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I'm a Mom of 3 Preparing for Hurricane Irma and I'm Terrified

Photograph by Twenty20

As I sit on my boys’ bedroom floor in an attempt to pack their clothes and other necessary belongings, I find myself in a paralyzed state. Completely zoned out, I can’t help but to stare out the window, watching our neighbors put up their hurricane shutters. Every thought is running through my head as I wonder what the next few days or even week will bring and how this storm could affect our lives.

Coming off the heels of Hurricane Harvey, Irma is already reported as one of the most powerful, intense Atlantic hurricanes on record—currently set at a category 5 with sustained winds of approximately 185 miles an hour. Seeing and hearing stories surrounding the aftermath of Harvey only solidifies the importance of readiness, but can you ever fully be prepared to experience something so catastrophic?

The uncertainty of what’s to come is disconcerting, to say the least. Will we evacuate and leave our lives behind? Will we stay and potentially endure a horrific natural disaster that could leave us without water or power for an unexpected period of time?

In preparation to potentially brave the storm, my day was filled running around town in an effort to gather supplies. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one with this mission in mind. I was shocked at the frantic crowds of people and the complete chaos I was greeted with at every location. Never-ending lines were extending out the doors into parking lots. Carts were in desperate need. Parking spots were nonexistent. Water simply could not be found.

I've never felt this type of uneasiness, almost fearful and panic-stricken in a way that’s indescribable. Unless you’ve experienced it firsthand, I’m not sure you can fully understand. Surrounded by complete distress, it almost became contagious as I was overcome with adrenaline and a deep desperation to get my hands on water for my family.

When I finally did find a line, an hour wait only yielded me a ration of two gallons of water. Mind you, I'm a family of five which includes three children under the age of four. With a recommendation of one gallon daily per person for three to seven days, that's nowhere near enough to allow us to survive days, let alone weeks, without access to fresh water. Even trying to get gas became an impossible task, turning gas stations into parking lots and some locations running out completely.

Supplies will most likely be replenished as this was just a lack of inventory unable to withhold this initial massive influx of demand. My husband will search for water before work tomorrow and I'll try again, but I still can't help but feel an underlying anxiety.

Was everyone being overcautious, especially after witnessing the disastrous effects of Harvey? Was the news hyping it up? Maybe it's best my family and I don't stay to find out. With each passing minute, the seriousness to the situation is heightened, increasing our potential for leaving.

When we return, will there be anything to return to? Will we return to a flooded, destroyed house reduced to a rubble of what used to be a welcoming abode?

As I run through a ridiculously long list of everything that needs to be packed and prepared, one thing remains true—my commitment to keeping my children and family safe. The potential for Hurricane Irma to hit southern Florida and my home isn't something I take lightly.

Currently, the storm is too far away to predict its projected path, leaving all of us in anticipation of where it will impact and at what strength. In the upcoming days, my eyes will be glued to anything reporting the current state of the storm as our family waits to decide where we will be the safest.

If an evacuation is necessary, what will make the cut of high importance to bring with us? In my initial packing, I tried really hard to think of what was absolutely crucial to pack. Besides the essentials—clothing, vital documents and whatever necessities to live off of—nothing else came to mind. Of course, I’m restricted to the limits of what can fit into my super sweet minivan, but in all honesty, even if I had the space of a semi truck or more, nothing is more important than my family.

The decision to evacuate is an easy one, if it guarantees my family’s safety and welfare, but I still find myself grappling with the widest range of emotions when thinking about leaving our home and lives behind.

When we return, will there be anything to return to? Will we return to a flooded, destroyed house reduced to a rubble of what used to be a welcoming abode? Never having gone through anything remotely this catastrophic, I wouldn’t even know where to begin in repairing and restarting.

Putting my own feelings aside, if I’m having difficulty navigating through these emotions and the potential disaster before us, I worry about the emotional impact this could have on my children. They may be young, but they are very intuitive and aware of what’s going on around them. When parents feel stressed and are deep in concern, they notice. When big changes are happening, they notice. Initially, my kids may perceive an evacuation as a vacation or getaway, not truly understanding—but if we return to complete devastation, the vacation will be over.

I may not need to have a serious, heavy conversation, but it’s still necessary I offer some explanation to what’s going on. I’m still concerned with abating their fears and worries while reassuring them that everything will be okay. If we return to a pile of debris, I'll need to explain what happened to their stuff, toys and belongings they hold dear.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. That is what I’ll be practicing in the next few days. If we decide to leave, we may return to potentially nothing. It's true what they say, though: Stuff can be replaced.

Pre-kids, I’d probably be concerned with some memory-filled belongings, precious family pictures or some other sentimental treasure I’ve collected and hoarded throughout the years. Now? All I can focus on is ensuring the safety of my children and our family. Nothing more.

If need be, we’ll start new and move into another house. We can buy more things to fill our home. What’s important is my husband and my three kids. That’s my entire life. That’s what’s truly important.

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