It was 2004 and still early for hurricanes, although it was actually hurricane season, which is June-November. The entire state was on watch for a hurricane that couldn’t make up its mind where it was going to go or how strong it was going to be. It kept changing direction, speed and strength. But it was being forecast to end up going up the center of the state with the proportion and destructive power of Andrew. In other words, it was thought to end up being a monster storm by some of the weather people. We weren’t so sure, though, because others in the weather community weren’t sure, and we’ve lived in Florida long enough to know that the most dependable constant in Florida is unpredictability.
One morning, while my husband and I were still sleeping, we were awakened by large, regularly spaced ‘THUNKS’ behind our bedroom. When I looked outside, I saw our son stacking huge cement blocks around our
heat pump. They’re still there, today. I went back to bed. Later, we heard ‘Bam Bam Bam’ at regular intervals. He was covering our windows. The covers are stored under the house for speedy access. That storm went down in history as ‘Tropical Storm Who?’, because it ended up being nothing more than a lot of wet, messy, tropical weather in the Panhandle.
However, this did set the stage for the next 18 months. We had barely drawn a breath when up came Charley, who kept surprising us, then Francis, who was in no hurry to leave, Jean who was like a speeding train and Ivan who did come back for seconds, just to name a few of our visiting storms. We spent the entire summer with our windows covered and our hurricane supplies in constant use and being restocked. A majority of the homes, in our area, did the same thing.
Just in case anything like this should ever happen to you, here are some practical suggestions of what to always have on hand.
The only item that is in the order of importance, is the first one. The rest are equally important and ALL need to be on hand.
First and foremost, get the latest hurricane guide for the most up-to-date information on shelters, regulation changes, etc. It will list all the essential supplies, evacuation zones and routes, important phone numbers,
and list all the other things you need to do and have BEFORE a hurricane comes.Even if you are a veteran of the storms, it’s good to refresh your memory and to get an update on all the latest regulations, evacuation information and survival suggestions. These are usually issued in May. It’s free.
Second, might be to stock up on two weeks worth of canned food or any food packed in a way that requires no or little preparation, and will not spoil, for every occupant in your household, including pets. We usually use up the previous year’s stock during the winter and replenish it in January or February before the new season and restock during the season, in between storms.This way, we avoid the last minute crowds and empty shelves.
You also need to store one gallon of water per daily use for every individual in your household, including pets, for two weeks worth. Yes, this is a generous amount. However, that allows for any unexpected contingencies.
Most people just buy the gallons of bottled water from the store. We don’t, because the bottles are flimsy and tend to fall in on themselves, then leak out their contents. There is nothing worse than reaching for a bottle of water, that is really needed and it is already empty. We use juice and pop bottles, because they are tough and can be reused.
We keep our water bottles stocked and stored year round since we also have frequent power outages year round, due to the unsettled atmosphere over Florida.
You will also need at least one, good working, flashlight, stored in a safe and easy to find place. Because it will be the first thing you will want to use, if the power goes out at night. We have found that it is better to get a major brand model, since they tend to be more dependable for a longer period of time than some nonbranded model.
The flashlight usually will last for several seasons. These will also, often be packaged with the first set of batteries.
Make sure that you have enough batteries on hand for every electronic item that you will be using during an emergency.
You will need a decent radio that can both plug into the wall and operate on batteries; the first, to save the batteries, while the power is still on, and the second, for when the power goes out. These can last for several years, if you get a dependable brand. Keep this where you can easily find it. Because it could end up being one of your only lifelines in an emergency. Another necessity is a landline, corded phone, in case of power outages or
cell tower disruptions.
A sterno stove and a supply of sterno, are also be good things to keep on hand just in case you need to heat anything up or to sterilise water if the water supply becomes contaminated. These can be found in the camping section. The stove lasts indefinitely.The sterno lasts around two and one half hours for a standard can and usually comes in a pack of two.
We have kerosene lamps and votive candles in every room of our house, strategically placed, to be easily found and used in the dark. We check the stock of kerosene, candles and matches and stock up when they get low. Some good places to find these items would be discount or dollar stores.
Some people buy shutters for their windows. Most buy plywood, every time there is a hurricane, because we live in the tropics and termites quickly get to the wood, unless you store it in your house or buy
pressure treated plywood. Which costs a premium for an entire house full of windows. We don’t use plywood. We use sheet metal panels, which we store under the house for easy accessibility and nail around the windows when we need to.
You will also need a first aid kit, any medicines that you normally use and your vehicle’s gas tank filled up, because you don’t know when you will be able to get any of these items in the foreseeable future. It is also useful to have some cash on hand, just in case you can’t get to your account for a while.
These items are necessary whether you need to evacuate or to stay where you are.
Be aware that sometimes the best place to evacuate to could be your own home, unless it is a mobile home, in the direct path of a hurricane, or in the flood or storm surge zones, because the evacuation routes aren’t always the best or safest routes and local authorities don’t always do very good planning or timely warning of impending perils.
This is your safety at stake and so you need to be careful to observe everything that is going on at the time and make the best decision for your own situation.
Note, this is last year’s guide, because this year’s isn’t out yet.