Hunkering down, praying for the best

The last time a massive hurricane barrelled through Vero Beach, Florida, Heather Yoerin was safe and dry at her home in Norway.

This time around? Not so much.

“We’re supposed to get hit pretty severely after 7 o’clock and then between midnight and 5 a.m. — it’s going to be absolutely awful,” said Yoerin, now living in Vero Beach with her boyfriend and four kids. “The eye of the storm is coming directly over the area where I live.”

Just before suppertime on Thursday, Yoerin said some of her neighbors had chosen to flee the area.

“Quite a few people are just boarded up and sticking it out,” Yoerin said. “But a lot of people have left town. They’re headed north. I-95 is at a standstill pretty much. People are still trying to get out. I don’t think they’re going to have very good luck.”


By 4 p.m., Yoerin said there was intermittent rain, but the weather was mostly calm. Nobody was fooled by that, though. All day, those people who were staying close to home had been lined up to buy the usual emergency items, batteries, plywood and toilet paper.

Just a few hours before the storm was set to arrive, Yoerin, her boyfriend, children and two dogs were preparing to tough it out.

“We’re going to just hunker down for the night,” she said, “and pray for the best.”

Calm before the storm

At about 7 p.m., Diane Moreau posted a photo on her Facebook page of a stunning sunset over a calm sea.

The beauty of the moment was deceptive. This was the literal calm before the storm as Hurricane Matthew prepared to plow into Florida.


“It was dead calm,” Moreau of Lewiston said later. “There was no wind and all the waves were gone. The water was like glass.”

Half an hour later rain and wind were back, lashing the Florida Keys where Moreau and her family have been on vacation. Moreau said she stepped into one crosswind that took her breath away.

“It almost felt like I could lean into it and it would just hold me up,” she said.

Moreau and her family have been staying at a condo while they search for a winter home in the Keys. As the storm neared, the condo owner called the Moreaus and asked if they could kindly close the heavy accordion-style shutters to protect the building against Matthew’s wrath.

“They really know what they’re doing down here,” Moreau said. “Even the businesses that are still open are all boarded up. They’re good at it.”

She said many of the people in the area are in the Keys on vacation. As they waited for the hurricane to arrive, a party atmosphere had taken over.


“We’re not being foolish,” Moreau said. “We’re staying safe and taking care of ourselves, but there’s really not much else we can do.”

Jumpy in South Carolina

By early Thursday night, Michelle McTavish was nervous — but prepared.

Formerly of the Portland area, McTavish is now living in Charleston, South Carolina, and she was watching the news warily as Hurricane Matthew plowed into Florida.

“It has been breezy all day and the storm is just now hitting Miami,” McTavish said. “I am nervous as I live in a field in a mobile home. I have the forest way over there and that’s about it. I am OK with bugging in, but I am nervous about tornadoes — they can pop up at any time and it doesn’t matter how well you are prepped.”

McTavish said she was getting ready to eat through what may be a long weekend hunkered down inside.


“I dehydrated all the veggies and lemons I had; some celery and some chicken. The chicken just came out. It will be dog treats,” she said. “Boiled some eggs and will be making corn bread to go with the chili I made last night. Everyone knows you can eat chili cold. I have done the usual hurricane preps as I have been through several while I lived in Florida.”

The hurricane wasn’t expected in Charleston until Friday night. McTavish wasn’t thrilled with the timing.

“I hate it when they come in at night,” she said. “You can’t see anything.”

Hunkered down in style

Shawn Wright of Lewiston was in Orlando for a conference this week and was set to fly back to Maine on Thursday.

“Basically they told us it’s not going to happen,” Wright said Thursday afternoon.


So, she and her colleagues were given a choice. Run frantically from airport to airport or stay a few extra nights at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando.

“We could bring the rental car back on time, stick it out in the airport and then try to get to a different airport,” she said. “We just said, ‘Nah. We’re comfortable sticking it out at the hotel.'”

You could hardly blame her. Waldorf management assured its guests that the hotel has generators and plenty of food to last the duration of the storm. 

“The staff has been fantastic,” Wright said. “I think we’re in no danger, but we’ll see. I think in the next day or two, there will be more to say.”

New to Florida

Brian Hodges was in Palm Springs on Thursday with his husband, Geoff Gross, and his cat, Sapphire, who was on the feline version of Xanax, a sedative, waiting for Hurricane Matthew to arrive.


“We just moved from Vassalboro, Maine to Palm Coast, Florida, this past Friday and now we are evacuating over to Tampa to stay in a hotel until Saturday,” Hodges said around dinnertime Thursday. “Currently inching along on I-4 west, bumper-to-bumper traffic.”

Before bolting, Hodges, formerly of Wilton, said they did their best to secure their home in Palm Springs.

“We were scrambling earlier to attach boards to some of our windows that are not hurricane-proof but the rest of our house is,” Hodges said. “Also needed to do some quick rearranging of our garage to set one of our vehicles in there and then run around to make sure there are no loose objects on our property.”

The irony is that the couple moved away because they were tired of Maine winters.

“We are lifelong Mainers but after 47 years have decided we are tired of shoveling the white stuff and want to see what else is out there,” Hodges said. “We unfortunately didn’t expect to have to deal with a potential Category 5 hurricane as a ‘Welcome to Florida’ gift but hopefully this will get it out of the way for us for some time to come!

“One of the really crazy things we’re observing down here when this kind of a disaster is on our doorstep is all places that have gasoline, bottled water and ice have totally sold out,” Hodges said. “It’s really weird to see gas stations with all the gas pumps wrapped up because they have run out of fuel.”


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