Hurricane Preparedness from a Pro

I will never forget August 29th, 2005. That’s when Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, devastating the area along with neighboring cities. Living in Jackson, MS, I was too far inland to experience the severe damage shown in the many hundreds of news reports about this disaster. We had roof damage and large trees, roots and all, lying over our property, plus quite a lot of wind borne trash to deal with once the winds had died down. Our main concern was the fact that we had no electricity. No electricity meant no air conditioning, which is something you really do not want to have to do without during a Mississippi summer! I think we missed the lack of air a lot more during those 90 plus degree, humid days that followed Katrina than we did the lights, television, computer and other appliances.

The nights were the worst. No one got much sleep because of the heat. We had candles and kerosene lanterns for light. Ever try to cook on a gas stove by the light of a kerosene lantern? Not the easiest thing in the world to accomplish. So, naturally, we thought it best to forget cooking and just eat things that were already prepared. That worked for a couple of days, but soon we were in need of more “convenience” foods. We had a refrigerator and chest freezer full of food but were advised by our battery operated radio, that after a couple of days without power, the thawed food would have to be cooked, and fast, in order to be edible. We ended up taking their advice and donating pounds of food to a local shelter that was housing hurricane victims from the Gulf Coast. Now, we needed food for ourselves, which presented a bit of a problem. Not all stores had power, and you could not buy gasoline for your car, as all the stations had run out of fuel. Thankfully, we had two vehicles with full gas tanks, and we had the presence of mind to call around to various stores to see who was open and who still had food, and were able to go and get a supply of items that needed no preparation.

There was no ice to be had anywhere. The Red Cross would set up in various spots and give ice away, but it was one bag per family. You had to stand in line for it, and there was no guarantee you’d receive a bag as it was first come, first served. Once more, the telephone saved the day. We found a local hotel who filled the trunk of my car with bags of ice, enough for us to supply three other families besides ourselves. Ice was pretty necessary because there was also no bottled water to be had. A little ice made the tap water more palatable, plus ice in a plastic bag did quite a lot to help keep yourself cool in an environment with no air conditioning.

The radio was a godsend. A source of entertainment as well as information. We had a battery operated small television as well, but the batteries soon were dead in it, and wouldn’t you know, batteries were another thing impossible to buy.

I would advise anyone preparing for a hurricane to realize that damage to your home is not the only thing you need to worry about. You should also consider how you will manage without electrical power. It took one week for our power to be turned back on, as the company was working 24/7 trying to repair the lines all over the state. It wasn’t easy to sit in a dark, hot house for a week, but it can be done. These are some of the items we used to make the time more bearable, and a few I wish we’d had.

I have already mentioned a battery operated radio – just make sure you have extra batteries. A battery operated fan would have been wonderful to have as well. Have plenty of candles, and something to light them with, as well as old-fashioned kerosene lanterns and extra fuel for them. Stock up on bottled water… you can’t have too much on hand, especially if you have children and pets. We were asked to only use our municipal water at certain times each day. Having plenty of good water on hand would have made this less of a burden.

Make sure you have a good supply of food that needs no refrigeration or cooking, and make sure you have plenty of food on hand for any pets you may have. Think ahead and decide what you could use to amuse yourself if you suddenly had to do without electricity. Books, magazines, games, etc are all good for this. We had plenty of all three, and found it rather Abraham Lincoln-ish to sit around the table and read or play cards by the light of a kerosene lamp!

Hurricane season would be a good time to take stock of your personal supplies such as soap, toilet paper, and feminine items. These things flew off the shelves of the few stores that were open. Having your own supply at hand could keep you from being forced to do without these essentials.

Even though we were very inconvenienced by a week without power, we knew we were fortunate not to have lost our home due to the hurricane as so many people did. That helped during the worst moments. All in all, it was a learning experience, and I am much better prepared for any future situations such as this one.

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