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When Life Comes At You Like A Category 5 Hurricane

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Patricia picksAnderson and HeatherAlmost two weeks ago my husband and I were staring a category five hurricane name Patricia, literally in the face. You might have heard of her. Meteorologists in the United States branded Patricia the largest storm to ever make landfall. Although she started as a small, nameless tropical storm within a matter of hours Patricia quickly gained notoriety packing winds over 200 miles per hour. With El Nino fueling her forward, Patricia pushed to category five status with her sights set on Mexico.

Unfortunately at the time, my sweetheart and I were in Mexico celebrating our twelfth wedding anniversary. Oblivious to Tricia’s pending doom, we barely knew any headlines in the world let alone her name. The Four Seasons Resort is such a great place to lose yourself in the moment- soaking up the sun and all it has to offer. We did just that until a friend introduced me to an unforgettable woman.

I learned about Patricia late Thursday morning, at that time she was a category one. No big deal, a mere rainmaker if that. Later in the day- around 5;30pm I was told she catapulted to a four. Being a former journalist, I thought wow she is quite a woman, but again didn’t think much of it. The weather changes minute by minute so I wasn’t going to let some ‘lil’ storm ruin the remainder of my vacation. At 11:00pm we received a phone call saying, we would be evacuated Friday morning at 8:00am so be packed and ready- it was not optional. Then at 1:30am Friday morning another call came in saying to be in the ballroom at 6:45am for instructions about the storm and whether or not we would be leaving the hotel. I got some sleep at that point- thinking okay she has weakened and not really that serious.

Friday morning as we walked to the ballroom, the mood was very somber and lots of people seemed to know something I didn’t. The reporter in me, hates to be the last to know something but honestly at this point and time it was probably a good thing. I quickly learned my ‘lil storm’ had strengthened to a category five storm, which meant 165+mph winds and usually an incredible storm surge. The worst part though was being told we had missed the window to evacuate and would be riding out the storm ground level at the Four Seasons. Instantly I panicked, thinking back to my time covering Hurricane Katrina. Water everywhere, death everywhere! What about my little girl? My friends? My family? My animals? With all these questions running through my head, I told Robbie I needed to go back to our hotel room. I went there to breakdown privately. Think about it. We were just told the most powerful storm ever was going to make landfall about 30 minutes from us, inevitably destroying the airport (our way home) and possibly us! Plus we were trapped, nowhere to go-basically forced to stay a few feet from the ocean. Once my husband and I came to terms with that, we moved forward with saying our goodbyes and making sure custody of our little girl was situated. Somewhere in there we decided to survive instead and started taking precautions to do so.

Since my husband and I have a strong Christian foundation, we started talking to the Lord about the hours ahead. He led us to scripture in Jonah and gave encouragement regarding our future. Not that He was going to send a big fish to swallow us up, but that He showed compassion to the people of Ninevah. We realized He would do the same for us, even though we weren’t sure what it would look like. At that point, we asked our family and friends for prayer and started to make a plan for survival. We raided the mini-fridge for rations, confiscated floats, and scoped out our surroundings.

Ball Room picture Ballroom news hit

Just before 2:00pm we were herded into a giant ballroom to ride out the storm. Almost 500 people crammed into a little room for the rest of the night. The conditions weren’t ideal but they weren’t horrible. The staff at the Four Seasons did a fabulous job of keeping us as comfortable as possible. Once we settled down on the floor amid make-shift beds, I started doing what I do best- keeping others informed. I started tweeting, or sharing videos and pictures of the experience, in hopes of documenting what could’ve been my last moments- merely for our daughter, family and friends in case they needed to trace our steps. Little did I know national and international media outlets would see them.

Shortly after, outlets like Today Show, CNN New York, CNN Los Angeles, Anderson Cooper, CNN International, The Weather Channel, The International Business Times, and several local affiliates contacted me for live interviews. As a former journalist, I jumped at the opportunity to report for those outlets and immediately dove head first into the story. While I thought God was just using the opportunity to take my mind off things, later I realized it wasn’t about me at all. He used my reports to settle the hearts of many all over the world. Out of the 500 I was with almost all had family members worried sick about them. These same people saw my live reports and social media posts, which gave them relief. Countless people shared stories with me about the peace their loved ones got from our simple broadcasts. I write all this not to toot my own horn, but more or less to share how even in the darkest situations God always has a plan.

Thankfully God shifted Patricia to a less populated destination, limiting her destruction and believe it or not omitting any loss of human life! This experience is one I’ll never forget and my husband and I are glad we lived to tell the tale!

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