The eye of Hurricane Isabel passed about 60 miles west-southwest of my home on Sept. 18, 2003. My AO was in the northeast quadrant of the storm, where the winds were the strongest. Many trees were blown down, and the power went out for 1.4 million people served by Virginia Power Company. Seven days later, there were still approximately 450,000 still without power. We were fortunate and had our service restored 36 hours after losing it. We never lost our water or gas, although many thousands did.
We knew for two weeks in advance that a major storm might pass close to us thanks to the news and the Rubicon's Hurricane plotters. We started fine-tuning our preps about a week before the storm hit.
Here are some after-action items of things we did well and things that could have been better.
House Inspection - We did a complete roof and siding inspection on our house. We ensured that the gutters were clear of debris and that the discharge pipes were directed well away from the house foundation.
Pre-positioning Preps - Having all our preps at the ready saved us lots of time, aggravation, and worry. For instance, we KNEW the power was probably going to go off, so early in the evening I had put a Coleman lantern in each child’s room & turned it on the minimum setting. In the TV room where we were all gathered, I had a bigger Coleman LED lantern on. The inverter was set up & ready to go, plugged into my lamps with the 15W Compact fluorescent lights reccommended in Warlord's Article. Sure enough, when the lights winked out, we had light already established so that the kids didn't freak. (I can't tell you how many kids I know who are terrified of storms because the parents transmit their fear and ineptitude to them. If Mommy can't keep you safe, who the hail can? Mine are annoyed when the lights DON'T go off!!!)
Flashlight Suitability - Although high tech lights such as my Surefire G2 Nitrolon are awesome for brain surgery or, in our case, shining across the street into your neighbor's yard to see the damage, they’re not the greatest for prolonged close-up work. They are too bright, too hot, and they require holding. The best piece of gear I had was my $12 hands-free Energizer LED headlamp, swiped from my car's BOB. I’ll be getting 4 of them, one for each of us, to keep in the house. All types of lighting were nonexistent in the stores - the shelves were stripped of every type of flashlight. I even saw people buying those goofy Halloween flashlights -- that was the only light they had at home. ‘D’ cell batteries were nonexistent.
Know Your Power Needs - I did well by marking down each appliance’s wattage/amps before I needed to hook them up to the inverter. I made a list of them, put it on my desktop computer, then also put a colored yard sale sticker on each appliance with its wattage/amps.
Admin Work - A major mistake was not remembering to migrate my desktop files to my laptop. I didn't have my e-mail address book OR that great list of appliance ratings! It was good that I had used the sticker method.
TV Antennas - I had power for my 5-inch and 13-inch TVs, but no rabbit ears or aerials. We were only able to pull in one channel. Although we were fortunate to have even that, some diversity on the news reporting would have been nice. I also need to pay more attention to antenna discussions!
Money Talks - Because the power was out, all the cash registers and the ATMs were inoperative. All sales were cash only. I had gotten small bills (fives and ones) from the bank the week before.
Gas Cans - The day before the storm hit, the lines at the gas stations were 10 cars deep at each pump. The gas stations ran out of fuel the day after the storm because everyone was filling up their generators and spare gas cans. When I acquired my gas cans and filled them up months ago, I duct taped $10 in small bills to each can as suggested by Warlord in his article Survival While Living In Small Places) . That way, if I needed gas in a hurry, I was sure to have enough change. If you buy $8 worth of gas, but you only have a $20, guess how much that gas is going to cost you? It was great having the extra cash on the can, so I didn't have to use my cash reserve from my wallet.
Food - I had lots of good, healthy food available. YUCK!!! What I didn’t have was comfort food - chips, chocolate, sodas, canned cheese/bean dips, candy. Everyone craved junk food - it must be the stress. Our local newspaper reported that in the 3 days afterward, all that stuff, plus beer/wine, was flying off the grocery shelves.
Frozen Water - I had frozen water in several 2L soda bottles to keep the freezers cold if the power ever went off. Not only were these good for that, but they were OUTSTANDING when they started to thaw and we had icy cold water to drink. When it’s hot outside, having a cold drink is heavenly and really boosts your morale.
Freezer Items - I made an inadvertent discovery about the shape of my frozen goods. Sometimes when I come home from the grocery store with meats, I just leave them in their rounded store-wrapped shape and put them in freezer bags. Other things I remove, lay flat, then wrap for storage. Guess which type fits much better in a cooler with ice….the flat stuff. I will always make flat packages out of my frozen goods from now on.
Freezer Temps - I had an indoor/outdoor thermometer with a long wire lead on it, for attaching outside and then running inside. I threw this in the freezer and was able to monitor the temperature without constantly opening the door. It was a great peace-of-mind item to have.
You can tell that we came through pretty unscathed if I say that an LED thermometer was a great piece of gear. Because we had the big stuff squared away (stored water, marine batteries, inverters, cars to recharge the batteries, gas, propane, kerosene, comms with my neighbor, and lots of food), I’m left criticizing the small stuff (TV antennas and thermometers, for Pete’s sake!).
Thanks to the Rubicon and our Type-A personalities, we came through in one piece. It was great training for all of my family.
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