1-2 Weeks Before The Storm

The news and your co-workers are starting to bristle with talk of a storm that has a chance of visiting you.

The first thing you need is a “What If Plan”.  What do you do if the storm is projected north/south/east/west of you?  You can go crazy with contingencies, so be reasonable.  Everyone lives in a different area and has different needs.  As a family decide what you are going to do under what conditions.  Revisit this plan every day or two (or more often as the storm approaches)  It keeps everyone on the same page and reduces the anxiety of not knowing.  I can’t tell you when to run or when to stay.

Even if you live in a bomb proof house rising water can kill.  A meteorologist friend put it best “Hide from wind, Run from water”.  Storm surge accounts for nearly half of all tropical storm related deaths in the last 50 years.  Katrina is the worst storm in my living memory.  Nearly 2000 people died, and a majority were from floods.  It can be storm surge near the ocean or rain water in low areas.  Know your area and heed the local authorities.

That having been said, run from wind too.  Roll down the windows next time you are on the interstate.  If you are doing the speed limit, that doesn’t even qualify as hurricane force winds.  Do you want to stay in a house that is barreling along the storm highway at interstate speeds?  Maybe leaving or seeking the local shelter would be better just so you don’t have to hear that for 12-24 hours.

Even a move 50 miles inland or in the opposite direction of the storm can greatly reduce the amount of wind and rain you experience.  Bigger storms require more movement.  Just be aware that hotels fill up fast.  Know ahead of time where the public shelters are.  They aren’t glamorous, but they have food and water, and are structurally engineered to survive direct impacts from powerful storms.  Can you say the same of your abode?

Predicting the storm

This brings up storm predictions.  There are countless models and websites that offer predictions.  They have come a long ways since I was a kid, but are still not bullet proof.  The 3 day forecast is reasonably accurate, but beyond that it gets very foggy.  When a hurricane comes, every Floridian turns into a weather expert with all kinds of charts and websites.  Some area actually very knowledgeable, and some are quite daft.  I am still not certain I can spot the difference.

I heard a rumor that we were going to get 30ft of storm surge in Brevard county.  That was way over the worst case predictions for the areas directly hit.  It happens in every storm.  Pay attention to basic official predictions, then move on.  Your co-worker’s barber’s brother is often not the best source for storm predictions.

This can go the other way too.  I know people that live on the beach, don’t board up anything, and think surfing during tropical storms is fun.  Those people have a screw loose in my opinion.  You are your own best advocate.  If it seems dumb, don’t do it.

I must not fear, fear is the mind killer - Frank Herbert's Dune

Keep one eye on the storm, but two eyes off the screen.  What does that mean?  You should be checking (daily if >1 week, more often if closer) the updates.  The National Hurricane Center does updates every 3 hours (2, 5, 8, and 11 EST).  Half the updates alter the predicted course, the other half just update storm position.  Know where the storm is, what power it is and where it is predicted to go.  If you sit for an hour and watch the news, you will go insane.  I have seen people on the verge of panic attacks because of the news.

Don’t Panic - Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy

While it is easy to say don’t panic, it is something to take seriously.  Panic causes fist fights over gas, and people to buy 4 generators at a time.  Saying “Don’t Panic” doesn’t really help.  Turn nervous energy into preparation and positive action.  Double check your supplies and offer help to friends and neighbors.  Dwelling on the negative can be harmful.

Even having the news on in the background can be stress inducing.  I saw multiple headlines along the lines of “Brevard county has a mandatory evacuation”, and heard people repeat it.  Sounds horrible, the whole county has to leave!  Well it was for Zone A only.  The people in low lying areas on the water.  Yes, that is prudent, they should leave.  Poor headlines and anxious people turned it into a whole county wide evacuation.  Know the update times, check then, and then turn it off to focus on important things.

If you have pets, now is the time to make sure you have what you need for them for a few weeks.  I have been informed that shelters will not take pets that aren’t up to date on their rabies shots.  You might want to get that in order and have their paperwork with you.

Make your way to the ATM/Bank and pick up extra cash.  It seems to take some places a few days to get their credit card machines up and running.  A little bit of extra cash ensures you can get the gas you need or the dinner out you really want.  Small bills would be helpful too, as making change could be difficult for them.

Medications?  Make sure they are covered.

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