I’m from the US Virgin Islands. Irma hit us with gusts of 230 and destroyed everything. 13 days later, Maria came through as a cat 5. I was without power or water for 121 days.
Here are some tips to make you more comfortable for these storms:
-Make block ice now. Take Tupperware, fill with water. Freeze it, remove when frozen and repeat. This ice can last for over a week and will turn your fridge and freezer into a cooler so you don’t lose a ton of food.
-Battery powered fan. This is arguably the most important item you’ll need because trying to sleep in the heat / humidity / still air is impossible. I could have sold a $8 fan from amazon for $100 easy. Cheap AA battery ones work fine, but I got a high capacity ryobi battery and a ryobi fan and it made a world of difference.
-Cash is king. Withdraw beforehand.
-Chips and salsa are the best food. No refrigeration, won’t spoil, and you can nibble on it anytime- even if you don’t have an appetite. Out of all the food we had this was always gone immediately.
-Fix a flat! Grab a few cans. Tons of nails and debris afterwards, flat tires are almost a certainty. Even better- tire plugs and a tire inflator.
-Headlamps are infinitely better than flashlights. You can cook / function and have both hands free.
-Aluminum foil, rubbing alcohol (70%), tarps and Home Depot buckets can be used for almost anything. For example, rubbing alcohol can be put on a paper towel and used to wash, can sterilize cuts, clean countertops, start a fire, etc. Home Depot buckets can be used to transport water, store water, collect rainwater, transport things, store things to reduce clutter, and as a place to sit.
-Buy plastic plates, forks, knives, cups, etc. Doing dishes without running water is a pain. Have lots of garbage bags.
-Just because you have a generator doesn’t mean it works. Test it now.
-Gas cans- for generator and avoiding long lines. Not sure if Florida runs out of gas or not. 4 5-gallon cans worked well for me.
-Generators: You have two options- get a big one which will power more stuff, and guzzle gas, or get an inverter generator. The inverters are more expensive per kW capacity, but use almost no gas. I could run a window AC unit and fan on my (LPT wont let me post links- google Wen 56200i) for a solid 8 hours on 1.2 gallons of gas. You cant do laundry etc, but they’re silent, lightweight, and great for electronics. You’ll also need a surge protector and long extension cord.
NEVER EVER run one indoors- this often kills more people than the storm itself.
-Bug a salt gun. They’re on amazon, and shoot salt to kill flies. Flies will be everywhere, and they cost me a lot of sleep. Every morning I’d wake up because flies were landing on me non stop. Kill them. It’s also fun when you’re drunk 😁
-A knife, twine, duct tape, gloves and paracord will come in handy literally every day.
-Get pepper spray / tear gas ASAP. A ranged- non-lethal weapon is of absolute importance. If you only have non-ranged, you put yourself at a significant disadvantage.
For example, crackhead aggressively approaching you may or may not have a weapon (dealt with several of them). If you only have lethal, you may end up killing someone when it could have been easily avoided. If you draw with people around, you’ll cause panic and make yourself a HUGE target.
Get a military grade tear gas / pepper spray combo- it will instantly, involuntarily incapacitate anyone. Then run. Ideally, this is accompanied with a pistol.
-Propane camping stoves are cheap and will allow you to easily cook. If not, build a 3 wall stove out of rocks and cook using downed branches and a grill grate. Or dig a hole and start a fire. After a few days though, cold food is what you’ll crave.
-Freeze water bottles. They can be cut in half and put in a yeti to keep your drink cold all day. They can also be placed under armpits and on the side of your neck to cool off / help you sleep. You will be craving ANYTHING cold.
-Spam is AMAZING! Black pepper spam, thinly sliced and fried. Serve with black beans and rice, OR take a potato, cut into fries. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and black pepper. You’re welcome. Oh- potato’s are cheap, last forever at room temp, and you can do anything with them.
-Fill your damn prescriptions beforehand. Snag antibiotics if you can, z-packs are great, as is cipro. You will get sick.
-Fill your bathtub with water beforehand. Can scoop with homedepot bucket to flush toilets, clean, etc. Also, adding bleach to your toilet will keep it somewhat sanitary if you can only flush once a day.
-Take pics and videos of you’re property and possessions the day before. Will help with insurance, FEMA, etc.
-Broom and dustpan- lots of debris but surprisingly good at removing water.
-If water is coming through the walls or windows consider killing the power. Our place caught on fire during Irma due to water in the walls. This happened to a lot of people during Maria as well.
-Keep electronics off the ground. If it floods and your power is on, and you’re standing in the water, you’ll have bad day.
-If you have an electric stove, make sure you have some sort of grill and that it has fuel. Charcoal is good and you don’t necessarily need a grill for it.
-Keep off the road unless you absolutely must. In addition to wasting gas, awful traffic and road hazards, you’re preventing emergency vehicles / recovery workers from doing their job.
-Consider rigging a simple alarm. Pull string alarms are great. I moved into my cottage 2 months after the storms because my house was uninhabitable. I was alone, and rigging one on my gate helped me sleep a lot better.
-Do laundry and dishes beforehand, clean your house.
-Chili, goulash, lasagna, etc are great to make and freeze for later so you don’t have to cook.
-Chainsaws are king! Dont forget replacement blades. Without them, you may be trapped at your house for days.
If shit really hits the fan:
-NEVER lend out something you cannot replace. I lent out all of my battery powered fans once I got my generator. When the genny went down, I was miserable, and asked several of my coworkers/friends for just one of my fans back. It took a week before ONE of the people forked one of the fans over.
-Do not isolate yourself. Aside from safety issues, you will desperately need to be around people, whether you realize it or not. Isolation after a traumatic experience will make it significantly worse.
-Your brain won’t work for a few days, super brain fog. Everyone will have PTSD, even if you were not frightened at all during the storm itself. Performing the most simple task will overload you. Imagine trying to have a conversation while loud music, a loud TV, a siren, flashing lights are surrounding you- in the middle of an earthquake. With everything around you destroyed, there’s simply too much stimuli for you to process anything. Every day I’d be in the middle of a conversation with someone at the bar (meetup spot), and either myself or the person I was talking to would walk away mid sentence without saying anything. This wasn’t deliberate, your brain is just full of squirrels.
-Don’t tell people what you have. If you mention having food and power people get resentful.
-Don’t let too many people join you, if you do, they won’t want to leave and will tell others, it snowballs super fast.
-Be home over an hour before dark.
-Time will stop and no one will know what day it is. It was day 1, day 2, etc for the first 3 weeks.
-You may disagree with this, but having a good weapon can be more important than having bottled water. If shit really hits the fan, everything else can become a distant second in the blink of an eye. Personally, I’m pro common sense gun control, but I’ll never be without a powerful semiautomatic rifle or pistol again.
Edit: for those asking how I can be pro gun control and recommend this- I think it should be harder to buy an assault rifle than it is to rent a moped. I also believe tha violence is almost never the answer- but when it is the answer, it’s the only answer.
-Board games books etc are great.
-Ice will be worth its weight in gold.
-The first night you’ll be ecstatic you made it through, with random bits of crying. It gets a little harder every day
-Be aware of your surroundings and of people
-Tempers will be high Day 2–6, same with rumors. Fog of war is very real in a close community with no cell service.
-Keeping morale high is the most important thing
-Keep a journal. Years later or for the next storm it will be priceless.
-You’ll be numb and in a daze for quite some time.”
Another user comments:
“ A few more ideas :
I would suggest having a battery-powered FM radio (and extra batteries if it’s battery powered, or get one which charges via USB like the one I linked) to listen to the news and get vital information.
Also (if not too late), order a sawyer mini (best) or lifestraw (not as good). If you don’t have access to clean water it can help you stay healthy (beware of chemical contamination which cannot be removed by these).
If you have the money, get a Garmin inReach satellite communicator (requires a (relatively cheap) subscription, down to $15ish a month). You can request SOS (much like 911), and send/receive SMS and e-mails, even without cell coverage. Excellent to keep in touch with relatives and in case of emergency. Can be used year-round when hiking, snow-mobile, skiing, … Don’t tell anyone you have this…
Download the offline map of your area on Google Maps on your phone beforehand. Can be priceless to navigate around and doesn’t require internet access. Also get the Maps.Me app and download the map of your area too. Google Maps offline maps will expire and disappear from your phone after 30 days (I believe), Maps.Me maps will not.
If the cell service in your area is out of order, use your phone in airplane mode so that it doesn’t continuously and desperately looks for a cell to connect to, which will drain the battery VERY quickly. Also use it on the lowest practical brightness setting to save battery power.
If not too late, get big USB power banks (>=10000mAh such as this one) and fully charge them beforehand. It’s good as barter items and it can be nice to recharge your things when you have no access to a generator (on the go, or if you don’t want to run the generator to avoid attracting attention). You can also get USB lights (this one for instance) and your powerbank doubles as a flashlight with a very long battery life.
Get a first aid kit, and not just one with bandaids… Get a CAT tourniquet, trauma dressing, Celox (preferred) or QuikClot bandage, triangular bandage, SAM splint, … and know how to use them. Also get the basic medecines (stomach/diarrhea relief, basic painkillers, anti-allergy, and any prescription medecine if you require any). Remember 911 service may be unavailable for some time and you need to be able to take care of injuries. Tourniquets save lives, everyone should have one readily available.
I am a radio amateur and in these situations I like to have one or two portable radio for two-way communication but I realize it is not for everybody. Still, a pair of FRS/GMRS radio can be helpful. Please note that GMRS requires a (cheap) license in the USA. I would recommend this model which also allows to be used as a scanner and to program the NOAA weather frequencies (do it beforehand) and some local police/EMS/fire frequencies (if allowed in your juridiction).
Please DO NOT use a radio made for amateur radio use, where you can transmit on any frequency, such as the UV-5R; you may interfere with emergency communications, even if you can’t hear them, miles away. Please stick to the FRS/GMRS frequencies. The radio above guarantees safe operation and still allows to be used as a scanner.
Take pictures of all your important documents (ID, properties, …) and store them in a waterproof plastic bag. Try to keep at least your passport and driver license with you during the storm…
If you have a sump pump, try to arrange so that it can be battery powered and/or connected to your generator. If using battery power, get a battery charger and/or a generator connection, if the outage lasts and the battery runs down. Sometimes homes are not affected by the main storm but are flooded due to the lack of power around the storm and are still ruined, and that’s totally preventable.
Also, beforehand, depending of the situation you might want to BLOCK your main sewage pipe. This way you might avoid sewage backflow into your home. There are normally valves already installed but in case of serious flooding (high backpressure) they sometimes are not up to the task.
Download a few offline movies on the Netflix app (if you have Netflix). I never lived though a hurricane but I assume after a few days/weeks, you might want some entertainment. You can also download e-books. Bonus if it’s survival-related e-books.”
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