Shelter from the Storm

Martha Valenta
2 min readSep 19, 2018


Whenever there’s a hurricane I often catch myself thinking, “Why don’t they evacuate?”

It’s even easier after a devastating hurricane to think, “Why didn’t they evacuate?!”

Then I remember…

When I was in my 20s and my family lived in Jacksonville, FL there was a hurricane watch. I worked at the Florida Times-Union newspaper. We were told that we would lose our jobs if we left. Florida is a right-to-work state, so the threat was real.

I had two little babies. My then-husband was out at sea (a low-ranking, enlisted man in the US Navy). My family was dependent on my pitiful income. We were a few days away from payday. I didn’t have the money to pay for hotels or fuel. I was an emotional wreck. I packed the car with photos and other meaningful belongings anyway.

We waited for the whole thing to unfold. Every passing hour I wondered if it was time to leave, or if I should wait a little longer. I cleaned the bathtubs and filled them with water. I filled pitchers with water and put them in the fridge. I watched the weather reports and the traffic reports and I wondered how I would know when the right time to leave would be…and if we’d even be able to get out by then.

If I’d had the means I have now, we’d have skipped town. In my current situation, it’s a no-brainer.

But, this was a situation where I’d already rebranded poverty dinners like pasta with nothing else as “naked spaghetti!” or a big bowl of popcorn in front of the TV as “popcorn for dinner!”, so my kid would view our life in the best light possible. I didn’t have much more to pull from. We were broke. The thought of spending what little we had on fuel and hotels while risking my job for a storm that may or may not actually hit our town had my stomach in knots.

Do I provide for my kids, or protect them?

Luckily the storm winds shifted, and it never came to Jacksonville. But, the experience left me with empathy for anyone living in hurricane-land.

“Black Hole Sun” by Tim Meehan available at



Martha Valenta

Co-Creating Better Products, Design Thinking / Sprints, Experience Design, Facilitation, Change Management, UX, CX, Service Design, Strategic Foresight