Hurricane Irene: Preparedness Tips from a Veteran

Hurricane Irene: Preparedness Tips from a Veteran

I am a child of Hurricane Andrew, which destroyed (and caved in) the roof of my Miami home, uprooted large trees, blew away our entire porch and literally split homes in half just a block or two away. I was a kid, so my dad took care of the hurricane prep and aftermath. Now that Hurricane Irene is staring down New York City (where I currently live), he felt warranted in waking me up at 7:30 this morning to give me his veteran advice now that I’ll be fending for myself.

So, below, I'm passing on his expert suggestions on how to protect your belongings and home or apartment:

Take Hurricane Irene Seriously

I’ve lived through a lot more hurricanes than just Andrew—including a number of category one and two hurricanes that felt like no big deal. But Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma, which both hit Miami as category one storms, were responsible for a tremendous leak in our house and lots of felled trees that blocked roads. And, in the words of my dad, “A serious tropical storm in New York will be as bad as a category one or two in Miami because there’s no infrastructure. The municipal systems might not know how to deal with the excess water, sewage, power outages, etc. Don’t shrug this off.” While New York's Mayor Bloomberg is currently guaranteeing that the city will be ready, in the words of the Boy Scouts, it never hurts to be prepared.

Review Your Renter’s Insurance Policy

Renter’s insurance will pay for somewhere for you to stay if your place becomes uninhabitable for a while. If you have renter’s insurance, review your policy now. (Here’s what you need to know about renter’s insurance)

Get a Flashlight that Takes AA Batteries (Not D Batteries)

Most people have D-battery flashlights, which means that the stores will be out of stock when everyone panics and buys replacement batteries. Some hardware stores sell flashlights that take AA batteries, though, and those batteries will be easier to find in a crunch.

Cook a Little

If you have a gas stove, you’re in luck because you should still be able to cook and boil water even if the power goes out. But if you have an electric stove, cook up some food before the storm to keep around as leftovers (my mom chimed in on the phone for that one). In the best case scenario, if nothing happens, you’ll have some pre-prepared food for yourself. And in the worst case scenario, if you do lose power, then you’ll have real food to eat for a while without resorting to canned sardines for four days straight.

Clean Water May Be More of an Issue If You’re Above the Ground Floor

Sure, you could always boil water on a gas stove if there’s a power outage and no potable water and you run out of stocked-up water, but you should store extra water if you don’t live on the ground floor. The reason? The pumps to move water up to your apartment might not be fully functional, so you might not even have water to boil in the first place.

Do Your Pre-Hurricane Shopping Immediately

People panic and stores sell out. As it stands, I had to visit multiple stores just to find somewhere that still had flashlights in stock. If there’s anything else you need for the storm, get it as soon as possible—don’t wait to see whether the storm is coming or not. The worst thing that will happen is that you’ll have extra canned beans that you can use later. (Another tip: My family is big on non-perishable milk like Parmalat that doesn’t need to be refrigerated, or powdered milk; I personally find these gross, but it’s something to note if you want milk for your cereal while the power’s out.)

The Most Dangerous Time to Go Out Is After the Storm

Historically, more deaths and injuries tend to occur after a hurricane has struck because there’s flooding on the ground … and downed power lines. Avoid any remote possibility of electrocution. Before sloshing around in the foot-high waters outside, make sure you’re wearing real, knee-high rubber boots.

Worried About Showering if There’s No Clean Water?

In preparation for Hurricane Andrew, my father blocked up the drain in the shower and caulked around the edges of the plug so that there would be no leakage. Then he filled the tub and used it in order to wash up for the next few days. This may be a little excessive if Irene ends up being just a tropical storm, but if you decide that this makes sense for you, fill your tub early, before the storm gets too bad—when other people may be doing something similar and/or the water systems start faltering.

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Reader Tip:

Michelle Obsheatz says on Facebook: "Save old milk jugs and containers like that and fill them with water and freeze them. That way you can put them in the fridge when the power goes out and your fridge will be like a big ice chest."

Image Credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video/Flickr


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