On The Seventh Day, There Was Light



 Having lived in South Florida for sixteen years and riding out Hurricanes David (1979) and Andrew (1992) gave me confidence to face Fran in September 1996.  I assured my Father and Mother-in-law in Florida and my son in Texas that my husband and I were ready for the worst. I’ll always remember those famous last words.


Following the advice of experts to have plenty of water (3 gallons per person), flashlights, batteries and candles are basic knowledge. They also inform you to keep canned food, bread and fruits around to eat during this time.


As the evening of September 5 drew close, I was pleased with my preparations. Nine gallons of water, bread, fruit, crackers and peanut butter sat on my kitchen table. The car was filled with gas and my two dogs were fed and relaxed. Candles were placed in holders and flashlights were strategically placed  around the house.


I had called my husband, Jim, at work and asked him to stop and get more water and beer on his way home. Maybe the doubts of poor planning were already entering my thoughts.


When Jim arrived home it was already pouring rain and the wind howling. He entered the house soaking wet, carrying his beer and two gallons of milk. I bit my lip as he proudly told me “the store was out of water so I bought milk instead.” I just smiled as I took the milk from him and put it away. The wisdom of my planning grew a little dimmer.


As Jim and I stood on our patio watching small tree limbs fall and rain come down in torrents, I whispered my first prayer of the day. Gathering my dogs, we went in the house and I decided to put my puppy and myself to bed. The electricity was already off and I was very uneasy. Jim and Beau, our 113 pound Lab, stayed up to watch the storm.


Sleeping without our air conditioning is not my style and I slept fitfully all night. Listening to the wind howl and my puppy whimper did nothing to soothe my nerves during the long night. When the tree fell and hit the roof above my bed, I thought my heart would stop. Grabbing a flashlight and stumbling down the hall, I was stopped short when a low menacing growl erupted from Beau. He didn’t know I was at the end of the flashlight and was protecting his home. I whispered, “It’s me Beau, go back to sleep” and turned and went back to bed myself.


Morning light brought joy to my heart and calm to my nerves. Trees and tree limbs were everywhere but we were safe. The driveway was blocked by two large oak trees and a small tree lay against the house but no other damage. We were very fortunate.


The real problems we faced (as did many others) were no water, electricity or phones. Stores were closed and ice was scarce. Our neighbors, Jim and I drove about sixty miles to find ice and a place to eat breakfast. Waiting in line became a part of our daily routine for the next six days.


Living on five acres in the woods has its advantages. We cooked over a Coleman stove, used propane lanterns on our porches and kept the windows open twenty-four hours a day. The biggest disadvantage was our well. Without electricity you can’t pump water from the well. We couldn’t use our bathroom because we couldn’t flush the toilet. Jim and I both have bug bites in places most people wouldn’t think of from using the woods as our bathroom.


Camping out can be much fun if it’s planned and a vacation. Camping out for six days in your house is stressful.


My temper was getting a little out of hand by the fourth day and I was miserable. Heat and humidity were making me grumpy and the stench of mildew was starting to float through the air. I started fantasizing of Holiday Inns with room service and buckets of ice filled with popsicles. Our luck changed when we got our phone service back and found out Dominos delivered.


Reading local newspapers during this week of disaster helped us come to terms with our limitations. Our society we live in today would force our pioneer ancestors to disown us. We are a weak, self-indulgent people who take most conveniences for granted and are quick to complain. People were writing to newspapers complaining of lack of television cable service when others had no homes or electricity. Inoperative ATM’s were cursed with no thought of the many farmers who lost their whole crops and livelihood.


What lessons have I learned from this forceful lady Fran? Well, here are a few suggestions you may consider from one who has been there and done that:


1)     Never send your husband for water.

2)     You will never have enough water.

3)     Bread molds in two days in heat and high humidity.

4)     Warm soda makes you burp.

5)     Have plenty of batteries.

6)     You will never have enough batteries.

7)     No deodorant lasts forty-eight hours.

8)     Watch where you squat in the woods.

9)     Candle light is not romantic after the third day.

10) Make sure your mate is a camping expert.

11) Taking starlight walks with your mate is rewarding.

12) Keep a sense of humor.

13) Never lose faith.