Pray for Florida: My Family’s Hurricane Irma Experience

A massive storm has taught us to embrace God's gifts and never take things for granted.

Our daughter, 6, looks at debris in the front yard of our Delray Beach, Florida, home.

By Tom Sileo Published on September 14, 2017

My family left Delray Beach, Florida, last Thursday. Since September 7, we have spent 43 hours on the road, with most of that time in standstill traffic. We have spent a lot of time and money on everything from hurricane shutters to hotel rooms and gas, all of which have been scarce.

We’re among the luckiest Floridians displaced by Hurricane Irma. Thousands of families, especially the poor and senior citizens, have it much worse than us.

What’s the biggest thing we’ve learned from Hurricane Irma? Never take life’s most basic luxuries for granted. We now appreciate air conditioning, since we can feel the sweltering heat inside our home. We’ll never pump gas again without being grateful, especially after nearly running out on I-75 and Florida’s jam-packed Ronald Reagan Turnpike during our long journey.

Standstill traffic on I-75 in Florida on September 8, 2017.

Standstill traffic on I-75 in Florida on September 8, 2017.

One of the biggest concerns in Florida is electricity. It’s been out for up to six days in some areas, including my neighborhood. We were fortunate enough to find a nearby hotel room. Many others are either sleeping in their cars or driving hundreds of miles to stay with family and friends until power is restored. And that’s only if they can find gas.

The most tragic example of the state’s ongoing power crisis can be found in Hollywood, near Fort Lauderdale. In an incident still under investigation, eight senior citizens died after air conditioning apparently failed for several days. Please join me in praying for the families of these senior citizens.

We wrapped up our 20-hour journey home from Atlanta on Wednesday. We were relieved to discover only minimal damage at our house, which is about four miles from the ocean. A few trees were snapped and debris was everywhere. But all in all, we’re grateful to God for sparing the home we recently purchased.

On the day we left Florida, you could barely find gas or bottled water anywhere. When we returned, some of those same stores and gas stations were shut down, since they have no power. The restaurants that were open until Palm Beach County’s mandatory curfew kicked in were swamped with people seeking a hot meal.

Waiting in line for gas in Delray Beach, Florida, on September 4, 2017.

Waiting in line for gas in Delray Beach, Florida, on September 4, 2017.

Slowly but surely, daily life will return to normal here in South Florida and around the state. This is thanks in large part to the brave National Guardsmen, police, firefighters, first responders, utility workers, and ordinary citizens who have volunteered to help others. Many families, however, will always feel the void left by Hurricane Irma as they mourn loved ones or agonize over their wrecked or flooded homes.

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My family will be just fine, and for that, we are eternally grateful to God and the many people who helped us along the way. From friends in Atlanta who welcomed us into their home to Hampton Inn and Jiffy Lube employees who treated us with extra kindness after learning that we were evacuees, this storm has reminded us of the basic kindness of human beings created in the Lord’s image.

To those affected by Hurricane Irma in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and every other state: we’re praying for you. And we’re praying for those affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Louisiana and elsewhere.

Maybe you haven’t been touched by these storms. Perhaps you’re sitting in an air conditioned home or office while enjoying a cold drink of water. If so, don’t take these blessings for granted. Take it from one family who spent the past week learning to count our blessings.


Tom Sileo is co-author of the forthcoming 8 SECONDS OF COURAGE: A Soldier’s Story from Immigrant to the Medal of Honor. Follow him on Twitter @TSileo.

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  • Dean Bruckner

    Prayers for you and your family, Tom!

    • Thank you very much, Dean! We are doing fine.

  • Tom, we moved to the Tampa area a few months ago (Hurricanes? Come on, there hasn’t been a direct hit since 1921!), and experiencing a hurricane wasn’t on the radar, until it was. Once we learned it was coming right for us, the family persuaded me to leave (last Saturday early afternoon) for the in-laws in North Carolina. The traffic was awesome, and on the way back it was worse! As you know. Fortunately, like you, we had no damage, but unlike you we never lost power. Oh what we take for granted! A benefit of “natural” disasters is that hopefully they make some people realize they are mortal, that life is tenuous, and that they ought seek the Lord while he may be found.

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