Hurricanes are a part of life in South Florida – and, with them, come Hurrications! If you don’t feel safe staying put and sheltering in place at home, then you need to evacuate with your family. Depending on where you go, this trip can become a Hurrication! (Or rather, a Hurricane Vacation!)
It’s not the way I would choose to take an expensive trip, but it can be great fun, all the same.
Part of living in Florida is knowing that hurricanes are a threat. You have to prepare for hurricane season from June 1st to November 30th. In our experience, most of the action seems to happen between Mid-August to Mid-October.
I moved down to Florida in August of 2008, and up until recently, hurricanes haven’t been a big issue for our area during the time I’ve been here. (Of note: Port Saint Lucie was hit in 2004 by both Hurricane Frances and Hurricane Jeanne. In 2005, Hurricane Wilma also hit the area.)
Everyone knows that Floridian summers are dotted with heavy, afternoon rain showers. We’ve had a tropical storm or two, but for the most part, hurricane season has passed us by without too much drama.
That is until 2016 when Hurricane Matthew was expected to hit our coast – and then again in 2017, Hurricane Irma had a similarly scheduled path. Now, in 2019, we had a direct threat from Hurricane Dorian.
All three times, we’ve had to shutter up our house, buy supplies to keep our family safe during a lengthy power outage, and pray that our community would be spared.
Hurricanes are an interesting weather phenomenon, because they provide a lot of time for preparation. Depending on their size and speed, you have several days to get your supplies organized and your plan in place (and to totally freak out and stress eat). The real trouble is that the hurricane’s track can (and will!) change multiple times while you’re waiting for it to arrive.
If you’re staying local to your home, you’ll want to make sure you:
There are hundreds of tips available for hurricane prep, but for the most part, it’s all about making your home as comfortable and safe as it can be. Amazon has a huge assortment of supplies available, if you plan ahead!
What will keep you sane throughout the storm? What if your house loses power for the next week? What do you need to do to guarantee your family will be safe inside the walls of your home?
My husband and I are transplants from snowy parts of the US, so hurricanes are absolutely new territory for us.
In 2016, Hurricane Matthew was scheduled to come straight to the East coast of Florida. Since we had never experienced such a storm – and we had two small kids, there was no question that our family would evacuate the area. We packed everyone up (including the pets!) and spent a few days in Tampa.
Then in 2017, Hurricane Irma was pointed right at our town again, so we left! That time we took flights to Michigan to spend a week with family, instead of waiting to see what would happen to our city.
Just a prediction, but I believe our family is likely to always evacuate during a hurricane. Our kids are 3 and 6-years-old, and the fear of the unknown is just too great.
That being said, there is great cost to evacuating – and it is not the right choice for every family. When you evacuate, there are tons of things that start to add up. If not flights out of town, then perhaps you’ll need a hotel room. If you can get to family and your stay is free, you’ll still likely need to pay for meals and entertainment while you’re away from home.
A Hurrication can be expensive.
At the end of the day, you have to do what is right for your family.
It’s important to note that if you live near the coast and are under mandatory evacuation notice, you must leave the area. There is NO GUARANTEE you will receive help after the storm if you do not evacuate as directed.
But evacuations and Hurrications are not one-and-the-same.
If you’re able to secure your home and leave to another safe space, I would highly recommend it. That way, you’re not trapped inside a shuttered house. You can enjoy the days spent together as a family in a new and fun location!
However, let me state it again: a Hurrication can be expensive.
Why? Because they are, essentially, mini-vacations that you didn’t plan!
Moving forward, we aim to start a small savings account just for this purpose. That way, when a Hurrication occurs, money won’t even be a factor in our decision. We will leave town if it’s the right choice for our family. But from now on, we’ll have a little savings ready for the adventure!
For Hurricane Dorian, my husband decided that we needed to get out of the area well ahead of time. A Category 5 hurricane was growing in the Atlantic and, once again, pointed directly at our town. There was speculation that this catastrophic storm would be a direct hit over our home.
So, Eric made the executive decision that we would head to the West coast of Florida.
We found a pet-friendly hotel, packed everyone up (although, I will note: I did NOT pack enough clothes for myself. #momlife), got the shutters closed on every window and door, and left town.
Hurricane Dorian was slowing down to a snail’s pace in the ocean, so we knew we would be in Tampa for, at least, 5 nights.
This storm was completely STATIONARY for a long while over the Bahamas. This caused complete and utter devastation. If you are able to make a monetary donation or provide supplies to the area, please get involved.
To make the most of our prolonged trip, we planned to do something with the kids every day.
Friday, was a super intense day – after rapidly packing all of our things, photographing the house for insurance purposes, and shuttering everything, we headed to the Westin in Tampa Bay. We arrived in the early afternoon and got unpacked. To make the hotel feel as home-y as possible, we let the kids bring a bag or two of their own. And they had their toys and things properly placed in no time.
After unpacking, we explored the hotel and I found the Starbucks in the lobby! We then grabbed dinner at the Westin’s restaurant: Aqua. They made accommodations to prepare some not-on-the-menu macaroni and cheese for the littles and provided Eric with some delicious sushi, so everyone was happy.
On Saturday, we grabbed a quick breakfast at First Watch in downtown Tampa before making a jaunt over to Glazer’s Children’s Musueum. This was our second visit and we LOVE this place.
Some key highlights:
After the Glazer Children’s Museum, we made a Starbucks’ run and took a dip in the indoor pool. (You wouldn’t believe how exciting it is for Floridian kids to go in a pool that’s INSIDE!)
Sunday morning, we went to the Florida Aquarium and met up with some family. The kids absolutely loved seeing the Sting Ray tank AND playing in the splash pad. They also got some glitter tattoos and saw a giant sea turtle.
The Florida Aquarium is one of the best we’ve been to, but it was definitely a pricey day! They offered us a military discount of 10%, but it was still over $100 for the day pass. If we were local to Tampa, it would have been a better deal to grab the annual family pass for only $175, but since we live across the state, we saved the extra money.
After our trip to the Florida Aquarium, we spent some time down at the Starbucks with a big bag of coloring books – and all of the supplies we would need while our room was cleaned. This also gave me a chance to try my third pumpkin beverage this trip. #notkidding
Happy Labor Day! For Monday’s adventure, we took our team to the Westfield Countryside Mall in Clearwater! (By the way, did you know just how many malls are in the vicinity of Tampa Bay?! WHOA.)
We were super stoked to see an old-school Disney store and got the kids some new digs. Then, we shopped the value bin at Build-a-Bear and made some seriously necessary creations. The Westfield Countryside Mall had some great little stops – including a life-size game of Connect 4 and a macaron shop for yours truly.
After an incredible lunch at PF Chang’s (hello, banana spring rolls!) we went back to the Westin Tampa Bay for more swimming. Luckily for us, a few of our East Coast neighbors had made their way to the Tampa area and joined us in the pool!
The Little Miss stayed up way too late watching The Descendants Trilogy on the Disney channel, but that’s what vacays (even hurrications) are for, right?
On our last full day in the area, we found a really cute little breakfast spot called the Metro Diner. The food was completely delicious and huge. The kids were pumped that they could order lunch at 9:00a, so it was a win-win for all of us.
Afterwards, we met up with more of our East Coast friends at the Playgrounds of Tampa. This was a total bonus, as the kids LOVED it. Mom and Dad could sit in a comfy chair with a coffee while the little ones ran around from bounce house to bounce house. We would definitely head there again. Too bad there isn’t a Playgrounds franchise closer to home! (We do have an awesome trampoline park, though!)
The storm finally started moving again and we watched every single weather update. It seems our area has been spared once more. This time, the Bahamas will desperately need our focus to rebuild over the next few years.
On Wednesday, we get to go home.
No matter what you do during the hurricane – whether you head out on a Hurrication or stay hunkered down at home, the waiting is the hardest part.
You have to wait for the storm to move. And you must wait for every single storm update. The National Hurricane Center makes track changes at 5 and 11 (both AM and PM). But, in the middle, all of the intermediate forecast tracks can be updated – so the news is constant.
Is the hurricane coming? Will it be as big as they said? Why did the track shift? WHEN will the track shift? Should I buy more supplies? Is this enough food? What if we lose power? How dark will it be in the house with the shutters up? How will I keep the kids entertained?
Or, in our case: What will we do if the storm cuts off our path home? How long do we have to stay in Tampa? Will our home be okay? Will our community fare well? Was evacuating the right choice?
The waiting is the hardest part. The unknown is unbearable. We just have to put our faith in God and trust that He put us where we are meant to be.
…and there are much worse places to be than a hotel in Tampa. So, trust me that we have counted every blessing.
Hurricanes are a force of nature – and something that we cannot control. There will be more hurricanes in the future, and perhaps even (although, hopefully not) this year.
This time, we dodged a major bullet. Our home is still standing and our community was spared. With the added Hurrication, we even got to enjoy some family time together while in Tampa. It’s not the way we would have chosen to spend the week, but it was most definitely an unexpected treat.
However, the people of the Bahamas did not fare as well with Hurricane Dorian and they are in great need of our help. For over 24 hours, this massive storm was stationary over Grand Bahama and all of its people. They need our prayers for recovery and our donations of supplies and funds to help them rebuild.
If you are able to take part, please do so – and please continue to keep them in your thoughts, as they start the long process of recovery.
Hurrication or not, I have had to consider what keeps me in Florida when these GIANT storms appear at our doorstep.
But, we love our beautiful state. 99% of the time, Florida is the perfect place for our family to live. We love our community and our church, the kids’ school and our friends.
So, for now: we will continue living among the hurricanes and everything they entail. But I do hope we are Hurrication-FREE for the immediate future! #gottasaveupfornexttime
Katie Johansen is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University with her M.A.Ed in Children’s Literature. She spent 6 years as an elementary school teacher in South Florida before transitioning to stay-at-home #momlife. Now, it’s all things PB&J – with an extra large cup of coffee on the side.