Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Christine's Hurricane Preparation--It's Exhaustive

Well you're probably wondering why I'm writing about hurricanes when my blog is meant to be joyous. Well to that point, PREVENTION is  my middle name. As one of my strengths I want to share valuable lessons.

After listening to all the various news reports post Hurricane Irene and residents in states like Vermont that never experienced a hurricane, I decided to share my list and it's more than your usual canned food, batteries and flashlights. As a native Floridian and having lived in Miami since 1997, I have learned from experience.  It's exhausting preparing for a hurricane but I fared better than most after Hurricane Wilma. It was disturbing to learn of residents struggling without power for three weeks.  Imagine taking cold showers or worse, not having a hair dryer or curling iron? Horrors. Yours truly invested in a battery powered generator for small appliances.  While most neighbors looked like something the cat dragged in, they would stare at me "You looked like you walked out of a salon!".  I say "Prepare for the worst and hope for the best".

1. Select a shelter that is above ground but does not require you to take an elevator or kill your knees descending 20+ flight of stairs. WHY? During hurricane Wilma that impacted Miami, it hit hardest in downtown Miami, my home.  While many buildings in Miami are supposed to have one elevator working on a generator, the fact is after Wilma, many of the NEW buildings failed when it came to functioning generator/elevator or even running water. Residents in condo highrises were forced to climb down the stairs and stay with friends or in hotels. Currently I live in a new highrise on the 39th floor. Trust me, I will be seeking refuge in my OLD condo building on the 4th floor.

2. On that note if you don't want your home smelling like a sewer, fill your bathtub with water.   You will need that water to flush your toilet and for other urgencies if there is no running water in your home or condo or apartment.

3. Unplug all devices and move any furniture or items you don't want damaged should the windows shatter. A false sense of security are hurricane shutters.  They do NOT prevent windows from shattering. They DO protect your windows from projectiles. During Hurricane Andrew, we learned that houses with shutters saw their windows explodes. Now in new buildings with hurricane "windows", don't count on them staying intact. 

4. In a condo building, camp out in the hallway corridor. That's what we always do as it's the most secure interior. In an apartment building, stay in the most interior room with no windows. Keep your cell phone with you at all times. Or bring in regular phone with long extension.

5. Invest in a regular land phone line and have old fashion phone with push buttons that don't require plugging into a wall. Who would have thought that old-fashioned technology "the land phone line" would be the only source of connection and to ask for help. Even before any hurricane strikes, cell phone usage is nonexistent. Naturally during the hurricane forget it. Cable service was also down for both television viewing and internet. Our cable service was down for a week post hurricane. Recently I made my elderly mother get a land phone line from AT&T. Yes it costs more money than the new internet based phone services but this way we can stay in touch easily. The downside, AT&T is horrific with operations. They never came out after my mother took a day off of work. It was a nightmare getting them to come out.  We are anti AT&T but they are only company that offers land line.

6. Ensure you have enough clothing, food, water for a week. This is NOT the way to lose weight.
7. Fill your gas tank! So many gasoline stations were closed after Hurricane Wilma, cars were running on fumes and fading in the middle of the road.

8. STOP AT NONFUNCTIONING TRAFFIC LIGHTS. It's amazing how many people forget the traffic laws. If you approach a traffic light that's nonfunctioning, you have to treat it as a stop sign.

9. Park your car inside an elevated concrete garage like bank building.  Plan ahead. Talk to your local building owners and ask if they would allow it for hurricanes. Too many cars are damaged  or destroyed with fallen trees or damaged from flooded rains. 

10. Make copies of important documents. Photocopy or Scan documents and store them in digital warehouse. This should be done during nonhurricane season.

11.  Never leave your pets at home. Bring them with you or drop off at secure shelter for pets. If they accompany you, bring plenty of pet food, water, and paper towels, disinfectant spray and plastic bags to clean up after their bathroom business while indoors during the hurricane.

12. No matter where you are staying, even in your home, have a small luggage ready with clothes and essentials in case you have to evacuate suddenly.

13. BUY RAIN BOOTS and raincoat! Most hurricanes leave behind a trail of streets converted to rivers.

14. Have playing cards and poker chips and other board games handy for long nights with no television or Internet. The silver lining in hurricane, it brought together families and neighbors and every evening was one big barbecue or dinner party! Oh yes, bottles of wine bring levity post hurricane during cleanup and recovery and the wait for power to return.

15. Invest in sternos and aluminum pans with frames to warm up foods.  Many party stores sell portable sternos. Another option is little habachi grill and charcoal with lighter fluid. Be sure to buy LONG stem matches. If you have meats in freezer or fridge, cook those first. Save dry food for later.

16. Have one or several coolers filled with ice. Even if the ice melts, you may be able to buy ice nearby and refill the cooler to keep water and drinks cool.

17. Buy battery operated radio to keep up with news.


One of the most important lessons I learned during Hurricane Wilma, while it was only a category 1, the damage and destruction was similar to a hurricane 3. Why? We are facing a double natural disaster. Microbursts or mini tornadoes spun out after Wilma.  This explained why there was no drop of rain on the streets but many windows were blown out of buildings and automobiles! This is why it's extremely important to stay away from windows, stay in interior room, stay on low floor but not ground level.

Be prepared! Be Safe!

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