So everyone knows the East Coast got hit by Hurricane Irene this weekend, right? If you live on the East Coast, you pretty much couldn't get away from the coverage. I have read around the interwebs that people were "sick" of hearing about it, that the storm was overhyped and underwhelming, that everyone on the East Coast overprepared. Some people even called us sissies. Crybabies. Drama Queens.
Whatever. I'd take overprepared over underprepared any day of the week.
As I sat in our house on Saturday, listening to the rain beat down and the wind blow against the siding, I could not help but be reminded of our honeymoon and our adventures with Hurricane Tomas. I remember being absolutely terrified during Hurricane Tomas. And I think a lot of that was because we had no way of knowing what was happening, how long it was supposed to be happening...it was all a big mystery.
In St Lucia, we woke up on Saturday morning to a phone call telling us our zip-lining excursion had been cancelled because a tropical storm had hit the island and they wanted to make sure the lines were still intact and safe for use. Made sense, so we just rescheduled for later in the week. We stepped onto our balcony to survey the scene. It was wet. And windy. There were already palm leaves on the ground. So we headed over to breakfast and tried to get a better handle on what was going on. The staff seemed to be fine. We ate and then thought we'd borrow the laptop and check our email. And that's when we found out it was a hurricane that had taken up residence on the island, not a tropical storm that had already blown over. But the staff was still acting like nothing was happening. So we went back to our room to do some reading on the balcony.
Around lunchtime, we got hungry, so we made our way over to the Bayside, only to find that most of the resort was hanging out in the Mirage, playing games and watching movies. And drinking. So we sat down and joined them. The storm continued to intensify outside, but still - no announcements, no warnings, nothing. We heard through chatter among the guests that Hurricane Tomas had intensified to a Category 2 storm, and had slowed down to just about 10 miles per hour, which basically meant it was just sitting on top of the island. An island which had not had a direct hit from a storm in 30 years. An island that had in no way, shape, or form prepared for this storm. An island full of people who had either heard the warnings and ignored them, or who had never heard the warnings in the first place.
By the time the storm blew over, it was clear that the people of St. Lucia had not prepared. Even some of the resorts, especially down at the Southern end of the island, where the devastation was nearly total, were completely unprepared to handle the aftermath of a hurricane. Travelers were stranded, forced to find shelter elsewhere. Left without electricity. Left to basically fend for themselves until help arrived. No communication.
On the other hand, this past week we were inundated with warnings about Irene. We spent days before boarding up our homes, putting away our outdoor furniture, stocking up on water and bread and flashlight batteries. When the storm hit Saturday evening, Matt and I had every candle in the house out and ready to go. Every flashlight in the house ready to go, with replacement batteries nearby. Our cell phones and my laptop were fully charged. We had a case of bottled water, 2 loaves of bread, plenty of PB&J, and a few cans of tuna and baked beans (gas stove still works in the event of a power outage!). We felt prepared.
I'm not gonna lie and say it didn't get scary. Saturday night we had 4 separate tornado warnings in about 90 minutes. How did we know that? Because we were lucky and didn't lose power and saw it on our tv. [BTW, did you know that emergency broadcast messages will interrupt On-Demand movies? I had not before Saturday, and was so thankful for that.] So I started to cry and freak out, because tornadoes scare the ever-living shit out of me. But then I got up, cleaned out our coat closet, got out some extra pillows and blankets, and we had our tornado shelter ready to go had we needed it. Thankfully, we didn't. But we were prepared, and just knowing that made me feel better. Knowing that we knew how we would get food and water over the next few days if things got bad made me feel better.
Preparation is everything. And yes, maybe we all panicked a bit more than we should have. But hindsight is twenty-twenty, and I, for one, would much rather be able to look back and laugh at myself for overstocking water than look back and be sorry that I blew the whole thing off.