I lived on the Texas Coast for ten years. In that time, we had a few close calls. To be honest, I thought I was as prepared as anyone could be. Hurricane Ike proved that my hurricane preparedness plans had huge holes in them.
We lived about 20 or so miles North of Houston. The eye of Hurricane Ike passed over our 5 acres. We lost many huge trees but fortunately, none hit our home. Many of your neighbors weren’t as fortunate. We were without power 9 days. You find out real quick where where the holes are in your preparedness plans.
Here’s what I learned from Hurricane Ike and how to prevent them from happening to you.
First off, I had put off buying a generator. I didn’t have any real use for one other than the odd job around the 5 acres and then I used cordless tools for that. I hated to think about a$1000 plus piece of equipment sitting in my Garage not being used. 2 days after Hurricane Ike hit, that $1000 sounded like the deal of the century!
We had bottled water to last for 3 to 5 days. I had also stored some water for the dogs and for misc. use. I had bought plastic gas cans and filled them with water prior to the storm hitting. I also filled our bathtubs.
2 days before the storm hit, there were stores running out of gas. Luckily we were able to fill our tanks and some gas cans but others weren’t as lucky. They waited too long and ended up with less than full tanks of gas and none stored up.
3 days before the storm hit, we went to stock up on some food. We nearly waited too long as people were making a mad dash to get whatever they could. It was quite a sight to see Wal-Mart, Krogers and other Super grocery stores with bare shelves.
Another crazy scene was at hardware and big box stores. Lines were formed out the door as people waited to get into the store and by plywood, generators, flashlights and other items they thought they would need. I drove around several small towns just to look at all the lines of people scrambling to get gas, food and other necessities. It made me think about what it must have looked like in the Gold Rush days with everyone getting crazy and all.
What to expect after a hurricane hits
I returned home (we had waited out the storm at my mother-in-laws about 45 minutes away) the next day in order to see what damage there might be to our home and to keep any looters at bay. One of my huge red oaks lay across the driveway to my home so I had to park out near the county road and walk in. The area around our home looked like a bomb had went off. Tree’s were laying everywhere, the ground was covered with leaves and twigs. The storm had nearly denuded all the trees.
Since we lived in a fairly low area, we had about 6 inches of water in our yard. I wasn’t afraid of that so much as I knew it would drain off, after I removed all the debris from the ditches!
Lucky for everyone in South Texas at that time of year, a cool front passed through and dropped the daytime temps in the middle 70′s. Normally we would have had temps in the upper 80′s to low 90′s. That would have certainly made the clean up much worse.
I started to work cleaning up the area around my home after I checked on my neighbors. For the first few days, living wasn’t too bad. I didn’t mind not having a TV or Internet. In fact, in a short time I loved not having either. The peace and quiet of sitting outside in the evenings was a blessing I had forgotten about. But as the week went on, the quiet evenings were filled with the sounds of generator motors humming. I still preferred that over the TV, phone and Internet.
After a few days, we got out and drove around some. We sit in line for about an hour to get some ice and water at a Church parking lot with the Southern Baptist had sit up shop and were giving water, ice and hot meals away. FEMA and the local emergency management teams hadn’t made it out of the starting blocks yet. It took them as long as a week to set up emergency centers at many areas around Houston.
As the week wore on, lines for ice and water grew. People were waiting 4 to 6 hours for a bag of ice and a case of bottled water. After about a week, a few tankers made it in with gas to some of the stores. State Troopers and local law enforcement were on hand directing traffic and controlling the crowds.
People were desperate for food and water. Many people ended up traveling 2 to 3 hours away just to get gas and some basic necessities. Those who stayed put and waited in lines sometimes came up empty.
I saw people actually fighting over a bag of ice and bottled water. People waiting hours and hours just for a CHANCE at a hot meal and cold water. It was crazy!
When FEMA did show up, they of course set up in the more high end areas of the County. The other side of the County, that consisted of low income families, had to wait a few more days. Plus when help did arrive, there was no mention of it on the local media outlets. All their attention was focused on the larger, more affluent neighborhoods. If it hadn’t been for charity organizations such as the Southern Baptist and other religious help organizations, the situation would have been much worse.
One thing I quickly learned was this.
Your well being is YOUR responsibility in a disaster. You are the one who should prepare your Family for a disaster. If you leave it up to the Government or other organizations to take care of your sorry ass in a disaster, then you need to accept the consequences and don’t gripe when you don’t have something you need, like food, water and/or something simple as ice.
It was truly amazing to sit back and watch how people reacted when faced with the task of supplying their basic needs. Needless to say, many were not prepared and didn’t react very well!
Hurricane Preparedness Checklist
Here are the things you’ll need after a hurricane or other natural disaster to make you life a little easier and to sustain you and your Family.
Generator. Don’t scrimp! Buy a quality generator and make sure it has enough amps to supply your freezer and refrigerator. At a minimum, I’d say you’ll need a 5000 watt generator. More is better. There were people coming into the area fro out of state selling rinky dink generators that normally cost $300 and $400 and charging $1500 and up for them…and there were lines of people waiting to buy them for that price! Make sure you have enough fuel stored up to last at least a week, a two week supply would be better. You should also look into getting some converters for your vehicles. These can be used to charge cell phones, laptops and other small appliances.
Water. You can never have enough water on hand. I would invest in some of the 50 gallon drums available and fill those with water for drinking and other uses.
Food. We had plenty of canned food and MRE’s on hand. Since the power went out, we first started eating everything we could from our freezer. I’d also stock up on bags of charcoal. I can’t tell you how good a Wolf Brand Chili taste after being heated up in the can on top of a grill, especially if you’ve been cutting trees all day!
Personal Defense: If you don’t own a gun, you really need to think about getting one. This would also include ammo to go with it. Although we didn’t have problems with looters, there were some areas that did. I like to keep what I have stored up for my Family. If you or your Family are hungry, so sad – too bad. You should have prepared!
Prescriptions: If you take prescriptions, stock up. The Pharmacy down at Wal-Mart won’t have any electric either and the chances of you getting what you need in an emergency is slim to none.
Fuel: Chances are the stores in your area will not have gas. After Hurricane Ike, there were people driving 3 hours one way just to fill up. Of course, they were nearly back where they started by the time they got home. You’ll also need fuel for your generator. It’s also a good idea to have extra propane on hand. I get the small bottles and the 20 lb bottles as well. I use the small ones for lanterns and cook stoves. You can also buy adapters to hook these up to the larger 20 lb bottles.
Small Window A/C. It’s a fact of life. Hurricanes generally hit in areas that are hot and humid and they do it in Summer. Once the temps got back around normal (high 80′s to low 90′s), we would have been extremely uncomfortable if it had not been for our small window A/C. I put this in our bedroom the first day I got back and unboarded our windows. We kept this room shut off from the rest of the house and used the generator to run it so we’d at least have a cool place to sleep at night. Again, I can’t tell you how good it feels to have a small creature comfort like this after working outside all day.
Trash Bags. Get the Contractor size, you’ll need them
Chain Saw. If you don’t know how to use one, then hire someone to do it. They can be dangerous so operate at your own risk.
Tarps. Hurricane force winds can rip shingles right off your home. Limbs from trees can easily poke holes in your roof. You’ll need plenty of tarps to cover these holes up after a hurricane. They also come in handy for cleanup around your yard. Just pile leaves and other debris on them and pull them where you want them.
Matches, Lighters, etc. I can’t tell you how many people I heard about who couldn’t light their grill or lanterns because they had no matches or lighters around their home. This sounds obvioius but it’s easy to forget.
Toilet Paper: Get lots. Remember, the stores probably won’t be open for a while. This is also true for paper towels. I also suggest using paper plates and plastic utensils. No use wasting stored water cleaning dishes!
Portable Radio. Get a good one. A radio was our only connection to what was going on in the area. I suggest a radio such as a C Crane radio and make sure you have plenty of batteries for it and other devices. Some of these radio’s will also have internal batteries that can be recharged with a crank handle. While they work, it can be a real pain cranking the radio every 15 minutes or so.
Straps: Before a storm hits, pick up any small loose objects around your home. Flower pots and other items can become flying missiles during the heart of the storm. You should also consider strapping down your boat, trailers or anything else that can get blown or washed away.
These are the things that I learned quickly that I needed. Here is a hurricane preparedness list from Uncle Sam covering other items you’ll need.
Like I said above. It’s up to you to be prepared. You’ll get awful hungry and thirsty if you wait on FEMA or anyone else to give you a hand. You only have to look at the after effects of Hurricane Katrina to see what happens when people don’t head the warnings and do not prepare for a hurricane.