*Hurricane Katrina Observations from South Mississippi*
Situation. The situation I was faced with was that my parents lived in south Mississippi, approximately 60 miles by road or 45 miles as the crow flies from Biloxi. Hurricane Katrina blew through causing hurricane force winds in their AO causing extensive tree blow down and damage to structures. Their area lost power, phones and water like the rest of Mississippi. I was able to maintain phone contact with them until late Monday afternoon and then the phones failed. I was able to regain communication with them by calling a neighbors cell phone early Wednesday morning, prior to that all cell phone service to the area had been down. Wednesday I left to assess the situation and ultimately made the decision to bring them back home with me based on their heath condition. The following observations are based on my trip down and back to their AO. They are listed in no particular order.
1. You need redundant, disaster proof communications and that means you need to operate a Ham Radio. That has been long on my ‘to do list” and now has become priority 1 for this month.
2. I have the standard BOG, but this situation caused me to reconfigure gear on the fly because part of my trip had to be by commercial air. I have adjusted my thinking to the need to have a more modular version of BOG with a core kit that can be taken on commercial air transportation.
3. 4WD and chain saws get you through until roads get cleared. Their immediate neighborhood was representative of the area with hugh old oak trees blown down all over the place and pine trees strewn around like toothpicks. Thankfully my folks live in a neighborhood where after the storm had passed thru folks got out with chainsaws and started clearing trees-they didn’t wait around for “help” .
4. There was an almost complete lack of info down in their AO. The radio (AM and FM stations) if they were broadcasting at all were not broadcasting useful info in my opinion. You found out what stores were open or where the gas was by listening to CB radio and police scanners. A side note it’s interesting that our society seems to have migrated to a TV /net culture broadcasting important info –but folks in the strike zone in my parents AO were not able to get radio or connect to the net, so no info.
5. Lines for literally miles when it came to getting gas-by Thursday there were police at the gas stations to maintain order. Limits to how much you could get. You might want to rethink your fuel stocks to ensure you have enough to ride things out for awhile. By Thursday as we were leaving you could get gas without a hugh hassle up towards Montgomery, AL but generally anything south of that had lines or was closed.
6. Everything was cash and carry. A couple of stores would get stuff –like bread- and sell it off the back of trucks. No ice anywhere ( yea I know I heard some zillion pounds of ice were delivered-maybe to Cuba but I didn’t see any).
7. If you have folks who have health problems then make sure you have their doctors phone numbers, meds they take, health insurance info, copies of important health records etc. I thought I was on top of this one, until I realized I really hadn’t gone thru all that stuff in a year and several important things had changed so I spent some fun time trying to gather all that.
8. Get a solar charger for batteries! I know sounds like a no brainer but I didn’t have one to take with me and really could have used one.
9. Avoid becoming a refugee. I know this is a standard catch phrase with us, but really think through what this means. People were literally all over the area having fled from the coast with hardly more than their car and the clothes they wore. Some quickly ran out of gas as they tried to find places to fill up. If they were able to get into a hotel, their cash was going fast. If you have a pet, try and find a place to take you in. What about routes in and out of the AO? Have you really done a recon recently? Are they flood prone, susceptible to downed trees or other debris? You need to know where you can go and how to get there. You also need to know what to take.
10. Make sure you know your parent’s neighbors, not only who they are but you need to have their phone numbers. We were blessed in that they live in a neighborhood where folks look out after each other and pitch in all the time to help each other. The upshot of all that is that I knew their neighbors and had multiple phone numbers to use to try and contact my parents. Depending on the cell phone carrier or even the standard phone service provider, different lines cam up at different times.
11. Periodically review with your family, especially if it is geographically dispersed, “what the plan is”. Who goes where, how will you contact each other etc. Have multiple back ups. In my case we were on “Plan C” and even “Plan D” for some things as “Plan A and B” had been overcome by events.
Hope this helps, particularly if you have older parents and you live away from where they do.
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