Hurricane Preparation So Your Humble Abode Won’t Blow: A Reprise From Acknowledged Hurricane Experts

…us. (And welcome again, Instapundit readers!)

(reposted for those of us in Sandy’s way. Again, welcome to fellow Instapundit readers! We’ll be adding winter tips as well.)

major dad and I are veterans of major Hurricanes Bertha, Fran, Ivan and Dennis (along with others less significant in damage for us, but worth preparing for). Thanks to Irene visiting brother Bingley last year, I thought I would offer up what’s worked for us in terms of preparation, both food-wise, house-wise PLUS some of the things folks don’t know about, that make life bearable if those winds of almost-September come early. I hope you’ll find something that you didn’t know before. First up is the heavy lifting.

1: Shopping list suggestions for tonight/assoonasyoufreakincan is up underneath the board pictures.

2: And our “WHAT TO DO TO GET INSIDE READY” is posted at the bottom of it all, so now we have our experience covered completely, soup to nuts: food/supply shopping, to board up, to getting the inside of the house set. Make lists. Don’t trust yourself to remember everything you need and/or want to do. Write it all down. I do, every time. I hope the ‘all in one place’ format is proving helpful and PLEASE don’t hesitate to comment or email questions if you have any at all. thsister-at-gmail-dot-com

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Full disclosure. For Bertha and Fran in NC (Cat 2 and 3, 56 days apart in ’96), we only lived 10 miles inland, were on the eastern side of the storm both times (translation: got beat all to hell), never boarded up and did just fine. The most important thing we did, and have always done, is CLEAR THE AREA OF POTENTIAL FLYING OBJECTS. Anything and everything in our yard AND the neighborhood that could be turned into a missile (including that 100lb garden pot you don’t think can fly…it can), goes into the garage. Bertha came in during the daytime and, along around noon, we got to watch the neighbor’s metal shed explode and fly through our backyard at about 110 mph. That was the only thing we couldn’t control that day that went walkabout, and it would have killed someone if the wind hadn’t been parallel to the house.

BOARDING UP: If you want to board up, this is how we did it (In Pensacola, ’04 for Hurricane Ivan). (Now, there are great Plylox Hurricane Clips available, which will save you step #2, if you can find them. Be prepared ~ they’re a bitch to get them on the house, but they’re simple and great*.) They were all sold out when we hit Lowe’s, pre-Ivan.

Be prepared ~ NONE of this is cheap. BUT. The peace of mind is ENORMOUS. Plus, you’re so pooped from the effort, not to mention standing in line for supplies, that you sleep soundly. Measure and KNOW WHAT YOU NEED BEFORE YOU GET THERE. Be ready to make quick adjustments for what’s left on the shelves.

1) Don’t screw with anything less than 1/2 inch plywood, REAL plywood. (That’s assuming there’s any left when you get to Home Depot. We used 3/4″.) Cut to fit flush INSIDE the windowframe. (We used two pieces here. Shaved the edge off a 5′ by 8′ full sheet and then a smaller piece to cover completely to the top of the window, hence, if you squint, you’ll notice a seam in the plywood about 3/4 of the way up.)

2) What’s going to hold those boards in place are 1 x 4’s on either side, snugged up tight against the plywood, cut to the height of the window, drilled into the frame from the side and held in with hex top TapCon screws, because of the masonry. I think we had a max of 5 screws per side.

I’ll have another post shortly on supplies and preparations:

(That’s dogfood double-wrapped in the plastic bags and Miller Light for the Squid Terrorist to keep the generator running…)

* Handy Tip: The Squid Terrorist actually drilled through his clips and screwed them to the plywood sheets before attempting to pop them into the windows. Saves a ton of frustration.

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Alright, shopping time.

IMHO and hard won experience, these are stores every single household should have (and you may already have much of it). Use your brain, based on the number and age of folks in your household.
Remember you are going to be HOT, cranky and exerting yourself in the aftermath if, GOD FORBID, the thing smacks you good.
Think of preparing for this as a picnic on crack. Take a good hard look at what you already have on your shelves first, add or subtract according to what you have onhand vs your particular needs/family’s tastes and then…

A Few Days PRIOR (three days out may be TOO LATE to find everything):

3 gallons BOTTLED water per person (for 3 days) minimum
enough prescription medication to get you through 10 DAYS if you take any
canned tuna/chicken/SPAM/shelf stable meats
those damned nasty vienna snausages
canned chili
beenie weenies
canned soups like “chunky” that don’t need water added
mayo/mustard/ketchup
bread (Get the one with the FURTHEST OUT SHELF DATE)
canned vegetables, like green beans or baby peas
kraft macaroni and cheese in a box
dry cereal
instant oatmeal
squeezy cheese
large jar(s) peanut butter
large jar(s) jelly
various boxes of crackers
instant coffee or tea
coffemate, dry milk or shelf stable milk
sugar, salt, pepper
juice boxes
instant potatoes (like a BIG box of “Potato Buds”)
whatever fresh fruit your family enjoys
butter or (gulp) margarine
dogfood/catfood if you have furry family members besides, well…
snacks and chips
canned or plastic jarred fruits, like cocktail or peaches
pudding cups
dish detergent
antiseptic hand soap
paper towels
paper napkins
plastic utensils (forks, knives,spoons)
paper plates
plastic trash bags
ZIPLOCK baggies, QT and GAL
DUCK tape
boxes of wooden matches
MANUAL CAN OPENER
large candles (and not really stinky ones) As leelu notes in the comments:WITH a GAS LEAK, CANDLES CAN BE BAD. **SITUATIONAL AWARENESS** KNOW what’s going on.
bug spray, both yard and personal
A BATTERY OPERATED RADIO (that voice in the dark from the local TV station will be your BEST FRIEND, trust me.)
LARGE BATTERY OPERATED LIGHTS that will sit independently (hard to go to a dark bathroom holding a flashlight)
small flashlights
LED poplights are great
BATTERIES and SPARES that fit EVERY SINGLE THING YOU NEED BATTERIES FOR!!!
FILL YOUR PROPANE CANNISTER NOW (if you are on a direct gas hook-up, get a charcoal grill)
3 bags of charcoal
lighter fluid for the charcoal
CASH
CAR CHARGER for cell phones (ours were worthless during Ivan but I’ve heard they’ve come a long way, tower-wise…)
COOLERS for the ice (and the stuff that’ll come out of that fridge)
FIRST AID KIT which I bolster with additional Ace bandages, BandAids of every size and description, sterile wraps, tapes, Neosporin, hydrocortizone, anti-histimine pills, aspirin etc.
Little Coleman tanks if you have camping stoves or lights (as always, to be used OUTSIDE AFTERWARDS…DUH)
Old fashioned board games, playing cards, Mille Bornes, Yahtzee, books (especially with wired little ones)

Hold off on ice until the latest you possibly can, which is why it’s NOT on the “go after work TONIGHT” list. TOP YOUR GAS TANKS off while you can, too, as Bingley points out. You all will have to fight a ton more people at the pump than we ever did down here.

*DIRECT plug-in phone like a Princess type, if you have a PHONE COMPANY landline. Your multiple remote handset phone will not work when the power goes out, and your old fashioned one may very well get a call out on the substation batteries. See below.
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ths Winter Storm addendum:

*For winter storms, let me add what used to be standard equipment in my car trunk “on the mountain” growing up:

2-25 lb bags of CLAY kitty litty, one per side for even distribution

1) the weight on the rear tires is added stability in snowy/icy conditions

2) that bag of kitty litter provides an EXCELLENT source of traction should you need it to get out of tight/unforseen situations. Just sprinkle liberally behind your tires to form a track where you want to go, like you would sand or salt and it’s beaucoups environmentally friendly. We’ve even wound up using it to ease out of parking lots that have frozen over while at work. Just have a couple large plastic garbage bags or something to close it up on hand as well with once you open it.

*Freeze-proof the outside of your house like you would normally. Drain faucets, hoses, close crawlspace louvers etc. Make sure to do ALL that cold-weather prepwork as well.

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Bingley just rang a bell: when you’re ready to close the house up,
LOCK YOUR GARAGE DOORS DOWN. If you don’t park in your garage, PULL YOUR CARS SNUG UP TO THE DOORS. They provide the most excellent wind baffle you can imagine and, considering the further up the East Coast you go, the less the doors are reinforced like ours here in the Panhandle, you will NEED every little bit of wind mitigation you can muster. You car insurance will take car of whatever Irene does to the vehicle.

This is doubly important because, contrary to the old wives tale about “equalizing pressure’, if those winds get into your garage, not only do they start tearing the garage to bits, they start LIFTING YOUR ROOF OFF. And then your whole house is a goner. The only house in our neighborhood to have the roof blown to bits during the 140mph+ gusts of Ivan was the ONE home where the owner had the garage door “cracked” opened to “relieve the pressure”.
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*What to Do Inside*

Get Your Important “Stuff” Together

Your papers, diplomas, etc. All those things that make your life identifiable? Those things your would rush out of a burning building with? If they’re not already in one place together, get them together NOW. And add one more thing ~ a copy of a utility bill, like electric or phone. If, God forbid, you have to evacuate and they work it like they do down here, that address on your drivers license WILL NOT BE SUFFICIENT PROOF OF YOUR RESIDENCY. You HAVE to have a utility bill with THAT address and YOUR name in your possession to return to your home. Period. (Great evacuation tips here in the comments.)
Have a “plan”. WHO are you going to call when it’s over, WHO knows where all your stuff is if, God forbid, something happens. If you get separated, have a meet-up. In our family, it’s Bingster and me tag-teaming. He has all our info for both sides of the family (including Kcruella). When the batteries on the landline substations were still working the morning after Ivan, I got a call out to him, and that’s how everyone else knew we were okay. AT&T screwed the pooch cell-phone-wise here, so we have KEPT our landline, in spite of everything. Trauma dies hard.

What to Do With Important “Stuff”

You all will laugh, but I double plastic bag it, duct tape it…and put it in the dishwasher, then latch the thing shut and tape over the entire front control panel. It’s waterproof and even if one of those spin-up tornados takes a chunk of the roof, the documents of my life are going nowhere, because they’re bolted under the counter and DRY. Other middlin’ precious things I double bag up as well and stash in a rack-free self-cleaning oven and the dryer (duct-taping the door of that shut).

Potable Water

Make sure every single water toting vessel is clean and filled with filtered (if you can) water, from the sun-tea jar to the ancient Igloo softball cooler to tea kettle, and all the pitchers in between. This augments the bottled water on your list and is the FIRST water you use. (Make sure it’s COVERED to keep out bugs/dust.) As well, EVERY POT is filled to the brim with tap water for use as either coffee/tea/mac ‘n cheese makings or wash/rinse water, as well as pet drinking water. All that’s staged on the kitchen counters.

Get ALL Your Laundry Done

You can run out of underwear FAST and blow through some serious t-shirts clearing flotsom. Plus, the second the last load is out of the washer, fill it up on it’s largest setting with cold water and STOP it. Voilà. Another source of water for rinse/washing. (The washing machine also makes an EXCELLENT ice cooler if you are space challenged, trust me. Fill it with THAT instead.)

Bathrooms

Scrub EVERY tub SPARKLING With a bleach based cleaner. We use a piece of saran wrap over the stopper, then plug it to make absolutely sure there’s NO leakage, then FILL THAT SUCKER UP. This becomes both relatively clean water to dip out for a sink sponge bath AND the ALL IMPORTANT FLUSH THE TOILET water. (And is ONLY used for…well, not tinkling.) Speaking of which, it doesn’t hurt to have a “Tidy Bowl” beforehand, if there’s a chance the power might be out for DAYS, if you get my drift…
Now, you may get lucky and have a trickle of water like we did after Fran, but the water company may beg you not to use it, because they’re trying to find leaks, or it’s not potable or whatever. (Another reason to HAVE A REAL RADIO: PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENTS CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE)

GIVE YOUR PETS AMPLE OPPORTUNITIES TO “DO THEIR BUSINESS”. Once the front door shuts on the howling outside, it’s shut for GOOD. If it comes in during the day, we make meals a tad lighter and earlier than usual. The Scotties and Labradors have always seemed to know something big was on the way and their systems have responded accordingly, but, let’s face it: when you gotta go, you gotta go. So don’t force the poor things into that position in the first place. Plenty of available water, but schmaybe that big dinner isn’t necessary/breakfast, okay?

LOCAL RADIO STATIONS (as well as simulcasts from local TV channels or your local university Public Radio) WILL BE YOUR BEST SOURCE OF WEATHER INFO for your area, not to mention what’s happening as the storm whirls overhead. John Ed Thompson out of Fox10, Mobile, AL is a GOD in our household for what he did during Ivan. At 3 in the morning, when ~ to quote the Squid Terrorist on the walkie talkie from next door ~ it “Sounds like the Devil’s trying to beat my front door down! I’m fixin’ to nail 2×4’s over it and, if that doesn’t work, I’m breaking apart the china cabinet to use IT!” It will be friendly voices in the dark, going through the SAME THING YOU ARE, WHERE you are and you’ll know about hazards/news pertinent to YOUR area (bridges out, electric crews on the way, boil water advisories) that simply WILL NOT be available on that NOAA stream. Plus, we have learned something new and incredibly helpful from callers to the station every single storm that could conceivably save lives or property.

As for just a weather radio I’m torn on that one. They do come in handy for a constant stream of information, BUT they also tend to be for a LARGE general area, and wear on the nerves after a while, since it’s a constant stream of computer voiced info, occasionally punctuated by earsplitting alarms that MAY/MAY NOT have anything to do with YOU. If you can have only one radio going, get one that has BOTH (we do!). It’s a Midland that has the NOAA feeds/alerts on bands, as well as AM/FM, plus a hand crank, in addition to regular battery AND plug-in. DOES IT ALL!

I canNOT stress enough: Your BEST information for YOUR local area will be your LOCAL radio stations, public or otherwise. KNOW AHEAD OF TIME: Spin that dial, find the ones that have affiliations with your local TV stations’ Weather/News programs and head directly for them when the shit hits the fan.

Creature Comforts

While you’re busy as a bee, I always, ALWAYS recommend setting the thermostat on your A/C (while you have it) as LOW AS YOU CAN POSSIBLY STAND IT.

As in MEATLOCKER. Wearing SWEATS IN AUGUST cold. “But, ths, why?” you ask.

Because the second that power goes out and ALL those anxious people are still in your house in August breathing?

That temp is going to climb and F.A.S.T. And it will suck so bad.

And you will still have HOURS of storm to go, and schmaybe days without power. You’ll thank me.

The Refrigerator

We were sort of old school with this. As I told Bingley in the comments, this is what we’ve always done, and ONLY works with a mostly FULL FREEZER. Once we’ve gotten ice ~ usually three to four of the big coolers worth, then three stacked on each other, on a beach towel, covered with garbage bags, then blankets for insulation ~ we already have inventoried the fridge itself. When the power starts going dodgey, we’ll transfer all the perishables out of the fridge to the lone ice chest (milk, BACON, eggs, half & half, etc.) and shut the door FOR GOOD. That’s IT. No peeking, no forgetting, no going in for something ~ you want the fridge to cool completely back down. When the power finally gives up the ghost, we throw unopened, big plastic garbage bags over the whole fridge, then cover that with packing blankets or whatever you have. Wrap some duct tape around it and keep your paws off. Believe or not, that will keep all but the flimsiest frozen goods rock solid for at least three days. If you don’t have power by then, you can start defrosting stuff and eating it. *NEVER eat anything that’s partially thawed. Throw it out. (*CHECK FOR THIS THE SECOND THE POWER COMES BACK ON as well, or it’ll refreeze and you could easily get sick from it later, and be clueless why. Don’t take the chance.)

With your ice chests, just break them out as you need them, always keeping the extras covered. We had ice for a week and a half after Ivan doing it this way, and thank goodness. (The stack worked out great against the door when the winds were threatening to blow it in. Dual purpose! And good times…)

There is NOTHING like the comfort of knowing you did everything you could possibly do to prepare. It’s out of your hands from that point forward.

Have a cocktail.

It’s amazing how many knuckleheads who evacuated and watched the whole damn thing on TV came home empty handed, small children in tow no less! We were living like refugees and had to give THEM supplies.

DO NOT RUN OUTSIDE THE SECOND THE WIND SORT OF DIES DOWN

Trees will still be falling. On your gourd.

DO NOT GO LOLLYGAGGING AROUND AFTERWARD TO “SEE”

No electricity TO RUN GAS STATION PUMPS. No electricity TO RUN STOP LIGHTS. LIVE ELECTRICAL WIRES LAYING EVERYWHERE Flat tires upon multiple flat tires.

IT’S ANARCHY. STAY HOME.

Whip you up some coffee, scrambled eggs and lovely applewood smoked bacon sammiches on the Weber gas grill, like we’ve done the morning after EVERY hurricane.

It’s a good thing.

22 Responses to “Hurricane Preparation So Your Humble Abode Won’t Blow: A Reprise From Acknowledged Hurricane Experts”

  1. leelu says:

    Meant to post this here, not down below. Duh.

    …further thought on lights/candles… the new camping lanterns are battery operated and put out a decent amount of light. Probably not the time to go out and buy a bunch, but something to think about for next time.

    There was a cautionary tale on Drudge this morning – two womed dies trying to help a couple of accident victims out in L. A. Unfortunately, the car had shorn off a street light *and* a fire hydrant. 48k volts later they were dead. If you feel the need to assist, walk, don’t run, and assess, assess, assess. Rule number 1 – don’t become part of the problem!!

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0824-electrocution-20120824,0,7081357.story

    Be safe, warm, dry, and well-fed!

  2. Kathy Kinsley says:

    Thanks for reposting – I was going to go hunt this one down. To see if I’d missed anything. BEST advice I’ve ever heard. nhc.noaa.gov should be linking to you.

  3. Kathy Kinsley says:

    Whip you up some coffee, scrambled eggs and lovely applewood smoked bacon sammiches on the Weber gas grill, like we’ve done the morning after EVERY hurricane.

    Ah – and for those who don’t have freezers that last – steak and eggs in the morning isn’t a bad choice either. ;)

    We WERE NOT prepared for Charley, but we managed feasts for the first 3 days after the electric died. Steak and eggs the next morning and ‘WTH is in that’ stew the rest of the time (neighborhood effort…and I WISH I could reproduce a few of the WTH recipes…they were good – some were brilliant.) After the freezers got inedible we did a lot of soup and sandwich stuff. But we made it.

    And for the next one, we WERE prepared.

    One note – anything in your freezer you can’t bear to lose? EAT IT NOW. And enjoy it.

  4. tree hugging sister says:

    Kathy, thank you so much! That was incredibly sweet. Did my heart good. :) And my head BIG. :P

  5. Ave says:

    During my Miami phase I happened to be out of town when Andrew hit and went back with a suitcase filled with vienna sausages, crackers and spray cheese. If I ever have to live through a hurricane I hope it will be with you guys and thanks for the excellent information. Good luck to everyone in the path of the storm.

  6. currently says:

    I’ll add my 2 cents:

    Do not cut the wires on the ground with your chainsaw.

    Have some country ham & biscuits with the coffee.

  7. Rob says:

    One other thing to add to this excellent list: When it’s over, you may have a real mess to clean up outside. By all means, deal with immediate concerns … carefully. Let EVERYTHING else wait. Bear in mind that you may not have a clear path to a hospital emergency room or any other facility due to road flooding or fallen trees. Also, the emergency room or facility is undoubtedly having its own problems such as staffing shortages and power outages. I know that fallen tree in the backyard is driving you crazy but if your chainsaw’s chain pops, you’d better be able to walk or run to the nearest facility for stitches.

  8. Mori says:

    The only hurricane I’ve experienced hit London, the one in England, believe it or not. But question… No generator? Even a small one dedicated to the fridge?

  9. Bry n Linds says:

    Excellent info on here.

  10. Mr. Bingley says:

    Off to Costco I go…

  11. John says:

    Don’t forget battery-powered weather radio so you can get warnings if the power is out, especially if you’re in an area prone to flash flooding. Just turn it on during the storm and listen for statements affecting your area.

  12. jeanneb says:

    Once the power ges off, TURN OFF your whole-house power switch. That way, you know someone has to be home before power starts flowing through your house again.

    After Katrina, my power was out for 3 weeks. I happened to come home moments after it was restored. Lights were very bright, then faded, then bright again. There were popping sounds. I quickly got the linemen back and they found the service pole on the roof was damaged. 220 was flowing through my entire house! I lost a TV, VCR, micro, PC…even power surge eqpt. None covered by insurance…they said it was power company’s fault.

    The power guys said I was lucky I came home. My house could have burned down.

    So turn off that main switch. There’s absolutely no reason not to.

  13. Rob says:

    Another Katrina vet, ths. :)

  14. tree hugging sister says:

    Y’all maybe neighbors, Rob, lol?

    I need to import the comment thread from the original, because I think we may revisit many excellent suggestions again.

    As for the weather radio, John, I’m torn on that one. They do come inhandy for a constant stream of information, BUT they also tend to be for a LARGE general area and wear on the nerves after a while. If you can have only one radio going, get one that has BOTH (we do!).

    It’s a Midland that has the NOAA feeds and alerts on bands, as well as AM/FM, plus a hand crank, in addition to battery AND plug-in. DOES IT ALL!

    Your BEST information for YOUR local area will be your LOCAL radio stations, public or otherwise. KNOW AHEAD OF TIME: Spin that dial, find the ones that have affiliations with your local TV stations’ Weather/News programs and head directly for them when the shit hits the fan.

    That’s where John Ed Thompson in Mobile comes in for us in the post above. Do the same in YOUR neck of the woods.

  15. tree hugging sister says:

    From our dear friend leelu, GREAT advice:

    Adult, left column:

    Radio – I have one that runs on its own sloar cell, batteries, or juice from its hand crank

    Money – change, $1s, $5s, and $10s. If you don’t break down your $20s, you’ll find that everything costs $20.00

    Whistle – make sure it’s a damned loud one, not a cheapo toy store one.

    Okay/Help signs – 8 1/2″ x 11″, 72 point print, red text “Help”, green text “OK” lets first responders know how you’re doing.

    Out of state contact – I exprect you be that for your family down south. If they can’t raise each other, they call you, and you relay messages.

    Important docs – old driver’s license/passport

    First aid – no kit is too bog. I like the ones at Sam’s – $20.00, great for BLS. I’d make sure I had tubes of anti-biotic and cortisone creams as well. Eye drops/wash. Low dose aspirin, just in case. Written first aid guide.

    Right column:

    TP – the new cash. Need I say mopre?

    Good book – bring some of your favorite adult spirits along w/ the books and cards

    Blanket/tent, etc – I have my camping gear backed in a couple of large plastic storage boxes.

    Dust mask – I can’t use the disposable ones – they fog my glasses when I exhale. I broke down and got an inexpensive (not “cheap”) respirator at Home Depot. Works much better…

    Tools – I have an old catalog cast that I keep my hard hat and misc b & e tools in (I was the ligtht urban search & rescue team leader.

    Children

    Nothing to add…

    Pets – mostr of the first aid items listed are in a good first aid kit (like the one from Home Depot)

    Car

    Get an inverter that will run out of the cigareet lighter – this will allow you to charge things like laptops, that need a 110/120 v AC outlet. Got mine at Sam’s.

    Random Notes:

    I have “FirstAid”, “iTriage” and the “U.S. Army (sorry, Marines) Survival Guide” apps on my ‘Droid.

    Keep your phone charged in your car!!

    Make sure you have an extra phone charger for each phone. Radio Shack and Office Depot both sell chargers that have interchangeable plugs, so you can use 1 charger to charge several phones (mine plugs into the wall, the cig lighter, and even take a 9v battery!)

    Or just get a cigarette lighter powered USB outlet. (Apple people, YMMV)

  16. Mr. Bingley says:

    Another thing I do is to always always have a pair of easy-on shoes by the bed, because if window breaks and your bare feet find some glass…

  17. tree hugging sister says:

    Check out this ORIGINAL COMMENT THREAD from the original Irene post.

    Chock FULL of additional ideas AND how our ideas in THIS column helped folks through that storm. LOVED hearing them check back in with us!

  18. [...] of the Swilling has the exhaustive list of preparations, which you must read if you live in this [...]

  19. [...] of the Swilling has the exhaustive list of preparations, which you must read if you live in this [...]

  20. Tim Bond says:

    A big BRAVO ZULU to THS & Major Dad for this information. My wife Kath & I can not begin to thank you. You helped make a difficult situation manageable and tolerable.
    You’re awesome!

  21. tree hugging sister says:

    Well, Tim, you have TOTALLY made my evening!! Thanks ever so much for the pat on the back and I am so grateful to have had a small part in helping see you and Kath safely through such a miserable experience. I am truly grateful to hear you both came through safe and sound!

    Oh, thanks for letting us know! {8^P

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