A year ago today I was in the process of surviving Hurricane Irma.
This year another catastrophic hurricane barrels toward the US East Coast, this time to devastate the Carolinas, and I find myself thinking about what I would do differently this year if I was facing another disaster.
Google “Hurricane Kit” and you’ll find the typical suggestions – batteries, gas, canned food, water – but there are some things that you only find out once you’ve been through the wind, rain, and terror. Let’s go over some of the things I learned last year that I wish I had known beforehand.
Air Conditioning. Oh god if you want to torture state secrets out of me keep me in a balls hot house for a week and deprive me of sleep because I can’t sleep because it’s too hot. We did buy small, battery powered fans ahead of time but they were just a small drop in the ocean of heat and suffering, and toward the end of the week the grocery store had ice in stock again so we tried to sleep huddled around a bag of ice in a tupperware. I swore last year that I was going to buy a generator before the next hurricane season, and I did, and we’re also going to get a small AC unit at the next paycheck so we won’t have to worry about that again.
Wifi: THIS IS SUPER IMPORTANT – Without wifi we were using the data plan on our cell phone plan. Luckily Verizon Wireless forgave all overage fees for anyone in the affected areas. We would have paid over $100 in overage fees for that week alone if they hadn’t put that policy into place. Make sure you check with your cell phone provider to make sure they would enact similar policies. If not, make plans for entertainment that do not involve cell phone service because it adds up really fast.
I cannot tell you why but we did not have a battery powered radio. Last year for Christmas I asked for this emergency radio that runs on solar, crank, and battery power, and last spring I bought this CD Player. My suggestion is to find things that run on C batteries because hardly anything does and the AAs and the D batteries go first in a panic. So this year if we face another hurricane, we’ll be able to listen to broadcasts on a radio running on batteries instead of on a radio app on a phone that might be needed in an emergency. Also we have tons of CDs and comedy albums that we could play to keep us occupied. It gets REALLY quiet when there’s nothing on.
FOOD: All the lists tell you to get canned food but be smart about what canned food you get. Some suggestions I would make in addition to canned soups or chilis or tuna or what have you are crackers, peanut butter, bread, that weird Goober pb/jelly combo that doesn’t require refrigeration, dry milk (you can combine it with water and use it with cereal), and fresh fruit. If you have a generator you can run a LOOOOONG extenstion cord inside to run things like a coffeemaker or a low wattage microwave or even a hotplate so having a few of those cheap things you used to hide in your dorm room in college wouldn’t hurt either. Also if you have a grill have the tools you would need to use it to cook with, and also consider getting camping cookware so you don’t damage your kitchen cookware using it on the grill. YOU DON’T WANT TO EAT HOT FOOD ANYWAY so stock up on things that are good cold or room temperature.
Something you might have to do is hide in a closet or a hallway or a bathroom to escape any damage winds might cause or possible tornadoes. A few suggestions here: Have a couple of twin air mattresses in your linen cabinet so you don’t have to sit on the hard ground. Also, in addition to your flashlights, have smaller book lights that clip onto things to free up your hands, and you can also get little clicking lights to help light the way down hallways, up stairs, or in dark rooms. These clicking lights run on AAA batteries and have long lives, so you could leave them on for longer than a flashlight.
Returning to the idea that it might be too hot to sleep I highly recommend ZzzQuil, from the makers of NyQuil. It helps me fall asleep and it probably would have come in handy last year to get me to sleep despite the heat. Whatever sleep aid you prefer is fine too, but you’ll want to be stocked up on that in case you have to go a while without air.
The luckiest part about last year was that we had tap water. If you run on well water, or your county/city water gets messed up god help you. I don’t know what I would have done if I couldn’t take a shower, albeit a freezing cold one since the water heater wasn’t on, or drink from the tap. We had bottled water ready to go, but it was such a weight off our backs to not have to worry about that part of the entire experience. HOWEVER I STRONGLY suggest buying water enhancer drops or flavor powder for your bottled water to give it a little flavor and kick when cold sodas and other flavored beverages are out of commission.
That’s most of the stuff I wish I had known last year, and any other suggestions will be on your run-of-the-mill hurricane kit list. The downside of this is that all these supplies cost money and none of this takes into account what you should have if you are ordered to evacuate. We have four pets and I can’t even imagine what that would be like. We have family across the state so at least we would have somewhere to go that wasn’t a crowded shelter or a hotel. I had to save up for a generator, and the radios and other things came slowly in the off season. We get a pack of batteries of some flavor every third grocery trip or so. A good hurricane kit is impossible to make all at once in the moment of an emergency – supplies will be scarce, and even if they aren’t it’s cost prohibitive to create some of the more important pieces of the kit. Last year getting things for that hurricane ruined us financially for MONTHS. I don’t think we were fully whole again until like February, and even then it was a balancing act.
If you are a reader of AAB and you are in the path of this hurricane please stay safe. Follow evacuation orders. Keep all human and fur babies safe and make sure you have food and water and prescriptions for everyone. Make sure you have everyone’s important documents in one place, and bring a book or two to read. Then, if you have to, get the fuck out of there. This is going to be a catastrophe.
Read. Be brave. Stay angry.