I grew up in Florida from the age of 12 until I went to college. I also came back often while in college and we go back every single year for summer and Christmas to see our family.
The Florida panhandle boasts gorgeous white sandy beaches, relaxed life and a kindness from the locals you only find in the south.
I went to school in Tampa and my life existed within the perimeter of the University of South Florida Dance and Theatre Department. My roommate and I woke up to an alligator on our front step one morning… making us late to our 8am ballet class. Traffic stopped on the interstate because of a massive bull alligator chillin on the 4 lane highway and hurricanes were part of our seasonal everyday.
Floridians take and don’t take hurricanes seriously. Kinda like the gators… there are there… everywhere… you just work around them.
I’m worried about my mom, grandma and in-laws in Florida. There are safely tucked away in the Florida Panhandle… a place that I like to refer to as… every hurricane comes right for them!
Have you ever stood in the middle of the ‘eye’ of the hurricane? It’s pretty spectacular. Around all this chaos of heavy screaming winds, sideways rain and darkness comes the pure bright blue calm of the eye of the storm. It’s beautiful. Or how about those moments before the storm starts and every single thing is absolutely S T I L L eerie and stunning. The ‘calm before the storm’ is what they call it.
- When I was in high school my anatomy teacher would skip school on days before the hurricane so he could go surfing. It was almost as if this was written into his contract. Surf Days are a must. We would go out and watch the surfers tackle some pretty massive waves.
- One hurricane we lost power for nine days and my mom had a wooden DIY dollhouse kit sitting untouched so we spent hours by candle light building this house and gluing wooden shingles one by one. We painted it blue and white and it was our amazing project during the dark evenings that followed the hurricane.
- After one particular hurricane, the roads were destroyed. The roads were just eaten up by the gulf water and you just couldn’t get across from one town to another. The military was patrolling with tanks and large impressive vehicle to make sure that everyone had food and water and were safe. We had night curfews. Matt somehow sneakily drove across town to see me. That sweet teenage love makes ya do silly things!
- We actually drove to Key West during a big tropical storm once. Just to ‘see what it was like‘. Not smart but we were young and fearless. Have you been to the keys? They are a string of islands completely out there in the middle of the ocean. All the islands are small and at the mercy of the water and wind. It was very exciting to experience a tropical storm in Key West, everything shook, everything moved, the winds howled and the next morning trees were down…but the people continued like it was just another day. Pie stands were open, the chickens ran all over the island like nothing happened. Cats came over to ask for food and the big cruise ships docked like any other day.
- While in college, in Tampa, we would sit on our balcony of our apartment and literally watch the hurricanes roll in. Our neighbors and friends would come over and we would cook all the food we had – ahem.. microwave the frozen food we had… and have these great hurricane parties. Without a care in the world.
These were hurricanes… they came through multiple times a season, they turned into tropical storms or not, we celebrated them and moved on with our lives.
I know people are partying it up in Florida today, you’ve seen the images from the Keys. They are going to ride this storm out. I even know people who are out on the water catching those ‘massive waves’. But Hurricane Irma seems so very intense and I worry about my fellow Floridians. Oh Florida… this might be the big one! Be safe. Check in with us!