As I write this, tropical storm Gustav is maybe gathering strength. I live in a small town which is about 75 to 100 miles from the gulf coast. So we are far enough away to not be concerned about tidal surges but close enough to be very concerned. Hurricane Rita hit our area 3 years ago and our town suffered some interesting effects. I’ll share what happened then and what could have gone differently.
When Rita hit it was a Category 3 hurricane, when it reached us it was down to a very strong cat 1. We live in a very wooded area and this resulted in a lot of trees down. Aside from a few anomalies the greatest damage our town suffered was due to downed trees. The worst trees to have around are cedar trees. These trees have huge collections of “leaves” that are very dense. When we had 100+ mph wind bursts, these were the first trees to go. After that was the oaks, followed by the pines. Irregardless of the type you did not want a huge tree near your house. If possible get your trees limbed before the storm. The most devastating thing was for the storm to knock a tree into your house and then fill it with water.
Following are some tips and hints to surviving one of these storms.
Food and water are going to be at the top of your list of needs. Start by filling every empty seal able jug with water followed by you bathtub and at least one sink. If the stores aren’t sold out by as many ice chests as you can. If you are staying to ride it out, get as much ice and fresh food as you can. If you are evacuating bring food with you when you return. Cook the food that was in your refrigerator as soon as possible.
Gas. During Rita we were out of power for 10 days, people who lived in the country were out much longer than that. The problem with power is, all the gas pumps are electric and unless the gas station has a generator you have no way of getting gas. Stock up on gas as soon as possible, store the stuff outside in a well ventilated area. Don’t store it inside as you want to have a house when you back. When you do get back, be careful with your gas as it very quickly becomes a hot commodity with people stealing it from vehicles and fighting over the stuff. Try to conserve your gas and don’t go driving around. Also if you have a generator or are thinking about getting one have an electrician set it up if you plan on powering your house. Don’t run a generator in your house, most of the deaths in south east Texas after Rita where related to people running generators inside their houses.
Security. People are leaving, and some are staying behind to steal your stuff. Don’t stay behind to guard your stuff. Take video of your belongings and take your important documents with you. When you get back, secure your house and take pictures and video of any damage or theft. You’ll need this for insurance purposes.
What to take with you if you leave. If you are evacuating take the following items.
Credit card bills
Your kids paperwork, shot records and such
Any paperwork you can’t easily replace.
Chargers for your cellphones laptops etc.
Bring the tower part of your PC.
Important family photos
A couple days worth of clothes.
Food and water.
If it looks like the storm will be particularly bad, then you need to seriously look around your house and decide what you can’t live without. Think minimalist, but remember your children too. Take what you can’t live without or move it to somewhere safe if possible. Take your pets with you or make arrangements for them. Some misc stuff you may need includes items like batteries, first aid kits, tents, radios, and various other camping supplies as you may be spending some outside in a muggy, bug filled environment.
Finances. Call your credit card companies ( remember I said to bring your bills) and let them know what happened, most have a grace period where they will let you skip a month if you live in an area that’s declared a disaster. The same goes for your mortgage, your car note, and every other bill. Also look for disaster funding in the form of Fema grants or Red cross relief. Most funding requires a little bit of paperwork and a wait in a line. Don’t blow it! Spend carefully and frugally. You may need this money as you may not be going back to work right away if at all.
These tips should help you get a head start on getting your life in order after a hurricane. Before a storm heads your way check with your insurer about what’s covered and what’s not.