What Are You Holding On To?

hurricaneThe National Weather Service in releasing its hurricane predictions for this year is expecting an “active to extremely active” hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin. They say Americans should expect 13 to 20 named storms; 7 to 11 of these will be hurricanes, and 3 to 6 could be major hurricanes. No predictions were made on how many of these storms might make landfall.

And in a recent survey it was revealed that residents along the coasts are under-prepared and under-motivated to prepare for this year’s possibilities despite the many extreme warnings. Florida State University professor Jay Baker found almost two-thirds of people who live in hurricane evacuation zones do not believe they will be at risk. What’s worse, these residents didn’t even know there was a risk! Adding to the malaise, half of the people polled did not have an evacuation plan.

Living in an area prone to hurricanes, I have learned that preparation long before the storm is on the beach is the key to personal and family safety. When we are told that a hurricane is coming, we bring things inside like our lawn furniture, trash cans, plants, and the hundred or so wind chimes my wife hangs all over the house and yard. We cover the outside of our windows with shutters or plywood. Then inside we make a video recording of our possessions. We gather together important documents like insurance policies, deeds, and proof of residence. All of this we do. But the most important decision we make in the process is this: “Will we stay, or will we evacuate?”

I despise hurricane evacuation. The hurricane evacuation process for where I live is one of the longest in the country, taking more than 24 hours. My experience with hurricane evacuation has been one great exercise in frustration: Gridlocked traffic, hours of going no where, angry, frustrated drivers and tired, aggravated children, and me needing a bottle of Valium. I was so exasperated after our last evacuation, some time ago, that I promised I would never do it again. “If Hurricane Katrina is knocking on my front door,” I said, “I’m not leaving.” That was a lie.

I’m not one to shake my fist in the face of Mother Nature. If a huge, ugly, buzz saw of a storm is barreling down on the coast, I’m going to get me and mine out of the way. So we talk about hurricane evacuation around our house, and what we would take with us if we had to leave our house behind. And honestly, we don’t need a whole to be content and satisfied in this world; not really. Most of what we possess and strive for could be washed away, and quickly we would realize how valueless all of it is compared to those things that really matter. Having those we love with us, a few creature comforts, and the intangibles of love, peace of mind, and the faith and hope that things will work out even if the storm comes – that will be sufficient.

It has been said that the way to be happy with what we have is to get more, or to desire less. But I would amend that somewhat: Not just desire less, but desire right. When the evacuation is on, and you can cling to only one thing, pick the right thing. Cling to those you love. It will be enough to get you through the evacuation and the storm.