Hit by a hurricane

Howdy, folks. First off, let me just say that I am trying to get this blog a bit more organized. So, I thought that on the weekends I would focus on stories from my past so you can get to know me a bit better. Then, during the week, I’ll try to focus on things I’m doing to change myself.

From 2013 to 2018, I lived in Beaufort, S.C. Beaufort is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and if you ever get a chance (after the pandemic!), you should visit. Two of my favorite spots were the downtown waterfront and Hunting Island State Park, which is the most beautiful beach I’ve ever visited.

So, with living on the coast comes the danger of getting hit with tropical weather. Tropical storms were fairly common and, while they did cause some damage and flooding, they weren’t devastating. In 2016, Tropical Storm Hermine made her appearance, and I was in my apartment when she hit. Lots of wind and rain. I ventured outside — the apartment building’s hallways were outside and covered, so I wasn’t standing under trees or anything — and I could hear trees cracking. Then CRASH! A very large tree that was right outside my apartment fell. No one was hurt. In fact, I was excited about it because it gave me the most beautiful view. (And there were fewer bugs in my apartment and fewer birds waking me up.)

Not the best before and after, but at left is during Tropical Storm Hermine. At right is the view a few months after the tree fell. I didn’t miss that tree.

So, Hermine was absolutely nothing compared to what came just a month later. Hurricane Matthew. Oh man, what a weird, weird time. I remember obsessively looking at the forecast as Matthew formed. I remember the first time we were in the projected path. I remember lots of panicking. Before the storm hit, work — I worked at The Island Packet & Beaufort Gazette, two newspapers based in Bluffton — had plans in place. A co-worker and I were the only folks at the time who handled the print product (the rest was handled by a design hub), and we were told we would be working out of the office in Columbia.

I was really worried about finding a place to go for evacuation since I had a cat. So, this co-worker did a really awesome thing: She introduced me to two of her friends who live in Columbia and had a guest room where I could stay with my cat. And those two folks let me stay there. That was one of the nicest things that anyone has ever done for me. I will never forget it. Those same folks let me stay again a year later when another hurricane threatened the coast. (I’m not identifying folks in case they don’t want to be identified. But they know who they are, and they are still awesome.)

So, now it’s a couple days before the hurricane is supposed to hit. I honestly can’t remember the exact times or days; some of it is kind of a blur. I am packing my bags, reading the tips on how to evacuate, making sure I’ve got all my important papers, medicine, cat stuff. I even put photo albums in my car. I had no idea what to expect, so I tried to plan for my apartment being obliterated. My apartment complex was right next to the Broad River, so it was in a high-risk area for flooding. I lived on the third floor, but who knows what could happen? I even put all my DVDs in plastic trash bags to try to protect from rain in case the roof blew off. I really over-prepared, but better that than under-preparing.

So, I get up before dawn on the day that I am heading out to evacuate — I wanted to leave before the state put the roads into hurricane mode, which includes lane reversals and closures. And I am loading my car. And I guess I decided life wasn’t stressful enough, and I decided to fall down the stairs. Now, it was only a couple stairs, but they were concrete. Aaaaaand, I was in pain. Oh man. I sat at the bottom of those steps wondering what on earth I could do. My big toe on my right foot was in so much pain. It was broken. I BROKE MY TOE DURING A HURRICANE EVACUATION. I had no idea what to do. Couldn’t go to the hospital or doctor; they were evacuating too. So, after who knows how long of just dying on the ground, I managed to get up, suck it up and finish loading my car.

You know what is not awesome? Driving for two hours on a broken toe. So, I finally get to the house of those awesome people I mentioned earlier, and the first thing I have to ask is if I could get some ice for my toe. “Hey, nice to meet you! I broke my toe!” What a weird first impression, I’m sure.

So, I got all settled in, then went to work over at The State newspaper in Columbia. They had us all set up to work, and personally I think things job-wise went really smoothly. They provided lunch and dinner every day, so that was nice.

I remember being insanely obsessed with watching the Weather Channel, especially the night the hurricane hit the coast. It hit on Oct. 8, 2016. It was so devastating to Beaufort County. The amount of trees that fell was just mind-boggling. It was amazing that there were any trees left. Houses were crushed, roads were flooded, Hunting Island was practically destroyed, access to the outer islands was gone. Somehow, no one was killed in Beaufort County. Sadly, that wasn’t the case elsewhere. Columbia was hit as well, with lots of wind. A big tree fell down the road where I was staying. (I have pretty much no photos of the aftermath. For some reason I have a bunch of photos of my broken toe, but no one wants to see that. Gross.)

I don’t really have any photos of the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. This was the only one I could find.

When I finally got to go home, I was really worried. I had heard nothing about my apartment complex, and I just couldn’t get in contact with anyone to find anything out. So, I had no idea what I was driving home to. There was just so much debris on the roads, and as I got closer and closer to home, there was more and more damage and devastation. Thankfully, when I made it back, the worst thing was that the power was out.

The power was out at my apartment for five days; I was there for three of those. That awesome co-worker I mentioned earlier let me borrow some cell-phone battery chargers, so I least had a cell phone. But let me tell you if you don’t already know: That kind of darkness is an extra special kind of darkness. It was October, so the days were short. When the sun was gone, it was SO DARK. I basically just went to bed because there wasn’t really anything else I could do.

So, while this was a crazy stressful time, I was SO LUCKY. I had friends who helped me with a place to stay with my cat. I was able to work the whole time. Many people in the county could not, and they were living paycheck to paycheck. It was a really hard time for those people, and many of them had to move elsewhere. I safely evacuated and returned home. My apartment was intact. Overall, I ended up with a freezer full of stinky, rotten meat and a broken toe. It makes for an interesting story and a blog entry.

Until next time!

The Frazzled Daisy

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