As yet another hurricane decides to disrupt what passes for normal life in the Hidden City, it occurs to me that those of you living in more hospitable climates may be interested in the preparations require for the event. So, here’s how I get ready for a storm predicted to bring hurricane-force winds and rain to my neighborhood.
Let’s review the possible effects. I’m leaving the wrath of god level scenarios out, since there’s no possible preparation for those.
A strong strike will most likely result in power outages, perhaps for days or weeks. I plug in everything rechargable I might need, to maximize their juice: all the laptops, flashlights, the Tivoli radio, MP3 players, Palm, cell phone, digital cameras, etc. I also locate my DC converter, in case I need to use my car to recharge other items.
Speaking of the car, you need to make certain you have a full tank of gas. No power means no gas pumps, and while the roads may be blocked, you still may need to use your car as an energy source.
If the power is out, there won’t be air conditioning, either, which renders south Florida pretty much uninhabitable ten months out of the year. So I take large ziplock bags, fill them with water, and pack them into my freezer. This will keep my limited supply of frozen food (fish sticks and Boca Burgers) cold if the power is only out for a day or two, and will provide cool water as it melts.
Water may also be an issue. Reasonable people keep several gallons of bottled water on hand for hurricanes; obviously, I don’t have any. However, I fill the otherwise empty (cheese, hot sauce, Grape Nuts, soy milk) refridgerator with pitchers of water, so I won’t dehydrate.
Obviously I may need to eat, so I keep some canned tuna, peanut butter, bread, and crackers in the cupboard. HobGoblin is set with a big bag of his kibble; we’ll share our water.
And of course I make sure I have at least a week’s supply of my medication. There would be little point to the other preparations if I was to keel over on day three.
Once food, water, meds, and technology are squared away, we move on to safety. You need to go around your home and lock away anything lighter than, say, fifty pounds. (This number will vary based on the predicted wind strength.) Trash cans and tools go into the garage, potted plants get moved indoors or otherwise secured, wind chimes come down. Then you look at your neighbors’ homes and make the tough judgment call. Do they look as though they are taking adequate precautions? If not, are they leaving 2x4s in the yard as potential missiles directed at your home? Then you may need to knock on their door and offer your assistance in cleaning up their yard, too. Of course, if you haven’t taken Spanish and/or Creole lessons already, pointing, gesturing, and making scary noises may be required.
With the yard secured, change the sheets and put in laundry. Hey, if the power or water goes out, you’ll want all the clean clothes you can get.
The subject of shutters can be touchy. I’m fortunate that my house has the fancy kind you just roll down from inside the house. I can be cut off from the rest of the world in a matter of five minutes. For others, though, this can involve nailing heavy pieces of lumber over the windows, or attaching steel shutters into pre-installed tracks. This process can take hours. Of course, many people now are opting for impact resistant glass in their windows. This provides the marvelous benefit of zero-effort year-round protection, and allows you to sip a mug of hot chocolate while watching Mini Coopers blow past your house like expensive tumbleweeds.
Okay, so my house is secured and I have my supplies. Now it’s time to think about the unpleasant scenarios, such as: What if that 30′ date palm next to my house decides to fall on the roof? The only preparation you can make for that is to pack a bag with the most critical personally significant items — family photos, data backups, etc. — and have it ready to move, just in case. Deciding what to put in that bag is more than a little difficult, but I know enough people who have lost most of their family records in hurricanes to make it an essential task.
After that, I call my family and local friends to make sure their own preparations are complete. I check in with the office to see if I am needed for anything, and then the countdown starts. Usually, and thankfully, most of the preparations aren’t called into play. Unfortunately, this has led some of my friends to become lackadaisical. Some aren’t even putting up shutters and gathering any supplies. In those discussions, I just hope I don’t have the opportunity to say “I told you so.”
So now the wait begins. Sometime this evening the winds and rain will come, and maybe there will be some green lightning, as with Katrina. And with any luck,
Monday Tuesday morning this will all be over. Until the next storm comes.