This weekend my town was hit by Hurricane Matthew. My husband and I had been carefully monitoring it’s movement, hoping it would shift to the east and bypass us, but remaining realistic enough to prepare for a hit.
Businesses throughout the city began closing and bracing for the storm on Wednesday. The local colleges shut down around 3pm, the area secondary schools notified student and parents that school would be suspended Thursday and Friday. I was able to work from home on Thursday and Friday, my husband went in Thursday morning, but was home by 11am.
For better or worse, we kept our TV tuned to The Weather Channel and watched as meteorologists reported from the Bahamas up along the Florida coast, providing real-time insight was to what we should expect. As my husband and I watched, our anxiety grew. We hadn’t really discussed evacuating, we weren’t in an evacuation zone, so I wasn’t worried about flooding, and I feel pretty safe in my house, according to an email I received from my landlord meant to reassure me, “it has strong bones”. But, we do have a great number of tall, decaying trees on our property and my biggest fear was them falling on the house, specifically while we are in it.
Luckily before we went to bed on Thursday night, Hurricane Matthew “wobbled” to the east just slightly, assuring that the eye wall wouldn’t scrape up the coast of Florida as originally planned easing my fears a little. I feel that if that hadn’t occurred, or if the conditions would have worsened overnight, my family and I would have packed up and headed to a friends house on the west coast early Friday morning.
We started losing trees Thursday night, even before the bigs winds came. Friday morning, before the heavy rains came, we took our dogs outside and walked our yard and found tons of fallen branches and noticed one of the decayed oaks at the very back of the property had fallen, luckily it fell on our side of the fence, and not our neighbors side. We would have plenty more time to impact the neighborhood with our dead trees later in the day.
It was predicted that Hurricane Matthew would hit our area late Friday afternoon and last into Saturday morning, and that prediction was pretty much spot on. I had anticipated that we would lose power, and we did right around 1pm on Friday. After a few minor bumps in the road, the family took it in stride, as we played card games and ate our hurricane snacks.
I am not sure exactly when the first tree fell, but none of us heard it come down.
The second tree wasn’t as inconspicuous. Although the whole tree didn’t fall, only a portion of it, it is right by my oldest daughter’s bedroom window, so she heard it come down.
The next tree to come down was the the second worse thing, right behind a tree falling on our house. The tree was on the front property line right by the road and when it fell, it decided to take our power line damaging the transformer that not only powers our house, but also our next-door neighbor and the two neighbors who live across the street.
As the sun set, we broke out the two flashlights we had (I later noticed when it came to preparing, we only worried about having enough drinks and snacks, getting more flashlights or battery powered radios) and ate some cereal and the kids and my husband played a couple of rounds of Uno. All-in-all, it was pretty good, other than the silhouettes of tall trees bending to the howling winds. I found the storm much more frightening once the sun went down and I could no longer see what was happening outside.
Around 5:30 Saturday morning, we all woke to a loud explosion. At first I though that something had fallen on the house, or the transformer across the street had finally exploded. The four of us, flashlights in hand did as much investigating as we could, but found nothing causing immediate danger and each headed back to bed.
When I woke at 7, the rain had stopped and a full yard appraisal could be made. Luckily, no other trees came down over night, so our final count was 4 (although I consider it 3.33).
It took a few hours, but by mid morning, a tree service came by and cut the tree from the power line then by early afternoon the power company came by and repaired the wire to my house, reran the wire to my neighbors house and replaced our transformer. We were outside clearing up yard debris, but we took a break, and together, with our neighbors, we gathered round to watch the lineman, use his baton to push the button that would restore our power. A collective cheer went up and smiles from not only the families but also the linemen were unanimous. After saying our many thanks, the workers got back in their trucks and headed off to help other families get back to normal. We spent the next half hour picking up the front yard, then came in, took showers and headed out to find somewhere, anywhere that could serve us hot food.
All-in-all, we were very fortunate. We are all safe and there was no structural damage to our home. My friends and my extended family members are safe and from what I have been told so far, any damage that has occurred has been minor.
I see news reports of the devastation that has been left behind and the flooding damage that has occurred due to the storm surge to the area beaches and especially to my favorite little city to the south, St. Augustine, and I am thankful that it wasn’t worse. Reports are flowing in of high numbers of fatalities in Haiti and the Bahamas and it prevents me from complaining about how we had to throw away an entire refrigerator of food or go without running water or electricity for 24 hours. These are minor inconveniences compared to what many others experienced.
This was the worst storm to hit my city in 118 years, and I am hopeful that it will be another 118 years before it sees anything remotely close.