Thank you to all of you who contacted me before, during, and after the recent hurricane that swept through our lives. Hurricane Ian was a beast of a storm. As the forecasts developed throughout the week prior to it making landfall, we were bracing ourselves in Central Florida for a minimum of a Category 1 direct hit, with the potential of it increasing back up to a Category 3. Severe flooding from the predicted 20” of rain posed the biggest risk to us in East Orlando, which was a terrifying prospect given that we were already flooded from summer storms.

During our Diversifying The HERD 2022 Virtual Summit last month, HERD Instructor-in-Training, Jennifer Baker commented that “I need community. I need help!” Nothing could’ve been more accurate over the past 10 days as our community geared up for Hurricane Ian and its aftermath. Watching the catastrophic impact on TV is distressing enough. Bearing witness in real life to the losses of friends, family, and community is overwhelming. Many of us lucky enough to escape the worst of the storm are reeling with survivor’s guilt. My heart goes out to all those whose lives and homes have been devastated by this storm. I am enormously grateful to our team behind the scenes who worked tirelessly to keep things running smoothly on the business end while I focused on executing our disaster preparedness plan. I am thankful for the detailed training that I’ve received through Equi-First Aid in how to mitigate risks for all the humans and animals on our farm, depending on the severity of the threat.

We survived with minimal damage of trees and fences downed and significant flooding in our pastures and classroom. House and barn remained dry and intact, and all animals were unscathed. The chickens rode out the storm in the horse trailer and Carly the cat was sequestered in the classroom. The horses stayed relatively dry in the open barn and dispelled my fears of them getting spooked and running through the fencing. The hours spent preparing for the storm morphed into hours of cleaning up in the aftermath. As the fear and anxiety about what might happen transitioned into relief and exhaustion, I became even more aware of how precious and precarious life can be.

In the aftermath of the storm, we have been experiencing the most glorious dry and mild weather in Central Florida. The cool fresh breeze normally reserved for winter months has helped to dry out the floods. As our community returns to “normal”, I’m reminded yet again of my privilege. While the storm did not discriminate in its destructive path, we were not all in the same boat to begin with. As with the global pandemic in the past couple of years, we are bearing witness to social inequality in the aftermath where the most vulnerable populations and communities are being hit the hardest. FEMA will only cover flood damage for those with flood insurance, which many in the most devastated areas don’t have. Pre-hurricane, folks were advised to withdraw cash in case power outages led to electronic payment methods being out of service, but many low-income households didn’t have the means to make withdrawals that could tide them over. With public transportation unavailable in many areas, people are unable to access relief efforts that are set up in more affluent neighborhoods. Added to this, poor communities and communities of color are often physically more vulnerable to extreme weather conditions, with historically less investment in infrastructure, resulting in more severe damages in climate crises. All these factors result in increasing food insecurity and homelessness.

So, while I’m exhaling with relief for my return to pre-storm conditions, safe and dry on my farm, I want to urge us all to think about supporting hurricane relief efforts. Every little bit counts.

With gratitude,

Veronica
Executive Director