After The Hurricane

Posted by on Aug 30, 2011 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts, Uncategorized |

Right before our first anniversary we were discussing our favorite memories from that year. As I sorted through the mental pictures one series kept coming back. There we were, in our back yard under a tarp attached under the awning and to poles in the yard to make a tent. It was morning and we were cooking coffee over a gas camp stove. Then it was night and we were reading by lantern light. Then it was hot, mid-day, and I was canning little meatloaves in jelly jars on a gas camp stove…

What on earth?

Well, let me explain. The truth is, some of my best memories are related to the hardest experience of the year, Hurricane Wilma. Coming here the first of July, I knew that I was arriving just in time for hurricane season. I had watched the previous year’s hurricane season with more than my usual “oh, those poor people” interest since I was dating someone from Florida. I understood the potential intellectually but, it’s just not the same until you experience it.

We had shuttered the house for Hurricanes Katrina (it went right over our house but only as a category one – like a blustery day in Wyoming with some rain), and for Rita. We had endured the tomb like feeling of every window being covered. We had filled several two liter bottles with water, just in case. My husband had purchased many cans of tuna and corned beef. We filled all three vehicles with gas since gas can be hard to get after a hurricane. Then we waited.

I was scheduled to be at the hospital on the “before-during” rotation. This meant that I was called in to the hospital the night before the hurricane started, and I would stay until it was over. They have people there to work the day shift, and then the night shift, so you bring your clothes, a book, your spouse or family, and there you are. Bruce decided to take them up on the offer, mostly to keep me happy and we spent the night on an air mattress on the floor of a CCU room, listening to the wind howl through the shutters.

The hurricane hit early in the morning, more powerfully than expected. There were reports of funnel clouds in the storm and we watched some of the shutters blow loose. Water came through windows and part of the hospice department experienced roof damage with a major leak. The hospital staff pulled together and moved patients where needed until the storm stopped We watched a tree fall on a car in the parking lot and breathed a sigh of thanks that it wasn’t our car.

The storm abated about mid-day and by the time I got off work at 7:30 p.m. we were able to drive home. Traffic lights were down everywhere (90 % of the traffic lights in Broward County) some hanging down onto the ground in the middle of the intersections. There were whole rows of trees toppled, root ball and all over on their sides. Huge evergreen trees looked like “the world’s largest corncobs” as my husband said since all of their pine needles and branches were stripped off. When we rounded the corner onto our street we were met with the site we expected. The big tree in our front yard had toppled, but thankfully, into the street. It missed the house, the driveway, and the huge storage container in our driveway holding most of our belongings. (Tilers were scheduled to come that day and completely refloor our house.) Other than the tree which tore up the entire front yard and a short stretch of fence, we had no damage and kind neighbors had cut the tree out of the street so that traffic could get in and out of our complex.

Through the next couple of weeks, we did what we had to do. We spent time reading, cooking up all of the meat thawing from the freezer, visiting with neighbors, and remembering how easy we have it these days. A couple days after the storm, I was at work and Bruce called. “Could we can that ground meat?”

“If we could find some canning jars, I’m sure we could,” I said. “I know my Grandmas canned meat, not ground meat, but meat. I’ll ask around here at work and see if anyone knows where there is a store open that would sell them.“

Don’t expect them to know what you are talking about,” he said. He was right. I got nothing but blank stares when I asked if anyone knew where I could get canning lids.

One lady said, “If you want canned vegetables you go to the vegetable aisle at the store.”

On returning home I found that my husband’s tendency to save things had come in handy, again. He went to the garage and dug out a box of brand new jelly jars, lids included which he had bought to make jelly and then never got around to it.

So, FYI, you can process meat loaf by packing it into jelly jars, cooking it on a gas grill for one hour, heating the lids as for other foods, then processing in a pressure cooker on a gas camp stove for another hour. It is mushy but it makes great meat loaf sandwiches.