This time last week, my family & I were making preparations to leave our town of Brunswick, GA as Hurricane Irma was barreling toward our coast. Continuing updates revealed a storm, unlike all others born from the Atlantic, quite fickle in her nature. Though she remained far away at the time, millions of coast-dwellers began preparing for the worst. Already under a state of emergency & a large portion of Florida making its way up any & all interstates & major highways, my husband, in-laws, & myself made the last-minute decision to leave a few days before a mandatory evacuation was due to be implemented.
To say preparing for an evacuation is stressful is the understatement of the year. The emotional highs & lows are beyond exhausting. As soon as I made the decision to evacuate my family, I began cleaning - & not even light cleaning. I picked my rugs up, shook them all out, mopped my floors like there was no tomorrow & began scrubbing baseboards. I packed anything that meant something to me, my children, my dog, my cat, & said silent "goodbyes" to the rest of my stuff. You know, just in case. I suppressed growing fears that surrounded this storm & we left.
Our retreat was a small farm house in Juliette, GA; one I had strongly connected with on my only other visit just months prior. Two horses, seven head of cattle, a pond with plenty of fish, countless wild deer & turkey, lots of beautiful history, & what feels like miles of land to roam without a single care in the world. Service is inconsistent & rare at this specific destination & the "outside world" can only be reached via a hotspot device. Though many appointments were cancelled due to this storm & Gunner had to celebrate his very first birthday away from some friends & family, we settled in quite nice.
We watched the storm very closely, its path & strength always in the background of our minds. We even ventured to Forsyth a few times & breathed relief as we watched traffic inch north at a very slow pace on I-75. We had made the right call to leave when we did. But every six hours, Irma was shown to have drifted further west & I began to question if we had evacuated far away enough as we would certainly end up on the east side of this monstrous storm - something that had the potential to be dangerous. With two small children, I'm never really up for such adventures.
I had heard power would be lost state-wide & I took it upon myself to assess the trees that surrounded us & their proximity to the house. On Sunday evening, I began feeling uneasy about the storm & insisted we go in to town & grab a few more supplies. A storm that was supposed to hit our area on Tuesday was scheduled to hit 1am on Monday morning. We were able to find some scented candles, a lighter, & a couple of extra flashlights & headed back. That evening, I charged everything that had a power cord, bathed the children, & took care to bathe myself as we were likely to lose power. The next morning, in the 8 o'clock hour, we lost power. Almost immediately, I began catching rain water in anything I thought would hold water. For 24 hours, we sat inside the dark cabin & watched the tree limbs dance around us, sometimes catching sounds of trees falling nearby, & flushing our toilets with rain water. A constant drizzle, we knew the dirt roads would be quite sloppy in the morning. I rejoiced in the chill of the air as the coast remains quite hot & thick but dug deep to find the extra patience to allow the storm to fully pass before I lost my mind. Losing power is something millions of people have experienced due to this storm but there was something about being stuck in the middle of the woods with two small kids & no power, poor service, & no neighbors.
The next morning, - Gunner's official first birthday - Keith & I took the farm Gator & assessed the roads. We managed to move small trees & limbs that blocked our path until we approached a tree laying on a power line. It was evident smaller cars had been passing underneath it but I know nothing (or perhaps too much) to go near a power line. Our Suburban & Yukon likely wouldn't fit. We heard of another exit in the opposite direction & a quick trip revealed extremely muddy roads & another downed tree that blocked our path. The local police department was made aware of our condition & location &, while we were assured supplies could be delivered to us if we got low, we were informed they would be unable to remove the tree that blocked our path over the power line for obvious safety reasons. Our exit remained in the hands of the power company - until the groundskeeper showed up with his chainsaw. It's been many years since his back surgery - & most of his back is metal - but Rick isn't afraid of much. The size of his arms gives no indication he was, at any point in his existence, unable to move due to a severe back injury. He towers over anything he stands beside & speaks confidently. A good ole country boy, a little before 4 that afternoon, he had cleared a path for us. We headed straight to town for a restaurant experience & power. Despite my desperation to leave as soon as humanly possible, we stayed one more night & were on the road by 11a.m. the next day.
I don't recall a time I have felt such relief. However, we were completely aware of the lack of power that remained in our area & the actual barricades & mandates that prohibited our return home. My sister in Warner Robins is allowing us to stay at her house until further notice. We have yet to have power restored at our house & sewage & severe water contamination is a humongous problem with the city. To my knowledge, power remains out at the farm house. Additionally, our resources back home remain limited. Gas is hardly found & grocery store shelves remain near-empty - as has been reported to me.
I am desperate to get home. I just keep thanking my lucky stars for Rick because we might still be in the woods.Hurricane Irma has left our city & its people with a lot to clean up. For everyone who has been working tirelessly to restore our community, I am thankful. The light at the end of this crazy tunnel is getting bigger but holy cow am I ready to sleep in my own bed. (& clean up the rotting meat in my freezer.)
-A special thanks to the Doc who showed us true hospitality & let us stay in his beautiful farmhouse.