One of the things I absolutely love is theme parks and amusement parks (and haunted houses). There’s nothing like a day out, riding the rides and doing all of the things available with friends. When I lived in Florida for 5 years (between 2000 and 2005) you can bet I had season passes to both Disney World and Universal Studios.
One thing that I never did, nor will I ever understand people who do, is go to Disney World in a Hurricane.
Florida is in a State of Emergency
As of Saturday, September 24th, Gov. DeSantis put pretty much the entire state of Florida in a state of Emergency.
Ian has turned into a proper hurricane. It’s a category 4 which means winds between 130 and 156 mph (that’s 209 to 251). When it comes through tearing up trees, ripping apart structures and sending debris through car windows, by being in a state of emergency means quicker federal help.
This isn’t Florida’s first hurricane rodeo. However, it is the first hurricane rodeo of a lot of vacationers that chose to go to Florida during hurricane season.
Preparing for Hurricane Season
Florida has a week each year, before hurricane season starts, for hurricane preparation. As a resident, you see a lot of news articles, hear about it on the news and are sent checklists and tips for preparing your home. The week also includes tax exemption off of supplies such as:
- pet food and other pet supplies
- manual can openers
- reusable freezing elements
- self powered radios
- fuel tanks
- power banks
- smoke detectors
- fire extinguishers
- carbon monoxide detectors
A lot of grocery stores will have sales on non-perishable items as well as bottled water. DIY stores have sales on tools and plywood for putting over windows.
Since I worked at a juvenile detention facility that specialized in outdoor therapy, I not only had to have my condo prepared but I had to have supplies in my car. I can’t remember one hurricane or tropical storm in my time in Florida that I got to spend it at home. I always had to evacuate to an unused part of a juvenile jail in town (more on that in a bit).
So in my car trunk I kept:
- changes of work clothes plus sleeping clothes
- batteries for the flashlights and for the radio I used at work
- sleeping bag and pillow
- 2 trays of drinking water
- non-perishable food items (staff was last to be fed and the kitchen often ran out of food)
- rain slicker
- reading books
The Storm is Coming
My apartment in Okeechobee, and later my condo in North Palm Beach weren’t on any emergency service power grid. So I was usually the last to get power at home.
In the freezer we kept a lot of ice and reusable freezing elements so we could stick them in the fridge to keep our food from spoiling quickly after the power went off.
We’d also fill the bath tub, buckets and big bowls with water for flushing the toilets. Of course we also filled jugs for drinking water. Also anything on the balcony has to come inside.
The other thing we’d do is go try to stalk up on food supplies, get some more bottled water and fuel up our car before gas became sparse. Often the food isles looked like vultures came and picked it over. It was a great time to pick up fresh produce and meat for dinner that night because it was all on sale!
By this time I was called into work (if I wasn’t there already) to help evacuate the kids from the facility and then sit with them in the facility. This was usually the last time I’d see my own personal living space for at least a week (sometimes more).
During the Storm
During the storm you hear a lot of wind howling. There are things going bump against the building and often the power goes out. At the facility that I was evacuated to with the kids, there was a generator for our buildings. However, I can remember during a category 4 and a category 5 the generator broke and nobody could get out to fix it until the eye of the storm came through.
The Eye of the Storm is a Real Thing
The eye of the storm is seriously creepy. When it comes across, everything is calm. It’s like a still but grey day in Florida. The problem with the eye is because it’s calm out people are tempted to go survey the damage. They’re out too long then get caught in the other side of the storm.
Of course when we were evacuated, if the eye passed during the day we’d take the opportunity to let the kids get some fresh air for about 10 minutes before putting them back in their designated building.
Oh, and outside often looked exactly as you’d expect it. Branches and other debris everywhere. Signs down, and so on.
One thing I always did was listen to a police scanner. It always amazed me how many people who should have evacuated to a storm shelter didn’t. Emergency services are true heroes during this time.
After the Storm
Depending on the storm, you could expect plant and tree debris everywhere. The stronger the storm, the more likely trees were down as well as power lines. Roof tiles and shingles would be missing, maybe even entire roofs of places.
There was often damage to cars because something flew into the window. Sometimes there was flooding as well. The tallies of loss of life also started to come across the news.
For me, it usually took about a week to get power back on at my place. The worst storm I was in, Wilma a Cat 5 Hurricane in 2005, took 2.5 weeks to get the power back in my condo. Until then it was often warm, humid, sticky and tempers were high.
People Coming to Florida During a State of Emergency
On the different Disney facebook groups I’m seeing people who decided to fly into Florida before the airports shut down. Now they’re upset that Disney isn’t helping them through “this difficult time.”
My head is in my hands because I just can’t.
These are people who are in vacation mode. They don’t have 2 weeks worth of food and water available to them, they don’t have flashlights, and they don’t have batteries. While I hear that the Disney property doesn’t usually lose power, it doesn’t mean it can’t. When it does happen, now all these tourists are going to be ill prepared.
They are upset that they have to pay for brown bag lunch and dinners. Honestly, they’re lucky they have access to food in the first place! They’re upset that there will be times they have to stay put in their room. Honestly.
Who the fuck flies into a potential natural disaster with their kids anyways?
My problem with this whole thing is because these people are unaware and underprepared for the hurricane, they can potentially pull on resources that are needed elsewhere. Especially since there wouldn’t be the potential if people stayed out of Florida.
I’ve been told I shouldn’t judge, but I’ve lived there. I’ve been through ever category on the list and drove between 2 tornadoes forming on either side of the road (0/10 do not recommend). I know what the stress is like to be evacuated and not allowed out.
I also know what its like to not have access to any food. Unfortunately, staff didn’t always watch the kids they were assigned and the girls would get into the kitchen and eat food. While at meal times staff were supposed to be fed, we were always fed last. If they ran out, they ran out. My first few storms were like this, hence, always having non perishables in my car.
So yea, do yourself a favor and if you book a trip to Florida during hurricane season, make sure you have insurance so you can rebook at a later time if a hurricane comes. Don’t gamble if the hurricane is really coming or not and don’t put more stress on an already stressful situation. That’s just a shitty thing to do.