Hurricane Preparation Tips So Your Humble Abode Won’t Blow Away: From Acknowledged Hurricane Experts

…us.

*2014 2015 2016 2017 “Here We Go Again” Edition*

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 and Super Storm Sandy visiting brother Bingley, 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. (And please feel free to visit our previous posts afterwards for the EXCELLENT COMMENTS.) 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 terrific 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 -our infamous next-door neighbor- 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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CHECK ON YOUR NEIGHBORS: See what their plans are (Do they HAVE any?! Do they need to GET MOVING…?!), can you all work together, help each other out, etc…. That neighborhood coordination is precious.

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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 on hand 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 snackable cereal (like Cheerios, MiniWheats etc – they make a great snack when you’re just looking to mindless munch)
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/kitty litter 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 stinky ones) 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.) They make them now w/ additional hand cranks.
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 (wrapped and taped in heavy duty plastic bags)
lighter fluid for the charcoal
CASH (ATMs take electricity, so do credit card machines at registers)
CAR CHARGER for cell phones (ours were worthless during Ivan but I’ve heard they’ve come a long way, tower-wise…)
One old-fashioned TIRE REPAIR KIT and, additionally, a can of RUN-FLAT per vehicle, IN each vehicle
BIG 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 ONLY 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/WHENEVER YOU CAN. You all will have to fight a ton more people at the last second as well as the very REAL possibility of GAS SHORTAGES prior TO/for a while AFTER ANY STORM.

*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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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 care of whatever said named storm 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”. Derp.
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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. Cover ice with plastic bags and towels for additional insulation.)

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/breakfast isn’t necessary, 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 about 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 – do NOT WASTE on sightseeing what may turn out to be your last tank of petrol for WEEKS! 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.

©2017 Coalition of the Swilling

20 Responses to “Hurricane Preparation Tips So Your Humble Abode Won’t Blow Away: From Acknowledged Hurricane Experts”

  1. JeffS says:

    As always, a good list, and a great service for those who don’t know what to do to prepare.

    I will note that the Midland radio is an excellent choice, but most hand cranked radios do receive both NOAA and commercial bands.

    If you are so inclined, pick up a portable scanner, and pre-program it with local police, fire, and medical frequencies. I also suggest amateur radio frequencies. The only problem with this is picking out the nuggets from the gravel. It’s like the NOAA weather radio broadcasts, only less organized. But if you have the patience, it could be useful. Finding the frequencies could be a challenge, but you must do so BEFORE the event.

    Or see if one of your neighbors listens to scanners, or is an amateur radio operator. Then stock up on their favorite beverage, and use them as a source of information. If you want to talk to them during the storm, pick up a pair of family radio service radios, or get your own ham radio license and handheld radio.

    The latter takes time and money, but modern handheld radios can be extremely versatile, with a wide band receiver built in, so it’s both a scanner AND transmitter. And they can run on AA batteries.

    Either way, you can sit at home, drink coffee, and munch on bacon sammiches, while still monitoring the situation.

  2. Rob says:

    Good List, ths. 🙂

    The thing I like to add is that your yard, the street, and maybe even your house will probably be a mess when it’s over. Do whatever you MUST do but put off anything you could get hurt doing. You may not be able to get to a hospital or clinic because the roads are flooded or blocked by fallen trees and chances are pretty good those facilities may be on backup power and short-staffed.

  3. Chancy Girl says:

    Alternate list: one Kohler whole house generator. 😉

  4. jon spencer says:

    What about securely buttoning up the house and sending all non-essential people and pets to visit someone or something a long way away for a week or so?

  5. tree hugging sister says:

    You know, jon, that goes without saying…or SHOULD. IF one lives in an evacuation zone OR you KNOW you have an ocean/bay right out your front window and are not on promontory cliffs looking at it. The lessons of Ivan, Katrina (in Biloxi) and Sandy is that YOU CAN’T ARGUE WITH A WALL OF WATER. Like those who tragically chose to stay on Ocean Drive in Biloxi: I don’t care if your house survived Camille ~ she didn’t have 40 ft storm surge that scoured THROUGH you, then surged inland for over a mile. The overwhelming majority of people who DIE in hurricanes…drown.

    And NO ONE can come GET you when it’s rising. NO. ONE.

    However. Those calls are made by the authorities. In none-flood prone areas, the individual’s common sense should determine what they can and cannot handle. If you can’t handle the racket of a good thunderstorm, PLEASE understand you are going to go NUTS with the howling of a full-fledged ‘cane and ALL the noises you’ve never heard in your life that come with it. BE AWARE ~ YOU CAN’T LEAVE AND IT’S NOT GOING AWAY UNTIL IT’S GONE.

    Decide to leave? Good for you. You CAN’T bugger out two hours before a storm. It’s a decision that has to be made a couple days before. FULL GAS TANK. Even the day before, you may spend 5-10 hours going 40 miles. Some folks ~ like emergency crews and active duty military ~ have to stay. That was our situation. Other folks may NOT have the wherewithal to pack up and go “just because”. It COSTS MONEY. The folks in SoFL during the summer of ’04 gave up leaving well before the 4th evacuation order, because they’d blown all their available resources on previous trips up I-4, heading north.

    These time-tested suggestions are not to encourage ANYONE to STAY in a danger zone, BUT, IF you MUST, we offer them to you to stay in the safest, most comfortable, MOST PREPARED manner possible, so YOU don’t become that BURDEN on the rescuers and relief agencies that simple prep would have prevented. Those folks are there for the truly devastated. They shouldn’t have to waste their time on someone who just COULDN’T BE BOTHERED to get ready.

  6. Rob says:

    People don’t really grasp the dynamics of evacuation, ths.

    Traffic as far as the eye can see, gas stations raising their prices and running out of gas, hotels/motels raising their prices and also running out of vacancies, what to do with your pets, and what to take with you because everything you leave behind may be lost. And then, after getting back to your home, having to do it again a week later … and maybe again a few weeks down the road. As bad as all that sounds, 90% plus in the mandatory evacuation areas do it.

  7. Rob says:

    Contrary to popular belief, people don’t just stay behind because they’re stubborn or stupid, although I’m not a good example.

    We stayed behind for Katrina. We were just north of the mandatory evacuation areas. The winds howled and the rain came down sideways for about 8 hours. Four of our windows leaked. Because we were home, we could deal with that as it was happening. If we hadn’t been home, we wouldn’t have been able to get back for several days. We’re talking mold, remediation, big insurance fight, big expense. If you’re not in the mandatory areas, evacuation is a very difficult and intensely personal decision.

  8. Dr Alice says:

    I just wanted you to know I have read this excellent piece SO many times. It got me into preparedness (I don’t live in hurricane country, but I do live in earthquake country). You don’t have to live on the East Coast or Gulf Coast to benefit from these ideas.

  9. Kathy Kinsley says:

    FEMA should buy this and pay you huge amounts of money.

  10. tree hugging sister says:

    I ADORE you, Kinsley! :*

  11. JeffS says:

    One new item: Headlamps are an excellent option for working in the dark with your hands. The goofy ones with the colored light options are nice if you’re on a road, but white lights are best.

  12. JeffS says:

    Whups! Forgot to add — the headlamps normally use AAA batteries, not the more typical AA. Stock up on those as well.

  13. Chancy*girl says:

    Hmmm. As someone who has been a regular at dog shows, where pooping in the ring is frowned on, I can give you a tip on how to get that poop out before you shut the door. Bingley can give you my email address.

  14. Kathy Kinsley says:

    Thanks for the repost. Looks like Matthew may do an Ivan – miss me at first pass and hit on loop-de-loop. @_@

  15. Kathy Kinsley says:

    Thanks again. I’ll be linking this on some Texas sites.

  16. tree hugging sister says:

    You’re SO welcome, Kathy. We’re here to help anyone we can.

  17. Nobrainer says:

    Always worth the read. Thanks for the post. And Re-post. And re-re-post. And re-re… well, you get the idea.

  18. tree hugging sister says:

    Good to see you again, NB, and GRAZI!

  19. nightfly says:

    Thanks again for the re-post. People, this list helped us through Sandy up here in benighted New Jersey, so listen whereof Ms. Sister speaks.

    One (belated) additional suggestion – some portable batteries for charging devices. We picked up a pair of 10,000 mAh backups at our local BJ’s for $25. One will fully-charge a phone about five times, which is quite handy. (And of course we’re all using those phones SPARINGLY during emergency conditions, so even with several people, two of those batteries should be enough – right?)

    Naturally, things like Brooklyn lanterns and flashlights won’t run on them, so actual-factual cell batteries are also a must.

  20. JeffS says:

    A great post, Sis! Always good to review it.

    Following on ‘Fly’s post … …

    If you have the time, you can now invest in hand cranked generators, that put out 5 volts (suitable for cell phones), or 12 volts. I don’t recommend them as the primary option (recharging a phone will take a couple of hours), but it’s doable.

    Alternatively, pick up 12 volt to 5 volt USB converters; I see these in convenience stores all the time, Be sure to grab several, in case one fails.

    These fit in a car power point (a/k/a cigarette lighter socket), and will recharge a phone nicel, while you drive around, as a double duty.

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