Post: Traumatic Stress After Matthew

Cleaning Up the Mess


O Deer Mercantile- After Matthew Clean-up


I am so behind. This post should have been written last week, but we were busy Cleaning Up after a Hurricane. I will say at the outset how very lucky and blessed we and the rest of our family here in Florida were. The Hurricane wobbled, taking the eye just a bit west of the original forecast. It dropped from a category 4 to a 3 also. These things spell the difference between disaster and cataclysm. And it was disastrous for so very many of those caught in its path. There were deaths and injuries aside from the massive amount of property damage, and cases where the inability to get emergency services or help spelled life and death for some.

First Glimpse... the front yard.

I am not certain if this was the worst storm[Hurricane] I have been through. I was a very small child when Hurricane Donna rampaged through Florida and up the coast of the United States in September of 1960. My memories of it are limited to a tree through the porch roof and wading in deep puddles afterward. I rode out Hurricane Hugo in 1989 in a motor-home parked next to the VA in Columbia South Carolina. That was an experience I wont ever forget. We were parked in the lee of a large brick building and came through fine, but the devastation in SC the following day was the worst I have ever seen.

Moving Trees in front of our House

So, I have a pretty good frame of reference for the magnitude of what we went through here. It was scary. I had the kids come down stairs that morning just after daylight when the wind began to pick up in earnest. Our yard and neighborhood are among those still graced by many lovely old oak trees. The same trees that make our area so very appealing, made the hurricane very much more dangerous here. We heard the first trees fall before dawn, and during the course of the day, many more followed. Somehow, the giant oaks around our house were spared. One of the neighbor’s trees fell across a power pole though, snapping it off, and landing partly in our front yard. Several more, at the edge of the golf course behind us, crashed down also.

For two hours, shortly after noon, the storm reached an intensity that set my nerves on edge. My daughter Gaia and I spent much of the time watching through the french doors, buffered from the worst of it by the Florida room and pool house. It was hard to watch the ferocity nature was unleashing on us, but harder to look away. I don’t think I was able to take a deep breath until it finally began to wind down.

Pool house after Hurricane Matthew

Later that afternoon, we went outside to survey the damage. It was only after my initial shock wore off that I realized how fortunate we were. Part of our screen over the pool was gone and the water was a murky green, filled with leaves and dirt. Outside, our yard and indeed, the entire neighborhood looked like a war zone. Every surface was plastered with wet leaves and muck, and branches of varying sizes buried everything. Our road was impassable, power lines lay all around and downed trees were scattered like pick-up sticks.

Back yard of our home after Matthew

We spent the next several days sweating and trying to start cleaning up. We were without running water for about a day and a half, and on a boil water alert for the remainder of the week (It is difficult however, to boil water with no electricity). While many parts of our town had power restored as soon as the following morning, we were out for over 4 days. Some of our neighbors, less fortunate, were without electricity for an entire week. I ended up throwing out several hundreds of dollars worth of groceries from the freezer and refrigerator, and I am still not restocked.

One grocery store chain, Publix, opened the day after the storm, only to be filled with a similar panicky and emotional crowd to the one who emptied the shelves beforehand. While most people have shown grace, have been patient and a little more considerate of one another since this storm, there were also many incidences of rudeness and unwarranted anger. I wonder how these people could have been so thoughtless. Not only was it impossible for the stores to have yet received any significant new stock because of the weather, but they also should have spared thought for those workers who were putting their own repairs and clean up on hold to serve their customers.

The demand for water and ice was perhaps the most immediate. I ventured out on Sunday in search of same, and I salute Publix for having pallets of both available. While there was a two bag limit on the ice, I was in paradise. Lukewarm beverages in an un-air-conditioned Florida home are no treat.

A week and a half has passed since Hurricane Matthew blew through our life, but it will be a long time before signs of its passage are erased or covered. We have tree people coming in tomorrow to cut dead and broken branches, remove excess growth and two dying trees. We finally were able to get an estimate on the pool house re-screening, but it will be several weeks until they are able to catch up enough to get to us. Debris has been cleared from the roof, but we are so far unable to find anyone to do the repairs we need there. The yard is slowly being reclaimed and the pool is clean and clear again.

Hopefully, in the days and weeks to come, I will recover my composure and rediscover a modicum of organization. I seem to have been thrown completely off during the upheaval and business of the last several months. One way or the other—Talk to you again soon…