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My First Hurricane Experience - Hurricane Matthew - Tips for others

We moved to the Daytona Beach area 10 years ago. While we have lived in other areas and have experienced blizzards, earthquakes, flash floods, and tropical storms, Hurricane Matthew was our first hurricane experience. Here are some of my observations from my own experience and from speaking with friends about their experience with Hurricane Matthew.

Preparation. As the news began urging people to prepare for the hurricane, we took them serious and began to prepare as well. I went to the store, where I stocked up on non-perishable foods. I found that people love to stock up on bread. The bread aisle (pictured) was bare. I figure they must be eating a lot of PBJ sandwiches. I went for things like the dried plums, trail mix, cereal bars, etc. Pictured is what I stocked up on for the hurricane, in addition to fresh fruit that is not pictured.



Boarding up. Whether people are evacuating the area or not, it's a good idea to board up the windows if you don't have hurricane shutters or covers. My husband worked very hard to find enough plywood to cover our windows, and then did the work to get it all up. In the future, we will have something that is ready to go and custom fit for the windows. That way, when it's time to prepare we can just pull it out of the garage and put it up, making it easy. Believe me, when that wind starts hitting your window you will wish you had done something to cover the windows.


Generators. Many people want and need generators when power goes out (and it will go out during the hurricane). You have to exercise caution using them. They can kill you if you are not careful with them. Plus, I heard some of my friends who didn't have power complaining that their neighbor was using a generator that had fumes coming into their home, choking them. Generators can be very loud and stinky, so please be cautious and respectful to your neighbors. 

Sandbags. Get some sandbags, even if you think you won't need them. At the least, have them ready to go in your garage in the event water starts coming in under the door. We got sandbags and put them in various places that we thought water may be able to make its way through. Once the storm has passed, you can get rid of the sandbags by taking them back to where you go them, or dumping the sand in your yard and disposing of the bags.


Neighbors. If you don't yet know your neighbors, now is the time to make the introduction. It's a time that people need to help each other to prepare, as well as to clean up after it's come and gone. I had half a dozen neighbors who had evacuated who were messaging me to see how their homes looked like they were holding up. It may bring you some comfort (or them) if that line of communication has been established. We don't have a saw, but my husband worked with our neighbor, and together they cut wood and boarded up both homes' windows.

Phones. Keep your phone charged all the way until the power goes out. That way, you will have a full battery. Use it sparingly, because you don't know when you will get power back on. Once the storm passes, you can charge your phone in your car, but you can't during the storm. I wanted updated on where the hurricane was, but the places I signed up for seemed to be sending out limited repeated information. So my sister, who is in Tallahassee, messed me updated info, including the picture below. I knew right where the hurricane was and when. I'm glad I had that info sent to me periodically, so I didn't have to go searching for it and waste my phone battery (our power went out at 6:40 am that morning).


Shelters. All day Thursday (the hurricane was expected to hit Friday morning), we had planned on staying home during it. At first, most of the neighbors I knew were as well. Then one by one, they all began to change their mind and get out of dodge. They packed up their things and were hitting the road to evacuate. I gave one of my neighbors a ride the shelter at a local school at 2:30. The news had been warning to be where you planned to be during the hurricane by 5:00 pm. When I dropped them off I decided that we would go to the shelter. We had to go back home and get our things and finish up a little preparation of the house, but I figured if we got into the shelter then it was meant to be, and if we didn't, then it wasn't meant to be. Well, at 4:00 we went back up to the shelter and it was full, as were the others. So it wasn't meant to be. We stayed home, and I'm glad that we did. We were more comfortable, and the friend I had dropped off there said it was a horrible experience being there. Moral of the story is that if you will be going to a shelter during the hurricane, get there early or you may not get in at all. Also, take food, an air mattress, a blanket, folding chair, and something to do to pass the hours on end. 

Pets. We really thought our cat would be freaked out once the hurricane was passing through. But it was the opposite! For some reason, she was really curious about it all and kept laying at the back porch door watching it unfold outside. I was happy about that. I was also shocked to see so many birds still out flying around in the hurricane and many ducks out in the retention pond behind our house.


Experience. What I found is that those who evacuated the area came back to tell us how the hurricane wasn't so bad and downplay it all. I found that kind of interesting, since they were not here to actually experience it. One look around at all of the damage, the many downed trees, shingles blown off just about every home, screened porches ruined, etc., and it's clear to see that we had more than a little storm come through. It could have been much worse, and I'm grateful it wasn't. But don't get caught up in comparing your experience of being in the storm with those who watched it on the news from a hotel room on the other side of the state, or who were in a shelter and couldn't even hear the storm outside of it. Everyone's experience is different, especially for those who stayed in their homes.

VCM. I tried to use the Volusia County Moms Facebook page to help people get all of the information they needed, regardless of what it was about. I posted information about where to get sandbags, the local shelter information, and much more. People were able to get access to the information they needed on the page, and it also became a place where numerous discussions took place where people saw how others were thinking and feeling throughout preparation, during the hurricane, and throughout the days that followed during the cleanup page.

There's a bit of my experience with Hurricane Matthew in a nutshell. It was interesting to say the least. I'm impressed and grateful for all the people who worked during the storm because they had jobs that help others, including police, fire, medical, emergency management, etc. I drove around the county yesterday and everywhere I look I see some kind of damage. There are an incredible amount of trees that were brought down, debris everywhere, and more. I look forward to when it's all back in order and everyone is back to their normal routines. My heart goes out to those who lost more than some shingles, and there were many of them that did. 

 - Jacqueline Bodnar


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