I remember my parents talking about “packing” for a “storm” and prepping the house for when we “evacuate.” At 9 years old, I didn’t understand what was going on.
My dad was on the phone discussing whether to take our boats out to the bay and anchor them there for the storm or securing them on the dock. He had decided to leave them docked and lined the dock with as many defenders as possible. I couldn’t understand why he stressing so much if it was just a storm.
While my mom packed clothes, food and bottled water into suitcases, my dad was putting all our lawn furniture into the pool and brought the grill inside. Everything they were doing continued to baffle me.
I watched all this preparation while feeling completely paralyzed with fear. I was afraid of lightning. During night storms, when the house would get illuminated with light from the lightning, I would hold my breath until I heard thunder. I knew thunder was a result of lightning and hearing it solidified that that one lightning had passed and I was safe. So the idea of my parents preparing the house to this extent for a storm made me wonder how much lighting was in store.
A knock at the door threw me into a panic. All this prep to the house and now a police officer was knocking to order us to evacuate.
I remember hearing my parents discuss wanting to evacuate to a friends’ house in Fort Lauderdale, but since Andrew was predicted to go north, we evacuated south, to another friends’ house in Kendall.
We were three families in one small house with a bunch of kids I had known for as long as I can remember. I had brought my turtle with me, but I had to leave her in the screened-in patio. My dad let me go to check on her just once “because the weather was getting worst.” Andrew had made a turn to the south and was coming straight toward us.
I stood outside and watched the clouds zip by at a speed I had never witnessed before. It was quiet and even though the clouds were moving fast, there wasn’t any wind on the ground. None of the trees were swaying. I forgot about my fear of lightning and stared at the gray clouds and their mesmerizing speed.
I finally had to go back inside. All of the windows were boarded up and my parents made it a point to distract me and my little brother. They didn’t want us to hear all the noise the wind caused outside and get scared. But when the lights went out, I knew this wasn’t an ordinary storm. My dad had explained how a hurricane works and he tried to reassure me that the wind was a bigger concern than the lightning.
I remember laying in bed with my little brother fast asleep next to me. I squeezed his hand anticipating the first lightning that would illuminate the room, but since the windows were boarded up, I never saw it. I just listened to the whistling wind until I fell asleep.
The next morning changed my perspective on storms and ignited my fascination with natural disasters and specifically hurricanes. On our drive home, I spotted a traffic light on the ground. It was massive and it looked to be almost my size. A storm could knock something that big down?
Luckily, we got home to find very little damage. Our Chris-Craft got the worst of it when its tarp was ripped apart. Shredded, as if a giant dog had gotten to it. The wind could do that?
At that age, I wasn’t allowed to watch the news, but I just had to sneak a peek and see what had happened. I saw video of one person’s boat in their neighbors’ pool. I saw someone else’s pool filled with fish that the flooded intracoastal left behind. Seeing all the destruction caused me to start asking questions. Where does wind come from? How are hurricanes formed? What fuels them? With every answer I learned, my fascination and respect for hurricanes grew.
I was perfectly safe during Andrew and am grateful for my parents taking all the necessary precautions to ensure our safety.