Yesterday morning around noon the storm was upgraded to a category 4 storm. I didn't know that what I wrote about Gilbert could be so prophetic, and I understand better now why we hadn't known about Gilbert earlier. For some reason, storms can strengthen quickly in the Gulf of Mexico. I really don't understand the mechanics of that, and I can see myself doing a bit of research later because I think I would feel better if I had some kind of understanding about what builds these storms.
The storm (which, by the way, was named Charley) came ashore south of here. We were to expect rain and high winds, but they never came and the evacuation order was lifted this evening. We had only a shower for all that trouble.
I'm back in my house. Amy asked if I wanted to stay one more night, and I considered it. But all the watches and warnings have been cancelled, and I needed to be at home where I could relax and work through my thoughts and feelings more openly.
We had to turn off the power when we left because of the risk of fires in unattended homes. I just last week stocked up on groceries, and we were all concerned about the potential for spoiled food. We took a fair amount of perishable food items away with us--I figured that if nothing else I could contribute to the pot luck if Adam and Amy's house became a popular shelter for people from church, her other friends, etc. And if nothing else, I could eat my food if I was there for a significant amount of time.
Upon returning, I found that very little of the food in the refridgerator had spoiled. The only thing I had to clean up was water from where the freezer had started to defrost. I am probably the only person in the neighborhood who returned home this evening--it's very quiet and feels desserted. I was afraid taking the bag of garbage out to the dumpster... What if people were out there planning to take advantage of the fact that no one was home? I called a friend and asked her to talk to me while I did it.
But I am also counting my blessings. I feel a bit like I must be gloating because the rest of the state wasn't so lucky. Michelle was calling from Orlando as soon as I plugged the phone back in. We were cut off during the conversation, and I don't know how much damage was done there. I do know that many people from Pinellas County evacuated to the counties where the storm ended up hitting.
I'm having a difficult time emotionally with the knowledge that I have no way to make a real connection with anything that happened in those other counties. Part of preparing myself for an experience involves preparing myself for the physical sensations and my responses. I do this in other situations, too, although I've not been very aware that I do it. When I went to train with Meghan, I prepared myself for meeting her by imagining myself greeting various dogs. Because I've had exposure to a lot of dogs, I was able to imagine a variety of scenarios. Meghan didn't fit my imaginings in every way; but when my instructor told me that she was a Labrador retriever, that gave me some very basic information to use to categorize her. I knew that she would have short hair and floppy ears. That made me able to concentrate on other aspects of who she was: her personality and her size. Meeting Meghan was much less something to adjust to than was meeting Elli in 1991, when I had had much less exposure to dogs and had no idea what to expect.
I tried to form some kind of concept based on pieces of information about the storm. There could be tornadoes. I've never experienced a tornado. There could be flooding. I don't think I have a very accurate understanding of flooding. The streets can flood and make driving impossible without water getting into homes. But with a storm like this, would water get into our home? There was a lot of lightning in the storm. Lightning I know--and lightning I hate. I don't recall lightning in the storms we had in Houston. But that doesn't necessarily mean there was none.
Then there is storm surge, and that is something I really don't understand. If a wall of water surged into St. Petersburg, how far would it go? If it was 18 feet high when it came in, would it still be 18 feet high when it reached my house? What would a wall of water like that do to the house?
So there are a lot of unknowns for me about a hurricane and especially about a big one. And I am not having an easy time resting. Tropical storm Danielle is brewing "about 235 miles south-southwest of the Cape Verde Islands, moving west about 14 mph." I don't know where that is. Also, from CNN, "The National Hurricane Center said Tropical Depression Five, which at 11 p.m. ET Friday was about 895 miles east-southeast of the Windward Islands, has the potential to become a hurricane that could threaten Jamaica in five days." Does that mean we could go through all this again next week? Jamaica was Charlie's first stop on Wednesday. I don't want to go through this again EVER, let alone next week!
I didn't sleep well last night. I was very upset about being here alone, and I chided myself for being upset after making a choice to come home alone. I finally realized that what I needed was to release pure emotional stress. Being here alone allowed me to do that without inhibition--and I did. I cried like a little child, sobbing at the top of my lungs like a baby. I've been hot and tired, and I've spent two days holding myself together because there were practical things to take care of and what Adam and Amy did not need was me crashing so severely while their little girls were also in meltdown. If we had actually had a storm, there might have been a point to letting the crash come at some time. But I needed to have "the crash" come uninhibited--my own little storm needed to blow itself out.
As I finish writing this, I am noticing something: a noise that is normal. But I find myself second-guessing it. Because I was the one to come home first, I was the one to turn on the power. I had difficulty with one of the breaker switches, and I later discovered that I had missed one when I went to investigate why the air conditioner wasn't running. So I have been afraid, and I go outside to see if what I hear is really rain or if it could be the crackling of fire since I am also noticing the sound of the air conditioning unit outside for the first time. It's rain--big drops coming in a torrent. It lasts for about five minutes and then slows to a nice shower.