On October the 4th 2016 I flew into Orlando International airport, missing Hurricane Matthew by just two days. Of course, when I booked my trip I had no idea that there would be a hurricane at all while I was in the States. I had chosen to fly in October rather than the beginning of September, partly due to another hurrican forecast. This was for Hurricane Hermine, a category 1 hurricane, which became the first to make landfall for eleven years.
Hurricane Matthew was forecast to be a bad one, and so it proved to be. At category 3 at its offshore centre, it was the strongest one to affect the east coast of Florida in eleven years, even though it didn’t quite make landfall. It did, however, travel parallel with the coast, just offshore, causing high winds, storm surges and torrential rain. These combined to cause a lot of damage up the east coast of Florida and into south-east Georgia and South and North Carolina.
Most people on the plane I flew in on seemed to be totally unaware of Hurricane Matthew’s approach. I never heard once anyone mention it and I didn’t have the heart to draw it to their attention. It would have only caused them to start worrying about it before they needed to. They’d find out about it soon enough. They would get plenty of advice about how to prepare for it, after they had landed. Many of them were heading to Disneyland and the people there were used to dealing with hurricanes.
A Change of Plan needed
I had intended to stay two nights in Florida before moving up north. However, my friends, who I had planned to visit early in my trip, were all busy preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Matthew. So I cancelled the second night I’d booked in Sanford, and headed up into Georgia. Fortunately, I booked a room for that night in Macon, GA, before I left.
Arriving in Macon, after a six hour drive, there was not a room to be had anywhere in that area. This was due to the sheer number of people who were evacuating their homes and heading north. I learned next day that, during an evacuation, traffic flow on the south-bound lanes is reversed on the Interstates. This meant there were six lanes of traffic heading north on I-75.
As I was booking in, the hotel receptionist was fielding calls every few minutes from people looking for rooms. She was telling them all the rooms in whole area were fully booked and that their best bet was to head for Atlanta, almost two hours drive further north.
Keeping Track of Hurricane Matthew
In order to keep myself updated about its progress, I regularly watched the ‘Tracking Hurricane Matthew’ news channel. At one point there was a fear that, after it had travelled up the coast, it would circle round over the ocean and come round to hit the Florida coast a second time. I believe this had only happened once before since records had been kept, but fortunately this second hit did not materialise.
The next day, I cut across into Alabama. To continue on up towards Atlanta, my usual route, I risked getting stuck in a traffic jam for hours. I phoned a friend who lives in north Alabama and we arranged to meet up in Fort Payne that evening. When I arrived, she and her husband treated me to a meal at the Cracker Barrel restaurant. After parting company again, I spent the night at a motel in Rainsville, just six miles further up the road. Then the next day I continued my journey on into Tennessee.
I was glad to learn that all my Florida friends suffered only minor damage to their homes and that they were all safe and sound.