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How to prepare for extreme weather

Updated on January 23, 2016

Extreme weather. Storms, hurricanes, tornados, snow - be prepared

Many of us are living with the threat of extreme weather these days. I do.

I have lived in South Florida since 1994 and for several months of the year, there's always the danger that a hurricane might hit.

Tropical storms are quite common too and if a hurricane is nearby, and they are often in the Bahamas, bad weather is sure to arrive in South Florida too.

I must admit that for several years I never took any notice of the articles and TV programs about being prepared for these problems (my emergency shopping tended to be for lots of wine!) but after living through some severe weather, I have to say that it's essential to be properly prepared.

And it's not just hurricanes - there are several weather phenomenons that can cause the three most inconvenient things - loss of power, water and the danger of flooding.

Summer is the danger time for us here in South Florida. But I'm only too familiar with the problems that cold weather can cause - having lived for many years in the North of England I've experienced the other end of the scale too.

Those articles you might see online about how to prepare for bad weather are informative but I think that they leave a few gaps. So here's my version...and maybe they are things you haven't though of? Do you have some great ideas? Please add them in the comments section below.


What to expect in extreme weather conditions


Losing power really makes you appreciate how much we take electricity for granted. In warm areas like Florida, living without air conditioning is almost unthinkable. The reverse applies in colder climates where no power means a lack of heat. You can no longer go to the cooker and make a quick meal or snack, your computer and other appliances are useless and if you want a shower, it will be in cold water. Unless of course, the water has gone too.


Without water, and especially hot water, your home can quickly become insanitary. You can't flush the toilet, after all. You can't wash your hair or your clothes. Even if you have a cooking source, such as a gas grill, you've no water to boil a pan of spaghetti. You've probably got drinking water but who wants to wash their feet in Perrier? After reading this, pay attention to how often you use water without even thinking about it and consider what you would do without it.


If your home is flooded, you're in trouble. Even a small amount of water coming into your home can cause a great deal of damage. If your street is flooded, you'll have problems getting out in your car and if you do, you risk the danger of damaging the electrics of your vehicle - or worse. Preparing for extreme weather is the key to avoiding a lot of damage and inconvenience.

Top ten tips for extreme weather preparation

These tips are often forgotten by the publications and websites that deal with preparing for extreme weather.

  1. When you hear that bad weather is approaching make sure that your house is as clean as possible. Clean thoroughly and don't forget the dishwasher. Make sure that your linen basket is empty and that your laundry is done. This might seem like overkill but remember that you may not have hot water and hygiene is paramount. Just a few unwashed dishes when you have no electricity or water, and the temperatures are in the nineties, can soon become unpleasant. I found this out the hard way.
  2. Scan all your important documents and note important serial numbers on your computer. Burn all this information onto a CD and make sure that the CD is lodged with your bank in a safe deposit box. Then delete the information from your computer as you don't want this to fall into the wrong hands. But it's vital that you have details in a secure place. You can also keep important numbers on your phone, or in a notebook but disguise them - add meaningless letters or numbers and don't describe what they are. Example: if your bank account number is 1234567890 write 'Mary Beth Hanks phone number at work 123-456-7890'. (Mary Beth Hanks indicating 'my bank'. It can be quite a fun thing to do!)
  3. You'll have stocked up on drinking water but be sure that you decide how you're going to get water for flushing the toilet. If ever you've been without water for any length of time, you'll realize how important this is. Don't waste valuable drinking water here. Do you have a canal nearby or do you have a pool? How will you get that water into your home? A simple bucket and length of rope can make all the difference. It's standard advice, but good, to fill the bathtub with water in advance of the bad weather. Remember you don't need to fill the cistern of the toilet to get a good flush!
  4. Clear your refrigerator as much as possible. If you're left with no electricity, fresh foods will spoil quickly. In advance, whiz vegetables in the blender to make soups. You can store these in the cheap coolers that you can buy and be sure that you've stocked up on ice. Wrap your freezer in blankets or other insulation if possible. Don't open the freezer once the power has gone. If the outage is just for a day or so, the contents may be saved. Be sure to have canned and dried foods in stock.
  5. Remove or secure items that are in your garden or on your patio. Take a good look around - are there any loose limbs on trees that might become dislodged? In areas like Florida, are there any coconuts on the trees that can come crashing straight through your window? Check for light patio furniture, planters, garden tools and other items. Make sure that you check for and remove potential missiles. Don't forget trash cans.
  6. Be sure that the gas tank of your car is full. If you don't have a garage, protect your car from flying objects by using blankets, large sheets of cardboard - whatever you have. Be sure to cover the windows which are expensive to replace. Secure the protective materials with lots of duct tape. Remove any objects that might be lifted by the wind and might smash into your car. If you have a choice, park your car away from any trees that might come down. Ours narrowly escaped being pulverized by a huge tree during Hurricane Wilma.
  7. Have a cash stash. You won't be able to get to the bank and banks will probably be closed anyway. ATMs won't work without electricity. Keep your cash securely in a waterproof container. Distribute the cash to other family members too in case you become separated. Be sure to have a mix of large and small bills, plus coins for machines such as parking meters.
  8. It sounds over-dramatic but prepare for the worst. Decide upon a meeting point for your family in case you have to leave your home unexpectedly. Make sure that every family member has the phone numbers of friends and family who are outside the danger zone. Be sure that each member of the family knows exactly what to do. Our meeting place is a large and secure hotel locally. They have a generator and the building has withstood many hurricanes.
  9. Charge cellphones and other appliances such as your laptop. Try to avoid using them to keep them fully charged and keep them for emergency use only. Tell family and friends to text you rather than call as this will save battery life. Use your computer only when you need to - this is not the time to browse your favorite websites! Be sure to have phone chargers with you so that if you find electricity (restaurant, airport, Starbucks, anywhere) you can top up.
  10. When the danger is over, the best way to tell your family and friends that you are safe and well is social media. Post a quick update on Facebook, Twitter or Google + and ask those who see it to share the information with others. This is the modern version of the bush telegraph.


Extra tips!

Make the most of your produce before the bad weather arrives.

If you have fresh fruit and vegetables in your refrigerator they will soon spoil. Slice them and dry them in an oven set to a low temperature.

These will need no refrigeration or cooking and will provide valuable nutrients when its difficult to cook.Before the extreme weather arrives, experiment with your toilet. (I never thought I would write such a sentence!) Most use too much water. Place something in a cistern - a house brick is perfect - and flush. Is there still enough water to flush? There should be. If you lose the water supply, this will mean that you'll use less of this valuable commodity and it will save water all year round.

Um ... be sure that you have a good stock of toilet paper! I know, I know, but if you're stuck at home and can't get to the shops, or the stores are closed, you'll find that it's no fun if your run out of this basic necessity!


If you have to evacuate

You might decide to evacuate or you may have no choice, If extreme weather is on its way, the authorities might enforce mandatory evacuation.

Be prepared for this and prepare a small lightweight backpack containing your essentials. Hopefully you'll have time to pack more but include these items in your backpack:

Important documents in a waterproof container.
Any regular medications the family takes.
Basic hygiene goods.
Emergency food rations.
Two changes of underwear.
Cigarette lighter or matches.
Water purification tablets.
Photo ID.
Basic first aid kit.
Multi-purpose tool.
Cellphone and charger.
One bottle of drinking water.
Pack of cleansing wipes.

Ideally every member of the family should have their own backpack with their own emergency kit.


Today, it's not a matter of will it happen to you but when it will happen to you. For goodness sake, be prepared.

Use solar power

It's Mother Nature who has sent the bad weather your way but she compensated by sending solar power.


Being without water can have dangerous health implications as well as being highly inconvenient. After one hurricane we had no water supply for for days. Others had to bear this for even longer. Be sure to prepare for this eventuality.


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