Hurricane Prep - An Old Hand's Advice

At least once a year in Tidewater Virginia we get to do this- prepare for a hurricane. Since many of you may be new to the area or this process, I thought I would share what I have learned from years of hurricane prep and from living through Isabel and the 14 following days without power.  This is not a substitute for sites such as the National Hurricane Center, or Homeland Security's preparation lists, but an adjunct to help improve your quality of life during and after the storm. Hope this is helpful as you begin your preparations (and here is hoping you won't need them!).

 Months - a week out
1. Have a plan, and prepare- We start this process at the beginning of Hurricane season each year. Make sure you have thought about under what conditions you would evacuate (this decision will be made for you if you are in certain areas).  Know where you would go, what route you would take.  If you have animals make plans for them.  Make sure that you have pictures of your house and belongings and have your insurance documents within easy reach in case they are needed.

2. Start a list of things you might need and replenish supplies like bottled water, batteries and flashlights. If you think you need a generator, this is the time to go looking- once the storm is forecast they will be expensive and hard to find.

A week-3 days out

To do-  1) Do things like clean out your fridge (once power is out, those green moldy things in the back will get foul fast!!), and catch up on laundry so that if your power is out you aren't left with piles of dirty laundry.
2) If you have a basement where you can wait out the worst, make sure you have comfort measures like folding chairs, water and canned goods there along with flashlights, and a battery powered radio.
3) Keep things like cell phones, laptops, camera batteries (you might need to record damage) and for me, my Kindle fully charged.
4) Make sure storm drains are clean and any backyard furniture and other outdoor items are either secured or moved inside.
5) Keep your cars fully gassed, as gas will become scarcer as evacuations begin
6) If your home is two stories, make plans to stay downstairs during the storm to keep you safe from falling trees.  If you are in an apartment above the first floor with large trees around, identify a place to go during the storm.  Make friends with first floor neighbors or move to family or friends where you are safer-  I am emphasizing this because some of the tragic fatalities during Hurricane Irene, including a young boy, was from trees falling on second floor apartments.
7) Once power and AC are out, the smallest household smells will become stronger, especially if you have pets.  Before the storm, clean or refresh your carpets, get some of the battery powered spray air fresheners or even some of the solid air fresheners.  If you have pets, take a minute to bathe them if possible. Sprays like Febreze or antibacterials like Lysol sprays will help keep odors at bay until the AC comes back on.
8) Freeze bottles of water- great to use in the cooler to keep things cold, and it is nice to have cold waters when you are working on clean-up

To get - Canned foods that you can eat without heating up, shelf stable milk, water, peanut butter, crackers and bread. Make sure you have a manual can opener, or else you will end up both hungry and frustrated. If you have a gas cooktop on your stove, make sure you have matches, since your electronic ignition will not work, but the burners will.Garden or leather gloves will help with the subsequent cleanup, and keep you from being exposed to poison ivy or splinters.

For Children-  Make sure you have things like paper, coloring books, board and card games nearby, since life without electronics is tough for young people today.  Maybe even some inexpensive handheld battery powered games will help pass the time.  Books, puzzles, crafts anything that will keep kids from getting bored are worth pulling together so they are easily accessible once the power is out.

Once the storm has passed:
  • If you have a charcoal or gas grill and would use that as a cooking tool during a power outage, make sure you have charcoal and/or gas.  If you are a camper, your campstove with propane is great for power-free cooking, but it must be used outdoors.
  • If you have a generator, make sure that you use it correctly and in a well-ventilated area. Also use outdoor-rated extension cords and use a surge protector between the generator power and any electronics that you plug in to minimize chances for power surge damage.
  •  Post-storm is a great time to coordinate with neighbors- After Isabel- we had a gas cooktop that our neighbors could use to perk coffee, and one of our neighbors had a gas water heater that we could use to take a shower.  Since we had a freezer and a generator, we held meat for friends and neighbors to minimize losses.  We took turns making ice runs so we didn't add to the lines, to spread out the work, and conserve precious gasoline.  We also did some of the most amazing communal meals. Our house was a magnet since we had a generator and a gas cooktop.We ran our generator only from about 4PM to 10PM, so people brought food that needed to be cooked, we fired up grills and the stove, and caught up on the news.
Hurricanes or other natural disasters can be a prart of life depending on where you live, and so making sure you are prepared not only to survive the storm safely, but prepared to manage in the aftermath can really make a difference in post-storm quality of life.


Montu said…
Generally i don't read long posts, but unknowingly i read it full. Very Impressive. Thanks.
Quay Po Cooks said…
A great post with lots of valuable information!
Mydish said…
one of the best post i saw here. Keep it going! Thank you.
Anonymous said…
Good ideas!! Also..have some roofing nails and tarps....sharpen chain saw blades...even a window ac unit to keep a room cool if you have a far we've been lucky :)
Deborah Dowd said…
Montu- Hopefully you never have to deal with this, but it is good to be prepared!
Quay - Somebody should learn from my experience!
Mydish- Thanks!
Anonymous- Good tips, a tarp is good to have ready!
Wilson Roy said…
Hi Deborah,
I loved reading this piece! Well written! :)

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