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Monday, August 16, 2010

And Then the Hurricanes Came

After I wrote Out of My Comfort Zone: A Life-Changing Decision,  where I told you about how I accepted my first teaching job at the age of 22 and moved to a town where I knew no one and had only spent a few hours,  some of you wanted to know what happened next. Well, the truth is that I adapted rather easily at first- I jumped right into teacher workdays and then teaching. I had those dream classes that only come along about once in a teacher's career.  My principal had nothing but good things to say about me. I made friends, went on dates,  and explored the area. It was much easier than I ever thought.

But, I guess nothing can be that simple. Because then the hurricanes came.

After I followed my dream of moving to the beach, it would just figure that I would move during an active hurricane season. When you don't grow up on the water, plus you're too young to really pay attention to the damage hurricanes can cause(this was in 1999, way before Katrina) you have no clue what to expect.

I had been in North Carolina for a little over a month when I had my first experience- with Hurricane Dennis.  Since I lived right on the water(soundside- a first year teacher's salary didn't rate beachfront), my teaching partner invited me to stay at her house. Dennis was downgraded to a tropical storm, but was very slow moving, bringing up to 15 inches of rain to the area.

A few weeks later, Hurricane Floyd was forming. It was a very strong Category 4 hurricane—just short of the highest possible rating—on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. It was among the largest Atlantic hurricanes of its strength ever recorded.

As it continued its path toward North Carolina, I was starting to panic, not knowing what to expect. I was at school late, finishing up cheerleading practice(yes, I coached cheerleading. Shut up. Stop laughing), when there was an announcement over the PA system that school was going to be cancelled for at least the next two days, giving us a four-day weekend.

I asked some of the other teachers who were still around what they were going to do and the consensus was that they were all leaving town and that we should all hurry because once everyone starts evacuating, roads would get crazy.

So, I headed home, packed a few things- though left most- because sheesh, I wasn't on the OCEAN after all. And there was a good 30 feet between the back of my place and the water...it couldn't be that bad, right?  I mean, it's just a little rain and wind....

My teaching partner was out of town and I was told that we would need to evacuate even there anyway. So, I headed back to my parents' home in PA. I needed somewhere to stay for several days, so I went where I didn't have to pay to stay.

Floyd triggered the third largest evacuation in US history (behind Hurricane Gustav and Hurricane Rita, respectively) when 2.6 million coastal residents of five states were ordered from their homes as it approached.  There became no such thing as 95S- those lanes were turned into northbound lanes to accommodate all the traffic.

Though Floyd didn't hit with as much force as was predicted, it did produce up to 19 inches of rain. The storm surge from the large hurricane amounted to 9–10 feet along the southeastern portion of the state.  Combined with what Dennis had already left behind, there was lots of flooding. Some of the worst of it didn't happen until weeks later, when other parts of the state flooded from the rising rivers.

I watched the Weather Channel in fascination, safely far from the storm. After it was over, I spoke to the owners of my condo, to see if there was any damage.  There was flooding of about two feet in my place. And though they were going to fix it,  it was going to take a while.

I was in shock. I hadn't really believed there would be any damage to my place. It had been fully furnished, so most of the damaged items weren't mine: just clothes, personal items, a desk, and a tv. But, just about everything was ruined.

My family couldn't believe that I would even consider going back.  To them, since I had no place to live,  I shouldn't go back. I should quit my teaching job, stay "home," and try to find a job there.

It never even crossed my mind to do that. By this point, I'd been in North Carolina for about two months and already had friends whom I knew would let me stay with them until my place was fixed. I had a job that I loved. I was going back.

And so, once again, I found myself making a trek from PA to NC, again being completely unsure of what I'd find.

It took two days to get back  to NC,  having to take a very circuitous route to get back, since there was a lot of flooding. Though the waters had receded from my place, you could see the water line on the walls, about two feet high.  It was completely unlivable, though some of my clothes were salvageable. I found a friend to stay with for a few days and then stayed with my teaching partner and her son for about a month until my place was redone.

While I'd been apprehensive about the initial move to NC, once I was there, I was that sure that I'd found my place.  And ten days after that hurricane hit, my life was about to take another major twist.

*I did get some hurricane facts and the image from Wikipedia. That way I didn't just say "a really big, scary hurricane with a whole bunch of rain." I'm so technical like that. Any inaccuracies are due to the fact that I'm not a meteorologist. Go easy on me.


Blogger Jessica said...

I am always amazed at what the NC coast can survive, especially the outer banks!

August 16, 2010 at 7:14 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I lived in Virginia for years, and thankfully was never close enough to shore to weather a hurricane. We were inland enough tht we mainly had to deal with rain. My stepsister lived in Florida when Rita hit. They were on their roof in themiddle of the night. Despite being nearly a mile fro where it was supposed to be the worst. I cannot imagine losing everything in a matter of hours..

August 16, 2010 at 7:23 AM  
Blogger Sorta Southern Single Mom said...

We started teaching the same year and even though I was up north, we had to take two snow days in September because of hurricane flooding! I freaked, because I was to take my honeymoon on spring break that year and if we used too many snow days, they'd start taking days from spring break! We made it with one day to spare!

August 16, 2010 at 7:24 AM  
Blogger Sassy Salsa girl said...

Lol! Any inaccuracies have been forgiven ;D

August 16, 2010 at 7:43 AM  
Blogger Kim of Mo Betta said...

being a North Carolina girl, with parents living on the Albemarle Sound, I remember this all too well!

August 16, 2010 at 7:52 AM  
Blogger For the Love of Naps - Sarah said...

Wow, Shell! You sure have experienced it all!

August 16, 2010 at 7:59 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

I totally would have used Wikipedia...personally, I was impressed with "circuitous."

Growing up on Long Island, we experienced our fair share of hurricanes and tropical storms. There is no joking around when it comes to water damage. I can't wait to hear what happened 10 days later!

August 16, 2010 at 8:03 AM  
Blogger Oka said...

sure, leaver me hanging...

August 16, 2010 at 8:24 AM  
Blogger Brandi said...

My first hurricane experience was Ivan. I didn't really see what the big deal was and I didn't want to evacuate and my hubby said 'You don't know what your saying... I'm from Miami and we are getting the hell out.'

I was 36 wks pregnant w/Lil' Bub and I went into labor and had him in AL. If I had chose to stay here, I wouldn't have been able to make it to the hospital due to all the flooding and damage.

So... needless to say, I HATE hurricane season, but I know to take it seriously now. ;)

August 16, 2010 at 8:29 AM  
Blogger Evonne said...

I've seen the damage a hurricane can do on tv and I've seen the aftermath. We used to vacation in N. Carolina when I was little. Where we went was hit by a bad hurricane (Andrew?) the previous summer and it totally changed the town!

August 16, 2010 at 8:38 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

And that is why I like living in Michigan. We really don't have natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes.


August 16, 2010 at 8:49 AM  
Blogger liz said...

having spent my life in the midwest, i wouldn't know what to expect from a hurricane nor an earthquake, for that matter.

August 16, 2010 at 8:55 AM  
Blogger Joey Lynn Resciniti said...

It made me smile to read about your family wanting you to move back to PA. Those of us who chose to stay here don't get why anyone puts up with really big scary hurricanes, tornadoes or any of it!

August 16, 2010 at 9:00 AM  
Blogger Heidi of Operation Organization said...

WOW, I'd have no idea what to do or what to expect in your situation - It would be quite scary, I'd immagine especially just starting out on your own relying on others who'd been through it before!

August 16, 2010 at 9:00 AM  
Blogger Kmama said...

I think I would have gone back too. And I'm sure you're glad you made that decision to go back.

August 16, 2010 at 9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We will forgive any inaccuracies!
I can't wait to hear what happened next.

August 16, 2010 at 9:09 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

I experienced the Rita evac ... mass chaos. Glad you got out safely and that you didn't let it deter your own path.

August 16, 2010 at 9:11 AM  
Blogger MommyLovesStilettos said...

WOW! That's crazy!!!

August 16, 2010 at 9:13 AM  
Blogger Andrea said...

Just before Hurricane Rita, my Brother in law's fiance' came to stay with us. We are about an hour north of Houston. She drove here in the frenzy to get out of town. Everyone was freaking out because it was right after Katrina. It took her around 13 or 14 hours to get here! It normally would have been just about an hour. Craziness.

August 16, 2010 at 9:16 AM  
Blogger Jules AF said...

I coached cheer, too. No judgment.

August 16, 2010 at 9:37 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

You were so brave. At that age, I wouldn't even go to the bathroom alone.

August 16, 2010 at 10:06 AM  
Blogger Darlene said...

That was quite an experience!

August 16, 2010 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger Cecelia Winesap said...

Good for you for not letting Mother Nature take you down!! :)

August 16, 2010 at 10:45 AM  
Blogger Ash said...

I was a meteorology major for two years - you did just fine ;-)

Lived in Houston and Miami, now my parents in Northwest Florida - Hurricane Season sucks massive cumulonimbus.

Can't wait for the next adventure installment!

August 16, 2010 at 10:59 AM  
Blogger Trish said...

yep, I sure remember that one!!!! We got Dennis twice(yep, he loved us) and then hit by Floyd.
I was without power for 4 days(it's amazing what you learn to cook on agas grill). No to mention it left 1/2 our town under water!
I remember sitting at home praying the hubs would make it back from the coast before it got really bad(they always call them out to help evacuate the coast)

Sure hope this season is uneventfull!!!

August 16, 2010 at 11:01 AM  
Blogger @sjoyr04 said...

seems a standard question when someone has moved away from home and anything "goes wrong". I remember when my kids, my ex and I moved 9 hours from home then a few months later he was in bad accident at work, first thing everyone asked was when we were moving back home. Then when we decided to get divorced people started asking the same thing. My answer? This is home! Just cause something bad happens it doesn't mean i tuck tail and run and hide :)

August 16, 2010 at 11:02 AM  
Blogger MommaKiss said...

I've always wondered how people cope when living right in the middle of the storm areas. We took a trip down the outer banks one year and I was thinking that while driving / camping...this is gorgeous but I bet it's scary when those storms come in!

and p.s. *\o/*

August 16, 2010 at 11:12 AM  
Blogger Alexandra said...

Was excited to see more on your life choices here. I love reading about people's lives and the unplanned turns that happened. I just love it.

Heehee, your meteorologist disclaimer was hilarious.

August 16, 2010 at 11:37 AM  
Blogger Babes Mami said...

This made me think back on my first (and3rd, 4th, 5th...) hurricane...I was so scared, I had lived in Iowa my whole childhood and had no idea what to expect or do. I had moved back in with my parents who knew exactly what to do and luckily just the yard flooded!

An exciting first few months for you!

And...hahahhahahha to cheerleading!!

August 16, 2010 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger Ali@LastSplash said...

I'm a NC girl too, and my hubby worked for the State version of FEMA after Floyd. It was by far the most damaging of any storm here in the last 20 years. He said he worked at the time from sunup to sundown.

Strangely, the saddest pics I have seen of Floyd are of the pig farms, with the pigs on the barn roofs just above the water, and their backs are all sunburned.

August 16, 2010 at 11:47 AM  
Blogger shortmama said...

How scary! I havent been through anything big weather wise...AZ is pretty tame that way, just hot

August 16, 2010 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger Tracie Nall said...

I've spent most of my life in Florida....so, hurricanes? Yep. A way of life down here.

You can't just leave us hanging with that ten days later thing you know.

August 16, 2010 at 12:02 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm so happy you came back to that story!! I was wondering what happened. Now I want to know what happens next :)

August 16, 2010 at 12:17 PM  
Blogger Secret Mom Thoughts said...

Crazy the damage that storms can do. Glad you made it. Looking forward to seeing what will happen next.

August 16, 2010 at 12:24 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

Of course you were a cheer coach...you have the jumping and clapping down pat.

Love you!

August 16, 2010 at 12:37 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Wow - how scary! Can't wait to hear what happens next!

August 16, 2010 at 12:51 PM  
Blogger Natalie said...

I love your disclosure at the end ;)

Everybody says how scary earthquakes are, but I think hurricanes are even worse because you know they are coming and you can't do anything but wait.

Tell us more! Tell us more!

August 16, 2010 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger Katina said...

Shell, I love you girl! Your little disclaimer at the bottom was just too cute! Glad you decided to stay in NC!

August 16, 2010 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

My first major contact with a hurricane was Alberto in 1994. It caused MASSIVE flooding & damage & deaths to our area & we live in the middle of GA! Those things don't play.

August 16, 2010 at 1:30 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

That's how you know you love a place. If you can deal with its weather quirks and still want to go back, you're set.

I've lived in the land of tornadoes for well over 10 years and they hold no fear for me.

Hurricanes, however, scare the piss out of me.

August 16, 2010 at 1:39 PM  
Blogger Miss Welcome said...

This was so interesting! I want the sequel! :-)

August 16, 2010 at 1:58 PM  
Blogger Debby@Just Breathe said...

What an experience. Can't wait to read the rest. Hurricanes really do scare me however in CA we have our earthquakes too! In the midwest you have tornados, I grew up with those. Where can you live where there isn't a risk?

August 16, 2010 at 2:19 PM  
Blogger Joann Mannix said...


This story of your life was captivating, written so well. As a Florida girl and a survivor of the summer of the hurricanes, where we got bashed week after week after week, I felt like I was reliving those days again.

And reliving those days is something I never want to do. It felt like the end of the world.

Great job on this one.

August 16, 2010 at 2:28 PM  
Blogger Kim@stuffcould.... said...

Yes do remember those years...I also did the same, left home after school

August 16, 2010 at 2:33 PM  
Blogger Hutch said...

I remember watching the coverage on the news, I can't even imagine living through it. We had a couple bad floods here growing up but we got very lucky!

I think moving away and/or experiencing something out of your comfort zone should be mandatory after turning 18!

August 16, 2010 at 3:27 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

BTW...linked you in my post today...motherbitches. You haven't had one of those in a while!

August 16, 2010 at 3:28 PM  
Blogger Eternal Lizdom said...

Wow!!! And I can't wait to hear what happens 10 days later!

Sometimes, it's getting through something challenging that really proves to us what we want. Sounds like your hurricane did just that.

August 16, 2010 at 3:28 PM  
Blogger Mungee's Ma said...

Being in Northeast Florida, I can't even keep track of all the hurricanes that have impacted us in one way or another.

I'm quite curious to know what happened next!

August 16, 2010 at 3:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow - fascinating story. I do remember Hurricane Floyd and how hard it hit even up here in NJ.
Look forward to hearing the next installment of this tale. Do tell!

August 16, 2010 at 3:59 PM  
Blogger Stacey @ Chasing Cloud 9 said...

I remember that hurricane...we almost had to cancel our honeymoon!

Now that we live in Savannah, I keep seeing all these reports that we are "overdue" for a hurricane...I've never lived near the coast before, and it freaks me out a lot!

August 16, 2010 at 4:20 PM  
Blogger Tiffany said...

Living in Florida and growing up I never worried about hurricanes. We did evacuate for one hurricane when I was in my 20's but it never hit Florida. I never thought much about it and after my husband and I got married we got dealt 3 aces! In 2004 after we just bought our first house in June of 2004 3 hurricanes came through. We had Charlie, Frances and Ivan ( i think). Charlie hit the weekend of my birthday and knocked our power out for 4 days. Frances came through and knocked our power out for 10 days. I went away to Colorado and when I came back Ivan came through. I was so over it I cried when it came through and knocked the power out again.! All this while I had an infant since Miss K was only 13 months old.

You're a strong woman to go back after dealing with that. Hurricanes are no fun and they have driven people away from places after enduring the aftermath.

August 16, 2010 at 5:04 PM  
Blogger The Mommyologist said...

Hurricanes are definitely scary! We had one in CT once when I was in high school and lost power for over a week! Nothing like NC, I'm sure though!!

Can't wait to hear the next part of your story...you left us hanging mama!

August 16, 2010 at 6:28 PM  
Blogger natalee said...

OMG.. you are brave my girl.. i would have stayed in PA cause Im a scardy cat... really i am... okay now what happened next.. c'mon im dying!!!

August 16, 2010 at 6:33 PM  
Blogger Emmy said...

Wow that would be scary. glad you were safe at least

August 16, 2010 at 6:57 PM  
Blogger Melinda said...

Oh, Shell.. I understand. Our house was nearly destroyed in Hurricane Charley in 2004. It nearly flattened our whole community. Then we got hit (in less severe ways) by Frances and Jeanne. It does really shake you to the core. I admire you for going back.

August 16, 2010 at 8:30 PM  
Blogger Dalia (Generation X Mom) said...

I can't imagine what it would be like to go back to that. Crazy how different parts of the world face such different things. We actually faced the tip of a hurricane on our honeymoon WHILE OUT ON A CRUISE SHIP. Not fun! Needless to say, we never went on a cruise again and probably never will.

August 16, 2010 at 8:32 PM  
Blogger Liz Mays said...

It was your destiny to be there!

August 16, 2010 at 9:07 PM  
Blogger Ruby said...

We moved to Texas, and had to deal with Rita our first year...quite the welcome isn't it??

August 16, 2010 at 9:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's the next major twist?? I can't wait to hear it. :)

Wow girl, you had quite the time there. I can't even imagine.

August 16, 2010 at 9:19 PM  
Blogger Adrienne said...

Living on the coats can be a constant worry during this time of year ...I was so blessed for many years here in TX until we had Hurricane Ike...Hurricaanes SUCK

August 16, 2010 at 10:28 PM  
Blogger Helene said...

Wow, you certainly are brave! I probably would've just stayed at home, wondering what could've been!!

The only hurricane I ever lived through was a hurricane in FL when I was little...I think it was Hurricane David but I could be wrong. We got the eye of the storm so it wasn't so bad and my sister and I couldn't wait for it to stop raining so we could run around in the streets where it was flooded. The danger aspect never even occurred to us.

August 16, 2010 at 11:21 PM  
Blogger Sara @ Domestically Challenged said...

As a midwesterner, I have never seen that much rain! I bet it was amazing to see all the flooding.

August 16, 2010 at 11:48 PM  
Blogger Lourie said...

I am looking forward to the next installment!!

August 17, 2010 at 12:22 AM  
Blogger Maureen said...

WOW such an adventure it must've been. My inlaws lives in Florida and they had ridden out enough hurricanes. I've heard the scary warning sirens once and hid in the bathroom with my then 4months old baby. Scary!

August 17, 2010 at 2:24 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I loved that you stayed! Now I'm on the edge of my seat wondering what happens next! :)

August 17, 2010 at 7:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I seriously can't imagine ...

August 17, 2010 at 7:14 AM  
Blogger Debbie said...

We lived in Morehead City for 4 years and although we were very lucky to not be there during a major storm, we still had some scares. I'm glad you were OK.

August 17, 2010 at 8:24 AM  
Blogger Sarahviz said...

My husband and I were newly married and living in Mt. Pleasant, SC at that time and we got evacuated too! It took us more than 5 HOURS to get from Charleston to Charlotte that day.

August 17, 2010 at 9:22 AM  
Blogger Heather @ Simple Wives said...

I've never been in a hurricane, but it sounds scary. That's great you chose to stay!! :)

August 17, 2010 at 9:34 AM  
Blogger Ian said...




August 17, 2010 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Obviously having experienced Katrina through my family, I can imagine what this must've been like. I'm grateful most of the "things" weren't yours, but the inconvenience of the travel and having to stay w/ various friends must've been difficult. Looking forward to what came next!

August 17, 2010 at 12:13 PM  
Blogger Bibi @ Bibi's Culinary Journey said...

I never really experienced a hurricane or knew anybody who has.

Now, I do.

Always wanted to visit North Caroline. Maybe one of these years.

August 17, 2010 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger Kir said...

I just want to know what came next,..:)

it's amazing looking back, what we will walk or run or wade through isn't it??? what we can say we "LIVED through" and really mean it, whether it was emotional or REAL.

and I was a cheerleader in HS, so there is no judgement from me...none at all. xo

August 17, 2010 at 12:37 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oh what an experience to have! We lived in Florida last year, and just the threat of a hurricane was nerve-wracking. It's amazing how much damage mother nature can create. It's an amazing experience you went through in your move! We had a tornado warning when I was stuck in a hotel after our move to FL and that was scary enough.

August 17, 2010 at 2:08 PM  
Blogger MommyToTwoBoys said...

I was teaching in FL in 2004 when we got 3 bad hurricanes in a row. It was scary. And we made it with almost no damage until the last one, when we lost our roof!

It was scary and somewhat apocalyptic after some. There were no signs still upward, even at Disney, no gas to be found anywhere, and people had snatched all the water and can goods at the stores.

August 17, 2010 at 2:25 PM  
Blogger Sonora said...

You won't hear any laughing from me on the cheerleader part because I used to be one. :) Wow, I can't imagine going through something like that. I always watch the news in amazement and wonder how people handle it, but I have never known anyone who has gone through it. We don't get many hurricanes in Utah. :) I'm glad you stuck to it and held to what you loved and where you wanted to be.

August 17, 2010 at 3:22 PM  
Blogger Permanently At Lunch said...

#1 I LOVE that you went back. My husband is a teacher and once you become connected to those kids? Nothing can keep you away. Even a crazy hurricane.

#2 I cant believe you left us hanging! Give us the rest!!

-Elizabeth @ Permanently At Lunch

August 17, 2010 at 5:58 PM  
Blogger Ma What's 4 dinner said...

So scary! I've survived my fair share of so cal earthquakes but flooding and water...that terrifies me. Must have drowned in a past life or something. Explains my unnatural fear of fish.

Lots of yummy love,
Alex aka Ma, What's For Dinner

August 19, 2010 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

You're a tough cookie! I was afraid to move to the beach when I started thinking about moving South, and as much as I LOVED Charlotte, it would have been nice to have that experience, as scary as it sounds like. But I know me, and I would have chickened out at coming back....

August 20, 2010 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger Frugal Vicki said...

I think this series is my favorite of yours so far

September 21, 2010 at 3:31 PM  

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