Not So Secret Storm Stories

As a child I was intrigued with the name of a soap opera, “The Secret Storm.” While domestic drama on that serial may have been hush-hush, news about a hurricane is anything but secret. You couldn’t turn on the TV, get on the Internet, or engage in a conversation in the past few days without Hurricane Dorian being mentioned. We’ve been flooded with updates on the behemoth storm’s progress and blown away by projected paths which targeted our state and even our local area. As devastating and damaging as hurricanes are, they do have a positive aspect–they can provide us with lessons for succeeding in life..

Life Lesson #1: Expect The Expected

As a native Floridian who has lived in the Sunshine State for over forty years (albeit not consecutively), I have experienced my share of hurricanes. And why wouldn’t I? If you live in Florida, you are in a prime location for out of state friends and family as well as hurricanes to come calling. When the Atlantic hurricane season (June 1st through November 30th) rolls around, you have to face the facts. One of three things WILL happen. You will be hit by a storm, you will be threatened to be hit by a storm, or your local area will be hit with evacuees fleeing from a storm elsewhere. That’s just how it is.

Floridians have to be realistic. They can stick their heads in the sand (we have plenty of the pretty white stuff here on the Emerald Coast) and pretend that terrible weather won’t affect them. But Florida residents are living in la la land if they think that is really the case. Expecting that some terrible weather will occur sooner or later makes it less traumatic when the storm eventually shows up.

Real life is similar to being a Florida resident. The storms of life will at some point affect all of us. If we expect life isn’t always going to be a bed of roses, we are not as shaken up when difficulties arise. People get sick, family members die, relationships end (sometimes badly), friends disappoint you, jobs stress you out, etc. That’s life. It has its ups and downs. Expect that there will be downs.

Life Lesson #2: You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide

A dream trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands provided me way more than I had imagined. Fabulous scenery? Check. Lots of leisure time? Check. Fun adventures? Check. A hurricane? Check. WAIT–a hurricane? You betcha.

For years I had longed to travel to St. Thomas and stay at a hotel called Pavilions and Pools. Finally, I was able to check this desire off my bucket list. A vacation to this U.S. territory was booked for August. (NOTE: Refer back to paragraph two above detailing the timing of hurricane season.) August worked for various reasons for our family (the kids were in school and my parents could come stay with them) and it was off season, so we could get a discount rate at the hotel.

The vacation was the best. We were free of parenting duties. I spent hours reading. We became acquainted with iguanas down the hill from the hotel and fed them lettuce from our villa’s kitchen. We toured the island. We walked on the beach. We swam in our own private pool. We ate conch fritters. The hotel had few occupants since it was off season, so it was quiet, and we had the place pretty much to ourselves. BUT…the news reports began talking about–you guessed it–a possible hurricane.

Eventually the possibility became a reality and the projected path brought the storm, Hurricane Debby, right to us. While tourists around us panicked, we remained calm. Hey, we were Floridians. We knew what to do under these circumstances. Instead of buying t-shirts and trinkets like the masses, we bought candles, matches, and two liter soda bottles (Note to those living in non-hurricane prone areas: You can fill up soda bottles with water in case the storm -disrupts the water supply/service.) An island-wide curfew was imposed, and we calmly enjoyed ourselves by candlelight assured that we had sufficient provisions and lighting.

Again, life is like our vacation predicament. We left an area where a problem was known to exist (the threat of hurricanes) and went off to an exotic vacation destination, a Caribbean island, where everything was going to be paradise. Only the problem followed us. Yup! Hurricanes threaten the Caribbean as well as Florida.

Most problems we have in our life aren’t tied to a specific location. Suffer health issues? Say heart problems or cancer? You’ll still have them even if you pack up and move from Florida to Arizona. Having relationship issues? Is changing your address automatically going to resolve them? No. You can run, but you can’t hide from whatever the problem is. Just deal with it.

Life Lesson #3 — There’s Always A Teachable Moment

In September 2004 Hurricane Ivan ravaged our area. My family  was without power for a week. We suffered from the lack of air conditioning and a daily routine. Having a hot meal was a luxury instead of something to which we didn’t give a second thought.

As uncomfortable and difficult as things were for my family, other area residents had it much worse than we did. The National Guard arrived and set up a staging area to distribute water, ice, and food. Volunteers were needed to help with the distribution. My husband and I stepped up to the plate and decided to take my teenage stepdaughter with us.

This volunteer work was eye-opening to all of us. It was heart-breaking to see how grateful those who came to receive basics like water and ice were. It was gratifying to see how the National Guard members and the volunteers worked together to assist our fellow state residents. It was reassuring to know that disaster plans were in place and could be followed when the need arose. My stepdaughter learned just how yummy (NOT) MRE’s are and had a greater appreciation for our military members who have to subsist off of them.

The aftermath of a hurricane gives us some insight into real life. No matter how bad your situation is, there is always someone else in a bad situation, sometimes even worse than yours. You can learn things (the value of teamwork, the value of having a plan for dealing with problems, etc.) even from difficult/bad situations. Bad situations provide an opportunity to teach your children by example. You can sit at home and grumble about how hot it is or you can get out and sweat to make a difference helping others.

Life Lesson #4 — Be Flexible

Why are Floridians glued to their TV sets and Internet screens? They want to see where the storm is going, i.e., are they in the bulls-eye? If there is one thing you quickly learn about hurricanes, it’s that no one can predict with much reliability what a storm is going to do in advance. Cones are simply predictions. As conditions change, so do the projected paths.

The only thing predictable about a hurricane is that it is unpredictable. The most vivid example of not being able to predict a storm path was Hurricane Opal. Safety-minded parents that we were, we stayed up to watch the late news to see where the storm was said to be headed. Whew! Off to the west of us. (Good luck Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.) A few short hours later we were awakened by a call to my active duty Air Force husband. He was being recalled to the base to batten down the proverbial hatches and then observe mandatory evacuation orders because Opal had changed course and was headed straight for us. Yikes!

Life is often like our Hurricane Opal story. You think you know what’s going to happen; then, all of a sudden–BAM!  And now for something completely different….That’s why it is helpful to be flexible. Be able to shift gears and deal with contingencies even if you don’t think that they will happen.

Those who watched the old soap, “The Secret Storm,” got something positive from the storm–entertainment. Those of us who have experienced hurricanes, real life storms, have had the opportunity to get something positive from those experiences. Hopefully we have learned to be realistic (expect the expected) and flexible. In addition, we should have realized that our problems will find us no matter where we are and that we can always learn something from bad situations. These takeaways aren’t a secret, but if we don’t apply them, they might as well be.

JUST WONDER-ing:

Have you ever been through a hurricane? Did you learn anything from the experience that has helped you in life? What’s your secret to surviving a storm, whether a weather phenomena or trouble in life?