Last Friday night, October 7th, was quite possibly the most frightening night of my life. As Hurricane Matthew barreled up the coast, we hunkered down in our living room.We had been in the "cone of uncertainty" for several days, but all the weather forecasts predicted that the storm would turn east and be pretty much a big nothing here in Savannah. Just a tropical storm, they said. Toward the end of the week they began telling people they could evacuate voluntarily, just in case. Then on Thursday it became a mandatory evacuation for certain parts of the county. We decided to stay because all of the forecasts continued to be favorable for us.
They were wrong. The storm did not turn east. It continued inexorably northward as the evening wore on. What had begun as an almost-pleasant rain and some wind earlier in the day became a torrential downpour and strong gusts. We watched the weather reports, tooled around online, talked, and drank coffee, expecting the storm to turn at any time. Soon it became apparent that this wouldn't happen. We stayed up later, hearing the wind howl. Our neighbor came over, freaked out because the pond that is about 30 or 40 yards behind our house was rising rapidly as the storm surge came in ahead of the Matthew, at high tide. This led to Eric (and a couple of times, Bobby and me, too) going out multiple times during the storm to check the pond. We began praying that our house would not flood. I even went and moved some picture albums up higher, onto my dresser, from the lower shelf where they usually reside. My stomach felt sick. By about 2:00 a.m., just after high tide, the pond was only a couple of feet from spilling over its banks. Eric checked it again at 3:00 and it had stabilized. At this point the rain slackened some (we found out later that Hunter Army Airfield received 17 inches in about a 12-hour period!) and the wind speed increased. Gust after gust sounded like it would tear off our roof. Several times we heard thumps outside. I curled up on our loveseat, and Mary was on our couch. Eric went and got in our bed, but I couldn't sleep in there. Bobby had gone to bed at about 2:00 a.m. and slept through the worst part of the storm. I prayed, then prayed, and prayed some more, asking God if it was His will to please spare our house from major damage, and to protect our loved ones, neighbors, and friends. I finally fell asleep at about 4:00 or 4:30 in the morning.
I woke up at about 7:00 a.m. and realized that the wind had died down significantly. It was raining lightly, and the cloudy sky was getting lighter. We still had a few bands of wind and rain come through that morning, but by afternoon it was cool and sunny as everybody started to clean up their yards. Our neighborhood looked like a green leaf monster had regurgitated all over everything. Small limbs and twigs were everywhere. Our house was plastered with tiny bits of green on the two sides that had faced the wind. Across the street, our neighbor's pine tree's top had cracked off and fallen on his yard. Further down the street many trees were down on a house's roof and deck, destroying the deck. The main road out of our neighborhood was blocked by two gigantic trees that had fallen across it. It was this way all over the city.
Our power was out until Monday night, about 65 hours total. Many friends of ours were without power for 5, 6, and even 7 days. For us, it wasn't that big of a deal. We own a camp stove and an old-fashioned stove-top coffee percolator. We had plenty of food and water, lanterns, flashlights, and batteries. But for some of our friends this storm was a big deal. One family had to be rescued in a boat during the storm as their house flooded. Another family had more than a dozen trees fall on their property, several on their house and garage. One man (whom we did not know) was killed here in Savannah when a tree fell on him in his bedroom. This storm has changed life for many residents.
What did I learn?
1. The Lord is near to us in times of distress. I could feel His presence during the storm, and He kept bringing various verses to mind to comfort me.
2. My kids play the piano a lot more when electronics are not an option.
3. It is strangely fun to camp out in your own home, with solid walls and a roof. It brought our family together. I think this is also a side-effect of going through something traumatic.
4. Next time we are in the cone of uncertainly I will evacuate, and to a pretty good distance away. A lot of people only went 30-50 miles inland to friends' houses, and they got really high winds and tree damage, too.
We are praying that Savannah will not get hit again with a storm like this for very long time.