North America

Hurricane, Heartbreak and Hope:

NOAA Map Showing the Track of Hurricane Florence (Image derived from the NOAA website)

Three weeks of Heaven and Hell.

This week you should be reading about the King’s Daughters, a charming bed and breakfast in Durham, North Carolina. In fact, you should have been reading about it last week. Unfortunately, Hurricane Florence dropped in uninvited and wrought havoc in Eastern North Carolina. This, coupled with a devastating diagnosis, destroyed my ability to concentrate on producing the kind of story you deserve to read.

The Joy Before the Storm

When we left home September 6 on a road trip that would end in Rochester, New York on September 17, Hurricane Florence wasn’t even on our radar. We spent two unforgettable days exploring the well-known and lesser-known treasures of Arlington, Virginia. There we learned why everyone loves living in this vibrant city with a small town feel, right next door to Washington, DC.

Our biggest weather concern was whether we would be able to take our scheduled glider rides in Elmira, New York before the TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) conference in Corning. Not only did we take our flights, we explored Finger Lakes Wine Country in the rain with Duncan and Jane, our ToTravelToo blogger friends from Australia and participated in pre-conference FAM (familiarization) trips. But by the beginning of the conference, it became clear the Southeast was about to be hammered by Hurricane Florence’s wrath.

Our house sits at one of the highest elevations in our community, so we were less concerned about our home than those of our friends and neighbors. Following unsuccessful attempts to persuade our friends, Bob and Pamela to heed the call for mandatory evacuation, they finally agreed to stay in our house, since it was a foregone conclusion that their’s would flood.

The start of the flooding from hurricane Florence (© Bob Leahy ~ Published with permission)
The start of the flooding from hurricane Florence (© Bob Leahy ~ Published with permission)

Power went out on September 13, and the storm raged on for nearly two days. Meanwhile, we networked, partied and learned a lot at TBEX. The conference was followed by an incredible three-and-a-half day Culture and Cuisine tour of Rochester.

During the Storm

We received frequent updates from Bob and Pamela on the progress of Hurricane Florence. With no power, they piggy-backed off a neighbor’s generator – and yes, we will be looking for one of our own – to keep the refrigerator and freezer running. They had no lights other than flashlights and candles, no air conditioning and for a a couple of days, no water. Stores were closed, there was no gas and many lost their homes and businesses to Florence’s rage.

Hurricane Florence - a further rise in the water and now with significant flooding seen from the safe vantage point of our house across the water (© Bob Leahy ~ published with permission)
Hurricane Florence – a further rise in the water and now with significant flooding seen from the safe vantage point of our house across the water (© Bob Leahy ~ published with permission)

Wilmington was where the hurricane came ashore, and the city was isolated for days. The devastation was off the charts. New Bern didn’t fair much better, though. The downtown area was under water, and boats that had broken free at the marinas lay on their sides in the streets.

Our community suffered severe damage from both flood water and wind, but because of our home’s location and sturdy construction, the only damage we incurred was a popped out window screen and a couple of missing boards from our dock.

Painful News

Our luck ran out on our way home from Rochester. Otto had had surgery to remove his spleen in late August, A tumor had caused bleeding in his abdomen, but we were still waiting on the results.

While we were on the road, Otto was his usual exuberant self: tail up while he was working, and wagging constantly when he wasn’t. The grim possibilities were always in the back of our minds, but we tried to push them aside until we had the pathology results.

Otto reposing comfortably in the vet's office waiting for his stitches to be removed (©simon@myeclecticimages.com)
Otto reposing comfortably in the vet’s office waiting for his stitches to be removed (©simon@myeclecticimages.com)

Our vet called when we were about three hours from home. Otto’s tumor was malignant.

Aftermath and Action

When we returned to our home, there was still no power and we were under a boil water advisory. The next morning, both problems went away, and we had cool air, hot showers and safe drinking water. But we still have no internet access, and are hot spotting our phones.

Bob and Pamela are still with us. They had 13 inches of flood water in their house and have a serious mold problem. We are helping them as much as we can, but getting them back to normal will take months.

As for us, needless to say our press trip to Wilmington beginning in two days is canceled, and my heart goes out to her citizens. We will be doing what we can to help our friends and neighbors who were affected and try to catch up with our writing and photography work.

And Otto? We have an appointment on Monday at the North Carolina State University Veterinary Medicine Clinic. There we will learn what treatment options are available that will prolong his life and give him the quality to continue doing what he loves as long as possible. And, of course, we will give him all the love we can.

To say the last three weeks were a roller coaster would be an understatement. We love what we do, and Otto is an important and precious part of it all. All we can do is take it one day at a time and try to make decisions that will be in his best interests. There will be changes and challenges, but that’s life as we know it. Our sons, family and friends have been sensitive and supportive, and we treasure them for their goodness. We have been overwhelmed by their concern about our safety and that of our home via phone, email and social media. When life hands us lemons, the people we love are our lemonade.

10 Comments

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    Cara O'Donnell

    Oct 23, 2018

    Reply

    Oh Penny - I just hopped on the site to see if you'd posted yet about Arlington and saw this news. In addition to the storm troubles, I am SO sorry to hear about Otto! I truly hope you find some treatment to keep him a happy traveler at your side for as long as possible!

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      Penny Zibula

      Oct 27, 2018

      Reply

      Thank you, Cara. It's definitely been a stressful time, and my writing has suffered as a result. Your timing was great, though, as I was already working on a post about the Observation Deck at Central Place when your message came in. I'll be sending you and Cleon the link. Meanwhile, Otto has just had his second treatment, and he is feeling good and acting like a puppy. We know this won't last forever, but we'll take what ever time we can. Just incase we didn't say it enough, we love Arlington!

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    Joan

    Sep 22, 2018

    Reply

    Penny, I am so sorry about Otto. He's a strong boy and will fight to live. Charlie and I send our love and hugs. Thank heavens you are able to help Bob and Pamela. The pictures are so hard to process since I was just there. I feel bad for all the people who were devastated by the storm. New Bern was such a cute and charming town it will take a lot of work, but I know it will come back.

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      Penny Zibula

      Sep 28, 2018

      Reply

      Thank you for the love and hugs. Will do our best for Otto, and hope we can extend his time and give him good quality of life. Will stay in touch.

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    Karen Padilla

    Sep 22, 2018

    Reply

    So sorry to hear about all of this. Hurricane Florence's impact will be felt for quite some time. Our prayers are with all who are living with the aftermath. It's hard to even imagine Otto as being sick. I still can remember him laying on my feet at the workshop in Denver. I didn't mind at all because he was keeping my feet warm. Hoping that they have a treatment and wishing him a successful recovery and a long and healthy life. My own dog was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. He tuned 18 in Feb. I made the decision not to put him through chemo and no outstanding measures because he so old and his other health issues precludes him from having any type of surgery since 2017. He has a partially collapsed lung, an inoperable torn ACL in his hind leg and now the other hind leg which was doing most of the work is also weakening, and he's been totally blind since 2012. But he is stubborn and like the old saying "nothing keeps a good dog now" (or is that man). He refuses to let anything get in his way. I'm praying for the recovery from the effects of the hurricane, and of course, Otto, will be in my prayers every day. He's loved by a lot of good people.

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      Penny Zibula

      Sep 28, 2018

      Reply

      Thank you Karen. Really appreciate your thoughts and prayers. I’m sure you know we will do our best for Otto in the coming months. As for our community, we will recover. It will take time, but we will recover. We’ve seen a tremendous outpouring of help and support from all over the country.

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    To Travel Too

    Sep 21, 2018

    Reply

    Oh Penny and Simon we are heartbroken to hear about our four legged mate Otto - sending lots of hugs to all three of you. What a time you have had, we were glad to spend special time with you knowing what was going on in your lives at that time.

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      Penny Zibula

      Sep 28, 2018

      Reply

      We definitely appreciate the hugs. Yes, the last couple of weeks have been really tough, but that makes the wonderful time we had in Corning with the two of you that much more special. Hope will be able to have some good times with you again soon. Let’s see if we can squeeze in a Skype call sometime in the next couple of weeks.

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    Lori Sweet

    Sep 21, 2018

    Reply

    So glad your house and neighbors rode out the storm. My heart breaks to hear about Otto. Know that our thoughts and prayers are with you.

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      Penny Zibula

      Sep 28, 2018

      Reply

      Thank you, Lori. These last couple of weeks have been tough, but we have hadso much love and support from so many awesome people, it will help us get through all this. We really enjoyed seeing you and Silvio in Corning. Are you going to be at IMM again in January? Maybe we’ll see you there.

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