Hurricane Irma: The Panic Before the Storm

No water anywhere….

Like many Floridians, I woke up and finally took notice of Irma. We have hurricanes all the time here, and they don’t become topics of conversation until they hit Cat 3. We’ve all been watching Houston… remembering Ivan and Opal. We haven’t been watching our backs.

Over night, Irma grew into a Cat 5 hurricane and had turned towards us. She had grown into a monstrosity of a storm that looked capable of blotting out the entire state. Does the storm path matter when it has grown into a titan? Perhaps I should get some extra water and review our hurricane plans, I thought.

I started getting nervous when I went to our Walmart and found the parking lot full with only a few empty spaces left towards the edge. Inside, crowds of people were snatching up food and camping equipment. I turned into the water aisle to find people lined up to guard empty shelves. They look like they’d been waiting awhile.

“Are you all waiting for water?” I asked a tired looking woman. She nodded without looking at me. Why is it that we tend to shy away from each other in pre-disaster times? After a disaster we all bond and turn into besties—unless we’re looting each other. In the still moments before the crisis, many people become islands of fear.

Got our supplies.

She informed me that all the water was gone, everywhere. She had called around—no nearby stores had any water at all. She said she was just going to wait here until the next delivery. The last one had been three hours ago. The shelves were stripped clean in 10 minutes. She looked terrified.

“I guess we’ll just have to fill our bathtubs,” I said. I was joking. We don’t have a bathtub. She shook her head no.

“Mine is a mess,” she said. “We can’t drink out of it.” I thought about that. If it were me, I think I’d just clean it, but maybe she meant it was a mess in a different way. Maybe it was lined with lead paint. You know me… for a minute I wondered if she might be a serial killer. Why else would you just not clean your tub?

“I guess we could just see if there are any pitchers and jugs for sale,” I said. “Maybe just fill them up with tap water? It’s still okay to drink.” Her eyes lit up and she pushed her way out of line without even saying good bye. I’m thinking to go buy all the jugs and pitchers and fill them with tap water.

And here is the moral of my story: Don’t freak out. Yes, a colossal hurricane is heading this way. The potential for direct impact is possible. It’s going to be bad, wherever it hits…BUT…the storm will take at least three days to hit the Panhandle, where we are.

Cheeky isn’t worried.

We have time to prepare, to help each other out, to make plans. In three days, you still have enough time to evacuate by hitch hiking. Slow down and take the time to think about what is your most effective course of action.

A side note:  Not everyone can evacuate. We can’t afford a hotel for a week for the three of us and our two dogs, not that there are any hotels left within two states. When I was getting gas (also mad lines) I witnessed a pair who looked like their car could barely make it around the block. How can those guys evacuate? So please, no more judgement for people who don’t evacuate. Some people don’t have the choice.

As for us, we are staying here. I lived through Ivan. I evacuated. We were stuck in traffic jams all the way up to Montgomery, Alabama. People ran out of gas and got stranded on the road for the storm. There was no food anywhere. Thank goodness I brought a lifetime supply of peanut better and bread. I had four kids and a dog with me and the only food on the road was spoiled salads at one McDonald’s.

This time, we are going to weather the storm at the SpaceBox Storage where I keep an office. The place is built like a fortress. Hurricane glass, thick concrete and steel seem safer than our little RVs or driving around looking for hotels and wasting gas. We stocked it today for us and the dogs. I think we’ll be fine.

I know we’ve barely been able to absorb the shock of Houston, and here is another disaster. I ask for prayers, light and love from everyone for all of us here and in Houston. I ask that we remember that above all, we are stronger when we work with each other. I’ll try to stay in touch.

We will weather the storm.

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher and author. Her first collection of poetry, In Favor of Pain, was nominated for an 2017 Elgin Award. Her latest novella, Bitter Suites, is a 2018 Bram Stoker Awards® Finalist. Currently, she publishes Space and Time magazine, a 53 year old publication dedicated to fantasy, horror and science fiction. For more information visit or
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