My home is one mile from the Gulf of Mexico. I had covered all the windows with plywood. Two hours before Hurricane Ian made landfall, I evacuated to a friend’s condo a few miles inland on higher ground in a new development with hurricane-rated windows and doors. As I drove away from my home, I looked at the house, wondering what damage it would sustain as the Category 4 storm approached. It wasn’t a question of if the home would be damaged. The question was how much damage it would receive. Would there be so much damage that I would have to cancel the contract with the Antarctica program to repair or replace the home? After almost two years, my deployment was just days away. Would I need to call my supervisor and quit?
For almost 7 hours, 120 mph winds battered us. Ian was basically an F3 Tornado that was 37 miles wide. The eyewall hit us directly, stalled, and then moved eastward. As a result, we took the eyewall from two directions. My friends and I sat in their condo as roof tiles on the new build condo peeled off, crashing down onto the lower level roof like bowling balls. Water came through the window seals and under the front door. Finally, the winds subsided, and in the morning light, we surveyed the damage.
By now, you have seen images on the news. Trees were down everywhere. Homes were destroyed. There was no power, no street lights, cars creeping along on flooded streets, and some cars bobbing along where they were abandoned in the height of the flood. We had received 18.5 inches of rain in 24 hours. My friends and I slowly worked our way back toward my property to survey the damage, but we were turned back a mile from my home, where the flooding was too deep to pass.
The next day I got word from a neighbor that my home had survived. There was extensive damage to exterior structures, but the roof had held. The home was intact. The floods had not reached the house. The garage door had held. Unfortunately, many garage doors on my street failed, resulting in extensive damage within their homes.
As we attempted to reach the house on the second day, we were still shell-shocked from what we had experienced and what we were seeing now. My friend commented, “A good storm tests everything.” It struck me that this was true of hurricanes, houses, trees, and life in general.
A good storm tests everything. Our foundations, our defenses, our security, and our trust are all tested by a storm. Storms come into our lives in a variety of ways and often with little warning. We get fired from a job. Death snatches away a loved one. The doctor gives us an unexpected diagnosis. The storm winds blow. The rain comes down. We are shell-shocked as we survey the damage. We cry. We look with side glances at the face of the Father, wondering if he is aware, if he is really in control.
I am grateful for the grace of God in such moments. He understands my humanity. During the hurricane, 80% of the time, I was resting on his lap, content in his embrace. The other 20% of the time, I was quietly anxious, squirming to get off his lap, wondering if I would have to cancel my contract to work in Antarctica to stay home and repair or replace my home. A good storm tests everything.
In the end, we were finally able to reach the home. The roof was intact, with only minor shingle damage. The only damage to the home’s interior was from wind-driven rainwater pushed around the front door frame and under the wood floors. Days later, I noticed water damage on the baseboards twenty feet from the front door. But that is minor damage in the grand scheme of things. My home is intact. I have a home.
I have friends lined up to house-sit for me for the year I expect to be in Antarctica. They are the same friends I rode out the storm with. They walked through the property with me. The exterior was a mess. The privacy fences were blown out, and the screened lanai was damaged but standing. The gardens were hit hard, with four coconut palms toppled over. But the house was intact. My friends told me to go to Antarctica. They would oversee repairs. I cannot describe the relief of knowing I could leave the home in their care.
I would not have to cancel the contract. Two days later, I left for Antarctica.