Hurricane Irene: PREPARE!

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

So, on Twitter a few minutes ago, I created a list for folks on the Northeastern seaboard looking at their imminent crisis. Most seem rather blithely detached from the impending pain. I know that feeling. It’s the same one one has looking into the Grand Canyon and seeing the vastness and feeling small and overwhelmed. People see that satellite image and it seems unreal. It isn’t.

Prepare. The New York Times has a gorgeous interactive tracker here.

Overarching ideas: If I were a single mother or had health problems or have infants or small children, I would be evacuating now. New York is going to have some problems that New Orleans had: A rather land-locked populace, many of whom rely on public transportation. The time for leaving is now. You have two days. Don’t dally. If it comes to nothing, you’ve had a nice long weekend away. If it comes to something, being stuck three or four floors up and helpless with not enough food, water, medicine? Misery. Ask for help NOW.

So, here’s some things you’ll need if you decide to ride it out — something I most certainly DO NOT recommend considering what’s coming. But if you’re a stubborn mule and refuse to leave, at least be prepared.

  1. Bleach: You’ll use it to clean. Before the hurricane hit here last time, I became a whirling dervish. I cleaned EVERY piece of laundry. The house was spotless. The first thing that happens when the hurricane comes through — no electricity, no sanitation, no public works. Think about it. Think about not flushing your toilet. Yeah.
  2. Extra paper goods: Toilet paper, paper plates, plasticware, garbage bags, baby wipes (no showers), etc. You can’t have too much.
  3. Camp lamps: You know those propane camp lamps? Make sure you have fuel, too. But when you lose electricity, you’ll want to sit around in the sweltering heat and do something. Get cards, books (no iPad), board games.
  4. Landline for telephone and MAKE SURE you have an old-fashioned phone that doesn’t need batteries.
  5. Buy more perishable food than you think. Fruits, veggies. Dried goods get boring after a couple days.
  6. CASH IS KING. ATMs won’t work. Banks will be closed. You will need money to buy things from whomever is still open. Their credit card machines WON’T work.
  7. Fill up the car with gas. This could save your life. Your car engine is a generator. It can charge your phones. It can get you the hell out of Dodge. Fill it up.
  8. Buy a chainsaw now.  Laugh if you will, but we helped many people get out of their driveways and out of neighborhoods with our chainsaw. People were stuck. Don’t be one of them.
  9. Buy a handcrank NOAA radio. You will use this. When the reality of no electricity settles in, you’ll start panicking because you don’t have enough batteries. Hand cranks work no matter. Buy one here.
  10. Guns and ammo. Make sure and have it ready. There was no looting in Houston. Know why? Self protection. People get desperate. When we left and finally evacuated a week after the last hurricane, we stopped at a private gas station that our friends are part owner of — we needed to top off the tank after doing some running around. A very frantic dude came up (he was armed) who wanted gas. We all were armed (four men and me and the kids). It was a good thing we were.
  11. High calorie food and multi-vitamins. Chocolate. PB&J. Boxed foods. Get a variety. You’ll be sick of it all before it’s all over.
  12. Clear plastic covered containers and plastic bags. PUT ALL VALUABLES in clear plastic bags. Put plastic bags in the bin. Be ready to put them in the car and go. 12.5 Have a container with emergency items — hunting knife, rope, tarp, duct tape, etc.
  13. Gas stove works. Everything else won’t. You’ll need a grill and charcoal and matches or a lighter. Keep em dry.
  14. WHEN IN DOUBT EVACUATE.  What’s the worst that can happen? You’re wrong? Who cares? It’s better than being stuck in a flooded city, I can promise you.
  15. Get water. During the first hurricane, we had surprise guests. Friends and extended family lived in a mobile home. They couldn’t afford to leave but the hurricane was on a direct path. We had them come to our house. It was a good thing we had lots and lots of extra water. You want to be in the position of helping people–not needing help.
  16. You have a short window to make contact with family. The government will take over the cellular and landline network for emergency channels. This will piss you off. Don’t panic. Addendum: Make sue someone knows what your plans are. Give out back up phone numbers. People will be worrying about you.
  17. Extras: Duct tape (for windows and blowing and stuff) and LED flash lights. FIRST AID kit. Aspirin, antibiotics, butterfly bandages, etc
  18. Take pictures for insurance. Right NOW, get out your phone. Go around your house and take pictures of everything. Save the photos somewhere safe. Insurance. Someone mentioned emailing them to yourself. This is a good idea. Get it in the cloud in case you need to make claims.
  19. Last thing before all else fails: Fill the tub with water. And as @chrisofrights says, the water tank has extra.
  20. Plastic bags. You really can’t have too many between trash and clean up. RT @FineCalliCat: wipes..don’t forget wipes
BONUS: Don’t forget an emergency kit. Fill up on your medicine, etc.
Double BONUS: Manual can opener. Forgot that.
You’re probably thinking this is melodramatic. Not so much. Things get primal awfully quickly. When it comes down to it, there will be a grim determination that sets in. You’ll start only seeing men at the grocery store. You’ll see panicked people pleaded with grocers for more water. You’ll wish you had prepared. You’ll feel foolish because you knew what you should do but you didn’t do it.
Do it.
Once the hurricane hits and once the electricity goes out, you’ll be thrown back in time. There will be no sanitation. There will be water everywhere. Trees and debris will be strewn. You’ll wonder when someone will clean up. No one is cleaning up. YOU are cleaning up.
Civilization is a delicate thing. It goes out the window, and quickly, under trauma. Your best defense is preparing now. Communications will fail. You’ll wonder how the government does anything. And the answer is, they don’t do much, very well, on a good day. Under pressure, they go to where they’re most needed first and there’s many things they simply can’t do. Expect nothing and be pleasantly surprised when they come through.
Good luck!