Black and purple image of Ashley Fiolek on a white background

Oh, the Winds

Late last summer, my mom and I planned a mother/daughter trip to Northern California to go wine tasting in Napa. But as the day to leave drew closer, we kept a close eye on the weather reports about Hurricane Irma.

It came right down to the wire: The Category 5 storm wasn’t hitting on the day we were scheduled to fly out, but they predicted that our airport would be shut down the following day due to hurricane winds! Even at that point, they still weren’t sure which coast of Florida would be affected, or if it would even hit us at all!

As the hurricane barreled its way through the Caribbean with 100-plus mile-per-hour winds, doing serious damage and killing 134 people in its wake, we were really undecided about leaving our family to cope with such a scary forecast, but also didn’t want to miss the trip, especially if it turned out that the hurricane blew right past us! As we all know, weather reports can change on a dime.

At the last minute we decided to go forward with our plans, and as we headed the to the Orlando airport, we saw that the northbound lanes of 95 were almost at a standstill as people evacuated. Again we wondered if we’d made the right decision.

We got on the road early, choosing to stay in a hotel the night before because the next morning we had a super early flight. As we got to bed, we kept watching the news, and it didn’t look good. But my dad kept reassuring us that he and my little brother would be okay no matter what, and that they had plenty of supplies to get them through it: The generator was gassed up, and the motorhome had reserve water in the case of emergency.

The next day, the airport was crazy as everyone was trying to fly out! People wanted to buy our tickets, but we had made up our minds that we were Napa bound. We had a good flight out and landed safely in California. The Orlando airport wound up closing that very same day, because the winds had gotten so bad, so we made it out just in time.

While everyone in Florida was bracing for the hurricane, my mom and I drove to San Francisco to spend a few hours at Fisherman’s Wharf and check out a couple tourist spots.

The following morning, we headed up to wine country with a list of all the places we wanted to visit. While it was enjoyable, it was always in the back of our minds that Irma was not to be trusted, so we kept checking in with everyone.

By that night, my mom received a notice on her phone that our flight home Monday morning had already been canceled. Irma was on track to strike Miami, or possibly drive right up the middle of the state, so airports throughout the state closed just in case.

I began to panic, but my mom said not to worry! She and my father, who’ve lived in Florida since 1998, have gotten used to hurricanes. But I have never really been in Florida during one of those powerful storms.

Though my mom tried to rebook our flight to Orlando for Tuesday, the only options were for Thursday. She finally got us on a flight to Jacksonville scheduled for Tuesday, but the problem was that our car was still down in Orlando!

The hurricane did hit and caused some leaks in our roof. Meanwhile, my mom and I landed safely, but then had to drive over two hours to pick up her car.

My dad fixed the roof, but then there was an electrical outage in our neighborhood, so we went a week without power, which was no fun, but at least we were all okay—just as my dad had predicted.

Maybe I’ll catch the next hurricane, or maybe I’ll be out and about again as my new Huskies have arrived! They’re so much fun to ride.

Hope to see you all out at the tracks. But wherever you are, stay safe!

Read more articles from the Jason George Issue.