Monday, October 16, 2017

Evacuation Hysteria, and the man who loved her

Hello, everyone.  Back again after a two year absence, the last few months having been spent wondering what in the hell happened to our country.

But I digress...

I have been asked to speak to you all today about...EVACUATION

No, not one's bowels, silly person. This type of evacuation occurs during a hurricane, or a flash flood, or a raging fire, or the sudden appearance of one's relatives.

In our case this past September, it was Hurricane Irma, or as Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel liked to say every blessed five minutes


MONSTER HURRICANE IRMA was the very worst hurricane ever in the history of hurricanes (until the next one, Hurricane Maria). It was a Cat 84 hurricane, it registered higher than an earthquake, it was going to rip Florida from mainland United States and fling it somewhere awful in the middle of the country, like over Arkansas or something, tear the skin from our bodies and suck the magma from the earth's core.

I became concerned.

We decided to run for our lives.

EVACUATION - Episode One

Our escape began on the Thursday before the Sunday Irma was scheduled to go Medieval on our home, believing that would give us plenty of time to get out of Dodge. Plenty of time.  Unfortunately, the Weather Channel had stirred up so much terror the week before with the Texas hurricane, Harvey, that everyone else in Florida decided they had plenty of time too.

There were at least a billion people heading up the middle of the state on Highway 75, so we decided to take Route 41.

Actual aerial view of Route 41 through Florida

Route 41 is notoriously slow, but then again Highway 75 was bumper to bumper, cars stalling out and abandoned, gas stations empty - well, we thought 41 would be a better choice. We drove in two cars (each with its own huge, panting dog beside drive) for at least five hours before we stopped for food and to look for gas, our tanks were half empty.

There. Was. No. Gas. Anywhere.  Literally. All the stations in Florida were empty. Every single one.

We pulled into a Walmart in Dunedin, Florida. After five hours of driving (usually it takes four hours to get to the Georgia border from our home) we were only halfway up the state, tanks half full, with MONSTER HURRICANE IRMA only days away.

I asked the gas station person if she was expecting a gas delivery. She turned on me like a wounded bear and screamed, "WE AINT GOT NO GAS AND WE AINT EXPECTING ANY!" Have to give the fat pig the benefit of the doubt that she'd had some trouble that day with the million or so people running for their lives. I still wanted punch her in the face.

By now I was pretty nervous. Driving two separate cars when your only communication between are cheap Tracphones that are always losing charge is stressful. Interesting aside - my husband doesn't get stressed out. Probably for the best because of who he married.  But I digress.

Eventually I talked to the second shift gas attendant who begrudgingly informed me they might get another gas tanker in after closing, at 9:00 p.m. So Rich and I pulled out some chairs from our trunk and decided to wait and see. We figured Walmart would get gas if anyone would, and we didn't want to continue our convoluted drive. It was 3:30 in the afternoon.

The tanker did not pull in until 8:30 that night followed by about a thousand cars that had been trailing it down the road. We had waited for five hours at that point and I had made a fool of myself crying in Walmart to the manager, begging her to find out if there was a shelter in the area that took dogs.  There wasn't.

The moment I saw the tanker I jumped into my car, screamed for Rich to get the dogs into his, and we raced to the gas pump. I was first in line, Richie second, and behind us a conga line of cars crowded in, wrapping itself around Walmart and out into the street. It was chaos. The police came to direct everyone, fights broke out, people were hysterical (mostly me). I saw two or three guys wandering around, drugged out of their minds, babbling out loud, angry and screaming. Dunedin is a fun town.

We slept in Walmart parking lot that night, the two cars side by side, the dogs hot and cranky, just like their owners. I kept going into the store all night to charge up phones, buy some water (which was also sold out before. A shipment that came in allowed us two cases each)

In the morning, we cleaned up in the Walmart bathroom then continued on, following directions now given us by one of the aggravated police directing traffic all night. Unfortunately, he was sending us northwest to Pensacola instead of north to Perry Georgia. Or maybe he thought we were going to Perry Florida. I don't know. I don't care. By the early afternoon we realized we had to pick another road and we started to head east again.

We arrived at our motel in Perry Georgia by six that second evening. I was looking forward to a shower and sleep in a real bed (I cannot imagine the horrors in Puerto Rico right now. I was sobbing with losing only one night's sleep to fear) Anyway, despite the fact we had phoned ahead to let them know we'd be a day late the motel had given away our room. Fortunately I didn't not have to strangle the sweet boy behind the desk. He must have seen the burning hatred in my eyes cause they did find us a room on the second floor, right over the office. It wasn't the best, but it was the best we could do.

Now all we had to do was wait for our home to be destroyed back in Florida (Episode 2)

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