Hurricane Irma

The author recounts their experience preparing for and deciding where to go during Hurricane Irma in Florida. They ultimately made the decision to move their family from Parkland to Tampa, but due to changing forecasts, had to make additional decisions for their safety.

Lucas A. Meyer


September 11, 2017

Florida has nice weather most of the time, but also has extreme weather occasionally.

Hurricane Irma happened when I was out on a business trip, and my family was in Parkland, FL. Forecasts went from “maybe it will hit you” to “if you stay you’ll surely die” to “I think it’s not going to hit you anymore” to “Phew, it will miss” in four days.

We did a lot of preparation using conditional probabilities. In our assessment, it would be very unlikely for the hurricane to hit both the East and West coast. So we decided to move the family from Parkland, FL to Tampa (back then, the hurricane was forecasted to hit the East coast), but to book hotels in both Pensacola (Florida panhandle) and Jacksonville, FL while we waited for new forecasts.

As days went by, the forecasts moved further and further West. On Saturday 2 AM, the forecast was that the hurricane would hit Tampa as a Category 4, so staying there was too risky. And then we had to decide between moving to the Florida panhandle, moving to Jacksonville and incredibly, going back to Parkland, near Fort Lauderdale.

The uncertainty seemed higher for places that were north of Tampa: it was hard to tell whether the hurricane would turn either way in 3 days. On the other hand, the forecasts are better in close proximity to the hurricane, and it seemed pretty certain that the hurricane would miss the Parkland/Boca Raton area. So we made the somewhat gutsy call that my wife would come back to Parkland with the kids.

There’s surely an element of luck to all of this, but the outcome was positive. We had very minor damage in our house: a couple plants and a downspout. I think the total amount of damage is going to be less than $100. It’s hard to be precise because there may be damage that is hard to see, like on the roof. We did not lose power, internet or even satellite TV. The hardest part was the stress.

On Monday morning the winds were back to normal. There’s still a lot of debris around the county. I’m supposed to fly back home tomorrow, if the airport opens, and hopefully I’ll be able to get a ride home. This was more of a suspense than a horror movie. Many people were not as lucky as we were and we’ll now see how we can help them.