In one month another hurricane season will be upon us. Since Katrina and Wilma there are thousands of new residents here in Florida and along the Gulf Coast who have never had to deal with a storm that their worst nightmares never prepared them for. I have spent most of my life living in hurricane target areas; Cape Cod, south Florida and Louisiana and have learned a few things in 66 years. Here are a few tips for those new to hurricane preparedness and reminders to those who have but weren’t paying attention the last time.
1) You don’t want to do your emergency shopping the day before the storm hits. The Publix, Winn Dixie and Wal Mart Super Stores, Sam’s Club and Costco are going to be a veritable ZOO. Stock up early! It’s truly simple to do. At the start of each hurricane season every time you go to the store buy a little extra. If you usually buy two cans of tuna, buy three and put one away in a closet separate from your pantry so you won’t be tempted to use it in your every day cooking. Pick up other canned goods, Spam, pork and beans, ravioli, spaghetti sauce, Ramen noodles. Stuff you can just put in a pan and heat up. Just a couple of items every time you shop and in a few weeks you’ll have a couple of weeks worth of food in reserve. But the important thing is KEEP IT AWAY FROM YOUR USUAL SUPPLY.
2) Buy a large package of batteries AA, C, whatever your flashlights and portable radios use and keep it with your food supply. Stock up on paper plates to eat off of because the water is going to be off for a couple of days at least and you aren’t going to be able to wash your regular dishes.
3) Buy one of those flashlights that you can charge up with a crank on the side. You can pick one up for about $10. They even make flashlights that charge up by solar power. And they aren’t expensive, either.
4) Have a portable radio so you can listen to the news. The one I have, since before Wilma, run between $35 to $50. Cranking them up is a bit of a pain but they really work and mine also works off a couple of AA batteries that I have stored away. It has AM/FM and NOAA weather stations.
5) DON’T BUY CANDLES!!! You’re going to be miserable enough when the lights and water go out, and sometimes for weeks at a time. Think how miserable you’re going to be if your home burns down because a candle set it on fire.
6) Store up some drinking water the same way you stored up food. You need a half a gallon per person per day to drink and to prepare some foods, like the Ramen noodles and spaghetti you’re going to put that sauce on that’s sitting in your emergency supply.
7) If you can afford to right now, get a camp stove that runs on gas. I’ve had a two burner stove that I bought at an RV supply store years ago, again before Wilma. It runs off the same gas tank that powers the grill on the patio. And don’t think you’re going to do all your cooking for a week or so off that patio grill, either. Especially if it doesn’t have a couple of auxiliary burners.
8) DON’T USE A CHARCOAL GRILL INDOORS. The carbon monoxide will kill you!
9) Want’s to take a hot shower when there’s no electricity to run the water heater? Go to a marine supply store or a place like Bass Pro and get a “solar shower.” It’s a heavy-duty plastic bag, one side is black and the other is clear. Fill it up, lay it out in the sun for a couple of hours and I guarantee it will be hot enought to scald you.
10) Here’s one people almost never think of…make sure that the plug on your bathtub is REALLY WATER TIGHT AND WON’T LEAK!!! When the storm is about to hit fill your tub to the top. You’re not going to drink this stuff, but when the water goes off like the electricity, HOW ARE YOU GOING TO FLUSH YOUR TOILET? After the water goes off you get ONE FREE FLUSH AND THAT’S IT!!! With the water in the tub you take a bucket and pour a gallon or so into the bowl and voila, you’re done. And for heaven’s sake don’t flush it if you’ve just used the toilet to take a whizz. That’s a waste of water, and you ladies, it’s only a couple of drops on the toilet paper when you wipe so throw it in a trash bag and not in the toilet bowl. That bathtub water is for getting rid of the really nasty stuff. You can also use the bath tub water to wash your dishes.