Hurricanes are not as common along this part of the Gulf Coast as they can be in other areas (Florida) but on average we get a moderate to severe storm about every ten to fifteen years. Tropical storms are far more common and we may get several of those during a busy season. The last few years have been pretty quiet so we are about due. We are far enough inland and far enough above sea level that we really won’t need to evacuate. There have only been one or two storms in my lifetime that would have warranted “bugging out” and for the most part it’s probably safer to stay put.
During the first hurricane scare after my middle daughter and her husband were married he decided they needed to evacuate. They headed north east away from the path of the storm for about a day. Every time they moved, so did the projected landfall, eventually they ended up circling back to my house after about 600 miles on the road and we didn’t see enough of s storm to even knock out the power for more than a few hours. Two of the locations they “bugged out” to got hammered.
Power and Fuel
As far inland as we are the biggest challenge we will face with most hurricanes will be power loss. We were without power for ten days after Ike. Some folks were without power for even longer. No power means frozen and refrigerated foods will spoil quickly, cell phones can’t be recharged and worst of all (down here anyway) no air conditioning.
During Ike there were huge BBQs as people tried to consume as much as possible before it spoiled. A generator is a simple, if costly, way to keep the freezers and refrigerators cool and keep from loosing all that food. It also provides an easy means for recharging items like cell phones. Although I purchased a pretty good generator it doesn’t have the ability to run our central air system so we also have a room AC that it can run.
All this is fine but without fuel none of this is worth a darn. I keep about ten gallons of fuel on hand reserved for the generator. We also keep the fuel tanks in our cars topped off when hurricane season rolls around giving us an added reserve of up to thirty gallons. Used sparingly this will buy us between three and six days depending on how hot it gets. At that point we will, hopefully, be able to find fuel. I can’t keep much more than that on hand and be able to rotate it properly or store it safely. What I can do is buy a second, smaller generator that is more fuel efficient and use it at night for the AC only. The inverter generators are much quieter and more fuel efficient but they are also pretty expensive so that is on the shopping list. It will also serve as a backup should the primary generator fail. We saw a lot of that during Ike. One day, we’ll probably buy a second AC unit as well just in case the first has issues.
No power usually means no gas for cooking either. To make sure we can still prepare our meals we have a gas grill and I have purchased several extra propane tanks for it. I can cook everything in my freezer, fridge and still have a couple of tanks left over.
Food and Water
Our original plan was to have three days of food on hand for an emergency. From that simple, basic beginning we have created a bit of a monster. Wonderful Wife decided she wanted at least 30 days of food on hand for our entire extended family.
We have our primary pantry and, of course, the fridge and freezer. That could last us at least a week. We have a secondary pantry of canned goods that would take us another couple of weeks. To back that up we have buckets of died beans and rice that can probably extend us for about ninety days depending on how “extended” our family is. Some of this is stored in other locations so should something happen to our house we still have a supply laid in or if people aren’t able to get to us they have supplies locally.
Water is a little tougher. We do have a good supply on hand but nowhere near what we would need for the “extendeds.” I don’t think there enough room in the house for that much water. On the wishlist is a water filtration system which will give us a 35,000 gallon reserve. I will also be buying some additional storage containers that can be filled before a storm rolls in.
Tools and Supplies
Window tape, hammer, nails, staple gun, staples, plastic sheeting to cover any unexpected holes in the house, work gloves, surgical masks, safety glasses, saws, duck tape, and a hand pump are all stored in a bin. Most of these are duplicates to what I already have in my tool bag just in case. It also adds some extras in case I need more help.
We also have spare batteries, extra medications, spare flashlights, lanterns and first aid kits stored in a separate, watertight bin.
On top of that we keep a weatherband capable AM/FM radio that will run off batteries or a hand crank. Why? Cellular was out for a few days and Internet was out for even longer during Ike.
Other than the tornadoes a hurricane can spawn, the biggest risk is likely to be flooding. We are on pretty high ground compared to most of the surrounding area but as the area continues to develop strange things can happen. New subdivisions and highways can change drainage patterns so this is always a concern. Not much we can do besides buy insurance and keep a close eye out.
This part of Texas doesn’t need a hurricane to flood. In fact, some of the worst flooding we’ve had has been from tropical storms. Fall cool fronts can also be a problem. In our last home, our entire subdivision became an island in the middle of the San Jacinto river one year. A river you could just about step across spread for several miles out of its banks and was deep enough that forty-foot Coast Guard vessels could navigate easily.
In addition, tropical storms are a common enough occurrence that most businesses don’t close. We go to work and hope for the best. Sometimes that best isn’t so good. On a couple of occasions I have been trapped away from hope by rising flood waters. The freeway or even a gas station is not a great place to spend the night. Some of my co-workers have been trapped at the office for hours or, in some cases, days. Which is why I keep a bag in my car with enough supplies to live out of for a day or two.
When our old neighborhood became an island the neighboring subdivisions weren’t so lucky. Most flooded and those who lived there either evacuated themselves early on or were evacuated later by some combination of the National Guard, Coast Guard and Sheriff’s Department. I remember driving to the front of the subdivision to check the water level one night and hearing a running gun battle from the neighborhood across from ours. Looters had come in on boats and the Sheriff’s department department had come in after them in their own boats. The looters didn’t want to get caught and the Sheriff’s department gave chase and returned fire. I have no idea if they caught them or not.
If it is just Wonderful Wife and myself watching for looters will be a little tough. Too few people and too many hours in the day. For the generator (a prime target for looters during the power outage following a hurricane) I have a lock and a cable to secure it. Most looters will pass on anything that takes that long to defeat. If they are a more serious kind of looter and decide to come in to visit…well that could get interesting.
Ideally we could organize some sort of a neighborhood watch but I don’t know many of my neighbors well enough for that. If the “extendeds” show up we’ll have more people to take a turn being vigilant. Given are location, the chance of violent looters is pretty small but this is still an area we need to work on…
So, that’s our hurricane strategy. What are we missing? Any other suggestions?