Driving toward Irma

It’s really weird to be driving to avoid a hurricane — but be driving toward that hurricane.

But that’s what I did today.

Freaked by Hurricane Irma when it was just about to chew up and spit out the Leeward Islands, and aiming at us, I fled with my kids to my sister- and brother-in-law’s in Orlando. This was days ahead of time, but I felt relieved and, for no good reason, victorious.

There, we watched the eye hold the shape of a sickeningly perfect circle — as if drawn with a compass — and set a world record for staying at 185 miles an hour for a day and a half. It spun along, eagerly targeting Florida, its innermost wrath represented by the pleasing shades of Merlot, lava and lavender.

This morning, the day before the U.S. landfall — and with my house in West Palm expected to avoid the worst — I took a close look at the maps and the forecasts. The storm would pass fairly close to our shuttered house in West Palm, but then turn north and pass even closer to our un-shuttered house in Orlando.

In Orlando, we’d get it worse, it seemed. By a lot.

I quickly studied the radar. There would be rain and some wind on the drive home, but probably not much. Then again, hurricane weather — even the weaker outer bands — can be unpredictable.

I booked it out of there, my 3-, 6- and 20-year-olds, and our cat and dog, quickly ushered to the car. My in-laws were staying — their house is solid — but they understood why I wasn’t.

With Irma southeast of us, we drove southeast. I was intentionally driving into worse weather, but it would be short-term stress for long-term calm, I thought.

We must have passed a hundred tree-trimmer trucks rushing to get in position, marching along in like-colored teams.

An hour from home, we drove through a squall that was blinding.


I didn’t think it. I yelled it. This was a decision designed, ultimately, for safety. But it was more clear than ever that it was a gamble. After being exceedingly well-prepared, had I gone and done something dumb right at the very end?

After that, we had only gray the rest of the way. Behind the cloud sheet, the stubborn sun was giving it a go.

The only time I’d ever seen I-95 more deserted was at 3 a.m.

We arrived. It’s 11 pm. What I know about the weather is represented by angry reds on the TV, by the increasingly loud whooshing and heaving of the trees that surround our house on all 4 sides, by the thunder, by the plinking of the rain bullets against the aluminum covering the windows. But we’re home.

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She’s been a bad girl.
Who knew? It is possible to wish for more cars on I-95.

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