Preparing for Hurricane Irene
Go Away, Irene!
Unless you've been living under a rock this week, surely you know about Hurricane Irene. She is quite an evil gal and she is heading up the east coast. Right now, Maryland is in full panic mood. Currently, Maryland is under a State of Emergency already, and it is still sunny and lovely outside. She won't officially make it to Maryland until Saturday, August 27th (tomorrow). Hurricane Irene is now a Category 2 hurricane, but she could turn into a Category 1 at anytime now. We are all routing for the downgrade since that means Hurricane Irene will be less dangerous.
Since Maryland residents already got to experience an earthquake this week, and it was the first major earthquake experience for many of us, we are already a little on edge. Irene is not helping matters. As you can imagine, people are freaking out all over Maryland. The talk of the town was the earthquake just a few days ago. Now, everyone is talking about Hurricane Irene. Some people are saying it won't be anything and the newscasters are just trying to get ratings. Other people are coming close to having a nervous breakdown planning for this hurricane. I would say I am somewhere in between.
The bottom line is, you don't want to ignore the warnings. It is so much better to be safe than sorry. If you are on the east coast right now reading this, or perhaps reading this in the future and wondering what to do if a different hurricane is coming your way, there are some hurricane preparations everyone should know about. Here are some simple pointers.
If So Much Water is Coming, Who Needs More?
The first thing you want to do is start stocking up on water while you've got the chance. You need to get some bottled water or start filling up jugs with filtered water. You are going to need about 3 days worth, and a gallon a day per person. So basically, get 3 gallons for every person in your household. I happen to live in an area that has brown water anytime we have a storm. I can only imagine I must have fresh water for days for this event. I have been filling up pitchers and water bottles. One might call me overly cautious, but I will be the overly cautious person with fresh water. Plan ahead!
You also want to start filling up buckets and jugs. Fill up your tub, too. In many homes, you cannot flush the toilet if the electric goes out. I am not taking my chances with that either. I live in a high rise apartment and I am all about flushing my toilet. Start filling up anything that will hold water while you've got the chance!
This does not apply to me, but if you have a home in a low-lying area, especially if you live near water, start getting some sandbags and circle them around your place. In many counties, there are locations with tons and tons of free sand and bags. If you live in a location with that option, take advantage of it. Grab a shovel and go help yourself to some sand. The county is giving you that sand to help you. Why else do you bother paying taxes? Go get yourself some sand before it is all gone.
If you can't find free sand, try to hit Home Depot or Lowe's before everything is sold out. If you are reading this on Friday the 26th or Saturday the 27th, you may very well be out of luck. It is apparently total chaos at the hardware stores. You may want to give Walmart a shot, but I shudder to think the chaos occurring right this very minute there. That is the perfect place to stock up on some food and toiletries, too. If you are brave (or desperate) get there before the storm starts. Don't try to drive once Hurricane Irene hits.
Create a Disaster Kit
If you do not already have a disaster kit, it is not too late. Some basics you want in your kit are:
Matches and candles
First aid kit
Duct tape or masking tape
Battery operated radio
Antibacterial wipes or hand sanitizer
If you are going to a shelter or think you might, you are going to need much more. Make sure to pack food, toiletries, blankets, etc. If you are lucky, you will not be forced to leave your home. Also, you need to make plans on what to do with your pets. Hopefully you can find a place to take them with you. Don't forget their food and water, too. Make sure to pack your medications and important paperwork like home owner's insurance or renter's insurance paperwork.
A little helpful hint for you, if you do not own a battery operated radio, do you have an old Sony walkman? Yes, the old school kind with the tape player! If you do, they have an AM/FM radio. Dig up your old walkman and check to see if it is still working. I am pleased to say I found my old walkman and the expired batteries are even still working. I am not trying to promote any brands or anything, but thank goodness for Duracell!
Keep in mind, you do not want to wait the last minute to do any of this. You might assume you have a battery operated radio, but you might not be able to find it. Don't bother to discover you are out of batteries or don't have a radio or your flashlights don't work right as Hurricane Irene rolls into town. It is going to be too late!
Other Things to Consider
I cannot stress this enough - do not wait until the last minute to stock up on some food and supplies. If you are reading this and the storm has not yet hit your town, PLEASE go to the store now and get what you need. Make sure to get some canned food, bread, peanut butter, and other items that need no refrigeration or heat.
While we are on that subject, crank up your refrigerator to the COLDEST level possible now so it is really cold in case the electric goes out. My own personal tip for you - start making ice and putting them in bags or containers in your freezer. If the electric does go out, the ice will help keep the food colder longer. Make enough ice so you can keep some in the freezer and some in the fridge. Keep in mind you need to open the doors as little as possible so the cold can stay in. If you are lucky, you food will be OK for at least 24 hours.
Make sure to charge your cell phone while you can. If you have a landline phone (for those of you that kept you landline, aren't you glad now?) make sure to plug in a standard corded phone. If you only have a cell phone or a cordless phone, it is all the more important to make sure they are charged. By the way, if you have a landline phone, but do not have an "old timey" corded phone, they are only about $5 at Walmart or Target. It's not too late to buy one.
Depending on your location and the strength of the hurricane, you may want to board up the windows, or at least tape X's across the windows. I am personally going to wait that one out. If my windows start to rattle, I will either tape cardboard on the windows or tape the windows with masking tape. If you really don't care about your windows or you are certain they will break anyway, feel free to tape them with duct tape. It is so much better to do that rather than clean up shattered pieces of glass for weeks to come.
If you have a yard or a balcony, please remove anything that could go flying. In some cases, the winds could be over 100 miles per hour. Can you imagine how fast your plastic chairs can fly through the air with winds like that? It is interesting to think about, but don't experience it. Bring in items like that before they fly and break your windows, or go down the street to destroy someone else's property.
Thank you for taking this journey with me. Remember, with some preparation, you and your family will be fine during Hurricane Irene's reign of terror. Irene is really evil, but we can overcome this. After all, we just experienced an earthquake and we didn't have anyway of preparing for that. The east coast is full of strong, smart people, and we are going to make it out of this one. Good luck and don't let Hurricane Irene get the best of you.
UPDATE: Saturday, 7:30 AM, August 27, 2011 - Hurricane Irene has been downgraded to a Category 1 Hurricane. The hurricane is about to make landfall in North Carolina right now.