It's been almost 3 years now since we packed up and left our beloved Chicago for the year round climates of Florida's Panhandle. No ducking the summer's heat in Florida, but oh those glorious 5 months of no snow, freezing temperatures, salt and plenty of icy going. The only drawback we could see was our 2 Siberian Huskies, Sasha and Lillie, who loved the snow and cold of Chicago's lake front. Romping in the snow and even zero weather was a delightful adventure for them. For my wife Terry and I, it was 40 forty pounds of layered clothing at least twice a day no matter what, the girls had their way. The first few years were as we visioned, the girls adjusted and mostly hung out in the delightful air-conditioning during the summer season. On many an occasion I would jokingly tell my neighbors every-time I hear the zero weather forecast from back in Chicago my IQ jumped a hundred points. An then something called a CATEGORY 4 Hurricane dropped that IQ back where it belonged. Ironically it was called "Michael" which is the name of our daughter who resides in Austin, Texas.
It first came to our attention on Sunday, 7 October. No big deal. Michael was listed as a "tropical storm." It barely registered in my mind because quite frankly we hear about them down here frequently. The very next day the reports were that Michael was starting to become bigger, and bigger, and the talk of evacuation began to take over. Winds were being predicted at 155 miles an hour and Michael was headed right into our little enclave between Panama City and Destin. It was now predicted to be a possible dreaded Category 4 which Florida has not experienced for over a 100 years. Our town of Miramar Beach was directly in the middle of the predicted landfall.
Michael in the mean time was moving rapidly, and still bearing down to make landfall somewhere in the vicinity of Destin and Panama City. Yikes we were located right in the middle. We decided that my wife Terry and the Siberians would drive to my sisters place north of Atlanta. The very first thing we did early Monday was try and get supplies and gas. The grocery stores were as you could imagine packed and to add to the chaos it was a national holiday and lots of the southern schools were on fall break so hundreds of children were in the mix.
We did manage to get supplies that would last a least a week for me, anticipating the lack of power. Then it was on to the adventure of getting gas. Needless to say every gas station within miles was jammed packed with lines stretching onto highways and roads. We decided to get in line at one gas station that had only one entrance. We joined the queue and settled in about two blocks away from the nearest pump. Finally after about an hour and a half we neared the front but noticed that lots of trucks and cars were not gassing up but angrily leaving. We stopped one woman and asked if they ran out of gas. Her response was the station clerk would not honor charge cards, CASH only. Most folks anger aside, after waiting for so long, did not have cash. YES! Terry did have cash and so far so good. When we finally got home it became apparent that Atlanta also was under severe weather warnings so we decided to try Biloxi which was a safe path about 3 hours west. Ouch! not a hotel room available.
What to do? It's Tuesday and the mandatory evacuation came down. Nowhere to go. The decision was made to stay and hope for the best. We have a pool with the usual chairs, tables, scores of plants in heavy pots and fence decorations, and scores of things that would become dangerous if left out into the anticipated wind. We worked for over 2 hours hauling furniture, plants and every single object outside into the house, our garage, and our neighbors garage.
We dashed over to my sisters place in our golf cart and removed all of her furniture off her deck and into the house. Her renters had fled early morning( they had high IQs). The Siberians somehow could sense the anxiety and began to follow us everywhere we were in the house. Wednesday morning (landfall day) began at 5am watching the weather channel for any and all information we could get on the EYE area. The prediction was Panama City was going to get the full brunt but we were still in danger for winds of 75-80 miles an hour.
9am Wednesday and it was as dark as 9pm. Zero dark 30 for us was predicted at 1pm. Then the heavy rains came sideways ,the wind noise was deafening ,the Siberians made for the closets, and we hoped for the best. We had no storm shutters but a neighbor who stayed also, did, and she invited us if things got nasty. For some reason my Patriotism got the best of me and I decided to rescue my neighbors American Flag, which in her haste had been left to the elements. It was the longest 100 yard dash in my life, but myself and old Glory prevailed ( see the photo above). Security thought they detected a looter.
For 3 hours we hunkered down, allowing a peek or two out at the wild scene outside. At about 2 pm Terry and I started to feel a sense of jubilation, cautious, grant you, but the roar of the wind had died somewhat and we had no significant damage, except to trees and plants, and the number one thing which was our biggest worry was, we did not lose power. God speed to our friends and neighbors east of us in Panama City and Mexico Beach. We, the very lucky, are thinking about you. It's Thursday morning and the sun is out, and the clean up has begun. Thanks dear lord.
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