the door in case we needed to make a quick exit from our place. We filled our van's gas tank. Brandon and I prayed that Richmond would be spared.
And then we went to bed. To be honest, we thought we over-reacted but locals kept telling us about when Isabel hit in 2003. Several people told us that they were without power for 12 or more days.
Saturday, Brandon went to work as usual. It was overcast and windy. At home, the power flickered on and off. But it always came back on.
Brandon's office shut down right before his lunch break. I was relieved that Brandon was home. I always feel safer with him by my side. We went about our business. The rain started and I laid all the kids down for a nap. Shortly after, around 5, our power went off. I held my breath for a bit, willing it to come back on. But nothing happened.
I was reading in bed, when a high pitch squeal started sounding. I woke Brandon and asked him what it was. He asked me what it was. It was so loud, I couldn't think. It was in our room, but no where else. I asked on facebook. Eventually I realized that it was coming from the floor in our closet. Finally we got through to our maintenance hotline. They had been inundated with people calling because they had no ac. (Dear fellow Richmonders, if you have no power, calling the apartment complex hotline for your ac not working is fruitless.)
Turns out, since our apartment is technically a basement apartment, we have a sump pump. (I had no idea what a sump pump is. Have a mentioned in Georgia we have attics, not basements?) Well when the power went out, the sump pump quit working and the water level was rising, so the water level alarm sounded. Lesson learned. We also learned from the maintenance worker that we had no way out of our apartment complex because there were trees and power lines down. He happened to be on property, which is how he got to us so quickly.
We hunkered down. The worst was yet to come. We opened our blinds for some light until the sun went down, reserving our batteries. Then at dark, we put the boys to bed, and let the girls play cards in the same room we were in so we would only have to use one flashlight.
We all eventually went to bed. Hoping we'd have power the next morning.
The next morning came and we woke up sweaty. Brandon and I had slept on top of the covers and the children had minimal pajamas on. We were all hot and it was getting hotter as the morning went on.
We only have large windows on one side of the apartment and the breeze wasn't going the right direction to come in. We had no cell service. Having to think on our feet, we packed just a few days worth of clothes, the milks (coconut and whole) from our fridge, grabbed some food
supplies and headed out.
We had no idea where to go really. We did get out of our neighborhood and saw that we had no street lights or traffic lights. There were entire power poles down. Trees had smashed fences, lines, etc. Gas stations were closed.
I finally got a little cell service on my phone and saw that most of the Richmond hotels were full from other evacuees coming into the capital, so we headed west, reasoning that the east would be worse off than we were. (We are on the west side of Richmond.)
We drove until we saw a decent looking hotel and stopped to see if they had any available rooms. We took the room.
And this is where we've been since. We did venture back into Richmond today to look for Brandon's phone that got lost in the hustle and bustle of trying to pack with four very scared and one absolutely hysterical child. (Xander does not take well to his routine being changed.. ever!) We did find the phone. The power was not restored and since then the outage line has backtracked and taken away our predicted time (that has since passed.) The food in our freezer and fridge will be a total loss. The line at the gas station was VERY long. Some intersections were manned by police officers. Every now and then we'd find one that worked. Some had no one manning the intersection.
Among all of this craziness, there are many blessings we've seen.
1. We received an email from the K's letting us know that they were praying for us and telling us of the preparations they had made for Annalise before the storm had even gotten to us.
2. We are safe. Some of us are frazzled, some of us are scared. But we are together and unharmed.
3. Our apartment did not sustain any damage from flooding. When the maintenance worker arrived, he pretty much told us to prepare for our master bedroom closet to flood. He even helped us move everything out and then he advised us to shut the closet door and lay a towel down. This was to help prevent our bedroom/entire apartment from flooding.
4. We had used a lot of our frozen/refrigerated food stores in preparation for the end of our lease. So we didn't lose as much as we could have.
5. We have an emergency fund (Thank you Dave Ramsey) that is taking a hit, but serving it's purpose.
6. My girls think this is a vacation. When we went back to check our power this afternoon, we thought to grab the swim suits. So we enjoyed our hotel's pool this afternoon. And we grabbed laundry soap, so we used their laundry facilities as well. The swimming helped burn a good bit of energy and that is helping my children fall asleep tonight.
7. Brandon and I have been able to rest in the Lord's plans for us. We believe that THIS is the reason that Annalise hasn't been able to come home to us yet.
8. We've learned a ton. We've learned about God's goodness and how to prepare better if there is a next time.
Thank you Jesus, for keeping our family safe. Thank you for these life lessons. We love You and praise You!