Hunker Down or Get out of Town? Our Hurricane Matthew Stories

Even for those of us who are native Floridians, these past few days have been a roller-coaster of emotions. Fear, uncertainty, anger, helplessness and relief are just a few of the emotions we are feeling. We at Jax Moms Blog wanted to share our stories with you in hopes that it may help families faced with the same question we were this week: do you hunker down or do you get out of town?

Hunkered down

Mischelle, 2 kids (2 & 3)

Hunker down or get out of town: Hunkered down (more inland)

Michelle & family decided to leave their home and move inland when they found out there was a Mandatory evacuation on the Navy Base at Mayport. They settled in a dog-friendly hotel near the St. Johns Town Center. She let the kids help in the process of packing and allowed them to take things down outside the house. Her family brought their own pillows, blankets, nightlight, room essential oil spray so they could make the hotel as “home-y” as possible. Mischelle also brought her step-stool so that her kids could easily hop on the high beds, wash their hands, and use for the potty. She’s glad she remembered to put damp washcloths/hand towels in the freezer at the hotel when the power went out. They made for great little cooling rags when it was too hot or uncomfortable to sleep at night.

Jessica S., 2 kids (5 & 3)

Hunker down or get out of town: Hunkered down

Jessica has been a resident of Jax for 8 years, but grew up with Hurricanes in Charleston, South Carolina. They decided to stay but were closely following the weather on Wednesday and Thursday. Jessica had a place to go further inland in Jax, but made the final decision to stay at their house on Thursday night. She picked up all the typical supplies, and put up the storm shutters. Jessica had just discussed hurricanes when Hermine came through. The kids were quite scared then, and it turned out to be a small storm. So this time around, they weren’t too nervous. They loved being part of the storm prep team and helped put up the shutters and organize supplies. She let the kids play outside first thing Friday morning, and was so happy they had some outside time before being trapped inside all day. While the storm was a bit loud and scary at times, they enjoyed spending the day together as a family in the house.

Lindy, 2 kids (4 & 22 months)

Hunker down or get out of town: Hunkered down (more inland)

Only being a resident of Atlantic Beach for 3 years, Lindy and family decided on Thursday late afternoon to leave but chose to hunker down in town at the home of extended family. This was her first hurricane experience, and she personally wanted to “get out of town” – and had offers from family in TN, SC and even GA to go further. Lindy saw friends heading out of town who were visiting family or making a vacation out of it. Her husband, having been through hurricanes and storms, and with family in law enforcement insisted on staying closer to home. He felt it was a safe option as he had been where we were staying before in storms, with the main risk being losing power and would be easier to return. She also had an out of town trip planned leaving on Thursday, but with my family staying in the vicinity of Jax, chose to stay behind to be here with my kids and all be together, it was a tough decision! As she had not experienced hurricane weather before, Lindy is glad she stayed with family and in the vicinity of Jacksonville. She now better understands how the city operates, how her home may fair in these conditions and how it feels to sort of “hunker down” in a safe place vs. completely leaving town. Lindy said that with a storm you can be prepared physically with your kit and supplies – but there is also something to be said about being better prepared mentally and emotionally, and all the options you may have in the event this situation occurs again.

Cassy, 4 kids (5, 4, 2, 1)

Hunker down or get out of town: Hunkered down

Cassy was born and bred in Jacksonville and lived here her entire life, short of the few years her husband was stationed in North Carolina. They stayed because their home was not in an evacuation zone. Had their home been in an evacuation zone, she said she would have absolutely left. Even being where they are, in a safe area, there were still definitely times that Cassy was scared, far more than from any of the other hurricanes she had ridden out. She definitely worried through the night about a tree falling on her house, which thankfully, did not happen. Cassy prepared with stocking up on food, water and fueling their generator. She’s glad they did–even though she didn’t lose power for long. Knowing that her family was prepared helped–she said it took a lot of the stress of the situation away.

Jennifer, 1 child (3 years old)

Hunker down or get out of town: Hunkered down

Jennifer prepared by replenishing the hurricane survival kit they have with water, canned goods, and extra batteries. She decided to stay after hearing that she wasn’t in an evacuation zone. She told her son that there might be some scary things that happen, but they will stick together and she will be here for him every step of the way. Jennifer is glad she filled up the gas tanks on Tuesday before the lines got crazy. She was also glad that she created a cozy place in her son’s room for when the sounds of the storm got scary. After the storm, Jennifer was happy to see everyone coming together to clean and rebuild our awesome city.

Bernadyn, 2 kids (8 & 5)

Hunker down or get out of town: Hunkered down

Bernadyn has lived in Florida for 30 years and decided to stay as soon as she was sure that her area did not have a mandatory evacuation. She does not live by any water, so she didn’t think it was necessary to leave. Also, Bernadyn felt safe enough in her home to stay and had prepared provisions to make sure her family was ready for any power outages. They filled up our gas tanks for the cars just in case they did have to leave. She bought extra non-perishable food and lots of water bottles. They kept cell phones, tablets, and laptop on their chargers. She also made sure she had emergency candles and oil lamps. Bernadyn filled up the bathtubs. They told the kids about the hurricane and how serious it was and that our home and cars could possibly be damaged. They told them to stay away from windows and doors. During the storm, the kids stayed occupied during the day with activities indoors to keep their mind off what was going on outside and not worry too much about what could happen. By bedtime and while the storm was still strong, they were able to sleep through the night.

Shannon, 2 kids (10 & 6)

Hunker down or get out of town: Left town, stayed in Tallahassee

A Floridian all her life, Shannon & family chose to evacuate. After living through Hurricane Andrew as a child, she wasn’t taking any chances. They spent a few days in Tallahassee exploring the city. They visited Wakulla Springs State Park and the Museum of Florida History (it was free!). Even though the storm was less damaging than originally thought, she was glad they evacuated–it made for a fun family getaway!

Kathy, 4 kids (10, 1o, 6, 3)

Hunker down or get out of town: Left town, visited family Georgia

Through Wednesday during the day, Kathy and her family were staying then late Wednesday they decided to leave. Why? Storm surge threats and mandatory evacuation of beaches. But mostly she had a bad gut feeling. Kathy’s kids were scared. They told them their house would most likely be fine, Kathy just wanted to be more inland through the storm at a house with A/C. Their family visited Atlanta and used the Jax Moms Blog post, “On the Road with JMB: Jax to Atlanta” as a guide. Kathy and kids visited Zoo Atlanta (which has a reciprocal agreement with Jax Zoo members so her admission was half price) and they even caught a matinee movie. Even with minimal damage, she is so glad she evacuated.

Jessica M., 2 kids (8 & 6)

Hunker down or get out of town: Left town, when to visit family near Pensacola

Jessica is a true Floridian, but something about this storm concerned her enough that she made the decision to evacuate. Her kids were fine–they were excited that they were taking a road trip to see Grandma. With her big dog and two kids in tow, they left Jax around 5 am Thursday morning so they would miss the traffic. They highlight of their road trip was the Busy Bee gas station in Live Oak. If you are ever on I-10, she highly recommends it! They visited the beach in Destin and the kids enjoyed seeing “a different ocean.” Even though she was not in an evacuation area, she was glad she left.

Patricia, 2 kids (7 & 3)

Hunker down or get out of town: Left town, visited family in Tampa

Patricia left town because she was afraid of losing power since her daughter needed her nebulizer during this time. Her husband was also supposed to be leaving on a trip and she didn’t want to go through the storm alone. Patricia and kids headed to Tampa and she told them a hurricane was coming and they needed to be in a safe location while it hit. They swam in the pool and visited with family, which kept the kid’s minds off the storm.

Erin, 2 kids (2 & 6 months)

Hunker down or get out of town: Left town, went to Atlanta

Erin moved to Florida when she was one and spent most her life on the Treasure Coast of Florida. They decided to leave Wednesday. Erin’s house is low-lying and her porches often flood with an average thunderstorm–plus it has original Windows from the 1940’s. They were also only a few blocks from Zone A evacuation areas. Erin’s original plan was to go to Tallahassee (Or Panama City, or Destin) but all the larger pet-friendly rooms were booked. Luckily, her kids are small enough that she didn’t have to give any explanation as to why they were evacuating. Before the storm, Erin sent the most recent storm trackers and predictions to several of her Floridian friends who, like Erin, are used to riding it out and were laughing the hurricane off. Several of them ended up evacuating as well. They made the best of their time in Atlanta, meeting up with old friends and exploring the Georgia Aquarium.

Meg,  4 kids (7, 3 & 4-month-old twins)

Hunker down or get out of town: Left town, went to Tampa

Meg decided to leave Tuesday depending on Wednesday track and school and work closure. She left because of the size of the storm and she was scared to have 4-month-old twins and no electricity. Meg was so glad she downloaded a bunch of apps and followed a bunch of pages on Facebook – First Coast News, Duval County Schools – that she doesn’t normally follow for information. Meg is SO THANKFUL for her friends who kept their dog and her neighbors that texted her about her house. She is glad they shared phone numbers with their neighbors beforehand so they could all keep in touch. Meg was also glad she found a boarding place in Tampa where she evacuated to just in case they had to bring their dog with them. Note – ALWAYS have your pet’s vaccination records so if you have to leave, you can board them somewhere.

Jessica Morgan
Jessica was born in the “Bold New City of the South" and loves her some Jacksonville. Not only is J-Ville the place where she was raised with her twin brother, but is it also where she met and married her super-handy hubby, Melvin. Together they have a lovely daughter named Lily and a very competitive son, Henry. Professionally, Jessica spends her days as the Activities Director at Jacksonville Golf & Country Club,- because her target audience is 5-11 year old children. Jessica has appeared on local television discussing topics ranging from Black Friday to couponing, - dirty hair, consignment sales and summer camps. Jessica enjoys showing up to parties in costume, Florida Gator Football, all things Disney, singing show tunes, making fudge, big ugly shelter dogs, reading Emily Post and writing in cursive. Keep up with all Jessica's antics at www.JessicaJacksonville.com

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