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  • Karen Terhune Duncan

Irma, you bitch.

We've survived our first hurricane in Georgia.

This photo above was taken Thursday, September 14, 4 days after Irma hit our island. The power was back on. As residents and neighbors we gathered to celebrate survival and optimism. It's what The Landings does so well. Celebration and gratitude. Oh, and cocktails. When Savannah gathers, cocktails are usually involved.

Our home was spared. Our new roof held, our windows and doors held 70 mile winds. But storm surge drove 2 feet of water through our back yard and to the steps of our home. Water seeped into our garage. The damage is minimal compared to some of our fellow islanders where the surge reached into the home. And for some, trees are down on their roofs.

Our island sustained surges on all sides. Flooding was our biggest problem. While the waters have receded now, there is much to clean up on the streets and club property including the 6 golf courses.

Irma was on the heels of Harvey where half our family live. They endured a terrorizing week of rain that fortunately never breached their homes but they've spent the last weeks tirelessly helping others. In 1992 Doug's parents survived Andrew living in southern Florida with substantial damage and moved shortly after. Those who have faced unimaginable loss from Irma are dealing with a true and gut gutwrenching nightmare, we offer our humble condolences. We were lucky, and we know that. And many we know in Florida are still without power or worse. It sickens us, and we are praying for you all to keep strong.

In 2011 when Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey our home was spared damage but we were without power for 2+ weeks and that was very difficult. It was cold and we slept with piles of blankets and the fireplace on in our bedroom. During the day we showered at various friends who'd kept power and hunkered down at my office where power was never lost. When power resumed I lost everything in our freezer and refrigerator. So I'd learned. Today, our freezer remains pretty sparse. I live 2 miles from grocery stores and daily farmer's markets. I don't need to stock anything. The only thing of any importance in my freezer were 3 Tuna Steaks from the 200 lbs of Tuna our friends son caught in July. We packed them in ice and drove them to Durham, NC where we evacuated (which was MANDATORY on our island. We had to leave by Saturday) to our dear friends Cristy and Gary Burchill.

Cristy and I have been friends since college and we are both part of The Perfect Ten. The Burchill's made sure we stayed busy: a Duke Football game and Tailgate on Saturday (they WON!) and a round of golf at their club on Sunday. All just wonderful - a "hurrication" as Doug called it. Gary cooked up those Tuna Steaks to perfection and I made my southern Butter Beans that I brought from our rations. It was a feast.

Monday, the storm hit Savannah and in particular the barrier islands of which we are one; Skidaway Island. With so few allowed on the island we were getting sketchy reports and that was a worry. Finally, we got a video of the front of the house and we knew the tidal surges had flooded our property; we just couldn't know the extent of the damages. We knew there was no power and we knew that the roads were difficult. We waited until Wednesday, when the evacuation orders were lifted to make the drive back. We learned on the drive, that power was on in our house and slowing coming back to the entire island.

The drive back from Durham was a long one. Driving up was long, with more Florida plates than any other. The same with the return trip. What should have been 5 hours was 10 brutal hours.

While power was restored by the time we arrived home many of our fellow residents were not as lucky. So our wonderful association had food trucks ordered from the some of the outstanding Savannah restaurants and that was fun for everyone.

Because the grocery stores had not been restocked.

Doug and I don't have pets. We enjoy our family and friends pets, but we've never felt the inclination to actually have one of our own. Then we "got" Blanche. She is a great white egret, who by species generally pairs up and gathers in flocks. We have tons of these flocks all over our island where you can view hundreds of them. But Blanche is a loner. And hangs in our lagoon. She seems used to me taking her photo. We saw her the day we evacuated. And we've not seen her since our return, which is upsetting to both of us. But then tonight, when we were driving out of the island we saw a flock heading toward our area. I remain hopeful the Blanche will find her way back to us. We miss her terribly.

Our yard is still a total mess of debris from our tidal lagoon - broken tree limbs and mounds of salt marsh and mulch. Our garage is drying out. Our landscape and tree guys were here but it's going to be a while before we are even mildly cleaned up outside - and it could take months to get the property to some reasonable level. And to what extent we fix it all is debatable until we are at least thru this Hurricane season. A long road ahead on that. But we are safe, and dry and so very happy to be home again. Because this really is our home now. And we love it.

So here are our takeaways from this, the first of what we expect will be many storms to deal with.

1) Live where your association knows how to deal with this. Ours is beyond stellar in how they manage problems. They have a good financial reserve in which to draw resources. Our association has valued, loyal staff that are committed to restoring services quickly and efficiently. It's important to live in a community that cares and looks out for each other.

2) Don't stock pile food in your refrigerator or freezer. Keep it lean and easy to deal with in an emergency,

3) Have an escape plan. Know where you can go, preferably to friends rather than scrambling for hotel reservations. We heard stories of reservations not being honored and hotels that would not allow you to extend your stay if you needed.

4) Make friends with your contractors. If you have a good relationship they are going to come help you first.

5) Your stuff is just stuff. If it's really important to you take it with you. The rest, you can replace. It's. Just. Stuff

6) Make friends with your neighbors. They are a lifeline when you need it. And you will need it.

7) Laugh. Find the funny. There IS funny, no matter how bad it is.

8) Do not play the blame game. This is no ones fault. Don't look for fault.

9) Evacuate when they tell you to evacuate. They aren't always right, but why would you want to chance it? You can't negotiate with mother nature. 10) Embrace it. It's part of living in paradise. Every great place to live has shit to deal. So just deal with it.

The Landings, Savannah's Skidaway Island, Georgia. Our paradise and we're not leaving. #SavannahStrong

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