We didn’t even lose power until after the big part of the storm had passed – sure, it flickered a few times between about 1 and 4 PM, during the worst of it, but then it didn’t stay off until suddenly, right before about 7 PM, it just went off without a sound. It was back on by 8, though, so we just figured someone had turned something off somewhere in order to be able to fix something, because it really wasn’t off long (just long enough for me to regret not peeing, because the toilets won’t refill when the water pump isn’t getting electricity… hence the bathtubs full of water, for manual refilling).
We really were very lucky.
Another ten or twenty miles closer to the coast, and we would have been hit worse – Keystone Heights is about 40 miles away from St. Augustine – and just even that much closer to the eye and our winds would have been a lot worse. Seeing it churn through Haiti and the islands and the destruction it left in its wake… that’s the closest I’ve come to wanting to get out of the way as I ever have in my adult life. There were a few hurricanes we evacuated for when I was a kid, and due to travels Tim and I missed two of the four that came through in 2004 (the last one, Frances, maybe, wasn’t too bad when it happened but so many trees in town came down that we were still without electricity for almost a week)… but this one looked like it was going to be a beast. We had a backup plan, though (moving everyone into the studio, and enough food and water for four people and ten animals for a week), and a backup plan for that (moving everyone into the Gainesville house, which although under construction still does have water and electricity, and is also another 20 miles west), and a backup plan for that (everyone into cars with as many animals as you can, and find a pet-friendly hotel in Tennessee)… and we didn’t have to use any of them.
Instead, we sat inside with the curtains open to see what was going on outside, and we read for a while, and when I finished my book I watched TV and knit. It was like taking a day off from work, and I only got nervous a few times – the aforementioned rough winds from about 1 to 4. Never nervous enough to move from the house into the studio (which only has one window). Cetty and Joe said they never even felt nervous in their RV.
There were only four trees down, that we’ve seen so far; one of them took two other trees out on the way down, and the fourth tree is at the eastern edge of the property and fell off onto a fence that divides us from the empty 20 acres next door. The AC unit outside did start making some strange noises after one of the flickers, and we’re hoping the compressor didn’t take some damage… we’ve got it just on the fan setting now because it was way too ugly outside then to go look at it, but Tim will look at it today.
I see pictures of Flagler, St. Augustine, Haiti, and I think how much worse it could have been, if when Matthew got to Florida he moved just a few dozen miles to the west. Not just for us but for all the east coast of Florida.
So today, instead of picking up my belongings, strewn out for a mile in any direction, or instead of digging my loved ones out of rubble, or instead of walking up and down a newly reformed beach with roadways half-dissolved into them… I get to sit in my air-conditioned work studio and wrap soap and watch TV. I’m disgustingly lucky.