As we were preparing, Mathew was intensifying and heading away from a direct Abaco hit and more easterly towards us and the whole southeast coast. We made the decision to evacuate early to beat the traffic and were headed west with Mom and her 5 lb. Maltese by Wednesday night. First night was spent in Gainesville, and then we hoped to stay in Tallahassee, where we had a picnic lunch at this beautiful park on the river outside the city.
Unfortunately there were no room reservations available anywhere. Finally there was one room left in Panama City Beach. We heard that some people had to go all the way to Tennessee to find a room. So while Matthew was ravaging the coast, this was the view from our room! Dave even went in the 90 degree water but ended up with jellyfish stings and huge welts on his whole body.
We also went sightseeing during our idle time and came across these two attractions...the Titanic and Wonder Works upside down earthquake building. They looked so funny in the middle of the shopping district among CVS, Walmart, and fast food.
After the storm passed, we received a text and a photo from Mom's neighbor who stayed home and said although there was no power, Mom's house looked fine with no damage except for many small tree branches on the ground. What a relief! Since my brother had his power restored shortly after the storm, and my sister never even lost power, we started heading east. This trip was very stressful on my mother (and in turn, us), especially dealing with her dog that we had to sneak in and out of our room in my carry on case, because the motel wasn't dog friendly. Mom was getting increasingly confused, so even if there was no power at her house, she could stay with my brother, which is what she had to do for two nights. However, we did spend another night in a beautiful plush Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Silver Springs so we wouldn't arrive in Daytona at night. This was such a treat, complete with Jacuzzi hot tub, and dog friendly (We really needed this because both of our other rooms had bedbugs, although Mom's beds were fine and she never knew, but they loved Dave's body heat, and I slept in a chair. Nothing we could do when there were no other places to stay).
Back in Daytona, my sister had already hauled brush to the side of the road and raked Mom's yard, which helped immensely. We had to throw away everything in her fridge and start again (at least it wasn't like another neighbor who came home to find her two freezers full of meat running watery blood through her house). Just before Dave left to fly home, the utility trucks that had been sent to the area from all over the country, arrived and pulled a fallen tree off the wires and got us back on the grid...woohoo! Meanwhile there was no hot water, so it was time for outdoor showers.
Below are photos of some of the sites in the area. Captain Daddy's Riverboat restaurant was pretty much destroyed. Tree damage was immense, especially in her neighborhood of cedar trees that split, and live oaks that uprooted. One of the mobile parks had a tree come down and fold up a trailer. Now the huge piles of debris are on the sides of all the roads and pulling out of side streets is like trying to see around snowbanks up north in the winter. What a long strange trip it's been, but as you can see, some people kept their sense of humor! It could have been so much worse if Matthew had stayed a Category 4 hurricane and hadn't wobbled that little bit away from the coast at the last minute (so many people to the north of us are much worse off). Plus Abaco and Hope Town were spared the brunt of the hurricane and all is well there. We are ready...