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  • Writer's pictureKL Forslund

Hurricanes aren't much fun

Hurricane Harvey did not kill me. Or my house. Or my lawn. It’s just wet. In fact, it started raining again as I started this week’s blog entry. Right now I am staying home, off the streets while the remnants of the storm play out over the next couple of days.

Here in my area north of Houston, we’re just going to get a lot of rain. The streets might fail to drain fast enough and some idiot will plow through with his jacked up truck. That will push a wave of water up into people’s houses, not high, but just enough to get inside and damage baseboards, carpeting, etc. Happened to a few of my neighbors last year.

Let’s get to something useful, that I can paste a link to explain to folks how to prepare for a hurricane. I have no idea how many times I’ve typed a variation of this info to share with people.

Prep without becoming a Hoarder

After a hurricane, there will be gas shortages and the stores will take three weeks to restock milk. Power might be out from 2 days to 3 weeks for some people. All the food in your fridge will go bad. If you have a small house like I do, you don’t have space to stockpile supplies.

So aim lower. One week. If you have seven days worth of supplies, and by day 5, it doesn’t look like civilization is returning to normal, you need to change your plan anyway. Load up and leave, or eat your neighbors. Whatever.

If you were in an area where it is safe to shelter in place and as predicted, the area wasn’t leveled, then supplies and stuff will resume by day 2. Some restaurant will be open to eat at. They will have AC. Maybe even WiFi. You will not die.

Here’s what my standard “Prepared without Prepping” strategy is:

I have one of those water dispensers that takes the 5 gallon jugs. I have 6 jugs (keep the 5 unused in the garage). At any point in time, I have 5-30 gallons of potable water. On the week a Hurricane is announced in the Gulf, I go refill the empties right then. Because I use the water, it never goes stale or grows zombie virus bacteria.

That’s part of the plan, use your supplies and replenish. To quote Ezequiel from The Walking Dead, “Drink from the well, replenish the well.”

Now for food. Canned goods. Stuff you don’t need to add water, like Ravioli or the better canned soups. Canned veggies and fruit. Remember, you only need 1 can per 2 people per meal. That’s not a lot of cans. Write the date on the cans when you buy them.

Each month, eat at least one of the oldest cans and buy a new one. You don’t have to buy them all up at once, you want to make sure no can is older than a year. They’ll keep longer than that, but like the water, you want a cycle of consumption and replacement so it’s both habit and ensured freshness. You do not want to stockpile in 2012 and in 2018, be looking at a stack of old food.

Also, buy a bunch of those cheap tiny LED flashlights. Put one in each car and in your tool bag/box and bedroom. They’ll last forever and be handy in a pinch when you need it. Prepping is about having key tools in place before you ever need it. I’ve met folks who’ve made it their lifestyle, and that’s not what I’m advocating here. Just the basics.

Make sure you have a radio that can run on batteries and no your smartphone doesn’t count. I’ve got one that came with my power tool set, using the same battery brick. Good enough. NPR gives hand crankable ones away during the Pledge Week. Or go to the store, this isn’t rocket surgery or a lesson in frugality.

If you do not have a gas stove for cooking (my house is all electric), buy a propane grill with a side burner. Now you’ll be able to cook that can of ravioli in style when the power goes out.

Pay Attention to the News Kind Of

I’m not big on watching the news, I don’t watch broadcast TV even. But I check Google News every day. Hurricanes make the news. So when you see that one is announced as coming right for you, that is when you need to take the next steps, and not wait until the day of arrival.

In my experience, about two days before the storm is when we have a decent idea it is in the Gulf and heading for Texas and not Mexico. They’ve got a good prediction if heading for Corpus or Houston. This is T minus 2 days. On T minus 0 days, everybody else is going to go shopping for supplies. Don’t be like them.

Fill your vehicles with gas in this before time, while you are out running errands. Then try to avoid any unnecessary trips, because as you get closer to zero, more people will be out there trying to do the same.

Go pick up any non-perishable food, toilet paper, snacks, beer you need. Don’t go nuts, you already should have canned goods. Refill those water jugs. Get paper plates, cups, so you don’t have to wash dishes (again saving water and hassle).

Eat up as much of the left-overs and milk in the refrigerator. If power goes out for 2 days, you’ll lose it all anyway. Do not buy a big gallon of Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. It will only end in tears. True story.

Identify a friend or relative outside the region being affected. Make that person your point of contact. That’s who you will call to say you are dead or alive and they’ll relay to anybody else. This will save you time and battery on your phone by not having to tell ten people in a row that you made it and there’s no AC because the power is out.

Tidy up the House

Get the trash out. wash the dishes and laundry right before the storm so you have less built up (or eventually stinking) after.

Fill up all the tuppermaid containers with water and put them in the freezer. This will help keep your frozen goods cold longer. After one freezes, open the lid and put a quarter on top, then close the lid. Later, after power comes back, if that quarter isn’t on top or right near the surface (ex. At the bottom), then your food thawed and went bad. Also, all these containers of ice become drinking water if needed.

Fill up your garbage cans that don’t leak to half-full. I’ve found that any fuller and the bigger ones will split a side. Keep them in the garage or bathtub. Some people advise filling the bathtub, but I’ve never lived anywhere where one held water over night. This is your flushing water. If your water district goes out, they won’t be pumping to the faucets or toilets.

Move all your lawn furniture and planters to the garage or shed. Anything outside can get blown over or worse smashed into your window. Either way, not good for your stuff. Clean your gutters so they drain better. Go to the street and pick up litter and any debris that could wash into the storm drain. Preventing a clog now will prevent that redneck from sloshing water into your house with his truck.

Storm Time

Once you are done doing all the preparation for the big event, now you have to wait. It will take forever to get here. Half of the hurricanes I’ve been through came at night, so I slept through them. Yep, that’s right, these things arrive and are done in about eight hours. I am certain for people living 2 miles inland and in the storm’s direct path it is one hell of a show.

But us smart people would have evacuated if we lived that close. I’m eighty miles inland. Yes, we could get a tornado or something, but I’m not in a floodplain and by the time the storm reaches me, it’s lost energy. Know where you are, what past storms were like in your region and don’t freak out.

One interactive thing you should do is keep an eye on water levels in your yard and street. If things don’t drain proper, and the wind isn’t strong, you may need to get out there with a shovel and dig a trench or clear out a jam. Water often drains from backyard to front and street by way of the side yards. The fence there can clog up at the bottom with leaves and stuff. Pooling water needs an exit path made.

After the Storm

Assess the damage. Clean up debris. Make repairs. This will keep you busy.

Call or text that point of contact to let them know you are fine.

If the power is out, do not open the refrigerator if you can help it. You’ll lose cold faster and shorten the time the food can survive. This matters because if the power is off for half a day, you may not lose your stuff. Turn your phones off to save battery power. You can go days if you only use it for a little bit and keep it off most of the time.

Go outside. Meet your neighbors who are also inspecting things, Make friends. Help out. Shared experience in disaster breaks the ice pretty well.

Take a walk or ride a bike to see how things fared along your exit path to the neighborhood. You’re saving gas, and doing recon to make sure you can even leave. Also, say hi to people. Later on, somebody will be BBQing meat that’s thawed. You want in on that.

That’s all folks

I’ve been lucky to live far enough out that hurricane’s aren’t that bad. The steps to prepare for them, or darn near anything is the same. Be it zombies or blizzards even. The trick is to take steps earlier, rather than at the last minute.

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