Fleeing Michael in Fl with the chis
So we had a very scary past few days but all is well and we have just returned, did some cleaning and rested a bit after fleeing hurricane Michael.
We live outside of Orlando Fl and actually have been in an rv for some time with our chis. This week our area was under watch until Tues it became an evacuation warning for everyone to get out. We work here and had to wait for the ok literally when it touched the keys here. Once our work said to just get out and be safe, we got ready to pull out. We hit a snag with our rv slide outs and had no time to get this minor problem taken care of so we weren't sure of the next plan. The problem we ran into was none of the evac shelters would take animals. The only one that would said that they put them into another building and we are not allowed to make contact the entire time. We couldn't do that. We got our things together (anything we needed, blankets, etc) and headed toward Tallahasse-the only place in Fl showing to not be hit at the time. It was something here in this area the day it hit-no gas anywhere in any city and almost deserted. Luckily we were warned by co workers the day before and we topped off then added some gas tanks filled up to the back. By the time we got the ok from work, it was looking pretty ominous here. Winds picked up only around 28 but the sky was purple and rain was whipping around pretty hard. We have two teens (16 and 19), 3 chis and our cat. We were trying to get things tied down, packed up and the chis ready as fast as we could without letting the chis worry. The kids were amazing about this and helped so much to try to keep the chis calm. The babies were already anxious and had been all day from the storm coming so we didn't want to make them feel more anxious.
The biggest thing is that we weren't the only ones worried what to do because of their pets here either. We went around earlier in the day with a few other residents here to make sure the elderly and disabled were taken care of. We called 911 to get transport for each of them to the shelters but my daughter ran to us saying one woman refused to leave as she wouldn't leave without her cats. Everyone around here are in rvs or mobile homes across the street and she was in an old mobile home. When we went to talk to her (after getting the other people who were helping out to try to talk to her too) she was holding her cat and saying she will stay with them. While we are ok now, you have to understand that this is the worst threat we've ever had in the area and they were expecting it to be category 3 hitting us-90-100 and it was increasing strength at that point. Everyone around us were taking this extremely seriously. We were sure we would have nothing to come back to-even homes around us had either put up the aluminum panels and left or put up wood around the homes then took off. The night before, most of our customers were standing in their driveways with suitcases at 3-7 am in the morning and getting out fast.
We drove 5 hours in up to Perry, Fl (about 16 miles south of Tallahassee) and were pretty snug and planning what we would do once returning but remained in pretty high spirits as we felt really lucky to be able to have an option. Our animals seemed fairly content to sit with each person on laps and the cat stayed calm in her carrier. The first three hours were in some pretty strong winds with some rains really coming down hard so we were slowed a lot. Once we came up a few hours out however, we were able to stop for breaks and it was an adventure for sure. Anyone we met had animals; really anyone. Motels were booked up, stores and any other place were boarded up but we found some rest areas and a gas station here and there (minus the gas) that was staying open for stragglers. Same story with everyone without exaggeration-wouldn't leave their pets and couldn't find anywhere to take them.
When we got to Perry, we stopped but planned to go on. However, it seemed calm at that point and wasn't expected to get more then 24 mph winds the next day at peak. There were cars, campers, rvs, everywhere all over town. Everything open but, as the whole trip on route 98, booked up solid. We stopped just for an hour or so to eat at a truck stop and found some great people there as well. Truck drivers were awesome. Dogs of all kinds being walked all over the grounds. I stayed with the animals while hubby and kids went to eat and I got stories from everyone fleeing everywhere while everyone was helping each other out and trying to find out from others what they were going to do. We were told at the station about kmart and walmart parking lots being open for rvs and weary motorists fleeing the areas. When we got to walmart the lot was absolutely the same with people everywhere. This time was about 11pm now and we were getting a bit tired. Our chis were calm and tired while our newest baby we rescued stayed with her 'mommy' (my daughter) and was excited for the trip and other dogs she was meeting. My son had his cat on a harness and found some spots to let her just get out for some time and she also seemed to be fairly calm.
Local police and sheriff came around and offered food, drinks, anything even to rvs that would help. The sheriff came to our group of car travellers with our dogs and told us of a large local church taking in people fleeing the areas. I can't say enough how amazing this area was with everyone and how really fantastic everyone was in trying to help any way they can. first thing asked was if we could have our pets from one family in the group. He wasnt sure but the general thought in our group of pet families was to go and see. There were other families with children and they had a good idea to have one person go with the kids into the shelter to sleep while the other stayed out with the pets. It's what we did as well.
The church housed hundreds just that night alone with more coming the next day and we were truly given a gift of really being a part of something special there as everyone was so kind, so relaxed and understanding. They had treats for the dogs and extra kennels to loan. We had the choice to put our cars all in one area near a side door of one hallway and put dogs in the car then have access all night to be able to see them without limits. Some rooms (like the choir room my family was in) were able to watch out the windows. I stayed with the babies all night but hubby and kids all came out pretty much all night checking. Hubby wanted to stay some points but I wanted him to get sleep and I wanted to stay with the animals. The chis were showing signs of some anxiety while the newest baby was very jumpy most of the night; not really knowing our family so well yet and missing my daughter whenever she went back in after checking on her and walking her. Our baby Bella got to be the most anxious by morning. No one in the shelter with pets really slept and the kids (not just ours) kept wanting to see their pets. The church volunteers were amazing all night letting the kids use computers or use their cell phones in the cafeteria, bringing them stuffed toys for the little ones and sleeping bags that were donated by church members. Tv and food pretty much all night. Even rvs were brought by local police and parked along the neighborhood streets so they could have comfort, food and a place to kind of gather. neighbors even came at intervals between that night and the next day to continue bringing donations while anyone from Perry stopped by to try to help when they heard about the church.
We had to get back the next day due to work; the storm was expected to still pick up but not anywhere near what it was. As we were leaving, many families with all kinds of animals (many chihuahuas making up a pretty big number) were arriving with families and we again were made aware of what was really important in our life. Daytona and Space Coast families had lost most of their homes and were arriving with tired but positive attitudes and some solid plans for the next couple of months to camp out in tents until some repairs could come through. I can't convey here the touching feeling of being around the best in humanity as everyone just tried to help each other out and tried to relax anyone around them. Some dogs were nervous most of the night and many owners were coming out apologizing while no one cared at all about it; everyone was just coming to say hi to all the dogs, regardless of size, noise, etc and saying hello while reassuring all owners that they understood. This was not just other pet owners but church members, volunteers, and non pet owners. Many people had car problems or needed help with watching small children to go to pets or to gather other things and everyone helped out.
We came back home in storms and our babies looked really worn and were clinging tightly. My Lolli was constantly digging frantically with her paw to me but I was doing most of the driving. My husband put her on a blanket in between us and she was so sad with her head on her paws laying there staring at me. Bella was fine as long as she had a blankie and with my daughter and Sandy, our new chi. She did have a few moments of getting aggravated and making little growls (something she never did before). We arrived to a lot of work cleaning around and inside but everything important pretty much intact. The chis were happy the minute we got close and have been sleeping most of the time.
Rv is being fixed for the slide out problem we encountered and we are all waiting for the next few days as Michael is supposed to hook back around here by Wed. I don't think it will be so bad though-maybe some storms. We heard many emotional stories from owners through Daytona that rode the storm and were hit hard; all for the love of their pets. They refused to leave them. So far, damage there is large but they seem to just be very happy to be alive.
Last edited by EpochNia; 10-08-2016 at 11:59 PM.