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The calm after the storm

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We’ve been blessed with nice weather following the storm to do our cleanup. And have you noticed the butterflies? I was drained from the work, took a break from the chainsaw and noticed a couple of beautiful butterflies working the flowers of surviving pentas – the calm after the storm.

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Recovery and cleanup following the devastation of a storm such as Michael begins by removing one limb at a time, one neighbor helping another neighbor, one word of encouragement, which in turn becomes a community pulling together to see order come from chaos.

Despite inconveniences of not having power there is something about it that is surreal.

At night without any electric lights, including streetlights, the sky is stunning. The stars are extra bright against the blackness. The moon illuminates the occasional cloud. Lights from a passing vehicle rarely interrupt the darkness because of a curfew.

It’s the calm after the storm.

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At night much of the damage is unseen, it’s peaceful. The unfamiliar sound of generators in the distance, and voices from neighbors can be heard because the windows are open or they are sitting outside, resting from a hard day’s work of repair, not stuck away in a closed, air-conditioned house with the TV on.

The smells of freshly cut wood, and grills cooking food before it spoils and the clean night air are enticing, probably reminiscent of days gone by.

The worries and thoughts of all the other world’s problems are temporally forgotten.

And then, reality sets in. Tomorrow, work must be done. It’s time to call it a day, go to bed and try to sleep. Tomorrow, again the chain saws will be going full blast, the cuts and scrapes from picking up limbs, branches and other debris, the raking and bagging of trash, cleaning out refrigerators and freezers, the tree trimmers and power and cable trucks will be busy up and down the streets. The mountain of debris in front of virtually every home can be seen.

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We’ve been blessed with nice weather following the storm to do our cleanup. And have you noticed the butterflies? I was drained from the work, took a break from the chainsaw and noticed a couple of beautiful butterflies working the flowers of surviving pentas – the calm after the storm.

There are hundreds of churches, thousands of neighbors, and government agencies, community organizations, volunteer groups, the media… all working with one purpose, one objective. It’s the irony of a community touched by tragedy that motivates us to come together during an unbelievably stressful, difficult time that may seem impossible when one considers the immense size of the job ahead.

There are permanent losses. The families and friends of those that lost loved ones are in all of our prayers and thoughts.

A community pulling together to salvage what’s left. There’s much to be done. But it can be done. It will be done. It will be done one limb at a time, one neighbor helping one neighbor, one word of encouragement… and before you know it, it will all be pieced back together.

Larry Williams is the Extension horticulture agent with the Okaloosa County Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida. Contact Larry at 689-5850 or email lwilliams@myokaloosa.com.

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