2017 has been a challenging year for my family, and that’s putting it mildly. Let’s just say this summer hasn’t been my favorite season. I thought we were done with whatever life had thrown our way until things took another interesting, wild turn when Hurricane Irma decided to attack the entire state of Florida just a couple of weeks ago.
I live on the west or Gulf coast side of the state. Luckily, we don’t see too many hurricanes. The last major hurricane to hit our area was Charley in 2004. Sadly, it took out my childhood home, which had to be torn down to the studs and rebuilt. Thankfully, my parents, who were in the home at the time with our two dogs, some neighbors, and a bunny rabbit, were unharmed.
When we heard about Irma, we watched and waited to see where it would go. We debated the possibility of evacuating. I filled up every water bottle and plastic container we had with water because a week before the storm hit the shelves were empty. (Below is just a small sampling of what I filled up.)
I was able to find “designer” water here and there, which added to our stash. I bought several plastic containers to place our family albums and pictures in so they would have less of a chance of being damaged. We also had our hurricane shutters installed on the water facing side of our house.
On Wednesday we heard that the west coast would only experience tropical storm winds and rain, so we decided we could stay. On Thursday, my friend from the east coast called to ask if the offer to evacuate to our house was still open. It was of course, but unfortunately, just two hours later, the Irma had changed course and we realized we would have to evacuate. My house is on the water and in Zone A. Even though it was 15 feet up, we knew the county would force us out. (They did end up evacuating Zones A & B after we left.)
So, my dad and I began the task of packing ourselves and the family dog up to leave for my sister’s in Atlanta. I hardly remember what I threw in my suitcase, but it was a miss mash of clothes, valuables, and toiletries. I also packed up my electronics, important documents, and Henry (my stuffed animal I’ve had since I was 2).
Next, I gathered Coda’s (our 101 pound Rhodesian Ridgeback) dog food, treats, lease, and blankets, as well as some food and water for the trip.
I also put on my new favorite Okabashi Indigo Canvas Flip-Flops. I knew I would want something comfortable and sturdy for the long, road trip ahead.
American made since 1984, Okabashi sandals and flip-flops are designed with protection and support in mind. In fact, all their footwear is manufactured in Buford, Georgia, which also allows the company to focus on sustainability and lowering their carbon footprint.
My Okabashi Indigo Canvas Flip-Flops are made from a patented plastic blend that ensures their durability and longevity. Let’s face it, when it comes to flip-flop, once you find a comfy pair you want them to last as long as possible. With their durable woven fabric straps and soft neoprene backing, it’s no wonder my Indigo Canvas shoes held up through the long trip, chasing after a dog, and dodging the wind and rain. I also really love that my flip-flops contain 15-25% recycled materials.
WIth my feet in good hands and the car packed we jumped on the road. Little did we know that the usual 8-10-hour drive to Atlanta was about to take us 15. (Thanks Irma for constantly changing course). Every time the GPS would update us, the traffic delay would expand to 3, then 4, then 5+ hours. I wish I had pictures to show you how many cars were on I75 and how crowded the rest stops were along the way. Since I did most of the driving, I’m was not to capture the organized chaos, but I do have a picture that my cousin sent me. It gives a small idea of what approximately 7 million people having to evacuate from an entire state looks like.
Now imagine all of those cars also needing to get gas along the way. We literally had to come up with a tactic for finding and getting gas, which involved filling up anytime we pulled off the road to switch drivers or let Coda out.
It was pure insanity but we got lucky. The first place we tried allowed us to fill up five gallons, and later when we opted to take the back roads to avoid the traffic, we found gas again in Valdosta, GA. I was so tired by then that I had to ask the lady behind the counter to tell me where I was. With enough gas to make it the rest of the way and a tip to continue on the back roads we drove on.
Although the trip was harrowing and so, so, so long, it did provide some amusement. This mostly came from Coda. It was the poor thing’s first time taking a long road trip and being in a sedan instead of the usual SUV. Seeing the reactions of people when this behemoth of a dog emerged from the back seat was hilarious. One lady actually thought I had a deer on a lease. Yes, he is that big. At one point Coda did try to make a break for it across a gas station parking lot. Not sure where he thought he was going. Thankfully, my Okabashi shoes helped me make the mad dash after him.
As we finally pulled into my sister’s driveway 15 hours later, I felt a sense of relief. Since it was 6 something in the morning we were greeted by the whole crew, including my dogphew, nephew, and niece. They were so excited to see us. I thought, finally, we can relax and spend some time with the munchkins. Unfortunately, our adventure had yet ended.
Dear old Irma, keep changing course. I checked in with my friend in South Florida, she was fine. We tried to persuade friends from our hometown to also come to Atlanta. They luckily found places to evacuate or staid safely at home. Finally, I watched as Irma turned up toward the middle of the state where my best friend and family lived. I had to text my BFF to let her know what was happening because they were already without power. (Below are some of the text messages I sent her of the storm.)
I kept an eye on our front door camera to see what was happening at home until our power went out. We tuned into the news to find out when Irma would come to visit Georgia. When the governor announced no one should be on the road, and all schools and most businesses would be closed, we became a bit concerned.
Tropical Storm Irma came a-knocking on Monday morning. It was a bit unnerving but not too bad until later in the day when we heard three loud pops and then darkness. We really didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. We had left Florida to avoid this precise issue. Turns out, several trees in my sister’s area had fallen on power lines knocking the power out for thousands. My six-year-old nephew proclaimed it was the worst day of his life because there was no internet. The kid has his priorities.
In the interim, our power came back on at home and my dad and I began to make plans to return home after discovering our house, and our town had been spared. It was really a miracle because just 30 miles south and east of us everything was under water and without power.
After spending Tuesday at a hotel, we decided to make the long drive home on Wednesday. Again, I wore my Okabashi Flip Flops. They served me well on the 12-hour return trip, which consisted of a mix of highway and back roads. We needed all the luck we could get to find gas and hopefully avoid missing the closing of roads because of the overflow of the Santa Fe River near Gainesville (North Central Florida).
Coda didn’t try to escape this time. Instead, he slept most of the way home, occasionally stinking up the car with his tummy troubles. For some reason, he refused to go to the bathroom during breaks. I can only imagine what people thought of me standing there saying, “Go poop. Go poop,” over and over to our confused dog.
When we finally saw the “Welcome to Florida” sign hours later, we rejoiced. This was later followed by more exclamations of happiness at the site of home as we pulled into the driveway.
My sister finally got power back on Thursday. Both of us had to throw out most, if not all, of the food in our refrigerators and freezers. My dad needs a new roof on the house and some of the screen from the pool was ripped out and off. Irma added to the problems we were already experiencing with the roof. But all in all, we got lucky. We wouldn’t have to rebuild the house again. You can still see trees and some debris piled up around the county and some standing water, but not much else.
Others in Florida and the islands weren’t so fortunate. Some people lost everything. Many still don’t have power even as I write this post. More storms are wreaking havoc or waiting in the pipeline. I’ve already donated some supplies to help those struggling, and I hope to do more. Perhaps I’ll donate some Okabashi Indigo Flip Flops because they work great in the hot Florida sun and in the wet, tropical storm-induced weather of Atlanta.
Have you been impacted by this year’s hurricanes? Have you tried Okabashi Flip-Flops?