Stuck in Florida During Hurricane Irma


Credit: Wikimedia Commons

My sister was beginning her freshman year of college, and to help her settle in my whole family and I went with her to Boston. Once we left Boston, my dad decided we would go to Miami for the upcoming holiday. We arrived Monday, and by Tuesday night it was impossible to find a channel on TV that was not talking about hurricane Irma. Although it was clear the hurricane would hit Miami, it was not clear at what magnitude. I stupidly thought that everyone was overreacting.

On our presumed last day in Miami, our flight back to São Paulo was canceled and our hotel forced everyone to evacuate. My dad unsuccessfully spent hours trying to get a flight out of Miami to literally anywhere else on Earth, he gave up and we decided our best option was Orlando. Since Miami Beach was officially an evacuation area, a trip that would have usually lasted three hours lasted over eight. Everyone was leaving Miami with cars filled to the brim with food, furniture, and other amenities.

The hotel was filled with people checking in last minute, and perhaps the silver lining of the hurricane: all the people who were evacuating brought their dogs. I wish  I could say that by then I was officially scared of the hurricane, but overreacting was still the word my dad and I used to describe the situation. The day before the hurricane was predicted to arrive, my family and I visited a Publix (a grocery store).There never was much movement in the store, but that night it was full of people who had filled their carts with enough canned food to prepare for an apocalypse.

From the moment I woke up Sunday until the moment I went to sleep it rained. Orlando was practically a ghost town, everyone was in their homes and every store, park, bank, and the restaurant were closed. All the guests spent the day in the hotel and places like dog relief centers, child daycare, and lunch areas were improvised to fit hundreds of people at a time. I wasn’t fully aware of the gravity of the hurricane because it didn’t directly affect me. Irma’s main destruction  was the tearing down of homes, businesses, flooding cities and essentially wrecking the inhabitants lives. My life, on the other hand, was halfway across the world. I didn’t have a home or business to be torn apart, and as soon as the storm was over I was on my way out.

On  Sunday night  the worst part of the storm was about to begin. As I talked to my friend in the living room area, I could hear loud thuds on my windows. When I looked out all I saw was rain and palm trees swinging heavily looking as though they might fall and break any second. This was when I finally understood the magnitude of the storm and feared it might affect me after all. It was one of those moments where you know you won’t be harmed, but there is still a possibility, and it’s terrifying. I was staying at a new hotel that was well prepared for natural disasters and the hurricane was only a category one, but I was still scared. My worry grew when my dad saw a beam that supported my room’s window was broken and flailing about. That’s when my dad started to do what he does best at times of stress: complain.

“I knew it! I knew it, from the moment we arrived at the hotel these beams would cause nothing but trouble. What kind of second-rate artichect thought of this?”

To which my mom replied in a soothing voice,  “Calm down Leo, the beams probably won’t do anything, but just in case why don’t we go to the lobby?”

I, who was quiet during this entire conversation, finally answered my mom with a simple “yes” and opened the door of the hotel the room. The rest of the night was spent in the hotel lobby, waiting out the worst part of the storm. The day after the hurricane, there was a decent amount of debris, but there were no floods or fallen trees everywhere.

Being from Brazil never in my life did I think I would experience any kind of natural disaster, and I wish I hadn’t. The whole point of the Miami trip was to have fun, but everyone in my family couldn’t help but wonder: if this was only a category one, what about the places that were hit with a category five?