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Claudette Sneaks In! 2009 Hurricane Checklist

Hurricane Kate struck Tallahassee in 1985. NOAA image.

I spent this past weekend on Dog Island. The plan was to return to the mainland late this afternoon. Instead, we loaded up the boat this morning and raced Tropical Storm Claudette across the bay.

I’ve served as the Disaster Chairman for the local chapter of the American Red Cross and as the Chief of an area volunteer fire department. This list is based on my experience. Other organizations, publications and individuals publish their own list. Your mileage may vary.


Water – I like to have at least 4 gallons of drinking water for each person in the household. Remember that after a storm, power outages may cause your well or even the city water system to fail. Without water, you can’t flush the toilet. Having a bathtub full of water is a very good idea, and by pouring a bucket of water into the toilet, it will flush. Believe me when I say this is very important if your power is off for several days. My friend Tom suggests putting empty garbage cans under the eaves where the water runs off your roof. You probably wouldn’t want to drink the stuff, but it will work fine for flushing toilets.

Light – LED flashlights are awesome. I recommend LED headlights that use AAA batteries. Using a headlight, you can keep both hands free. Don’t wait until the last minute because they disappear fast from the stores when a hurricane is expected. Extra batteries are important too. I mostly use rechargeable NiMH batteries but when a storm is coming, I stock up on Alkaline AA and AAA’s.

Food – Think foods that your family will eat and which can be stored safely without refrigeration. Canned fish and meat; crackers, canned vegetables, peanut butter are all favorites in our storm stash. Don’t forget to have a couple of can openers in the food bag.

Medicine – Remember that after a storm, expect widespread power outages for as long a a week or two. If a storm is expected, make sure that you have enough of your essential medicines to last at least a couple of weeks.

First Aid Kit – Having a waterproof first aid kit is vital. Get one that has basic supplies that you know how to use.

Cash – Remember that after the storm, banks and ATM’s may be out of service for several days until phone and power lines are repaired.

Battery Radio – You can find inexpensive radios for as little as $20 that pickup AM, FM and the government weather stations. Be sure to have a few extra batteries too.

Gasoline – If a storm is coming, be sure to fill up your car. Don’t wait until the last minute when there are going to be lines at the stations and you risk the possibility of the gasoline supply running out.

The DRY Bag

I use a waterproof dry bag made for canoe touring but anything will work as long as it’s waterproof. If you have nothing else, use “zipper” style plastic bags. Here’s what goes in my DRY Bag:

Personal papers – birth certificates, drivers license, insurance policies, passport, social security card, medical records, etc.

I have a large “duffle” style dry bag. If it looks like I’m going to be out in the rain, I put my wallet, cell phone, camera and anything else I want to protect. Dry bags really work well.


Once, when a hurricane was active in the Gulf of Mexico, despite having a way off, I choose to not evacuate from Dog Island. I was stupid! If the weather bureau or local authorities suggests evacuation, you should grab your supplies and your dry bag and head for higher ground.

When a storm is coming and there is a chance that you may have to evacuate, it’s very important to have a designated “check-in” person somewhere outside the storm who can keep your friends and family updated about your health and welfare.

The American Red Cross has an on-line database up to help storm victims list themselves as safe and sound. Click here for the service.


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