The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 until November 30. While they can form anywhere from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico to the Caribbean Sea, the storms develop in different areas depending on the time of the season. These hurricane preparedness tips are intended to get those living in the south ready for the storm season.
We interrupt these recipes and regular postings with tips for hurricane preparedness. A recipe for hurricane evacuation – hurricane preparedness tips seem to be what I have to do today. As I sit here writing this post, Hurricane Florence is setting her sights on the coast of the Carolinas, as well as the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. She is scheduled to make landfall in a few days as a major, category 4, hurricane.
So, I know a little something about hurricanes. As a native Floridian who has lived in the Sunshine State all of my life, I’ve had to evacuate 4 times over the years. The first two I vaguely remember because I was a child.
The third time, for Hurricane Charley in 2004, we battened down the hatches, secured the house, and evacuated with our 15-month-old son, newborn, my Mom, and my bestie who was here visiting to help with the baby. Plus, 3 cats and one dog.
Being the first time in my adult life that I had to leave my home it was crystal clear to me that we might not have a home to come back to after the storm. Predicted to enter the mouth of Tampa Bay, at the last minute, Charley made a sharp turn east and made landfall in the Punta Gorda area, well south of Tampa, though it also devastated our neighbors to the east in Orlando too.
Tampa Bay breathed a sigh of relief but at the same time had broken hearts for our neighbors to the south and east. We got nary a drop of rain but what it did do was showcase the unpredictability of these massive storms.
The unfortunate thing about that fact is now people were a bit angry that the weathercasters were so wrong. It is a prediction, not a fact, but models have gotten better over the years.
The 4th time I had to evacuate was for Hurricane Irma in 2017. All those emotions came flooding back with fervor since now my kids are much older and can understand the severity of the situation.
Trying not to panic but to also convey the reality is quite a challenge for a parent. Initially, Hurricane Irma was expected to pass by the Tampa Bay area to the west. Being on the east side of the storm is the worst, that’s where all the wind is which does tons of damage but also contributes to high tides and storm surge flooding.
As the days progressed, she was inching closer and closer to the coast, ultimately making landfall once again to the south of us in Naples. This time, she didn’t move as far inland as Charley did, therefore wreaking havoc on the Tampa Bay area. We had damage, the photo above was what was left of our pool enclosure.
When the notice for evacuation comes, it’s hard to think about all that needs to be done. A plan should always be in place and many of these tips can be organized in advance while some are last minute. I hope they are helpful.
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10 things to do when you know you may have to evacuate:
- Make a Hotel Reservation – Find a hotel, outside the path of the storm, and reserve a room. Explain to the hotel, who you should call directly, that your area may need to evacuate. If you have pets, ask if they allow pets or are making exceptions. Some hotels will make exceptions. Ask about the cancellation policy in the event you do not need to evacuate. These policies, especially if a state of emergency has been ordered, can be flexible. If you cancel, there’s a good chance someone else will take the room. If you are unable or don’t care to leave your area, find out where shelters are located and which ones take pets, if that is a need. You’re pets need you and won’t survive without you…you can’t leave them behind. If hotels are hard to find, try Air B&B or VRBO.com.
- Stock Up on Water – When you return home, hopefully with little or no damage, you’re going to need clean water. There may have been water main breaks or other contamination and you’re going to need water. Trust me, you won’t find any after the storm. Think of alternative places to purchase it. Major grocery chains and club stores will most likely have empty shelves. Think convenience stores, liquor stores or mom and pop grocers, and even Amazon.
- Get Cash from Accounts – It is best to have cash. Sure you can use your credit card for your hotel but if, when you return home, the power is out, ATMs and credit card machines will not work. Have enough cash for groceries and gas plus whatever you think you may need.
- Refill Prescriptions – If you just refilled them, great! If you need to refill them, do so before you evacuate so you are sure to have your medications. Keep all of your medications in the original bottles.
- Put a Penny in the Freezer – This was so helpful. Before we left, I froze a number of plastic containers with fresh water. That way we had extra fresh water when we returned if we needed it. On one small container, I added a penny to the top of the ice. So once it was frozen, I put a penny on top and sealed it with the lid, and put it back in the freezer. Why, you ask? That way if the power went out and that ice began to melt I would have a pretty good idea whether or not to throw away the food in my freezer. So if the penny was now in the middle or bottom of the container, I knew the power had been out a very long time. After Hurricane Irma, my penny was still on the top of the container telling me we did not lose power.
- Freeze Bottles of Water – If you have to evacuate, move them to your refrigerator. They will help keep the contents cold. Refer to Number 5 to decide if you need to dispose of the items in your refrigerator. Certainly, if the water bottles are defrosted, you will need to throw things away.
- Buy Some Portable Gas Cans – We had a little trouble getting gas on our evacuation out of Tampa. We didn’t need to fill up until we got to the Tallahassee area but we had to try 3 stations before we found mid-grade fuel. Finding gasoline at our destination was not a problem at all but we thought we should be prepared and purchased gasoline cans for the drive home. Am I glad we did. It took 3 stores to find just two available but we bought them and filled them with 5 gallons of gasoline. It is not an exaggeration when I tell you that every single station we passed once we got around the Tallahassee area all the way home was out of every fuel grade but regular. Mid-grade, premium, and diesel were non-existent. If it had not been for those gas cans, we would have not made it home.
- Gather Important Documents – Do you keep important papers such as birth certificates, car titles, insurance policies, marriage certificates, military discharge papers, divorce papers, passports, wills, and trusts in a bank safe deposit box? You may think it’s safe but, once again if there is no power, you won’t be able to get in. Or worse, what if the bank is devastated by the storm and your papers are lost? It’s best to have them with you. Put them in plastic zipper bags or a fireproof box/ waterproof portable bag.
- Get Immunization Records for Kids – Whenever my kids get updated immunizations, I ask for a new copy from the pediatrician’s office. That’s a document you want with you as I referred to in number 8 above. In the event your child’s school is damaged and winds up closed, you will need these papers to admit him/ her to a new school. Know where they are in advance of needing them.
- Round Up the Pets – If you have pets, having the vet records is just as important as other documents. Make sure you have food, treats, litter if you have a cat, food and water bowls, favorite blanket or bed, and toys. Yes, bed and toys. Your furry friend will be scared and nervous too. Something familiar is comforting to them.
- Gather Items That Are Irreplaceable – Dining sets, clothes, and most material items can be replaced. Some things that are important that can not be replaced are photographs, genealogy work, family recipes boxes, a one-of-a-kind stuffed animal given to your child by a grandparent, valuables such as jewelry and laptop computers. And while it may seem morbid, creamated remains. These items need to take priority when considering what to take when evacuating. Back up important information on an external hard drive for your computer and take it with you. For those items, you can’t take with you, such as televisions, stereo equipment, and gaming systems, take photographs. Try to get photos of serial numbers and take the flash drive, camera or phone with you.
- Pack Some Food for the Trip – That’s right you need to pack food. Nonperishable, of course. As we drove to Pensacola I was noticing that restaurants along the way were closed. I phoned my husband in our other car to suggest we stop to grab lunch. We pulled into Publix and I ran inside to get subs and drinks. Good thing we did because they were closing at noon. We walked in at 11:45. You can’t count on businesses being open. So here are a few ideas for some quick snacks to make, some you may even have all the ingredients in your pantry.
- Appliances – Turn off your water heater, unplug TV’s, gaming systems, printers and any computers you won’t be taking. Unplug coffee makers, toasters, other small appliances so if the electricity surges or goes off you won’t lose these appliances.
What to Do When You Get Home
If everything is good and you have no damage here’s a check list. If your area was hit hard and you sustained substantial damage, I’m so sorry. I just can’t imagine. There is help though and you can find more info below.
- Relax – you made it home!
- Appliances – First, turn on the water heater because you’ll want a hot shower to help was away the stress. Then do the washer and dryer because you know you need to laundry.
- Damage – Assess any damage and keep kids, pets, and neighbors away from debris.
- Check the Penny – Referencing number 5 above, check the freezer and determine if you’ve lost power for any significant amount of time. This way you can decide if you need to toss any food. Don’t rely on neighbors to tell you if the power went out. We’ve had power when our neighbor didn’t and vice versa.
- Assess the refrigerator and freezer – once you check the penny, decide if food items can be salvaged.
- Check on your neigbors – Just check in and make sure everyone is ok.
Easy Snack Ideas
These recipes are easily made with ingredients, most likely, in your fridge and pantry. They are a good way to use up food that may otherwise spoil when you evacuate and give you snacks for the road trip. From sweets to a few breakfast items and snacks for munching.