We had just settled in for what was to be 3 weeks at home in our townhouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but Irma had other plans! When a major hurricane threatens, escaping in the RV is by far the best option! First we shuttered the house in Fort Lauderdale and drove the RV 10 hours to park at a friend’s in Gainesville – North Florida. This is normally a 5-hour trip, but we weren’t the only ones evacuating! There were stretches where we crawled along at 10 mph for 20 miles or more – yep, that’s 2 hours for 20 miles! We really appreciated having our own bathroom with us! When traffic came to a standstill, we were even able to switch drivers. –
When Irma made it clear that she was aiming for Gainesville, we turned the key again and headed west to Alabama. There we met up with other RVers we know who were also evacuees from Hurricane Irma. See our personal blog post: Hurricane Irma: Evacuation Parties
Our smartphones were invaluable this week. First of all, of course, was the hurricane tracker. We used Max Tracker and waited on pins and needles for every new update. The “forecast cone” is what we relied on when deciding where to run. We also checked the radar using The Weather Channel. If you don’t know how to take screenshots from your phone, like mine below, here’s a Quick Tip on Taking Screenshots.
Charging your Phone
Gas Buddy New Feature
Another app we used a lot was Gas Buddy. As gas stations started running out of fuel supplies, the Gas Buddy app added a feature to indicate whether a station had gas or not. Below is a two-minute video which explains this new feature.
And then there’s Google Maps! We used two special features of Maps a lot this week:
The app that I found invaluable for staying in touch with friends and family, letting them know how we were, and finding out how they were – is Facebook. With just one post on Facebook, we can let everyone know where we are and how we’re doing. Since most of our real friends are on Facebook as well, we know the same about them. During natural disasters, Facebook turns on a feature called SafetyCheck which gives us all a place to check in and report our status. But more than that, I relied on Facebook for eyewitness reports. Information from Apps is great, but it’s information like this from people we know that really tells us what’s going on:
You may have heard a lot about this Walkie-Talkie app called Zello. It was instrumental in Houston for finding people who needed rescuing. We did not use it, but I downloaded it just to see how it worked. It’s a free app. It uses your microphone for you to talk and people who are monitoring that channel will hear you. It’s like a CB radio, or a marine radio, in that you set yourself up with a name like a CB Handle, and then you choose a channel to listen to and talk on. You can see a long list of channels to choose from and you can search for “Hurricane Irma.”
I can see where this could be a lifesaver in emergency situations, but don’t believe it when you hear that it works without an Internet connection – it does not. It needs either cellular data or a working Wi-Fi hotspot to connect to.
If you were affected by either of the recent hurricanes, first of all, we hope you fared well – then, we’d love to hear about any ways that your smartphone helped you. Leave a comment below.