Getting Ready for Hurricane Irma

Getting Ready for Hurricane Irma

While we are all still hoping the hurricane skips us here in Florida in favor of the open ocean, it’s important to prepare. This preparation is key not only to survival, but also in bouncing back after the storm has passed.  For anyone affected, aim for three days’ worth of supplies at a minimum.  Like every storm in life, the most important thing is to start preparing now while you have plenty of time.

My First Major Storm…

Tropical Storm Colin, June 2016.  An embarrassing story, to say the least.  I had no idea what to expect, having moved down from Michigan only 6 months prior.  I didn’t even know about the storm until the day it hit, when the heavy rain started and my work dismissed us early.  I went home, watched a movie, and went to bed, listening to the heavy rain and thinking all would be fine.  I woke up to my entire backyard and pool area flooded from the heavy rains, with water levels up to the doors.  I was out in the pouring rain making impromptu sandbags with plastic trash bags and sand from my yard.  I was taping the bottom of the doors and then placing my sandbags down and putting towels on the inside of the doors to get the water.  The floors were filthy throughout the house from tracking in mud.  My garage partially flooded (like it does every time it rains hard).  Jamie had to go out in the front yard.  I wasn’t expecting the power outages.  It was a mess, and ignorance was not bliss.  Now I’m always prepared.  Don’t be like me with Colin.

Hurricane Emergency Kit – ready to go in a moment’s notice

  • Water (1 gallon per person per day) – I prefer a 24 pack of bottles for convenience but some people fill jugs/containers with tap water
  • Non-perishable food – make sure it is food you will eat after the hurricane, too
  • A manual can opener if you have cans without a pop-top
  • Pet food/supplies and vet records in case a shelter needs to see them
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medication
  • Toiletries
  • A bag/waterproof tub containing all the important papers (house documents, passports, etc.) – consider taking photos of the documents and emailing them to yourself in the event that they are lost

Extra potentially-helpful items depending on your situation

  • Ziplock bags to protect anything small that can’t get wet
  • Small battery powered radio
  • Whistle for grabbing an emergency vehicle’s attention
  • Dust mask in case ceiling drywall starts coming down due to roof leaks
  • Other small tools (pliers, wire cutters, etc.)

Visit the National Hurricane Center’s website for more information and tips.

How I’m preparing for the hurricane

  • Eating as much food as possible of the food from the fridge and freezer (I plan to shut the power off to the house if there are any power outages since power going on and off again can fry appliances)
  • Stocking up on food items that can be eaten with little to no food prep and no electricity required
  • Filling the gas tank with gas
  • Getting as many free sandbags as possible from the county as soon as they are available.
  • Heavy yard clean up. Mowing (the ground will probably be soaked for a week after the storm) and getting rid of as many loose branches and other debris as possible (flying debris is the most damaging part of any storm).
  • Doing a load of laundry. Once the storms hit my area, waste management in my area has a hard time with the water volume, so they ask that you use as little water as possible after the storms.

And on Thursday night, if it’s still coming toward us…

  • Putting the sand bags around all the doors on the outside, and putting old towels around all the doors on the inside as needed/if I leave. My area floods even when it just rains.
  • Setting up the pump in the back yard with a hose going to the front yard.
  • Putting towels on the window sills as needed/if I leave. Even with hurricane windows & shutters, water seeping from the wind pressure happens. A few damp towels is better than soaked drywall or floors.
  • Moving all the outside furniture into the garage/other covered areas
  • Tucking valuables into plastic bins on the highest closet shelves so that any flooding won’t damage them.
  • Putting any loose décor into the closets. I wouldn’t want anything flying around if the window broke.

I purposely bought a house made of cinderblocks with tile floors.  It also has strong windows.  It should be very safe if the hurricane hits us.  This initial planning during my house purchase was extremely important.  I’m a minimalist so the house furnishings should be easily replaceable if something were to happen.  Additionally, I’ve ripped out and replaced drywall and molding before.

My Emergency Plans – contingent on the storm!

Plans will likely be put into play Thursday night or Friday morning.  I’ve talked to my manager and my family already.  Share your plan with family members so that they know where you will be.

  • Staying put and gathering all my needed supplies – Plan A! I’ve already started preparing.  Even though my house is safe, the area can flood, rendering it unsafe to stay.  My house is in Evacuation Zone A, so I’d be part of the first group to go.

If I have to evacuate, the plan is turning the water off (if a pipe were to leak or break while gone, the resulting water damage could be detrimental) and turning the power off (it’s possible for appliances to survive a flood if there is no electricity running through them while they are wet) and then:

  • Traveling an hour south to another family member’s house, which is also made of cinder block with tile floors. Could be just enough to get us out of the path/flood area depending on the path of the hurricane.  I’ve also offered to let other friends come with if it will be safe.
  • Traveling two hours east to friends in Orlando, which again could be just far enough out of the path that we are safe.
  • Traveling eight hours north to my aunt’s home in Atlanta. I called her this morning to confirm she has room over the weekend if needed.
  • Traveling even further north up to Michigan, because it would be a nice excuse to visit my parents.

It’s so important to have multiple plans in place to be able to handle any scenario coming.  It can help alleviate the stress of a last minute scramble.

Other frugal hurricane preparation tips:

  • Fill up all vehicles with gas, and check tires and oil.
  • Consider getting cash from the ATM, at least enough to get you through tolls and gas out of town. Call your bank if you plan on leaving the state so they don’t freeze your card for out-of-area “suspicious” transactions.
  • If you’re staying put, start running your ice makers now and bagging the ice in freezer bags. Fill as much space in between your freezer items as you can. (Eat frozen foods to make more room for ice.) More drinking water as needed, and a colder freezer.
  • Freeze regular tap water for pets, cleaning or drinking in Tupperware-type containers. Remember to leave a small bit of space between the top of the water & the lids so the ice expands but doesn’t crack the container.
  • Shutter windows and doors for extra protection. Consider plywood to cover the windows if you don’t already have shutters.

Best of luck to anyone weathering the storm!

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