As South Texas prepares to get blasted by Hurricane Alex, I thought I’d share what we learned during Rita, the forgotten hurricane that wiped out much of the Texas coast the same year Katrina devastated New Orleans.
During that time in 2005, MSB and I played host to our family members who live in Beaumont. I was amazed how organized and well-supplied we were, even before we trekked to the store to get the few things we were lacking. On August 27, MSB’s brother and sister-in-law drove to our house in separate vehicles, each vehicle full of kids, cats and dogs. And we were ready for them. Forgot your toothbrush? No problem, we have extras. Don’t like that pillow? Here try this one. Your cats need a litter box? That’s fine–there’s one set up for them in your room. (Having all the animals living together in one house is a hilarious story. I’ll have to tell ya someday.)
Here are some tips to prepare for a hurricane–when you’re not directly in the path and should be evacuating anyway:
At the first hint of a threat, hit the stores early for batteries, bottled water, paper and plastic goods (like toilet paper, paper towels and eating utensils), pre-dampened cleansing cloths, snacks, fruits and foods that don’t need to be cooked. Don’t forget your pets’ needs.
Freeze water in twist-top milk jugs to help maintain freezer temperature for as long as possible (keep in mind, meat temperatures that do not exceed forty degrees are safe. You can refreeze or cook the meat).
Check/buy battery-operated radios as well as flashlights and oil lamps to make sure they still function and are clean (for oil lamp flutes). Charge your cell phones and keep them charged. Keep your gas tank topped off. Get your meds refilled.
As the time moves closer, do your laundry. Clean out your fridge of anything that will spoil if the power is out for a long period of time. Put a battery operated lamp in interior rooms. Fill a barrel with water to use for flushing (we used rain water from roof run-off).
Once you’re done with the laundry, fill the washer tub with water (our water tastes good, so we never buy bottled. The washing machine tub is clean and is a perfect place to store extra). Fill ice chests with ice and water coolers with water. If you have more than one ice chest, put food and drinks in one with rock salt to prolong the life of the ice or use dry ice.
If you have one, test-run your generator and assemble extension cords and multi-plug surge protectors. Be sure you have enough fuel to run the generator.
If the power goes out, your cordless phone won’t work. Make sure you have a phone attached to a land line. Of course, if you’re like us and you can’t get cell service at home worth a flip and the phone lines are down, you’re just out of luck!
Remove all outdoor furniture and debris, and secure what you can’t move. Protect your vehicles. MSB actually put is truck out in the open, away from large trees, and pointed its nose to the wind. If a windshield can survive the passing gear speeds of 85 mph or so, it can probably survive inland hurricane winds.
Then, sit back and enjoy the ride–or pray, or both.
Our power was out for several days after Rita blew through, but we were ready. When everything calmed down and we could run the generator, I hooked the freezer to the power source. I hooked up a fan, placed a frozen ice jug in a bowl in front of it and enjoyed cool breeze. I cooked with electric burners, toaster ovens (they take tons of power, btw) and slow cookers. With another extension cord, I could run the TV and enjoy our Direct TV during the times of my favorite shows. I ran the washing machine and line-dried the laundry. I even learned the secret of taking a shower without the benefit of a water heater!
The gas stations left their pumps on at night for credit/debit card transactions, and during the wee hours, we’d go and refill gas cans so we could continue running the generator. There was never a line when we went, and the stations were patrolled by the NPD night shift.
Overall, it wasn’t a horrible experience. Preparation is the key.