June 04, 2007

'Cane Prep

QW wrote in my comments HERE about her Mom staying the entire year this time, through Hurricane Season, down here in Florida. These are the things I have handy for hurricane season. Lists are constantly put out by all supermarkets (Publix probably has one at the counter to give you) and they have it in the paper too.

** UPDATE- I completely forgot to put money! It is on my home list, but Writersblock put it in the comments. (Read the comments for more ideas.) Money, however is exceedingly important. There is no power, banks are closed, ATMs don't work and credit cards can't be taken... you need cash. Make sure you have small bills. Businesses may not be able to break the big bills, so I usually get cash all in 1's, with a 5 here or there. Also... if you have pets... remember them! (We don't, which is why it didn't end up on my list...)**

A plug in phone. No power means cordless phones don’t work. Phone goes out within 24 hours of power going out, or so I’ve found, so make sure you make your important phone calls to tell people you are safe immediately.

Car charger for your cell. I always get cell coverage back before I get my home line back.

I watch the weather constantly. The minute I find a storm is brewing with even a remote chance of coming this way, I never let my gas in my car get below ½ a tank.

Five gallons of water per person in a home. This is drinking water plus water you’ll use for anything else… washing hands if you will, etc. For us, since I am on well water, I don’t have water with no power, so I fill up my tubs and my washing machine (obviously not a front loader) and use that water to flush my commodes. On day 3, I usually start wishing I had a swimming pool for flush water. Hurricanes hit in the summer time. It is hot. You will be drinking water like crazy and you’ll need it to cook with as well as brushing your teeth. If you’re on city water, you’ll be taking cold showers. If you’re on well water, you’ll be using this water sparingly also to bathe. You can’t really have too much water on hand.

Food for 7 to 10 days. For a family of five, that is a bunch of food. Start thinking now about what you will and will not eat. Spaghettio’s may be on sale and look like a great thing to stock, but when push comes to shove and you’re forced to eat them, you may wish you’d bought those small cans of tuna or packets of chicken instead. There is nothing really healthy about hurricane eating. Fresh fruit and vegetables go quickly and are hard to replenish. Bread… buy what you need in bread that you think will last you the first few days, put a loaf in the freezer. Make sure you have crackers. They are a ‘safer, non-stale, do not mold’ bet. If your family drinks juices and coke, have it in stock. The key is to not have to waste any gas going to the grocery store for incidentals that they won't have anyway! Shelves will be BARE. HAVE IT IN STOCK. If you drink, stock up on alcohol as they will not sell alcohol for a few days after a hurricane. I’ve seen close to spouse abuse in the beer section of Publix as the alcoholic realized he couldn’t buy beer and ‘his woman’ was the closest object to take it out on. That was lovely.

Sit down and make a list… breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks. Think about what you would eat. Soup, canned goods, meats, canned meats, poptarts? Cereals? Parmalat milk for cereal? Seriously think about every single meal and what you could and could not see yourself doing. PLAN ahead. The first two days there is NO REASON to have to feel like you have to eat crap. You can eat very very well the first couple days… before the stuff in your freezer starts to go bad… and before all the fresh fruit and veggies are gone.

Think about hardboiling your eggs in advance. Bake. Convert your eggs into stuff. Cookies, muffins, breads. I did that last time, baking muffins and breads and throwing them in the freezer, knowing they would keep. Breakfast foods is what I really baked and we were all very happy I did. (All those old frozen ripe bananas I had suddenly became banana muffins and bread and fed us for breakfast for two days. Its hard to dread eating when there are homemade goodies to eat.)

Take bottles of water and pour about ¼ to 1/3 into another container and FREEZE the bottle. Do that to many many bottles of water. When you don’t have power, but you have water, and it is hot, pulling a frozen bottle of water out of the freezer and adding water to it… making ice water is really really nice. You’d be amazed at how happy it makes you!

The more stuff you have in your freezer, frozen, the better. It all stays colder. If you find your freezer is half full and that’s how you like it, fill Tupperware containers full of water and freeze them so it fills space. Half filled bottles of water will do that trick too.

Portable radio (some folks like portable TVs, you can get them at Target and Costco) with plenty of batteries to go with it. Plenty is key as you’ll probably have it on a lot.

Portable lights and not just flashlights, but little battery operated lanterns. It gets very very dark at night with no power, so if you eat late, or intend to play cards or games before you really go to bed, you’ll need light. We have a flashlight for each kid and 3 or 4 battery operated lanterns. DO NOT use gas. Have PLENTY of batteries!

Books, games, cards… or something to do at night unless you tend to live on farmer time and sleep when the sun goes down and awaken when it comes up. I will say I hear there are a plethora of babies born 9 months after a hurricane…

Think camping… think that if you go camping and do not have hot water to wash your dishes, you are going to use disposable. You want paper plates and bowls, plastic forks, knives and spoons, paper towels, wet wipes to keep your counters clean as there is no hot water, anti-bacterial soap for your hands if you can tolerate it (I’m allergic), disposable aluminum pie plates and such to cook on, aluminum foil, napkins, toilet paper, etc. Think living in a tent and what you would need to survive without running hot water, but yet you still have gas to cook with… I cook in my disposable aluminum so I can just chuck it when I’m finished, rather than it sitting in my sink to be washed when I have hot water.

Gas Grill… get your propane filled for that NOW. What a mess it is when the storm is 3 days away. Everyone suddenly has the bright idea that they need Propane. Get a couple tanks because this will be the source of any hot water you need to boil, as well as your cooking.

Do all your laundry in advance. You can’t do it without power. By the time a hurricane hits my home, every sheet has been washed, every towel, there are no clothes in the hampers. It may not all be folded… but its all washed and dried. With no power… there is plenty of time to fold laundry.

A big cooler. If you have a spare freezer in your garage, buy ice early and just shove it in there until you need it. You will not get ice when a storm is coming. Ice is a commodity. And this is where BIG planning comes in. I only open my freezer once a day. In the morning. I have a big ice chest and everything we need for the day, goes in that chest. This is where ice and an extra freezer are really a good thing. I plan out what we need for that entire day, and pull it out and put it in the cooler. NOBODY goes in the freezer or fridge after that. Everything stays nice and cold that way…

You can buy all sorts of solar stuff now to charge the battery on your laptop or on your cell phone. I don’t own any of that. We’re pretty much ‘unplugged’ when a hurricane hits. But there are those options, just look on-line.

We have items in our garage to do quick repairs if we need to… board up a broken window or cut down branches. We have a lot of yard bags to pick up all the limbs and debris. Garden gloves are my friend the day the storm passes. Typically, as soon as the weather clears, everyone is in their yard clearing out, moving fallen branches, raking. Rubber boots are nice to have, as the ground is squishy, but don’t do black. I did that and my feet burn up. White rubber boots.

Of course all this hinges on the thoughts you don’t have a generator. If you have a generator, you have ice, a working refrigerator, stove, oven, etc. We don’t have one yet… it is a work in progress.

Posted by Boudicca at June 4, 2007 09:15 PM | TrackBack

Good post Bou. Hearing from personal experience is better than reading those guidebooks. Here's my 2 cents:

I never have more fresh or frozen food than I can afford to trash during storm season. My freezer's mostly full of ice, not food right now.

I live on iced tea. So before the last storm, I put about 5 gallons of it in jugs in an ice chest. You might wanna do the same with YOUR favorite drink.

I live alone and lugging shutters from the garage to the windows and back is a pain in the back. So I bought a hand truck with big tires that can roll over the lawn easily. Worth its weight in gold....

I'm not a picky eater and can live on canned food, nuts and such for a few days. I'm not getting near a barbecue grill after a storm. It's too damn hot and muggy, and with no airconditioning to flee to.

Posted by: George at June 4, 2007 11:23 PM

And lots of scotch, since - unlike beer - it tastes good warm :-)

Posted by: Harvey at June 5, 2007 12:45 AM

Never thought about the white rubber boots; wonderful tip!

Our boat has a 50 gallon fuel tank and we'll get that filled so the generator won't run out. ;)

Posted by: pam at June 5, 2007 07:16 AM

You forgot ice cream! Before Charlie, ice cream must have been on sale, because that first day with no power, we each had to eat a half gallon of ice cream. And MIL was so upset when I threw away all her melted Hagen Daas ice cream bars (pools of melted mess).

That first day, all the neighbors were out grilling eggs and bacon and sausage on their propane grills.

We bought a generator last year; thus the complete lack of storms.

I would like to add, for those internet junkies like me, know where your free WiFi hotspots are. We spent many hours (after Charlie, Jeanne, and Frances) at Panera. Panera had power (that we used to charge our cell phones, laptops, camera battery) and free WiFi. It was great! We went in and bought something inexpensive, and were able to upload pictures and blog to let the family out of state know we were alive and well. There was no cell service, as all the cell towers for our provider were wiped out.

MONEY!!! Bou, you forgot to remind us to have cash. Your ATM/VISA WILL NOT WORK WITH NO POWER! We didn't think of that before Charlie, and are notoriously without cash. Now we keep emergency cash in our safe for hurricane season. That's just in case cash. Because, obviously, we should be prepared as you mentioned.

Posted by: wRitErsbLock at June 5, 2007 07:32 AM

two more items:
Rum and Hurricane Mix.

What's a hurricane without a hurricane?

Posted by: wRitErsbLock at June 5, 2007 07:34 AM

and plan for your pets to eat, too.

We have reptiles, that means making sure we buy crickets and feed them before the storm, in case stores have no power for a week or more. Crickets were hard to come by in 2004.

Posted by: wRitErsbLock at June 5, 2007 07:38 AM


You all are the best.

I will pass this onto my mom via email, save a copy and after a hurricane when she calls to complain she has no food, gas or water I will haul out the email and remind her I tried to tell her.

Posted by: Quality Weenie at June 5, 2007 11:05 AM

The only thing I'll add is those little battery powered personal fans. Really good for that moment when you just need a little cool down.....

One thing about hurricane prep, you can generally get away with just preparing at home. In EQ country, we need to be prepared at work, too. Alternate routes home, because the freeways will be swamped, food in the office in case you have to spend the night, etc etc. We have an emergency generator for the lab, so as long as the building is safe, we'd have AC and refrigerators....

Posted by: caltechgirl at June 5, 2007 12:17 PM

I have nothing to add except to say you are the most incredibly organized person. *grin* I know, it's from necessity, but look how many people end up being caught without any type of fall back - even though they KNOW a hurricane is coming.

Posted by: Teresa at June 5, 2007 01:07 PM

Ok, kiddo, just want to add something that people often forget. Once the hurricane knocks out the electricity: TURN OFF power to the air conditioner. After the hurricane passes, start up your generator. You've already made sure it is equipped to run another season...right? When power is restored don't turn your on air conditioning until you are sure you have uninterrupted current. When the electricity is restored to a grid it becomes overloaded if everyone has their air conditioners starting together.

Posted by: mom at June 5, 2007 01:35 PM

Brian- Folks who don't do hurricanes need to know WHY these things are required. If they don't, they may skip them...

Mom- You are right! We don't have a generator though... yet. So this wasn't on my radar.

Posted by: Bou at June 5, 2007 01:37 PM

You've got my mind in hurricane mode now. I'm sure everyone who survived 2004 learned that in addition to a corded telephone, it's nice to have a hand operated can opener.

It's tax free week for hurricane supplies. I plan to purchase a weather radio this weekend. That's very high on my list of things we don't have.

But I think most people who survived 2004 know by now what works and doesn't work for their families.

And, I know category 3+ is scary, but I'm still rooting for an active hurricane season. But I'm hoping for Category 2 and less. It has to be strong enough to reach Orlando. We need the rain in Florida. And there's nothing like several tropical storms / weak 'canes to give us water.

Posted by: wRitErsbLock at June 5, 2007 01:47 PM


Posted by: wRitErsbLock at June 5, 2007 05:07 PM

Having a couple extra cans of gasoline around helps too. One for refilling chain saws and your car if it comes to that. It did during Ivan.

and for people who require coffee and instant doesn't cut it...make sure you have an old fashioned coffee pot for the grill or campstove. It's devastating to get up in the morning with no power and realize you can't get or make coffee.

Posted by: sticks at June 5, 2007 06:06 PM

Sticks- Yes, the coffee. I don't partake, but that is important to those who need it to function in the morning.

Posted by: Bou at June 5, 2007 06:19 PM

When putting ice in the freezer, I don't put those great big bags in. The ice goes in gallon size freezer bags. If you're without power for several days, that way you don't have water dripping out. It also makes it easy to pack into the freezer to take up the spare space...keeps it colder longer.

Last hurricane I didn't lose any of the frozen foods doing it this way.

Posted by: Mrs. Who at June 5, 2007 07:01 PM

Mrs Who... Yes! I do small bags as well. They are easier to get in the nooks and crannies of the freezer to keep it cold.

Posted by: Bou at June 5, 2007 07:13 PM

"You've already made sure it is equipped to run another season...right?" Sorry, the you I was referring to is anyone who uses a generator. All folks, whether on a generator or not, need to have the air conditioner off and wait until the current is constant coming into the house. If not the power can go off again. :-(

Posted by: mom at June 5, 2007 10:27 PM

Mom- Oh I knew you meant in generalities. I just didn't post on the generator thing because we don't have one and I don't know how they work. Hopefully we'll have the approvals and everything set by next year. It's turning into a NIGHTMARE... as if it were not already.

Posted by: Bou at June 6, 2007 08:03 AM