Shelter in Place was the buzzword of the 2012 Hurricane season. I’m not sure where it came from because we used to just call it “riding it out,” which is what happened for every hurricane of my childhood. My first evacuation experience wasn’t until I was a freshman in college, for Hurricane Georges. Since then, hurricanes have brought a mix of riding it out, evacuating, and for Hurricane Katrina I “evacu-cated,” that is, left town on August 28th on a long-planned post-bar exam vacation thinking the storm was headed elsewhere, only to discover that it had a bullseye on my hometown and was subsequently stuck on a cruise ship for the next week with limited access to information (exactly as much fun as it sounds). Despite my variety of hurricane experiences, 2012 brought my first hurricane as a mother and the responsibility of children added another dimension to the question of whether or not to evacuate.
When considering what to do, safety of our family was the primary concern. Because the storm was predicted to make landfall as less than a Category 3 storm, and because my house is newer, located well above sea level and most of the trees that were close to the house were taken care of by Hurricane Katrina, my husband and I felt comfortable with staying as an option. We also balanced the inconvenience of potentially being out of power with 21 month old twins with the inconvenience of packing up all of things associated with kids, along with all the things associated with evacuating, and then being in a hotel room in the middle of nowhere with two toddlers. When I logged onto Facebook and Twitter to see what the local chatter was about the storm, I saw many other parents asking the same question: is it harder to evacuate with small children or ride out a hurricane with small children? Neither option sounds pleasant and that’s assuming that the worst outcome of it all is losing power and not any of the multitude of terrible things that we all know can happen during a hurricane.
The Sunday before Isaac hit, we made the judgment call that we were going to ride it out at home (err. . . shelter in place). We spent the day running around and getting supplies (along with everyone else in Mandeville and Covington, it seemed) and wondering – are we doing the right thing by staying? We tried to plan for as many contingencies as we could and, as the storm moved in on Tuesday night, we thought we were reasonably prepared for what was to come. It didn’t seem much worse than a regular rain storm at that point, so, imagine my surprise when I woke up at 2am to an eerie quiet and a perfectly still ceiling fan. We were out of power way sooner than I anticipated would happen (so much for betting on underground power lines when they aren’t underground on the next street over). This hurricane thing was getting real. The next morning, during a break in the rain, we ended up moving everyone to my mom’s house (about 5 minutes away), after discovering she had power. And then, when the power went out at her house that night, we figured we’d go back to our house on Thursday, because at least we have a gas cooktop (read: we could boil water to make coffee) and the babies could be in their own house and sleep in their own cribs, and have all of their toys and books to distract them from the change in routine. We went back to our house, made arrangements to borrow a generator from my in-laws and, literally 5 minutes after getting it hooked up, we discovered power had been restored at my mom’s house. So we reevacuated (evacuated in place?), only to have power return at our house on Friday afternoon. So much for not having to pack everyone up and move…
By Saturday, life was mostly back to normal at our house and for that, I consider myself extremely fortunate. In hindsight, I still think we made the right choice to stay, despite the inconveniences and game of musical houses, but, going forward, the lessons we learned will help us make the decision of whether or not to evacuate in the future. I’m not going to judge a storm only by its category anymore–Isaac was a Category 1 storm but it caused more flooding than I (or I think anyone) expected and we were lucky to not be affected. I’ve learned that my kids are more flexible than I give them credit for–part of not wanting to evacuate was I didn’t want to disrupt their world and their routine but they handled it with aplomb (even if at one point during my daughter did inform me she was going shopping for lights, because she was clearly done with hanging out in the dark). And, now that I have learned these lessons, I hope I don’t have to apply them or learn any more hurricane related life lessons for a
long, long time.
What did you do for Isaac? How has it affected how you are going to handle hurricanes going forward?