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This week is hurricane preparedness week. I have lived in hurricane prone areas my entire life until a year ago. I grew up in south-east Louisiana and have been through my fair share of them. From tropical storms that were no worse than a passing summer storm to the big ones: Katrina, followed by Rita, Gustav and Ike. It all starts with the tropical depressions that usually develop off of the west coast of Africa that we watch during hurricane season. We watch them grow and our hearts sink as they gain in strength. When they start approaching your area it becomes the talk of the town and things start disappearing from the shelves, usually staples such as bread, milk, gallons of water, etc…
How do you prepare yourself for one of these? Let’s start by saying: if at all possible, get out of there! When you live in a hurricane prone area, during hurricane season, you should keep your vehicle filled with gasoline as much as possible. It is probably a good idea to keep two five-gallon plastic or metal gas cans filled also. The first thing to go when they give an advised or mandatory evacuation is gasoline. The lines become horrid really quickly and the stations run out of gasoline. You do not want to be stuck driving around town or in a long gasoline line when you could be packed and on your way out of town. Also, for those that want to get home as soon as possible after the storm, gasoline is not very quick to be replenished after the bad storms, so be sure to fill up and have extra before heading home.
Second, if you are leaving, leave early! My wife and I thought we were leaving early enough during the evacuation of Katrina but the normally 3 hour trip turned into a 9 hour nightmare drive! We were not only evacuating ourselves, but our pets. Don’t forget to buy some portable water bowls for use in the vehicle if you are taking pets. Be prepared to sit in traffic jams for hours and hours on end if you decide to evacuate with the crowd. The contra-flow system that Louisiana had at the time was a joke, although I have heard rumors that it has improved. If you do not have someone to stay with, make reservations in a hotel early! Hotels within a 250 mile area fill up VERY quickly during evacuations. Also, if you have camping gear or an RV, consider a campground. Some of our friends had great success with these while others were driving hundreds of miles looking for a vacant hotel. We had a friend to stay with in north Mississippi.
Next, if you cannot evacuate for whatever reason and have to hunker down, consider the following. If you do not have a brick house, you will probably want to find a public shelter nearby that is open to evacuees which are usually public school buildings. This should be a last ditch option. As a child, my family evacuated to these a few times and they were not nice.
Most people who stay during a hurricane have a brick house or stay with friends/family that do. Growing up we had an old hundred year old cajun style wooden house. We would stay at my sister’s more modern brick house. First thing to do in this situation is to board the windows! This is to prevent flying debris from smashing through them. My dad always used to tell the story of how during Hurricane Betsy my cousin was nearly killed when a 2 x 4 flew through her window and embedded itself inches above her head. Most people have these pieces of plywood pre-cut, painted, and stored in the attic for hurricanes. that way when one arrives they just take them out and can slap them on in less than an hour.
Next thing to do is to fill the bathtub(s) and any empty containers with water. My mom used to keep 20 plastic gallon milk jugs filled with clean water in the laundry room. She would empty them every year at the start of hurricane season and refill them. Depending on the severity of the hurricane is not uncommon for the water supplies in a town to be shut down at worst, or be under a boil order at best. Forget baths and showers for a while if this happens. We went a week after Katrina with little or no water supply from the city.
Once water is taken care of, you should store up food (if you are not doing so already). At the very least, in a hurricane area, store up a month’s worth of non-perishable foods. I would encourage you to buy a case of meal’s-ready-to-eat, or MRE’s, to supplement whatever you are buying. There is nothing like having a meal that is quick to fix after working up cleaning up debris all day! Foods to store are usually canned or boxed goods that are pre-made and easy to fix such as canned soups, stews, and so on. Bread and peanut-butter can supplement these. There are tons of food ideas out there for hurricanes.
If the hurricane is moderate to severe, you will almost always lose electricity. You should prepare for this by eating all that frozen stuff you’ve been saving. I say that jokingly, but after Katrina the wife and I ate as much of our frozen supplies as possible before it was too unsafe to continue. The rest ended up being disposed of. A problem in itself when you do not have garbage pickup! Be sure that you have plenty of flashlights, batteries, a radio to listen to the news (our little $20 crank up radio – one of my first prepper purchases – became our major source of news after Katrina), and whatever else you might think of. For lighting at night it is also good to keep a hurricane lamp and candles, but of course be careful using anything with an open flame indoors. A lot of people buy gas or diesel generators to generate electricity for after hurricanes but these pose their own set of problems, such a fuel availability. Remember to NOT run a generator indoors as these produce carbon monoxide. It seems someone every year kills themselves and their families by doing this after a hurricane.
Electricity can be restored in a few hours or in three weeks. For us, after Gustav, it took them three weeks to restore our power. In SE Louisiana during the hottest part of the year this was horrible. Tempers flared as we watched our neighbors power restored after a week. We were the only ones without power for about two weeks due to the fact that a neighbor’s shed landed on our electrical wiring and the power company had to wait for a “specialist crew” to remove it. We were extremely grateful when it was finally removed and we got our power back!
My final note will be on morale. Our morale after Katrina sunk after we listened to the newscasts about New Orleans flooding. Our morale was very low with no electricity. It sunk lower when the government was so slow to move and help those in New Orleans. Then our food stores started to run low and it sank lower. Then the private donations from churches started to pour into our area – water, tarps, ice, and MRE’s became our lifelines. For anyone out there that donated to Katrina aid (or even Gustav, which for us, the damage from Gustav was worse than Katrina), thank you from someone who used it. Our morale and our faith in our fellow man were restored by these donations. If anything good came out of those hurricanes for us it was two things – charity is alive and well and this situation turned my wife and I into hard core preppers!
Article written by Mike, of PamelaFarms.com
Follow Mike on Twitter @PamelaFarmsMike