Hurricane Preparedness

By Chris Pike

“Linda!” Jim yelled, trying to be heard above the roar of the category 5 hurricane. “It’s not safe by the window anymore.”

The beam of Jim’s flashlight illuminated the power of the storm. Trees whipped in the wind, branches snapped and tumbled to the ground littered with leaves, broken branches, and other debris the storm kicked up. Lightning flashed, and the wind howled with intensity Jim had never experienced during the forty five years he had lived along the Texas Gulf Coast. The forecasters were right – this would be the most powerful storm to hit the Gulf Coast since records began.

“It’s not safe anywhere in this house,” Linda replied.

“Let’s get in the cedar closet,” Jim said. “It’s in the center of the house. I’ve already cleared it out and prepared it for us with blankets, water, flashlights, and a few snacks.”

Rising from the chair in the den, Linda walked across the floor and entered the hallway leading to the closet.

Moments before, the eighty year old oak in the back yard fought valiantly against the hundred and fifty seven mile per hour wind. Over the years, it had withstood numerous tropical storms, hurricanes, and attacks by tree killing insects. Tonight, the ground was laden with water from the unusually wet summer. The tree, its canopy heavily laden with the drenching rain, could no longer fight the storm.

The roots that had anchored the tree lifted the soggy ground around the trunk, and the tree leaned precariously. The thrashing wind pushed the tree over to the point where the roots broke free from the ground.

Groaning and creaking, the tree slammed into Jim and Linda’s house, obliterating the structure of the roof and the supporting wooden beams of the house. A massive branch punctured the roof, slicing through it. Rosy colored insulation and contents of the attic rained down onto the furniture.

Linda and Jim instinctively ducked and covered their heads at the thunderous noise, louder than a freight train. Stunned, they glanced at the den. The chair where Linda had been sitting had been destroyed by a massive branch that had crashed through the ceiling. The color in her face drained at the thought she had been sitting there moments earlier.

                                                      ~          ~          ~

You might think the above scene is fiction, but it isn’t. It happened to my next door neighbor during Hurricane Ike. Moments after my neighbor left the den, the massive oak in the backyard crashed into the house and punctured the roof, ceiling, and destroyed the chair where my neighbor had been sitting.

I’ve lived on the Texas Gulf Coast all my life, and learned from my parents how important it is to prepare before storms.

Once the weather forecasters announced the likelihood of a storm hitting any particular area, non-perishable foods are cleaned out from the grocery stores. Items like water, bread, canned goods, peanut butter, beans, and anything that can be eaten safely without heating are the first things to go. I’ve seen shelves picked clean, and even unpopular foods are gone.

It becomes impossible to find batteries. Less expensive generators have already been snapped up.

In preparation for storms, we stock up on water, flashlights, non-perishable food, batteries, and one of the rules we have is to never let the gas tanks in our cars go below half full, because gas stations run out of gas. I’ve seen it happen too many times.

When the electricity goes out, we are prepared to entertain ourselves by watching a movie on a battery operated DVD player, and, while the equipment is old, it makes the nights seem not so long.

We also have battery operated lanterns. We don’t keep batteries in the lanterns 24/7 due to the possibility of the batteries corroding, thus rendering the lantern useless.

Since cell phones won’t be able to be charged when the electricity is out, it would be necessary to charge them in a car. If a car is not available, a portable battery pack would be needed to charge the cell phone. From past experience in the aftermath of a hurricane, texting worked, but nothing else. Our land line is funneled through the cable, so it would not work either until cable was restored.

Battery operated portable fans are useful too. Those were a lifesaver when our electricity was out for two weeks after Hurricane Ike in 2008, and the temps reached into the 90s.

A good supply of charcoal is also needed to grill meats and boil water for all the coffee lovers. Frozen food will stay good in a fully packed freezer for up to three days as long as the door stays shut. The refrigerator side only keeps food fresh for about three hours after the electricity goes off, so get the grill ready or be prepared to throw out the non-frozen food. It is also good to supplement your canned goods with some Mountain House or Wise Foods dehydrated meal packets.

We’ve learned to restock our hurricane prepping supplies during the year, and not wait till the hurricane is bearing down on us. By that time, stores would be cleaned out of supplies. With hurricane season upon us, stay prepared and stay safe.

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