Editor’s note: Shirley A. Moore is a Florida resident who recently had to leave her home amidst some of the worst hurricanes on record. She shared the following with Inman News on what it’s like to have to leave your home, uncertain what will happen to it. See related story, “Packing up and leaving home.”

It is indeed traumatic to leave your home when a serious storm threatens. I didn’t have enough time to evacuate before (Hurricane) Charley hit because I went to bed the night before the storm arrived believing Charley would hit Tampa and Tarpon Springs – and woke up on Friday the 13th faced with the fact that Charley was barreling toward us like a steam train. Honestly, we didn’t have time to evacuate. Charley rolled right through my community. The devastation was unbelievable.

I did evacuate when (Hurricane) Frances threatened Florida because I felt that I was still emotionally traumatized from Hurricane Charley, and also because my house had been damaged. I believe that for many Floridians, the first thoughts on their minds at this time is that “Mother Nature” is giving us a serious reality check. It’s like the weather has absolutely gone crazy.

Some people I’ve talked to have mentioned taking deeds, financial information, personal pictures, pets, precious heirlooms, etc.

So many people have that “the storm will never hit me” mentality – they don’t delve deeply into the “what if” mentality. This is bound to change in the near future as people discover, through the media, that ordinary citizens are losing everything because of these storms.

To be honest with you, because I live somewhat inland in Florida, I never put a lot of thought into my community being totally devastated. Unfortunately, we did not have enough warning that Charley was going to hit us directly – maybe one to two hours total before Charley was on top of us. There simply wasn’t enough warning to board up the house, look through possessions, protect pets, and handle any of the other precautions people normally take. I now know that if a hurricane even threatens to come in the vicinity, you have to prepare yourself. (Hindsight is 20-20, right?) Of course, as you know, DeSoto County was torn to shreds. I’ll never forget the way I felt when I was finally able to open the door and look around at what Charley did to Arcadia. I was in shock for at least 24 hours. I never realized how hard it can be to survive after such an event. You can’t imagine the empathy I now feel for others going through similar situations.

Charley made me realize that, in Florida, the part of the state you live in doesn’t have much to do with how severe the damage can be from a major hurricane. Charley ripped off part of my roof, doused my insulation and dry wall in my living room, and destroyed a large chunk of my personal possessions. My life (as I knew it) is totally disrupted. Everything I have to do (i.e. feeding my family, going to work, etc.) is five times harder now than before Charley paid us a visit.

Right now I’m trying to come up with a plan for our next visitor, Hurricane Ivan (the terrible).

–Shirley A. Moore


What’s your opinion? Send your Letter to the Editor to newsroom@inman.com.

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