We are taking a Panama Canal cruise in January. Good news! I’m pretty confident it will be a hurricane free cruise! At least, I think we can promise that. Hurricane season is typically August through November when tropical storms are fueled by warm waters. A November hurricane is unlikely with cooling waters. I recently took a crash course in hurricanes, so I know things.
Last year at this time, after much research and twelve years of dreaming and planning, Rhonda and I took our long-awaited first steps toward making sure we did not have to spend another winter with snow drifts over our heads. This tends to occur at our house in Sioux City. We finally decided to turn snow piles into palm trees. We made a deposit on a winter escape residence under construction in Florida.
We closed on July 29, just in time for hurricane season. On September 24, I boarded a last-minute flight to Florida and potentially into the “eye of the storm.” There was much to do, I had to take in the outdoor furniture, install the hurricane shutters, load up on food, batteries, ice, flashlights, and first aid kits. I had to put together my “go-bag,” figure out where the shelters were, prepare my checklists and review my insurance. Sure glad I insured that lanai, wish it were not too late to add flood insurance. Friends assured me when I landed the storm was moving offshore and while that was not great news for the panhandle, we were going to be fine.
When I was not battening down the hatches, I was watching the weather. It is 24 hours a day on most of the channels with a hurricane headed at the target on your back. Over the course of the week, Hurricane Ian kept bending south and just for a time, not so much before landfall, we were dead center in the eye. I had my “go bag” and I had my car packed. Several times I wheeled the bag to the door and stopped just short of jumping in the car. My wife, boys, and sister were not happy with me, but my choices were to head north toward my son in Atlanta with an interstate choked with traffic, head across the desolate state center towards the east coast but face numerous and unpredictable tornados, or head to a shelter, most of which were at a lower elevation than me. It is easy to say flee, but a hurricane is a moving and unpredictable target, and I could easily have been fleeing safety and headed for danger. Things you learn in a hurricane.
As I gave up on my last walk to the car with the go bag, I lost power and the weather forecast, I loaded my mattress into the master closet. I did that just until the roof leaked directly on my head. I repositioned into the master bath, donned my bike helmet, read by lamp light, and dined on cold chicken wings and pretzels. I listened to the wind and the rain for ten hours. I have been in the basement a few times for tornadoes, but a hurricane just does not quit. It goes on and on and on.
Ian came in at category four and bent a little further south. We ended up being on the northern edge of the eye. We had the second most rainfall in the state at over fourteen inches. Our street flooded, we had a small leak, a tree was bent over, but overall we faired well. Numerous signs, fences and trees were cracked off or blown over. Many people lost roofing or lanai screening. 100-year-old trees could not withstand a 500-year storm. Trees are the most visible reminder of the long cleanup ahead here. As I drove to a home improvement store just a few miles south, I dodged trees, rode through water, and waited in line with the many there to buy chainsaws, generators, roofing materials, and water. Lives were forever changed. I felt both guilty and blessed all at the same time. Our hearts break for the people of Fort Myers, Naples, and Sanibel where we often vacationed and originally targeted for our winter residence.
Rhonda often talks about a song and a melody coming into her head. My lack of musical talent is legendary, but for the first time ever, laying on that bathroom floor a song did. It was the Christian song, “Eye of the Storm” by Ryan Stevenson. The first chorus goes like this.
In the eye of the storm
You remain in control
And in the middle of the war
You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor
When my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me
In the eye of the storm
I do not really know how to explain it. When I ran out of places to run and realized I was not in control (but I knew someone who was), I had an incredible peace. In spite of the raging storm above my roof, I took great comfort.
Perhaps you have not been in a literal hurricane, but let us be honest, we all have. Work is going bad, a relationship is on the ropes, your finances are in a shambles, your diagnosis is terrible, a loved one is dying, a child is struggling with the hard lessons of this life. You feel there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. I learned your safe place is not a place at all, but a person. The next time you are in a hurricane, run to him and take shelter there. I have been through a hurricane, I know things.
28 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. 29 He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea[a] were hushed. 30 They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.