After Irma

So the past two weeks were something else if you lived in the Southeast of the United States. By Tuesday, September 5 it became obvious that Florida would be hit by one of the worst hurricanes to ever roll out of the Atlantic. It was literal doomsday shit all over the state and I’m not even exaggerating when I say it was a completely justified response, especially considering the horror Irma unleashed onto the Caribbean, the Keys, Miami, etc. There was a lot to prepare and let me tell you it wasn’t just my sanity that suffered, it was also my wallet because even if you already have stuff like a camp stove (which I did not, but that’s part of a larger series of fuck-ups by other people that I’ll be sharing) you have to worry about non-perishable food (which I don’t keep a lot of around because I’m trying to eat better), fuel, flashlights, batteries, water, and on and on. It adds up, not to mention gas prices shot up after Harvey (which was an additional tragedy and made our anxieties about Irma worse) and you spend your days running around trying to get supplies so you use more gas than you normally would, but it’s getting harder to find because places are literally selling out.

I don’t live in an evacuation zone (luckily) and flooding isn’t really something I’ve ever had to worry about even with Florida’s occasional deluge. But there are storm preparations that are a good idea, like shuttering or boarding up the windows. On Saturday, September 2 when Irma was just getting started I texted my landlord to ask whether he took care of boarding up the house during a hurricane. I know this will sound crazy, but landlords in Florida aren’t required to provide any storm-proofing and some would rather let the place be destroyed than trouble themselves to put up plywood or shutters. But my landlord is a good one, he said that if he needed to, he would board the property up…

More the fool me for believing him, because as the week progresses and Irma gets worse and more terrifying, he makes no move to board up the houses. I think about calling him during the week, on Wednesday, on Thursday, but he has multiple properties. What if he’s busy arranging for all of them? I don’t want to bother him…. I should have fucking bothered him. He did decide the storm was bad enough to consider boarding up, but he waited until Friday to try and get plywood. FUCKING FRIDAY. Oh and what did he say when I brought up my concerns? Oh, it looks like it’s only going to be a Cat 2 when it hits Tampa. Except you can’t predict that at all because a few hours later it was looking like it might make landfall in Tampa as a Cat 4.

Why rush around preparing things even though in the end Tampa didn’t really get hit that badly? Because you can’t guarantee it won’t. Would you rather have spent the time and money preparing and ultimately not have needed it, or would you rather lean on good luck and have a Cat 4 hurricane destroy everything you own and possibly you as well? It’s not exactly rocket science. Oh and all that preparation wasn’t for naught because even though Irma didn’t destroy Tampa it definitely knocked power out for most of the residents in the area. My roomie and I were without power from 8 p.m. on Sunday night until 2-3 a.m. on Wednesday early morning.

It was only because my roommate and I obsessively made ice that we were able to salvage most of our fridge. I mean, there was frozen salmon in our freezer and you’d better believe it thawed, but was still good to eat. ^^ Go us.

So enough of my bitching, I’m going to list some things my roomie and I did (Or wished we did) to prep for the hurricane that proved to be really helpful.

  • Make lots of ice

Yeah, I know this one’s obvious. And why would you make the ice when you can buy it? Well, I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t have a huge freezer and there is stuff in it so that cuts down even further on how much you can fit in there. So buying ice super in advance is going to be difficult and I guarantee that as you get closer to the hurricane hitting and you go to fill up that cooler the harder ice is going to be to find. If you want to buy ice in advance, try to find a place that sells dry ice. Sure it isn’t cheap, but if you keep it in your freezer it lasts a shockingly long amount of time and will definitely keep things cool.

Consider filling a large (and I mean LARGE) Tupperware or bowl with water to freeze instead of just making ice. This has a lot of advantages, but chief among them is it will melt a bit more slowly because it won’t have a large a surface area. This is great for keeping a fridge or freezer at a stable temperature because you’re basically just turning it back into an icebox.

Also if you’re like me, you don’t have a proper ice cube tray (there are reasons for this) and your fridge definitely don’t have an ice maker. What do you do? Grab your muffin pan(s) and fill about halfway with water, freeze and pop out those ice pucks, repeat until you have the amount you want. I tried this on a whim in desperation when we couldn’t find any other ice and it worked really well.

  • If you live in a rental property, double check who’s responsible for storm proofing

Please learn from my mistakes. It’s nice to know your landlord’s position so you aren’t completely blindsided, but definitely check up on them throughout the week to see if they’ve bothered to make any preparations because if they haven’t you might need to. If you do get caught with your pants down like I did, don’t give up there may still be something you can do. What my roommate and I did was nail fairly thick cloth up on the inside of all our windows, then we moved the bookshelves we had in front of what windows we could and anchored them to the wall above the window with L-brackets. 

Fear our zombie movie chic hurricane proofing.  

Whatever you do: DO NOT TAPE YOUR WINDOWS! Not only is it a waste of time and tape, but it can actually increase, not decrease, the danger.

  • Make sure you have food supplies

This seems obvious too, but less than people think. When you say food supplies people assume canned and dry goods. Well, yes of course. You want to stock up on nonperishable items. But what are you going to eat that stuff out of? Make sure you have disposable utensils and plates/bowls (ecofriendly would be nice, but we can’t all be extra crunchy granola). Ok so you have canned soup or veggies, are you planning on eating them cold? I realize that hunger is the best spice, but that assumes a very specific and desperate kind of hunger that you probably won’t be at immediately. Having the option to heat canned goods with a camp stove, grill, sterno, whatever is a good way to make sure you actually eat the whole thing and don’t waste food.

Also, of course there are staples for dry goods like granola, cereal, and even chips, but don’t discount other types of nonperishables, things like trail mix, Nutella, and fresh fruit with staying power like apples, oranges, and bananas.

Oh, side note: this has nothing to do with food, but make sure you’re prepared for the other side of things with TP and other paper products you might need.

  • Get water

Well obviously, you say, I have gallons of drinking water. Look at all my bottled water. And I stooped to buying a few jugs as well.

Fantastic, and I do meant that. But what are you going to wash with? See, if you’re like me you don’t have city water, you have a well. And if you have a well, the well must have a pump. And if you have a pump, it must have electricity to actually pump the water. I lost electricity, which means I lost the pump, which means no water. But drinking water wasn’t the problem. My roomie and I had filtered and put away gallons of water in our many, MANY jars that were resting happy and cold in the refrigerator ready help keep the temperature steady when we lost power.

It’s all that other water that people really take for granted. We had no water to wash our dishes, our hands, our selves… We had no water to flush out toilet. Not running anyway. If you have a well, and even if you don’t, it’s not a bad idea to set aside some water that isn’t for drinking. Fill your tub with as much water as you can. This is great for filling the tank to flush the toilet and if you don’t have asshole cats that keep drinking out of your tub, you can also use some of that water to wash up, because trust me you’ll be sweating. You can also take all the pots and even small coolers in the house and fill them with water as well. Make sure, if you’re planning on using the water for washing of hands, self, dishes, etc. that the water is clean and held in a clean vessel that your cats can’t get to.

Oh and if you think you’re safe just because you don’t have a well, there were several places in Hillsborough county where the plumbing was damaged and if the water was working they couldn’t guarantee that it was safe to use.

  • Make pet arrangements

Is there a pet shelter in the area? Yes? Great! Literally make any other arrangement unless you have no other choice. Pet shelters or more accurately pet friendly shelters are a fantastic addition to hurricane relief, but they are the choice of last resort.

Some things to know about pet friendly shelters:

  1. Your animal doesn’t stay with you. Think about it: Why would they cram a bunch of different animals that aren’t socialized for it, together with a huge amount of people in a highly stressful situation? The humans go in one area, animals go in another and you only get to interact with the animals for a short amount of time (say 20 minutes) at specific times of the day (usually twice a day).
  2. To register your animal at the pet friendly shelter you’re going to need some paperwork. Dogs and cats (other animals have different standards) have to have proof of recent vaccination and MUST have their tag. If these things aren’t in line, the animal can’t come into the shelter.
  3. Most pet shelters don’t provide ANYTHING for your pet, you have to bring it all: Food, water, bowls for eating/drinking, medicine if necessary, leash/carrier, blanket, litter and a box if you have a cat, and this is important: the crate they are going to be staying in. Yeah, your animal will be crated the entire time they’re at the shelter except when you are allowed to take them out for those 20 minute periods. And if you don’t bring a crate or the other supplies and if they don’t have spare supplies they won’t be able to let your animal in. This is non-negotiable.
  • Double check your insurance covers flooding and/or hurricane damage

Imagine how people are feeling after Harvey. There are still places that are flooded in Texas and aren’t going to clear for a long while. Now imagine how devastated you are, but at least you have home owners/renter’s insurance… Until you find out that hurricane and flood damage aren’t covered by your insurance. It happens all the time and is just salt in an open and bleeding wound. Please check your policies: make sure hurricanes and flooding are covered because they aren’t always and this goes for renters as well. I know hurricanes are covered on my policy because I have a hurricane deductible. You know what I didn’t do though? I haven’t updated my policy since I started living with my roomie and while $10,000 might have covered me back when it was JUST me, it definitely doesn’t cover both of us now. So make sure your policy covers you in the event of a hurricane, flood, or whatever is most likely to cause you problems, but equally important is to make sure the policy is up to date with your reality.

  • Make sure your phone and any other necessary devices are fully charged and consider getting an additional battery pack

If it needs a charge, make sure it has a charge. Before the storm hit I was charging not just my phone and the battery pack, but my computer, some rechargeable batteries, and a rechargeable flashlight as well. I definitely think the most important thing to have for the storm is my phone, but I’m not going to ignore that I might need my computer to write out my will really quick if things start to look bad. (Also at one point when stuff was still closed and my phone was weirdly low I definitely used my computer to charge it for a little while.) But seriously, get an additional battery pack, they aren’t that expensive and I have two. One is good for about one full charge on my Galaxy S7, the other is much larger and about 3.5 charges on it. Oh and in a very dire pinch, if you need a battery to charge your phone, don’t forget there’s one attached to your car (by which I mean get in your car and use a car charger, definitely don’t try to hook the phone up directly to the car battery).

  • Make sure you have a store of cash

After a hurricane passes, it’s time to assess damage. If you’re lucky like I was, there won’t really be any damage outside the damage done to your wallet for preparation. But that doesn’t mean places around you will be so lucky. Oh, they might have the lights on, but their credit card machines could be down because the connection has been damaged. There are many times after a large storm when banks won’t be available, ATMs will be down, and credit card machines may not be working and it’s important to have money available to you. My roommate and I both drew about $140 before the storm and that gave us $280 total, but if that’s a bit much I’d say $100 is a good place to start.

  • Give yourself creature comforts

Remember when I mentioned nonperishable foods? You know what’s nonperishable? Peanut butter M&Ms and you better believe me and my sister got a huge bag of them specifically for the hurricane. Know how you should be making sure you have water to drink? Well if you’re thirsty sometimes a nice iced coffee hits the spot, so I bought small bottles of iced coffee and milk for my roomie so that if we did lose power it would be easy to use them up quickly, but she should have her fix. Know how I mentioned charging all necessary devices? I sure as hell made sure that I’d plugged in and fully charged my 3DS, and that computer I used as a battery pack? Has anime episodes and manga on it that definitely don’t require the internet and can last several hours without power. We also have an Ereader that we made sure was charged.

When it’s day out and you actually have light, feel free to do the stuff that doesn’t require it; read, write, play board games, whatever. But after dark, when you have a very finite amount of light available to you from flashlights and you shouldn’t waste it. When it’s only 8 p.m. and there’s no way you’re going to sleep yet because it’s disgustingly hot and you aren’t even tired, but there’s no light to see by, you can harmlessly turn on your DS, turn the screen brightness way down and the sound off to conserve battery and lose yourself in a few hours of scrambling around a virtual farm, trying to rescue the Harvest Goddess from an alternate world while munching some peanut butter M&Ms to stave off the sheer awfulness of the situation and find yourself a bit of comfort.

Never underestimate how important it is to make sure you have small comforts in the worst situations.


One thought on “After Irma

  1. Pingback: Budget Woahs: Cars are expensive | Square Peg, Round Hole

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