Preparing For a Big Storm: Part 1

by Cait

Growing up in Florida, Hurricanes are not uncommon. Sometimes as Floridians we even downplay the seriousness of the situation, saying things like “We’ll get some wind and rain, maybe lose power, and move on”. Recently I heard the quote “There is no such thing as a minor hurricane”, and I have to say I agree.

 My personal viewpoint on hurricanes has fluctuated over the years. Fortunately I have never experienced a full-force hurricane, but I grew up hearing stories about Hurricane Dora, which hit the area in 1964. My dad’s family moved to Florida right around that time, and my mom grew up here. When I was in middle school we had a close call from Hurricane Floyd. We were expected to get a direct hit, so we packed up and began to evacuate. After several hours of sitting in traffic on our way through Georgia the storm was reported to be turning, so we went back. I remember being terrified, and my parents and sister had to reason with me to calm me down. Even though we did not get the full force of that storm we still lost power for over a day. Also, the family photos that my mom packed into a plastic box and put them in the center of the house may or may not have stayed that way for some time. 

After that my attitude towards hurricanes became somewhat cocky. This may also have to do with the fact that I was entering my teenage years. I would still watch the forecasts like a hawk, but they always seemed to turn at the last minute. People in the area believe we are protected by the Gulf Stream, and though I never fully bought into that, I did get a bit more relaxed about the idea of hurricanes.

Then when I was just starting college at Florida State the forecast for Katrina said the storm was headed straight for us. As a category 4 or 5. Even then I was cocky. “Oh it won’t be that bad, we’ll get some rain, maybe some downed trees and lose power. We’ll be fine.” I remember even being a little flippant after the storm hit. “Florida gets hit by hurricanes all the time, what’s the big deal?” Finally, after seeing some of the pictures and hearing some of the stories, the magnitude of what had happened hit home. Ever since then, I watch the radar like a hawk, stock up on supplies, and try to prepare the best that I can.

This morning Hurricane Irene, which was initially predicted to be heading straight for us, passed by our city about 240 miles off the coast. Even with the storm that far away area beaches experienced sustained winds over 20mph with gusts into the 50s. 

I’m sure anyone who is not in the path of Irene is sick of hearing about it, and maybe those of you who are in the path are sick of it too, but I personally believe that you can never be told enough. In the case of hurricanes it’s always best to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

image from The Weather Channel

At a minimum, The Weather Channel suggests you have these essentials on hand:

Essential Items

During a hurricane, and possibly for days or even weeks afterward, electricity and other utilities might not be available. Debris and/or water might block the roads, preventing vehicles from getting in our out of your neighborhood. Help might not reach you for days after the hurricane, so you’ll need to be completely self-sufficient during that period.

Here are some of the most critical supplies to have on hand, well before a hurricane threatens:

  • At least a 3-day and preferably a 7-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day)
  • Non-perishable food
  • Formula, diapers, and other baby supplies
  • Manual can opener
  • First aid kit
  • Prescription and non-prescription medicines
  • Toiletries
  • Cell phones and battery-powered cell phone chargers
  • Battery-powered radios and flashlights
  • Plenty of batteries
  • Extra cash
  • Blankets, sleeping bags, books, and games (especially if evacuating)

If you are a pet owner you will need to take precautions for your pets as well. This is a list from the National Hurricane Center on how to perpare your pets. And this is a list from The Weather Channel on preparing your home. 7th House on the Left also had a great post on being prepared for the unexpected.

And a few more of my personal thoughts (which may be slightly “duh” things):

  • If you are in the path of a hurricane, especially if you are in a low-lying area- get out! Prepare your house/apartment the best you can, and leave town. Take your pets with you if possible, they stand a better chance if they are with you.
  • Mandatory evacuations are not to be ignored. There is a reason they are telling anyone who ignores the evacuations to put their ID in their left shoe, and yes it is partially to scare you so that you will leave!
  • Do not drive through flood waters. Just don’t do it. Especially if there is any risk of a downed, live power line.
  • Even after the rain has stopped, there is danger from high winds and downed power lines.
  • If you are going to board your windows, use screws not nails – they are stronger.
  • Houses, cars, boats, etc can all be replaced, your life cannot. Please don’t take any chances!

We’ll be back later with another post about the things we did around the house in preparation for Irene, even after the likelihood of a direct hit had passed.

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13 Responses to “Preparing For a Big Storm: Part 1”

  1. Living in Missouri, we are technically in tornado alley. After never experience an actual tornado my whole life (funnel clouds here and there but never any touch-downs) I had the same outlook as you; it’s never happen around here so it’s not that bad.

    Easter weekend we had a tornado hit less than 10 miles from my parent’s house, where my husband and I were staying, and then Joplin (three hours southwest of me) was destroyed by an EF5 a month or so later.

    Add that into the fact that we moved to a new house where the only acess to the basement from outside (and the door is always locked) I’m really freaked out about tornados now. We have yet to put together an emergency kit, but I have been wanting too for a while.

    I’m glad the hurricane passed you by, though!

    • I’m glad it passed us by, too! Thanks Debbie!

      That is really scary about the tornados! I completely understand what you mean about wanting to put together an emergency kit. I want to put together a better first aid kit and get something a little bit more permanent for our emergency supplies.

  2. I have seriously been thinking about you all day! The storm warning are crazy all over the news! So glad the storm has passed you guys! Stay safe and I pray others do too!

    • Thanks Ashley! It seemed eerily calm this morning, and I’ve been inside the office all day (no windows) but Robert said they barely had any rain/wind where he works (closer to our house). I’m still a little anxious to see what everything looks like on the drive home, but I think we got lucky!

      I’m anxious to hear from some of the bloggers north of here, though! Everyone in the Carolinas, Virginia, New York, etc! Hope everyone is ok!

  3. Couple things: (1) Go Noles! (2003 alum); and (2) after a similar evacuation attempt for Hurricane Erin in 1995, I will never again evacuate. Unless I’m living on a houseboat or something. I’d much rather weather a hurricane in my home than on the road stuck in traffic.

    • Hi Erin! Thanks for your comment and go Noles!

      I know the feeling! We spent most of the Floyd evacuation sitting in traffic, and then made it to a Walmart parking lot near Waycross or Brunswick.

      Fortunately we are inland enough that we may be able to ride out another brushing like we had in 04, but if we are slated for a direct hit and have as much warning as the Carolinas did this time then we will probably pack up and leave if we can.

  4. I’m crossing my fingers that we don’t see more than some heavy rain. While the coverage of the storm has been constant, I think it’s so important to get the safety information out there.

    • I hope you don’t see much more than a heavy storm either, Kate!

      I think both are important, because you can tell someone to prepare all day long but they won’t listen until the reports of how bad it is and the damage others are experiencing come in. That said, I think that being consistent with safety information while talking about the storm is key.

  5. We’re in Staten Island (NY) and a Zone A evacuation area so we got the heck out of there Friday night. I think we went a bit over the top when it came to getting ready (you can read about it here) but to be honest, it’s better to be safe than sorry! We were lucky and didn’t get that much damage!

    • Glad you got to safety and didn’t have any damage!

      I should really finish up Part 2 of this post, especially with Tropical Depression 12 threatening to turn into Hurricane Katia in the next few days.

  6. Oh yeah, I remember a few hurricanes coming through when I was growing up in Florida too. We live in Port Charlotte, FL now, which recently had a huuuge brush with Charley in 2004. Luckily we were in Tampa, FL at the time so it only knocked out our power and gave us a few days off of school. (I actually remember walking down to the local park that day… despite the 30mph winds and stinging rain.) But since moving down here we can still see some of the havoc it left behind, even though it’s 7 years later. People here still talk about it like it happened last week, too. “Oh yeah, Ben’s parent’s house was down by the Peace River but we all know that thanks to Charley it isn’t there anymore.” or “Yeah the La Quinta Inn is finally filling up their pool again after Charley.” Haha, it seems silly to hear them, because you wouldn’t think it would still be affecting people so much, but it really is. I was in New Orleans this past spring, too, and you can still see the devastation from Katrina as if it just happened yesterday. Many of the buildings look exactly the same as they did the day after. Anyway, what I intended to say before I dragged you 30 miles down memory lane was that I agree, Hurricanes are no laughing matter. They are serious, serious business. And its always better to be over prepared than it is to not have something when you need it most. Hope for the best, plan for the worst and maybe wind up somewhere in the middle. :) Glad to hear that you are all okay up there.

    • Thanks Britt! I enjoyed the stroll down memory lane! (Well, as much as you can enjoy talking about hurricane damage.) Glad you agree, and hoping the rest of hurricane season is uneventful for everyone!

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