The TallyCast

…all polite and classy.

Hurricane Season

Hurricane Opal off the Big Bend of Florida. NOAA image.

Back when I was a yankee transplant living in Miami; in my social circle, an approaching hurricane caused us to fill up the bathtub with ice and beer.  It was all about the “hurricane party”.  Lucky for me, during my two year stint in the Magic City, I never experienced a head on red flag event.   My first real experience with a hurricane was in November of 1985 when Hurricane Kate came to the Big Bend to pay a social call.

Back in 1985, I was the Disaster Chairman for the local chapter of the American Red Cross.  The night that the hurricane struck Tallahassee, I was staffing the shelter and food desk at the State Emergency Operations Center (at that time on South Gadsen Street) while my wife and children huddled in the kitchen of our tin roofed, wood frame house in the woods.  We lost contact early in the storm.  The next morning, I tried to make my way home but trees were down and I couldn’t get through.

November 22, 1985. Tallahassee residents line up to buy block and dry ice at a business on South Monroe street. You can buy dry ice at some grocery stores now, but block ice is not available anywhere. Photo from the Florida State Archive. Photographer unknown.

When I finally reached my house in the woods, I found trees down on the roads, power lines and in a couple of cases, on cars and houses.  When the electric co-op started working in our end of the county  the next day, I was quickly reminded of our request that they not take down those trees along the power easements.  They remembered too and our neighborhood was among the last to have power restored, ten days later.  Our community center kitchen became the gathering spot for meals as freezers thawed out.   We fed the utility crews and each other.  We cleared our own roads; sending one neighbor to the ER when we learned a lesson about the kinetic energy stored in a telephone cable trapped under a fallen tree.

While I am saddened by injuries, deaths and loss of homes caused by a massive hurricane, I’m still in awe of them.  They are amazing and on some levels, wonderful natural events.  They recharge our water table, clean our swamps and rid our woods of the trees that need culling.

I lost a house at the coast during Hurricane Opal in 1995.  The concrete block house was built in the 1950’s on top of a dune on a barrier island in the Gulf.  The construction and site didn’t prove to be a great idea but who knew.

While I hope that I never have to deal with another storm of the magnitude of Kate, I wouldn’t mind a nice tropical depression hanging off the coast of the Big Bend for a few days.  My pumpkin patch would appreciate the rain.

When a hurricane is coming, folks in the know do a few things to get ready.   Here’s my list:

The TallyCast Hurricane Checklist – Updated for 2010

Essentials

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.

Evacuation

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.

Resources

I suggest you add these sites to your bookmark list

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