Although this blog focuses on the wonderful nature and history that Florida has to offer, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the ugliness that can come with living on a peninsula. The ugliness that is severe weather.
In case you live under a rock, Florida just survived Hurricane Irma.
In the 15 years I have lived in Florida, I have been through six hurricanes. That may sound reasonable- one every two years or so, but in actuality 2/3 of them were in one year. Meteorologists will verify, we have cycles of weather patterns-or “warm” and “cold” years–fluxuations in the temperature between the ocean and atmosphere. These weather patterns are known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle. La Niña is sometimes referred to as the “cold phase” and El Niño as the “warm phase”. In 2004 we had four hurricanes, back to back to back in the span of six weeks–and that was a weak El Nino year!
When I think back to 2004, I remember one storm in which my grandparents stayed with us, another we did not even lose power as the storm went further south, and another in which we lost power but immediately left our home the very next day to go help family in another county. Although our county took a hit, it was not as bad as where my in-laws lived. My husband’s whole family had serious damage that year and we spent 5 days helping them clean up their neighborhood and awaiting for restored power. This is the prominent memory when I think of hurricanes; the heat, the sweat, the constant yard work, the grilling dinner becuase there was no power, the cold showers, and the non-existent relief even at night! I learned a lot that year and I remember my soon-to-be father in-law telling me that I was a “real Floridian now” because I made it through not one, but four hurricanes in one season.
So when the local news started touting the power of Irma, and then the real weathermen, the storm chasers started arriving in Florida and heeding the warning to evacuate, I took a moment to mentally prepare myself; this could be like 2004. This could be worse. We could lose power….for days. We could miss school and work and maybe even have damage to our house. (Eeek) And then I made a plan to prepare our family because although I was “officially a Floridian” I didn’t have two kids to think about, entertain and keep safe back in 2004 like I did now.
The morning after Hurricane Irma hit, we took a drive to survey the damage, and I couldn’t help but marvel at the amount of wind destruction. Flooding did happen in certain low-lying areas of our county, but this was a wind event like none I have ever seen. Winds exceeded 100 mph, toppling 60-plus foot trees, which equated in downed power lines, snapped feeder poles and blown transformers. There were more power outages in the state of Florida than ever before in history. Our little neighborhood went 9 days without power. Yes, I said NINE. And in the midst of our forced “camping”, I thought about how many of our friends are not Floridians or were not here in 2004 and thus felt unprepared for the calamity that hurricanes endow. Even up until the day before the storm, friends and neighbors were asking what they should do.
• As soon as you know you will be in the cone of uncertainty, gas up everything you can. Cars, portable gas tanks, generators, etc.
•Take cash out to have on hand. After a hurricane hits a lot of business are only able to accept cash until phone, internet & wireless capabilities are restored.
•Buy or full up extra propane for grilling or camp lanterns or extra charcoal if you have a charcoal grill.
•Get Batteries for anything in your house that runs off batteries. Charge the rechargeable batteries.
•Buy flashlights of you don’t already have them. Even if you don’t sustain damage to your house, you could be without power after the hurricane.
•Charge up everything you can- laptops, cellphones, etc.
•Buy drinking water or fill up reusable bottles. We filled up sweet tea gallon jugs before the storm hit that way if we needed water and couldn’t use our tap, we had plenty. The recommendation is 1 gallon of water per person per day.
•Feeeze small individual water bottles as it will help keep your freezer cold when you lose power. It won’t save everything but it will slow the thawing down and buy you some time.
•If you have a high quality cooler, fill it with ice. Ours lasted a week- no joke.
•Other coolers, no matter the size, fill with water. This is NOT for drinking but instead can be used in case the water is shut off. You can use it to flush toilets and if need be, dip a rag in to sponge bathe.
•If you don’t have extra coolers for this, do the same thing with your bathtub: Fill it up and leave it. It is not to be used for drinking, but for flushing or spot bathing.
•If you can afford it get a generator, window AC unit and extension cord. The combination will provide you a means to power and cool one room of your house. If you cannot afford it, borrow from someone not in the hurricane path–it is worth the extra effort.
•Hurricane party? Not after the hurricane hits, but the day of or the day before. The purpose of a hurricane party is to eat what’s in the freezer so you don’t end up having to throw it away. Save your non-perishables. Save your bread! Eat the fish, the steak, the frozen chicken- eat it now because once you lose power it will go bad.
Peanut butter and jelly, apples, oranges, chips, crackers, pretzels- this is what you eat when you have NO power.
•What should I have on hand for after the hurricane hits? -Other than the suggestions of generators, water and non-perishables–sunscreen, a rake, gloves, and any yard tools.
•If you own a chainsaw, pole saw or any saw that works, you will be everyone’s best friend. Get it ready and put it in a handy place.
- Boarding up windows is a choice each homeowner must make- the cost does outweigh the benefits but materials are often hard to get ahold of once the panic and pandemonium set in. My advice, consider the age of the windows and the direction the wind/hurricane is traveling in relation to your house. We knew Irma was traveling from the east, so for us, that meant the front of our house. Figure that out and consider your physical ability to install and take down boards, your financial ability and your willingness to gamble.
•Assume you will lose power and stockpile books, board games, cards and easy crafts to help pass the time, this is especially important if you have kids! They need to entertained- outside is hot and there is no AC relief.
- Finally, close all interior doors as it aids with pressure and could save your roof from being blown off. When the storm arrives, go to the room in the center of your house- the one without windows–ideally a bathroom and then hunker down and pray.
Once the storm passes, and you’ve surveyed your property, do what you can to help others; grill the food; set up the generator or share one with a neighbor; open your house to those who may need it; combine food; babysit kids; volunteer; clean up your community and above all GIVE THANKS.
“Those who have the ability to take action, have the responsibility to take action.” –National Treasure