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How to Hurricane Prep – 15 Tips From Hurricane Maria

Today marks the beginning of Hurricane Season.

With two back to back hurricanes within a week last year, I learned a lot.  I spent a great deal of my time then scribbling down my reflections during that {literal} dark period that I posted on my blog if you’re interested.  Maria blew in the day after my birthday, just a day after Hugo so many years ago.  The number one thing I will remind myself and highlight here today is to stay calm.  Having had one of the worst attacks of my life then, I can confidently and wholeheartedly say that there is no room for panic or anxiety.  This can be applied to many of life’s situations but is particularly important for a natural disaster where your focus is linked with your safety.  I spent so much of my time as a big ball of anxiety that I failed to fine tune little details or even sufficiently prepare myself for the actual hurricane.  I thought I knew what to expect but actually going through it is a different story.  Here’s what I’ll be doing this time around, in no particular order.

1. Meditate.  As you know this is something that I’ve recently begun to do and it’s made all the difference in the world.  When I feel like I’m beginning to panic or feel the waves of anxiety swelling around the corner, I can manage my stress a lot better by taking a moment to pause, reflect, breathe and self-soothe.  Last year, I had so much extra energy, I didn’t even know what to do with it but allow it to make me feel even more anxious.

2. Fill up any vessels you have with water.  Before, during and a long while after the hurricane, we were without power for 6-9 months.  For us, that meant no running water as well.  I remember being grossly underprepared with my measly several gallons of water that we went through way too quickly for washing, meals, etc.  We were hunkered down for pretty much an entire day so I would make sure to prepare at least a couple days worth of water for each person next time around.  An average person typically needs a gallon of water a day and for this person, a tub can hold enough water for a couple days with a 150 liter water heater containing enough for a month.  A 50 pound dog needs about 1/4 gallon per day.  To cut down on water usage, I’ll also be keeping around wipes.

3. Prepare wholesome, nutritious foods.  I was so focused on my fear that I was absentmindedly filling my cart up with the same nonperishables everyone else was.  I’ve always been very connected to my food.  When I’m depressed and eat crap, I feel even crappier.  There were weeks where we ate way too much canned food {but never an MRE which I’m happy to say}.  To break up the surrounding craziness, I think even a day or two of fresh foods would have been extra comforting.  I intend to fill my cooler up with fruit salad/dried fruit, quinoa salad, veggie or pb&j sandwiches, chopped veggies/dip, juice and more with reusable gel packs to have for at least those first few days.  Granola, pretzels and almond butter, popcorn, nuts and the like are also great to keep your energy up.  Don’t forget your fur baby either!  We’ve had Nala on a homemade diet since we found her but during the hurricane, I made a concession.  We fed her fresh food for as long as the cooler would keep it and had back up kibble for her as well.  Hurricanes can be stressful for them too so we also packed extra treats for her.

4. Find something to occupy your mind.  That could be investing in a decent battery powered or hand cranked radio, books, board games, a coloring book, or pre-downloaded movies.  An extra battery pack is great.  This was when I played Scrabble for the first time and I’m still hooked to this day {so much that my husband now groans when I ask to play, haha}.

5. Make the same to-do lists as you would when traveling.  Turn off the gas, water heater, power/utilities, lock up, turn off appliances, etc.  Last year, our landlord had forgotten to refill our gas from weeks prior and we had 1/2 a tank to stretch out.  I will definitely be making sure to be on top of that this time around.  It’s also a good idea to make sure your car gas tank is filled as well.

6. Familiarize yourself with a back up evacuation plan and have a go-bag for said plan filled with first aid supplies/meds, cash, hard copies of important documents {even of your back up plans}.  Also include deeds, maps {though it’s not as imperative on an island like ours} birth certificates, passports, and social security cards, etc in a waterproof/airtight container or vacuum sealed bag.  My first aid kit includes latex gloves, sterile dressings and bandages, alcohol and hydrogen peroxide, castile soap, antibiotic ointment, pain relievers, activated charcoal, scissors, tweezers, unpetroleum jelly and essential oils.

7. Register for emergency alerts.  We get ours delivered to our phones via text message through vitema.vi.gov

8. On our island, not only do we batten down the hatches in the typical fashion, we also have to take into account for falling coconuts {which can be very damaging}.  Trim back your trees and remove any objects that could end up being dangerous.  Think about where you’ll be keeping your car during the storm too.

9. Invest in a good generator. Our landlord’s generator for the property putzed out during the storm and we were without the entire time after Irma and Maria.  It wasn’t fun.  Don’t forget to purchase back up gas cans either.  Afterwards, fuel can be scarce.  When they did have it on island, there were hours long waits on top of a mandated curfew that had us trekking the long ride back home due to gridlocked traffic.  If you’re unable to purchase a generator, consider a DC to AC converter for your car with a heavy-duty extension cord to run the power into your house. While you’re at it, stock your home with “just in case” items like extra plywood, a fire extinguisher, tools, and duct tape/tarp.  A mosquito bed net and battery powered fans are just wonderful as hurricane season typically coincides with our hottest.  I can’t tell you how eaten up I got or how uncomfortable it was to sleep, particularly since my normal bed time of around midnight had now been moved up to 7:30/8 which is to be expected when you don’t have power and it gets pitch black.

10. Check on your rain gutters, windows, roof, etc.

11. Gather a list of contacts: hospitals, emergency management, local public safety fire/rescue/law enforcement, tv/radio stations, Red Cross, insurance agent {consider flood insurance?}, etc.  These things were difficult, if not impossible to find after the hurricanes since my phone was pretty much useless.

12. Be aware of tornadoes or the calm “eye” of the storm that can be deceptive.

13. Use flashlights vs. candles for safety.  Have lots of backup batteries.  There was a huge shortage here for awhile so it’s better to be safe than sorry.  Our 300 lumen outdoor solar lights were a lifesaver during this time.  We would pretty much have lived in the dark without them.  A manual can opener and machete {or ax} was also a very popular item around here.  After the storm, it was almost necessary to have a chainsaw.  For a week, we weren’t even able to get down our mountain due to felled trees.

14. Don’t forget the bleach.  There’s so much mold to come and it’s also great to sanitize items in a pinch.  Start clearing the debris sooner rather than later to help keep things clean and keep extra molding at a minimum.

15. Think of a way to get in contact with family.  After the storm, there were several different apps that could be used to text without service.  Google Play has a shelter finder app, The Red Cross has a hurricane app and there are also several first aid apps out there too.

This isn’t so much a tip but sharing something no one had told me.  Hurricanes make your ears feel like you’re on a plane.  It’s somehow very muted and loud at the same time and makes your ears hurt.  The symphony of Maria was that she would sound almost subdued and melodic only to rage up to a crescendo at a moments notice.  One of the very best things I learned about hurricanes is that they’re completely unpredictable.  From how severe her devastation will be and where she’ll really go to what makes her angry and be her point of attack.  The strangest thing I noticed were the pockets of completely undisturbed spots standing erect as if nothing had happened, sitting calmly right next to a world flipped upside down, ravaged by Maria.  But seriously, just stay calm.  What will come will come.  Just stay calm and prepare.

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