Help for Understanding the Hurricane Weary
- Kristi Woods
- 2018 12 Oct
Have you ever experienced a hurricane? Several friends and family members of mine recently weathered Hurricane Michael, a record-setting storm shoving its way onto Florida’s panhandle. All survived, thankfully, but ripped-off roofs, broken windows, and frayed comfort remain—many weary souls, too. And those weary souls have a need for our Christian love.
As I read through post-storm comments on various social media threads, one thing gathered my attention: many people simply don’t understand the difficulty folks experience in the wake of such a powerful storm. Commenters often encouraged those affected to simply drive to a safe place an hour or two from home. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the solution were that simple?
That’s not the case with storms of Michael’s magnitude.
When a hurricane hits, the world tilts and sometimes turns upside-down—at least it feels that way. The comforts, shelter, and familiarity we’re accustomed to take on a whole new feel. Those of us living far inland simply don’t comprehend what life is like after a hurricane because we’ve never experienced the whipping winds and rising waters of such a storm. We need help in understanding life for the hurricane weary in order to love our neighbors well.
“‘[Y]ou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. The second is like this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31 WEB).
Below are a few things the hurricane weary may be facing.
The Days Before the Hurricane
At grocery stores, lines of folks and their carts meander down aisles, sometimes even landing at the back of the store. Be prepared to wait a while.
Cars wrap around city blocks, occupants patiently waiting to guzzle a little gas into their vehicle—if any gas remains, that is. Gas stations often run dry before the storm hits, and it’ll be days afterward when more arrives.
A grocery or convenience store with empty shelves is a bit eerie. A home improvement store cleared out of batteries, generators, and plywood can cause many to frown. But empty shelves happen. When a hurricane threatens, it’s amazing how quickly stocked shelves turn into empty spaces.
Many folks hunker in with the same notion: flee. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. When the order comes to evacuate, the roads turn into a sudden rush hour, locking vehicles into slow mode for miles. I recall inching out of Jacksonville, Florida and pulling into a road stop rest. It looked like a circus! Cars parked on every patch of pavement and grass imaginable. People crowded the sidewalks and remaining grass—cats, dogs, and other critters too. Be prepared for a typical four-hour jaunt to morph into eight or twelve hours on the road.
Folks nab water faster than anything, which is ironic considering all the rain falling amid a hurricane. Not only do people empty store shelves, but they also fill washers, tubs, buckets and sinks—anything that’ll store a good, clean drink of H2O.
Gathering important papers and pictures into waterproof containers, storing patio furniture and any outdoor items vulnerable to strong winds, installing plywood over susceptible windows, gathering flashlights, and stocking cabinets with readily-eaten food: hurricane preparation involves many of these action steps. It also involves moving hospital and nursing home patients to safe floors and locations. The days before landfall prove tedious and stressful with preparation.
The Days (and often Weeks) After the Hurricane
Depending on the storm’s severity, things won’t look the same around the community for a while. Waters rise. Roofs disappear (siding, too). Houses stand half-demolished or washed partially out to sea while boats previously tied to a dock sit perched on blacktop in an uncomfortable position. Leaves and smaller pieces of debris are sprinkled all over, as though God shook pepper straight out of His own shaker, and trees lay across roads, vehicles, houses, and whatever else they fancy. The scene carries great magnitude.
Travel immediately after the hurricane proves hazardous, and in many cases, impossible. With these storms come strong, sustained winds. Tornadoes hide among the cloud cover, too. Tree limbs, electric lines, siding, signs, and even boats and other vehicles litter roadways—not to mention flooding at high tide and beyond. It’s not as simple as asking, “Do you have gas in your car? Why not travel to a safe place?” Most folks simply can’t because roads prove impassible.
One of the first things to falter is often electricity, and if you’re on an electric-powered well, that includes water flow. My family and I landed without electric service for five days, which meant disabled air conditioners, lights, microwaves, stoves, ATMs, and even gas pumps. Folks get creative, though, when in a pinch. They cook on camp stoves or eat straight out of the can—if there’s a non-electric opener nearby, that is.
Well-stocked freezers either find themselves plugged into generators or risk thawing and ruining their owner’s treasures. Cold sodas or milk in the refrigerator warm after a day or two with no electricity. As for those buckets of water collected pre-storm? Some end up being used for toilet flushing. And televisions and electrically powered telephones? They become useless.
Heat, Sweat, and Tears
Most areas at risk for hurricanes are situated in warmer climates. After the storm blows through and electricity shuts off, heat rises. Sweltering temperatures and thick humidity don’t offer a break—even amid emergencies. Folks cleaning up the aftermath are likely hot, sweaty, and possibly frustrated to tears—not to mention parents of young ones attempting to make the best of things.
We can’t live without it, and good health requires water be clean. One of the most vital survival tools after a hurricane washes onshore is clean water. All those filled buckets, bottles, tubs, and washers help ensure clean H2O is available should local sources become contaminated or unavailable. Family members might turn faucet handles out of habit and find a dry faucet. They’ll plan dinner but then reject that idea after realizing they must use water. And dishwashing? They’ll pass on that, too.
Assessing damage, contacting loved ones, and cleanup all take time. Roads must be cleared prior to rescue or cleanup crews making their way through the community. This includes firemen called to smother those fires caused by natural gas pipe ruptures, folks wielding chainsaws ready to attack downed trees, and electric company linemen restoring power—many of them coming from locations far away. It also points toward other first responders, insurance adjusters, roofers, and others who will help in the rebuilding process.
A tidal wave of calls jams lines—both landlines, if they’re available, and cell towers. Loved ones often fret, waiting and wondering. It simply takes time to happen upon an open line or available cell. With time, however, it will become more common. Patience pays—for family members living in the impacted area as well as those waiting for word miles away.
This is where you and I come into the fold. Our help—in a variety of ways—proves powerful and certainly an outreach of Christ.
Here are a few ways we can help out:
1. Volunteer with an established and credible rescue organization. Many have needs to fill both locally as well as near the organization’s home offices.
2. Offer donations to reputable charity and/or rescue groups. These organizations typically list needs or a donate link on their website, such as this one at Samaritan’s Purse or another at Operation Blessing.
3. Donate blood. With focus elsewhere, donations in the ravaged areas will be impacted. Increased supply in other areas can help replenish needs in the hurricane zone.
4. Pray for those impacted by the winds and damage. Many have lost homes, income, and/or loved ones. They need comfort, provision—and maybe even hope—during this time.
5. Pray for wisdom for governmental leaders—those making decisions on behalf of the community and state.
6. Pray for rescue organizations and first responders. Leaders, paid employees, and volunteers will need stamina, provision, and patience—as will the people requiring their assistance.
7. Pray for the family members of leaders, rescuers, and utility workers called into action for hours upon hours. Behind the scenes, these families may be in the thick of cleanup as well, but without their loved one.
8. Pray for provision, persistence, patience, and peace. Our neighbors devastated by a hurricane, whether Michael or a future one, need it when facing cleanup, insurance claims, possible job loss or declining income, and the emotional toll for days—and possibly even weeks—to come.
9. Offer thanksgiving. Even though it might resemble a lump in the throat, offering thanksgiving is salve for the wound. Thank You, Lord, for rescue workers, ones who are often toiling until weariness drains them. Thank You, Lord, for neighbors helping neighbors. Thank You, Lord, that the storm blew through quickly. Thank you, Lord.
10. Pray against fear. Howling winds race during hurricanes. Roofs and falling trees crash. Many sounds fill the ears of little and big ones alike. And sometimes those folks grow scared and carry that with them for years.
These are some of the prayers and action steps we can offer to help understand the hurricane weary. What are your suggestions?
Kristi Woods, writer and speaker, is passionate about women walking deeper with God. She clicks words of encouragement at www.KristiWoods.net and is published in both Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and Premonitions and Military Families as well as on
Photo credit: @ThinkstockAntonioGuillem.jpg