I confess – I am a Storm Junkie. You know the type – the one who can’t wait for storm to form somewhere in the northern hemisphere because it gives them a reason/excuse to run out and make preparations even if there is a 0% chance that a tropical storm will come within a thousand miles of their area. After growing up on the Texas Coast and living through Alicia, Allison, Rita, and Ike, I love that rush that comes in the days leading up to a storm making landfall on the Texas Coast. I know it’s a short term feeling, because the damage, frustration and hardships after a storm hits is not worth the “high” that comes pre-storm.
So, when I woke up Sunday morning and checked my favorite weather site (www.weatherunderground.com), imagine the chill that ran up my spine. (I told you I’m a sick thrill junkie) Tropical Storm Debby had formed and one of the computer models had it coming right for Texas! We were in the “Cone of Uncertainty”. That was good enough for me! On the way home from church, I looked down at the gas gauge and saw that I was on less than a quarter of a tank – easily the first mistake a true storm junkie would never make during Hurricane Season. “Always keep your tank at least half full during storm season,” seems to be the first tip in every hurricane publication. Since I had already flunked the first test, I decided to check our Hurricane Box when I got home.
When Hurricane Ike blew through in 2008, we learned a lot about what we thought we were prepared for. Even though we live 70 miles from the Galveston and Gulf beaches, we were without power for two weeks, had over $10,000 damage to our house, and experienced gas and food shortages. We were fortunate though to still be able to stay in our house. Our next door neighbor wasn’t. She had a 75 foot tall, 40 inch diameter pine tree fall through the center of her house – followed by over a foot of rain pouring in. With that in mind, we built our hurricane kit to cover many of the inconveniences we experienced. Now it was time to check “The Box” and see how if it still met our needs.
My wife built our Box just prior to the 2009 Hurricane Season and over the past three years, we’ve raided it for something we needed immediately and then added some new things we saw that we thought we might need. The Box is kept in our garage and includes a list of its contents. The Box is not the end all, be all by any means. Water storage, generators and other tools are too big to fit in The Box, but for now, I’m focusing just on the contents of the box. Here’s what I found:
1 Can of Propane (we have 12 more on the shelf elsewhere)
1 roll of foil (can cook on this and not have to wash it)
8×10 foot tarp (for covering holes in the roof or broken windows)
6 D Cell Batteries (they were leaking. I tossed them)
6 C Cell Batteries
Box of Large Trash Bags (garbage service didn’t run for a week during Ike)
Large Box of Baking Soda (eliminates odors, puts out fires, keeps refrigerator fresh)
3 Rain Ponchos
6 boxes of matches
2 decks of playing cards and 1 deck of UNO cards (no power, no video games)
1 can of Off (mosquitoes love hurricanes!)
2 Utility Lighters
Siphon Pump (gas for generators was in such short supply, we took any gas we could find)
2 boxes of hand wipes
3 – 100 hour emergency candles
Manual Can Opener
Magnesium Fire Starters of various types and quality (why the need to start so many fires?)
Pocket Hand Saw
Water purification tablets
1 –time use sanitary medical kit that included quilted drop cloth, wipes, gloves
Salt and Pepper Shaker (but no salt or pepper)
Portable Battery Powered Fan (moving air never felt so good after Ike)
Water Bob – the coolest new addition to The Box! This device fits in your bathtub and can store up to 100 gallons of water. Great for folks who live on a well system or might have a compromised water facility after the storm.
1 Triple A battery (I suspect we started with more, but had been raided for video game controllers)
A long clothes line/rope and a couple of dozen clothes pins (this was big after Ike. We hooked the washing machine to the generator, but then line dried our clothes. Everyone sleeps better in clean underwear)
Instructions on how to run the generator
So what did I learn?
I learned that I need to check the box more frequently. AAA batteries are vital after the storm to keep radios and other devices going. I learned that The Box had morphed into more of camping box than a Hurricane Box. It reminded me to test run our generator more frequently. It reminded me to update my paperwork like current insurance policy copies and other key documents. Keep the gas tanks full. Make sure we have a week’s worth of food on hand.
More importantly, it reminded me to have a plan and run through the plan with the family. The pre-storm rush soon gives way to the post-storm realities. Having a good plan, backed up with a well stocked and functioning Box, can make a difficult situation much more tolerable.
I’m interested in what’s in your Hurricane Box?
Let’s hope we avoid the storms this year, but just in case, I’m headed out to stock up on triple A’s….