Hunkered Down or Got Out of Town? Our Hurricane Irma Stories

After Hurricane Matthew, we polled our team and asked about their experience with the storm. We were a year older and wiser when Hurricane Irma paid us a visit during the early morning hours of Monday, September 11, 2017. Below are some experiences from a few Jax Moms Blog contributors and helpful tips for North Florida families as we embark on yet another hurricane season.

Vicky, two kids (ages 5 & 7)

Hunker Down or Get Out of Town: Hunkered Down (Atlantic Beach)

Vicky had lived through a few hurricanes and was already out of town when Hurricane Matthew hit in 2016. During Irma, she lost power in Atlantic Beach around 2 a.m. Monday and it came back on at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Vicky’s Tip: If you stay, make sure you have enough non-perishable food! Especially Doritos. We were lucky and were able to eat what was in our fridge before power went off and the freezer stuff stayed frozen. One more day without power though, and we would have lost everything.

Abbey, two kids (ages 3 & 6)

Hunker Down or Get Out of Town: Hunkered Down (Nocatee)

Abbey’s first Hurricane was Hurricane Matthew, which she stayed for. During Irma, she lost power around 3 a.m. and got it back the next evening.

Abbey’s Tip: Prepare yourself for lots of advice (mostly unsolicited) from people locally as well as friends/family in other states. Everyone means well but emotions are strong and opinions are stronger. Weigh your options and make the best decision for your family. Your neighbor with two infants might make a decision very different than your neighbor without kids at home. We’re all doing the best we can, and when in doubt, keep your plans private! Just like my mama told me, “Don’t discuss religion, politics, money, solar eclipse watching plans, or hurricane path opinions.”

Meredith, one child (age 8)

Hunker Down or Get Out of Town: Hunkered Down (Intracoastal West)

Meredith experienced Hurricane Hugo in South Carolina in 1989, and a few hurricanes in Florida since living here the past 22 years. Stayed for all of them. Lost power for days with Hugo, lost power for one day with Matthew.

Meredith’s Tip: If you stay, don’t just prepare, but have a plan. How long will you go without AC, refrigerator, warm water, outlets, phones, computers? Have cash on hand. Have a second location you’re prepared to travel to should power be out for many days or weeks, and you run out of food or water.

Meg J., two kids (ages 2 & 5)

Hunker Down or Get Out of Town: Hunkered Down (Nocatee)

Meg met her husband during a hurricane party at Jacksonville University in 2004 for Hurricane Charley, so she was no stranger to hurricanes. She also evacuated for Hurricane Matthew in 2016. This time, they hunkered down and lost power from 3 a.m. to 6 p.m. the following day (about 16 hours).

Meg’s Tip: Are you being mandatory evacuated? If not, consider others who are before you evacuate yourself.

Christie, two teenagers

Hunker Down or Get Out of Town: Hunkered Down (Orange Park)

Christie has lived in Florida for years, so she has experienced Hurricanes Matthew, Charley, etc. She decided to stay and lost power.

Christie’s Tip: My kids are older, so my advice is to make sure they understand that no power means no Wi-Fi (LOL). Really though, you can’t fully prepare. I try to keep it loose with not a lot of rules — PJs all day, whatever snacks they want, electronics for hours. I don’t need the extra stress of trying to keep up with all those little things during a storm.

Cassy, five kids (ages 6, 5, 3, 2 & 1 month)

Hunker Down or Get Out of Town: Got Out of Town (Washington, D.C.)

As a Florida native, Cassy has been through many hurricanes. She decided to leave town for Irma. Irma was an unusually strong storm, and with her kids being so young, she thought it would be better to get out of town rather than risk being evacuated later or having to go to a shelter. They stayed in Washington, D.C. until Tuesday.

Cassy’s Tip: Make sure you’re truly prepared far in advance. Don’t wait for there to be a named storm to begin preparing. Have gas, flashlights, candles, batteries, food, water, diapers, etc., and have a plan of where to go and how you’ll get there in case things go bad.

Megan, two kids (ages 7 & 3)

Hunker Down or Get Out of Town: Got Out of Town (Birmingham, Alabama)

Megan had weathered many hurricanes is her 36 years of living off I-10. Irma was the first time she ever left town for a hurricane.

Megan’s Tip: Make sure you’re not in a flood zone and just remember that hurricanes are unpredictable — you can’t control flying debris, trees, and other unknown factors. Just figure out what’s best for your family. If you have a safe and secure room in your house and feel you would be safe staying, then hunker down! If you don’t want to be without power and would have more fun exploring another city, do it! It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Katie, two kids (ages 2 & 2 months)

Hunker Down or Get Out of Town: Got Out of Town (Atlanta, Georgia)

Last year, Katie was on a cruise ship right behind Hurricane Matthew while her 1-year-old daughter was in Jax with her grandmother. She opted to go to Atlanta during Irma, as she grew up there and has family and friends there.

Katie’s Tip: If you book a hotel, it’s much easier to stay at a residence inn or somewhere with at least a little kitchenette.

Lindy, two kids (ages 2 & 5)

Hunker Down or Get Out of Town: Got Out of Town (Columbia, South Carolina)

Hurricane Matthew was Lindy’s first hurricane experience. For that storm, she “hunkered down” in town, as she had to evacuate their home located in the Beaches area. When Irma came around, they got out of town to stay with family in South Carolina. Her husband stayed behind at their home in Atlantic Beach. Even in South Carolina, they lost power for a few hours and experienced some winds and rain, but nothing compared to their home, which lost power for over 48 hours.

Lindy’s Tip: Everyone has an opinion and there are pros and cons to both decisions. I would have a plan for BOTH — leaving and hunkering down. If you leave, be prepared to be gone and have no control over what is happening at home, be prepared for traffic both leaving and returning and you and your kids being out of your normal routine and home comforts. If you stay, be prepared for the nerves, scariness of the weather sounds and losing power and water. Overall, you will always make a good decision for your family, trust yourself!

Meg S., four kids (ages 8, 4, 1 & 1)

Hunker Down or Get Out of Town: Got Out of Town (Seaside, Florida)

Meg had experienced Matthew and a few tropical storms before, including all the hurricanes back around 2004 and 2005. For Hurricane Irma, she left town and headed to the Gulf near Rosemary Beach, Seaside. At several points, she almost drove back because the storm kept going west — major stress. She’s glad they didn’t turn back, because in Seaside they only had wind and rain to deal with. But all the stores were closed, and they had to do storm prep in their rental condo.

Meg’s Tip: Can you get somewhere safely on ONE tank of gas? Because there was no gas. We drove four hours out of Jax before we saw gas. Hurricane was hardest on my 4-year-old — old enough to understand what it was, too young to grasp geography and time. He thought it was coming every minute no matter where we went. Don’t think your kids don’t know what’s going on — they probably do, and they’re probably scared! Take the time to talk to them.

Did you hunker down or get out of town for past hurricanes? Comment with your top hurricane tips, and above all, stay safe!

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