Sorry it’s a little late, fam. Had a bit of a situation over here.
An unwelcome visitor, so to speak.
I’m just glad it didn’t completely trash my place.
As I was starting to think of what to write about my eighth month in Raleigh, a swirl of clouds appeared off the coast of Africa. Over the next 10 days, that swirl got bigger. Once it got big enough to become a tropical storm it got a name: Florence.
North Carolina’s history with storms beginning with the letter F (Floyd, Fran) was concerning. But the models had this storm going in a bunch of different directions, including turning back out into the Atlantic and heading for colder water. Then, about a week ago, the noodles on the weather maps started coming closer together.
And they were pointing right at North Carolina.
After covering two soccer games last weekend, I needed to return the lens that I had rented. My route to the camera store took me past the Costo on Wake Forest Road in Raleigh. On Monday the parking lot was overflowing and traffic was backing up into the street. People were desperately wanting to stock their emergency supplies and put gas in their cars.
SHIT WAS GETTING REAL
Once I dropped off the lens I found a gas station nearby that didn’t have a line and the gas price was one of the lowest in the area, so I filled Luna’s tank. I also stopped at the pet food store to get a stash of small cans of food for the Boys. Since they get 1/4 of a regular can at breakfast and supper, I have to refrigerate the can. Having small cans eliminated the need for the refrigerator, should we lose power. I stopped at a couple of grocery stores to figure out what I was going to do for hurricane snacks and pick up some water, only the stores were pretty much sold out of water by late Monday morning. I did manage to find some small bottles of water so I picked up a few and stuck those in my freezer.
My attention then turned to getting the apartment ready and getting us ready in the event we needed to flee the area. I cleaned off the patio furniture and the bicycle and brought those inside. I left the plants until the day we started seeing the first bands of Florence in the Triangle, mainly because I figured the bugs would have abandoned the gerbera daisy plant and gone into hiding elsewhere.
WHAT I SUDDENLY FOUND MOST IMPORTANT
I found the binder of my grandmother’s poems, then gathered my important papers and the cats’ vet records and stashed them in a backpack with Simon and Billie’s ashes and the mold of Simon’s pawprint. I pulled my digital camera gear together into one pack and set up a grocery bag with the canned cat food plus food to bring for myself. I packed a duffel with some clothes, shoes, and a towel and washcloth and stashed that in the car. I decided to keep the personal hygiene stuff in the apartment because those would melt in the car. I pulled the cat carriers out of the closet and had them set up by the door, with everything else I’d need to grab if we needed to bug out.
Almost all of my jars and bottles in my kitchen were pressed into service as water vessels (especially important for the Boys, so they would have plenty of water they’re used to drinking). I’d have to wait to use my huge 4-liter jar to brew kombucha. I also filled smaller jars and added a lemon slice because you really can’t be too fancy when a category 4 hurricane is beelining toward you.
Over the next couple of days I checked off the last of the to-dos: got Charlie’s Flovent prescription, sent the receipt in to Trupanion insurance, got paper plates, moved furniture and other stuff away from the windows, finished a writing project, and got online to set up some bill payments in case the power goes out and I couldn’t get online for a few days. Or weeks.
THE WAITING IS (ALMOST) THE HARDEST PART
By Thursday night I had Category 5 anxiety about what COULD happen. Wind damage. Water damage. (I still didn’t really know if the re-calking of my bedroom window was going to hold up.) Losing electricity was the one thing I felt the least prepared to deal with. Sure, I had my remote recharger and my tiny crank radio (that could also recharge my phone if need be), and I was keeping my phone fully charged. But trying to think of where I could go to work–where I could go to have computer access to FIND work–and not being able to even run a fan in this climate at this time of the year…THAT filled me with dread.
On Friday I brought in the plants and wished the spider who had taken up residence on the patio good luck. All that was left was to wait.
As the first squalls blew by I needed to work off some nervous energy so I made the vegan hot fudge chocolate avocado cake from the recipe that I’ve had tacked to my refrigerator for ages. When that was finished I put in a sheet pan of sweet potato chunks and garbanzo beans with a spicy BBQ seasoning.
Other than a few pockets of heavy rain showers and a slight uptick in the wind, Florence seemed to be relatively tame. That didn’t stop the emergency services from blasting alert after alert after alert to my phone about flash flood warnings. Like I wasn’t already nervously watching the puddles forming off of my patio.
I also got my first Hurricane Headache. I wasn’t completely shocked about it but hoped I could just skip by that part. Lucky for me (I guess), my sleep was already so messed up lately that between the headache, watching the storm, and listening for more alerts (particularly tornado alerts) I couldn’t possibly do more damage to my sleep hygiene.
Those of us in Raleigh, for the most part, got incredibly lucky. Much of North Carolina fared far worse: the hurricane has done horrible damage in our coastal and southern counties. And between rain and storm surge, areas that are already flooded are likely to see even worse flooding over the next couple of days, even after Florence toddles off to the northeast.
BLESSINGS. LET ME COUNT THEM
As I type this out on Monday morning, we are looking at some of the last bands of the storm to come through this part of the state bringing some heavy rain at times. The tornado warnings are getting closer to home (there were tornado sirens over in Durham) but I’m ready to chase the cats into the closet or the bathroom if need be. We have another couple of days of showers here before summer returns, just in time for fall.
We never lost our electricity. We had plenty to eat and clean water to drink. And we didn’t need to bug out, nor did I need to corral us into the closet or bathroom because of a tornado. If anything, Hurricane Florence resembled the El Nino storms that I experienced frequently in California and those along the Oregon coast.
For us, things will return to normal over the next few days. The cat tree will return to the front window. My Zen Zone will slide back to its spot. We’ll use up the jugs of water and I’ll nibble on the leftover hurricane snacks. And I’ll get back to hustling for freelance work.
I will also be looking for ways that I can help my neighbors who were affected by Florence. If you are wondering how you can help, here is a list of places where you can donate.