How to Plan a Hurrication

Hurricane Symbol

Hurricane Season

Hurricane Season. Living along the Gulf Coast, those words have weight. A weight that curls up in a huge knot, settles in my stomach and doesn't leave until November 1st.

Mandatory Evacuation. More words, but words that bring fear and worry. I don't remember hearing those words when I was growing up. Probably because we never left. No one did. No one would have ever considered leaving their homes. You just stocked up on bread, water, canned goods, batteries, and candles. You boarded up your windows, and waited for the storm to pass. I have memories of my family all sitting in the dark hallway, fully dressed with shoes on our feet in case windows were broken.

My children will have different memories of hurricane season. Hurrications. This is what we have nick-named our mandatory evacuations. In an effort to keep things light, we can pretend it's an extra vacation. Although, driving until you find a hotel room, eating microwavable food for days, and searching for a laundry mat, is probably no one's ideal vacation. Last year we had two, only a week apart. I'm praying this year we won't have to take any, but if we do, we know the drill.

Preparing your Home before you leave.

My Number ONE RULE I learned from hurricane RITA: Clean out your fridge and freezer BEFORE you leave! We were gone for two weeks. Imagine what your freezer would smell like after two weeks of no electricity in 100 degree heat and 100% humidity. Trust me when I say, you really don't want to know, and it took months to get rid of the smell. ****Note to self: Stop buying frozen foods and start cooking  things in the freezer in JULY.  Then buy as you need. You can stock up again in Nov.***

Take any pictures or keepsakes down off of the walls. Pack them up and try to put them in the safest place in your home. Away from windows, and as high off of the ground as possible in case of flooding. If the roof gets ripped off, all bets are off, but at least you tried. ***Note to self: If it's something you can't live with out, take it with you.***

Board up your windows to keep the wind from crashing branches, or other debris into your home. If you've seen any AFTER pictures at all, you can imagine the amount of STUFF that is instantly turned into garbage by hurricane force winds. However, 6 feet of water is not deterred by boarded up windows, neither are whole oak trees or vehicles. So again, it's a gamble, but at least you tried. ***Note to self: If there's 6 feet of water in your house, you need to move some where else.***

Imagine you live close enough to the coast, that in the event of a direct hit from a hurricane the storm surge will be at least 6 feet. Where I live, that means anything south of I-10. This is why you must leave. Not just because of the 100 mile per hour winds, but because of the flooding. I have a hard time imagining 6 feet of water in my house, but I've seen plenty of videos of people that were trapped in their attics by flood waters and had to hack their way through the roof to escape. ***Note to self: Must bring axe in attic with you. Scratch that, you won't be here.***

Storm Surge Video from Hurricane Katrina

What to take with you:

  • Important Documents: Identification, Birth Certificates, Insurance Policies, etc.
  • Clothes for every family member for at least three days. If you have to stay longer, you can find a laundry mat.
  • Non perishable instant food items. Bringing what you have on hand is less money you have to spend on the road.
  • WATER, WATER, and WATER! If you are leaving when EVERYONE else decides to leave and the contraflow has started you could be stuck in traffic for hours.
  • Any medications and first aid kit.
  • Money. Yes, credit cards and debit cards are great, but having some cash on hand is a good idea when you have no idea where you are going.
  • Map, or even better, a current Atlas, in case you have to travel through more than one state to find a hotel room.
  • Flashlight. In case, you have to sleep in your car, or have car trouble at night.
  • EXTRA GAS. Same reason given for WATER. You could be stuck in traffic for hours and run out of gas.
  • Cell phones and chargers. This helped me keep in touch with friends and my entire family. It was definitely a comfort hearing their voices and knowing they were ok.
  • If you have a pet, make sure you take any medications your pet will need, along with current vaccination tags, and pet food.
  • Things to keep the kids busy in the car and in the hotel room. We have learned to bring the Xbox 360 anywhere we go. Hotel rooms get boring really fast. They can play games or watch dvds.
  • Swim suits. If the hotel you end up in has a pool, use it! (This is the part where we pretend we're on vacation. lol)
  • Website address or hotline number for local parish or city updates. This will let you know when the mandatory evacuation is lifted and it's safe to go home as well as power outages, road closures, and curfews.

Where to go?

The only advice I can give on this: PUT AS MANY MILES AS YOU CAN BETWEEN YOURSELF AND THE COAST!!!

If at all possible, get reservations. Start calling hotels as soon as you know you are being evacuated. I SAID CALL. The websites will say all the rooms are taken because everyone else is online frantically looking for a place to stay. CALL and ask what's available.

Make sure you ask about the cancellation policy. If the hurricane heads else where, hopefully you can cancel the room with out being charged.

Also, if you have a pet, ask about their pet policy before you get there. Some hotels that do not normally allow pets, have sometimes made exceptions for hurricane evacuees. Check before you book the room.

Dealing with the Stress

Even though we had no damage, the two evacuations last year were very stressful. It always brings back memories of the times before. Whole towns wiped out. People living in tents. Not knowing where to go, or if you'll find a place to stay. The stress, fear and worry that comes from having to leave everything you own behind and not knowing if it'll be there when you get back, has made me think seriously of moving away from this place that has always been my home. Something I thought I'd never do.

The 2009 Hurricane Season has started. They predict a Normal Season. By some standards that's 1 to 3 Major Hurricanes. Hmmm. There's nothing brewing at the moment, but we have five months to go. For now, all I can do is pray, be thankful for what I have, and try to be ready for whatever happens.

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