Hey there, Jersey! It looks like, based on the most recent forecast, we have a big old bullseye painted on our coast, and Hurricane Irene looks like her aim is pretty darned good. We are in no way unfamiliar with big storms, but in these parts, it’s usually a Nor’easter that dumps a few inches of snow that causes the run to the grocery store and the gas station. So what do we do in a Hurricane? As a 10 year resident of Florida, and survivor of many hurricanes – and near misses – here’s what should be going on at your house:
1 – Forget the French toast. I’m not sure why, but anytime snow is predicted, Jerseyans run out and get French toast ingredients – eggs, bread, and milk. In a snowstorm, though, we usually don’t lose power – just the ability to run to the store. In a hurricane, however, you may not have regular cooking abilities if you lose power. Skip the French toast ingredients and focus on foods that you can open and eat out of the can or package, or pick up a few things you can cook on your grill. Don’t forget – if you don’t have a manual can opener, now’s the time to buy one. If you don’t have any power, an electric can opener isn’t going to do you much good.
2 – Let There be Light! – but skip the candles. Your best bet in a power outage is going to be flashlights, so stock up on them and make sure you have plenty of batteries. You can also find some battery operated lanterns in the camping department of most stores, and they can be quite handy as well. Candles are not your best option, especially if you have small children. Keep in mind, strong winds have the ability to blow open your windows – open flames like candles love when that happens – your blowing curtains give them something to latch on to. Skip the candles if you can.
3 – Start Saving Ice NOW! – You’ve got a couple of days notice before the storm actually hits, so start emptying your ice trays or your ice storage drawer in the freezer. Place the ice in Ziploc bags that you can use to keep things cold in coolers if you do lose power for an extended period of time. Even if your fridge loses power, with a good stash of ice, you can keep things like milk, juice, and other cold staples on hand. Keeping things in coolers will also help you keep your fridge closed, protecting your perishable foods a while longer.
4 – Water, Water Everywhere – But unless you’ve got some bottled water or stores of tap water, you won’t have any to drink. There is always a possibility that drinking water sources could be compromised. Under normal circumstances, you might be instructed to boil your water, but if there’s no power, that’s not an option. Have plenty of water on hand for yourself and your family – at least enough for two or three days.
5 – Remember That Water Thing? – If the storm looks like it’s going to be intense, consider filling your bathtub with water. You can use the water in your tub to flush your toilet or wash your face in the event that your water service is interrupted.
6 – Tape The Windows? – The short answer is, ummm, no. While taping your windows may do a small bit to keep larger shards of glass from blowing all over in the event that your windows do blow in, the protection it offers is minimal, and you will spend from now until you hang your Christmas decorations trying to scrape the tape off the windows. If the winds are predicted to be serious, you are going to be in much better shape if you nail plywood boards up.
7 – Let’s Go Play In the Puddles! – NO! You crazy kids! As tempting as it is in the heat of the summer to go out and play in the pools of water that may collect as a result of 5 – 10 inches of rain, you are not going to see the danger that may lurk beneath the water. In one of the first big hurricanes we rode out in Florida, a family decided to go out for a walk when the sun first came out, and wandered through a puddle of standing water. Under the water, a live electrical wire was hidden, and the three members of the family were all electrocuted. Avoid the temptation; stay safe.
8 – Do I Need a Generator? – Probably not. Are they great to have if your power is out? Yes. But chances are good that your power won’t be out THAT long. The generator is an expensive investment, and you’re going to have to store it when the storm is over. Put some thought into when the last time you could have used it might have been. It may be something you can do without.
9 – LISTEN – If your local emergency services tells you to evacuate, LEAVE. If they tell you to stay indoors until the brunt of the storm passes, STAY INDOORS. If they ask you to stay off the roads unless it’s an emergency, remember that a RUN FOR RITA’S WATER ICE IS NOT AN EMERGENCY! Stay tuned to your local news channel on the TV or radio (grab a battery operated radio and batteries); make sure your phone is charged so you can get email or Twitter notifcations. Check with your local municipality – many police stations send out Twitter or email alerts.
10 – STAY SAFE! Use your common sense. If it seems like a bad idea, it probably is. If the professionals are telling you to do something, it’s probably a good idea to do it. Don’t take unnecessary chances – and you’ll be here to ride out the next storm!