Thursday, September 11, 2008

I Remember This A Little Too Well

My husband and I made a bet three days ago. I said Ike would hit within 20 miles of Galveston and he said within 20 miles of Corpus Christi. Looks like I will be winning! Too bad I didn't put any money on it. For those of you that don't know, we moved away from south Florida less than two years ago, and one of the reasons (along with high taxes and insurance premiums) was hurricane fatigue. I have been down this road more times than I can count, and I HATE putting up plywood. A running joke for Floridians is we don't get out of bed for anything less than a Cat 3. This is slightly different because we are so far inland. I am more worried about losing electricity for who knows how long, or possibly having one of our tall trees fall on the house. Or maybe our next door neighbor leaving his portable carport tent up (that has almost blown away like a sail in 40 mph gusts). Anyhow, I thought I would share with you my tips and experiences in case you are new at this. I am a planner, and I totally prefer hurricanes to tornadoes because you can plan out the wazoo for a hurricane. This will get you through a few days without power. After that, you will start to pull your hair out.
  1. Charge up anything rechargeable - AA batteries, Cell Phone, IPOD, Drill, flashlight, lantern, Nintendo DS etc. If you have a solar powered radio, they are great for after the storm, but you have to wait for the clouds to clear. A weather band radio is the best, sadly, I don't have one. Too bad I can't borrow yours, mom.
  2. Eat all your ice cream and popsicles and use the new space in your freezer to make lots of ice. Store the ice in big Ziploc bags. Also, freeze 20 oz water bottles. Right before the storm, put all your pricey solid frozen things (meat, chicken) in the middle and surround them with frozen vegetables, bags of ice, etc. You can also move some things you can eat in the next few days from the fridge (cheese, milk, lunch meat, jelly) to a cooler with some of those frozen water bottles. But don't waste time doing this until you lose power. The main thing is that you don't open your freezer. Keep the cold in. We only opened our freezer once a day to use up stuff that was thawing.
  3. I hope you have paper plates and disposable cups already because the only thing you want to wash is pots or pans. Or you can use aluminum foil for cooking. (I am assuming that you have a grill with charcoal or propane.)
  4. Fill your bathtub. This is overrated because you don't want to drink the water, but it will work for flushing the toilet. Even a plugged bathtub will drain the water after a day or two though. This is also a rather dangerous thing to do if you have little children, so be very careful of the drowning hazard. For those of you that want to go hardcore, you could fill a heavy duty trash can halfway (that will of course be stored in your garage during the storm) and keep a bucket nearby. If you don't have a lot of water for flushing, then everyone should use the same toilet and only flush when nessacary.
  5. I am assuming that you have already gone outside and cleaned up all your childrens toys - shovels, wagons, bikes, buckets. Don't forget your windchimes, birdhouses, and trash cans! If there are things outside that you can't take in, tie them together or tie them to a porch post. And of course, fill up your gas tanks! And any gas cans.
  6. Park your car inside the garage or right up against the garage door. If you have two cars, park them right next to each other just barely touching the garage door. This seems to lessen the wind that could blow in a garage door.
  7. Get your board games, puzzles, and cards ready. Put these near your safe room. Take your Very Important Papers, put them in a ziploc bag or something and keep them near you. You will also want a good radio and flashlights. This is the stuff to keep near your safe area (bathroom in the middle of the house or maybe a closet). You want to be in the middle and away from windows.
  8. Safety: Be very careful if you are using candles! (For bathroom lighting, I would put water in my sink and the candle the middle of that.) Be very careful if you have open containers of water near small children! Never use a propane grill in your garage! Never use a generator in your garage! You would not believe how often people die of carbon monoxide poisoning after a storm. Don't let the kids play in flood waters! Be very careful with the chainsaw!
  9. As long as you have no damage, you can enjoy some fun family bonding time the first few days. No computer, no TV, no distractions. Unless of course, you have yard work to do or fence repair. Sigh.

I will leave you with memories from my favorite hurricane. It hit us during a cool fall, so we had very pleasant weather. And those that went without A/C for two weeks were very thankful. (Our house was right near the hospital, so we always had electricity back within five days.)

Hurricane Wilma, where is your sting? I knew this was not another simple hurricane when I found myself helping my husband hold our front window. It would be the one window we hadn't boarded that would get the direct wind after the eye passed. It was bowing in, so we stood there pushing it with our bodies at a 60 degree angle. Looking out, I could see the minivan in the driveway getting lifted every now and then, so the tires would just barely leave the ground. I was praying that the wind would die down and not blow in the window or push over the minivan. I was also praying that the house down the street would not lose their garage door. It was halfway out and flapping, and we were straight downwind. God listened and we only had to hold it for 30 or 40 minutes, and the neighbor's garage door did not sail away. Our house stayed in tact and so did our cars. So began the alternate universe. I was kind of getting used to living in it. I had finally gotten the knack of cleaning the grill every afternoon, so hubby could cook whatever was getting mushy in the freezer (hamburgers and salmon anyone?). We have to start by four thirty, so we can have dinner finished before it gets dark. Plus we need time to heat water up on the grill for whoever's turn it is to get a lukewarm bath. The only connection I had with anything was talking to my neighbors and my radio, but I had to conserve batteries. My brave husband ventured out today and waited for two hours to get ice, water and fun boxes of food - thank you, state and federal government for the Pringles and pudding! He brought me home a treat, a newspaper. I was beginning to develop such a routine, the kids went to bed when it got dark. I usually went out to look at the stars (and to see if there was a new glow anywhere indicating electricity) It's insane how many stars I could see, I could even see the milky way it was so dark. I could tell it would soon be gone because tonight I couldn't see the stars on the horizon anymore. Iwas reading by candlelight (have to conserve the batteries) and all of a sudden the kitchen light went on. I picked up the phone and there was a dial tone. I got up and started crying. I honestly thought I was dreaming. In a wierd way I am very sad though. This has actually been a really good time. We have never gotten so much sleep, there has been no obligations, nothing to get done. There was a lot of manual labor, sure. We had to seperate our neighbor's entire backyard from ours and pull a giant seagrape out of the little fish pond. Thankfully, the palm tree did not fall on our minivan, although it stil is leaning toward the east. We have dinner early every night, and nobody is fighting. The candlelight and classical music on the radio at 8 o clock has been really nice. In fact when the lights came on, I thought they were way too bright and had to turn them off. My husband and I agreed we will have to have a hurricane anniversary and turn off the electricity for a day every year, except for the fridge. I really hope that everyone else out there in South Florida is doing well and getting by. We considered ourselves very fortunate because we never lost water. I am very thankful that we live in such a great state that is able to organize things so quickly, and I am loving FPL right now. I am thankful to God for restoring power about ten minutes after I was fervently praying for it and imagining it would be tommorrow if we were lucky.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, hurricanes are amazing aren't they, or at least the after effects. Just imagine what our ancestors could see without the light pollution. Good tips for those first timers, you know - the ones that got all anxious about Eduardo the tropical storm. Talk to you later, after the big blow. I will be praying for your safety. At least you are not dealing with formula.
My favorite time was when we all bunked with you - including three dogs and the cats. Mom.

Ali said...

Fun times! Tommorrow I'll be listening for those important terms: rain bands, cluster tornadoes, pressure dropping to ... millibars, eyewall, cone or terror, or my favorite "it looks like the storm has stopped moving and it's in a stationary position... Yeah, still no sign of it moving." Remember that one? When child #1 was literally climbing the walls. Fun times!