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How to prepare for extreme weather

Updated on January 23, 2016
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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.


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What to expect in extreme weather conditions

NO ELECTRICITY

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.

NO WATER

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.

FLOODING

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.

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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!

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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.
Flashlights.
Photo ID.
Basic first aid kit.
Multi-purpose tool.
Cash.
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.

Remember...

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.

Water

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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    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 3 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Very important tips! Sharing this on my Emergency Preparedness page on Facebook.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Merrci: Luckily Arthur passed by a couple of days ago. But we're still getting crazy thunderstorms. Part of the fun of being in Florida :)

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Great lens BritFlorida with excellent tips. You've covered it well. I hope you aren't too close to Arthur this week.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Lady Lorelei: Here in Florida (paradise) we have extreme weather. We're used to it. But now it seems that everywhere in the US is vulnerable.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 3 years ago from Canada

      I would seriously move. I saw a fact site once that said we always think of Siberia as having extreme weather but it is actually the USA which has the most extreme weather. Since then I believe it most definitely has. What a winter this was.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Excellent suggestions to prepare. And it reminds people to think ahead to coming weather. Most of it's true for earthquakes too out here on the west coast. Great lens!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Stephanie36: Thank you so much, Stephanie! It seems that today, even areas without a history of extreme weather can have it at any time. It's good to be prepared.

    • Stephanie36 profile image

      Stephanie 3 years ago from Canada

      This is great advice for anyone living in extreme weather areas. We don't really have hurricanes here, or even blizzards often (thank you, lake effect!), but they do happen and tornadoes are always possible. Really, everyone should know this stuff, even if bad weather is unlikely.

    • Erin Mellor profile image

      Erin Mellor 3 years ago from Europe

      Having come from delightfully weather-free England, extreme weather took some getting used to. Ask the neighbors for local extreme weather advice would be my top tip. Whilst some of the preparedness you learn in the Midwest is transferable, a lot is no use when a hurricane comes bowling through the Carolina coast.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @gottaloveit2: Thank you so much!

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 3 years ago

      Excellent article. Really important. I sure hope this one makes LoTD

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Diana Wenzel: Thank you. I would hate to be without heat in cold weather. I'm from England originally so I know only too well what it's like. Coping in Florida is much easier but being without air conditioning or electric fans can be tricky, especially when there's no pool. (Without electric pool pumps the water is only any good for flushing the toilet). And of course, our extreme weather always happens during the hot summer!

    • opatoday profile image

      opatoday 4 years ago

      I really love your pictures

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 3 years ago from Colorado

      I am living through some of these conditions you note at this very moment (due to weather): frozen pipes (no water); heater out of commission (little or no heat). I hope I am better prepared next time! Thanks for these tips. Especially pertinent.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @opatoday: Thank you so much!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @FashionMommy: It is, these days. Thank you for visiting!

    • profile image

      FashionMommy 4 years ago

      Very helpful lens with important information! Always important to be prepared.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @pambrechlin: Good to 'meet' a fellow Floridian. We do have extremes of weather, but it's still the best place to live!

    • pambrechlin profile image

      pambrechlin 4 years ago

      Great lens. It definitely pays to be prepared for our storm season here in Florida.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @RuralFloridaLiving: Thank you so much! We loose power quite often (we seem to be on a street that's particularly vulnerable) so I've experienced it often. We also have a wind-up radio that relies simply on wrist-power. We were ten days without power and a week without water after Wilma. It taught me how much we rely on these!

    • profile image

      RuralFloridaLiving 4 years ago

      Having a cash stash is very important. Putting aside a little bit every week will save you the time and stress during weather emergencies. Camping supplies come in handy. Camp lanterns and battery powered fans are wonderful to have. You can buy these ahead of time and put them aside for times when you lose your electricity. Great lens. You covered the subject brilliantly.