Sunday, June 14, 2009

D'Lyn's Hurricane Survival Guide

It's hurricane season, and that strikes a chord down here on the Gulf Coast. There are TONS of resources you can use to find out how to prepare for a hurricane (Fema, Hurricane Tips, Ready.Gov.) All of these are excellent resources. If you're right on the Coast, you should follow them to the letter --particularly the evacuation part if that's recommended for you.

However, up here in Farfield, we've got a different hurricane scenario. Many of the tips on these sites will help you. But here, storm surge isn't a factor. Wind is. We're encouraged to shelter in place, rather than evacuating -- and that creates some of its own issues that aren't really addressed in government preparedness websites.

I've been thinking I need to put together my own survival guide -- based on extensive experience gathered during Hurricane Ike -- my first ever hurricane. Hopefully it will help you be more prepared -- and will provide a checklist for our family to follow as well.

You have a friend in me. During a hurricane you need lots of friends. Friends like Suzi are great to have. Suzi bought bottled water for me when Tropical Storm / Hurricane / Tropical Storm Eduardo interrupted our summer vacation and forced us home. Unprepared. Tropical Storm Eduardo was a good little storm for us -- it got me motivated to get my stockpiles together -- something that came in handy when Hurricane Ike arrived.

Water, Water, Water. I cannot stress this enough. The recommended amount is a gallon per person per day. I don't think that's enough. We were blessed with a cool front after Ike, but I'm thinking we might have gone through more if it hadn't cooled down. The other night on TV we saw this cool bladder thing that you put in your bathtub to store water. WAY COOL. Bottled water is absolutely impossible to come by with a hurricane bearing down on you -- or in the aftermath, for that matter. You don't want to go foraging outside the neighborhood unless you absolutely have to. It's so much better to build your stockpile now, well in advance. You'll be glad you did.

You Can't Turn Water into Wine. Sorry. It worked for Jesus, but it's not going to work for you. I recommend you stockpile more beer, wine, etc. than you'll ever think you can drink in a week. From the hurricane watching parties the night before to the neighborhood dinners that'll keep you social the week after, you're going to drink more in a week than you ever thought possible. More than you drank in college. Okay, maybe not. But a lot. I am not, in any way, suggesting you go on a drunken binge. But you're going to find yourself hosting neighborhood BBQ's and being invited to dinner at your friends' houses.

Turn Down the Redneck a Bit. At this point, I have to stress something. After you've had all that beer, please don't go thinking you can solve the neighborhood's electricity issues with your F150 4x4. At no point should you try to pull pine trees off electric lines with your truck. No matter how many of your buddies convince you it's a good idea.

Snacks, Snacks, Snacks. With not much to do, you'll be amazed at how much your kids will want to snack. We stockpile snacks in the cabinet above the refrigerator. If we don't need them for a hurricane (as in 2007), we use them for school snacks after hurricane season is over (November.) You don't waste that food, by any means. But take it from me, if you think the shelves at Wal-Mart are bare on Sunday evening, try the day before the hurricane.

Plan Your Meals. I absolutely did not do this, and it's one of the number-one things I'll do differently this year. I did what the lists say.... Bought tuna and canned fruit and all that jazz. But I didn't really plan. For his first post-hurricane meal, Biggsy had a can of Chunky Soup -- eaten at room temperature out of the can. Blech. Don't worry -- our diets improved greatly over the next few days. We ate pretty much every meal with the Jeans for the next week. We had grilled fish over here and the most incredible chicken lasagna over there. Hot dogs on both sides of the street. Brownies and pound cake and cookies.... more desserts in a week than our families consume in a month. I think we all gained 10 pounds. But here's where that planning comes in. It's awfully hard to get Asiago cheese when you can't find a grocery store with electricity. A little planning goes a long ways!

Get Some Gas! I'm not talking about the Beans, Beans, Musical Fruit kind. Gas for your grill should be your first priority. If you think planning a cook-out, only to find out you're out of gas is disappointing, you really don't want to face a hurricane without it. Two full gas tanks would be a great start. This is another thing you don't want to leave until the last minute.

If you've got a generator, you need to be thinking another kind of gas, entirely. We learned a hard lesson last year. We didn't have a generator -- that is going to be remedied any day now. But in the meantime, we didn't have to deal with the gas shortage, either. This year will be a whole new ball game. Brace yourself -- gasoline will be more scarce than a woolly mammoth. The lines to get gas are so long that you might as well just get back in line after you fill up -- you're going to use your tank just sitting there. You really can't have too many of those cute little red jugs in your garage -- just please store them safely.

Speaking of Safety.... After Hurricane Ike, the majority of children with Carbon Monoxide issues were using their Daddy's generators to play their Wii, Playstation, etc. YIKES. Generator Safety is HUGE.

Construction Zone. Remember, before and after the hurricane your neighborhood will be a construction zone. Last year, the first fatality of Hurricane Ike was a little boy whose Dad was trimming trees in their front yard, and a limb fell on him. On both sides of a hurricane, children are exposed to hazards that they don't normally face. Electric lines are HUGELY scary --we had a front-row seat to the power those things display when aggravated. What's more, you have people operating chainsaws and generators and all sorts of stuff that really don't know what they're doing. Please be careful.

This isn't Disneyland. Your kids are going to be bored. Very bored. If they're out of school, they really aren't going to know what to do with themselves. In the summers, at least, the high school kids have jobs that keep them busy. But when everything is shut down, they just roam. I've kind of wondered if the teen pregnancy rate jumped after the hurricane. I know that Houston is having a Hurricane Ike Baby Boom this month....

My kids are nowhere near that roaming age, but boy, they were bored. The novelty of it all wore off in about 30 minutes. And you can only do so much driving around the neighborhood to look at fallen fences and trampolines in the street. This year, I'll have a plan. I'll have one new treat for the girls every day for a week. A new game to play, a new toy to play with -- something. If we don't have a hurricane come through, I'll consider that part of my Christmas shopping -- done! Crafts are great, too. Family Fun magazine is chock full of ideas for crafty kids. Paper mache, repurposing plastic bottles, a zillion ways to use a pipe cleaner. What if your family learned to make a pinata, stuffed it with pre-purchased treats and then busted it at one of the post-hurricane neighborhood events. How cool would that be??

Don't Jump on It. Take your trampoline down and put it in the garage. It will only become a weapon during a hurricane. Taking down portable basketball goals is also a good idea. When one of those falls on your truck, it tends to leave a mark.

Frozen Water Bottles Rock! Part of the reason we didn't have an over-abundance of water was because we froze most of it. My thought was that as the bottles thawed out we'd use them for drinking water. It didn't quite work like that. The upside was that we didn't lose any meat to the Hurricane. The downside was that Biggsy wouldn't let me open the freezer door to get one of my water bottles out! The upside was that our electricity was restored very quickly and we were able to donate those frozen water bottles to some people who really needed them. We've had a few bottles that have hung around since the Hurricane, and they've been great for keeping stuff cold in our ice chests. We just keep re-freezing them. And I'm pretty sure they'd make a great weapon if our lives were threatened.

I Heard it Through the Grapevine. Never before has my social network been so important -- the source of news! After the Hurricane, the TV channels started broadcasting over the radio. It was a great source of information. The only downside was that they'd be talking about pictures we couldn't see. Friends were our link to real info -- as evidenced by the Texting bill I received for my phone the next month. Without any phone service, it really was our only way to communicate.

If You Can Build It, They Will Come. The only damage we had was a lost pine tree that we never liked in the first place. But we have friends that had extensive property damage -- even up here in the wind -- not flood -- zone. You really do need to have important numbers and documents handy -- your insurance guy, an already-vetted disaster recovery / reclamation company, and others.

Don't Forget the Little Things. Toilet paper. Batteries. Cell phone charger for the car. Fingernail polish. Flashlights. Bottle opener. Can opener. Frisbees. Just picture yourself going on a week-long camping trip with very few frills.

Be Prepared to Relax. Biggsy doesn't relax well. But I'll tell you, one of the biggest benefits of Hurricane Ike was his being forced to relax. No contact with work was a break he needed!


Mrs TD said...

How funny, but yet so true!! We have plans to review our hurricane plan this next week. Yes, we have a written plan with tasks to check off when a storm is at several key checkpoints (that we have determined). Hey, what can I say...we're engineers!

D'Lyn said...

Girl, you should post that checklist!!! I forgot checking Dr. Jeff Masters' Wunderblog regularly, but it's on my blogroll at right, so hopefully everyone will see it being updated each day. That guy rocks! If it weren't for the math part, I'd want to be a Weather man!