Storm Survival Stratagies: Fresh Thinking

In Retrospect

Writing in two previous blogs about hurricanes, “Hurricanes And The Country House” and “Storms Affecting Your Budget“, I received inspiration for creating them from Hurricane Michael in the midst of that deadly storm and the aftermath that followed. In spite of high winds going over the top of our house, we only experienced a 48 hour power outage. Our neighbors weren’t so fortunate. A tree fell and took out their overhead power line.

Except for the lack of capable cooking equipment, I felt we were pretty well prepared. But some of my preparedness depended on luck (or divine blessings if you value faith in the Almighty). Things could have taken a turn for the worse if fate so chose to move in that direction for us.

Knowledge is an important factor in survival tactics. The more you have to help you through a disastrous event, the better chance of your getting through it unscathed, or with minimal impact on your life or living conditions. Most people fail to heed this type of advice and as a result they wind up dead, severely injured, or in a decidedly compromised environment within which to recover.

What If The Electrical Power Is Gone?

I have been through so many hurricanes and tropical storms, I have become used to the inevitable fact that I am going to lose power. Since we stock a lot of frozen foods in a freezer, and the refrigerator is usually pretty much full of food all the time, losing it scares me the most. Since we live in a severe weather prone area of the Florida Panhandle, we don’t even need a hurricane to take us out.

I have a 23 year old generator that I purchase new through a rental company because I wanted to have the same type of reliable equipment for my use that they provided for their customers. Along with the many jobs I used it for on construction projects, it has saved my bacon through numerous storms when the power lines to my house went dead. In all that time, I only took it in to be serviced once, and that was when I let it sit idle for so long that the old stale gas clogged the fuel lines and I needed to have the whole thing checked out.

I usually try to run it once a month, but recently it was crying for attention. It started okay, but after a minute of running, it would begin to hunt and sputter before eventually shutting off on its own. This told me that the fuel system had a problem. Humbly following the online repair manual, I removed the air cleaner and the carburetor, disassembled it, and found that the fuel entry point into the float bowl pot was completely blocked.

After reaming out and spraying the inside of the metal tube with Gumout Carburetor Cleaner, I carefully put everything back together. Then I changed the oil which was pitch black. I started it up and it ran like new. Then I cleaned up all the residue on the exterior and sprayed a fresh coat of paint on the outside to make it look like it did when I first bought it.

If all this sounds silly, it’s because I have learned to take care of the tools and equipment that take care of me. During that last hurricane, I started it up around 11:00 am each morning and let it run until 11:00 pm at night. Since we were not using any electrical apparatus while sleeping, nor opening or closing the refrigerator/freezers during that time, the plan worked to perfection and all the food survived the ordeal.

Why Am I Telling You This?

Because I don’t have to. It’s no skin off my back if I survive and you don’t. But I have chosen to format this website to share my experiences with people and give them insights into what I have learned.

So many people I have talked to have either lost all the food in their refrigerator or freezer or been unable to cook because of loss of power. Even a BBQ is useless if you depend on propane and your tank runs out of gas. On top of that, they ran out of water because their well pump also was affected and they failed to prepare for water storage in advance.

I didn’t prepare like I should have for Hurricane Irma which caused a lot of damage to most of Florida. It fortunately affected the Panhandle very little when it veered off towards a Jacksonville (Florida). But I knew I couldn’t play the same game with Hurricane Michael. It was coming straight at us. So I did the following:

  • Got plenty of gas for the generator and vehicles
  • Strung extension chords through the house from the generator to critical areas or appliances that I wanted to power up
  • Filled the bathtub full of water because we have a well pump onsite
  • Set up a Coleman stove to cook on, even though it had limited capacity (My full-sized BBQ and separate outdoor cooker unit were still in storage in another state).

So What Are My Fresh Thoughts

I am not waiting for a hurricane or tropical depression to develop in the Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean or come spinning off the west coast of Africa this year. While, doing my weather research for this season, I have become attuned to the fact that this may an El Niño year which means the possibility of record temperatures being set globally, including the waters off the coast of Florida, and inside the Gulf of Mexico.

Because warmer water threatens to fuel bigger and more destructive storms, I have listened more intently to meteorologists spewing forth predictions of 5 to 8 major hurricanes for 2020. As I write this blog, Tropical Storm Arthur is hovering near the coast of North Carolina, 15 days ahead of the official start of the hurricane season.

Now that we all are living within the restrictions of a worldwide pandemic, there will be less opportunities to get out and prepare at the last minute. It behooves everyone to take heed of this current situation and make plans accordingly. There are already shortages of many essential items at grocery stores, so trying to find what you need when a monster is just off the coast may prove futile.

With so many jobs having been eliminated, preparatory funds will be challenged for many households. If one were to use limited funds for supplies now, instead of frivolous item, the potential impact would be lessened considerably.

So these are just some daunting thoughts and meaningful guidelines to share with you. I don’t have all the answers and some of my planning will go awry. All I can do is help those readers of my blog to get ready, whether they live in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, or what have you (yes, I do have a number of followers from Asian countries).

In Conclusion

To wrap up this lecture, this year I have done the following:

  • Brought my generator up to good working condition
  • Organized all my extension chords for easy deployment
  • Have gas cans and vehicles filled with gas
  • Obtained my BBQ from storage, cleaned it thoroughly,  exchanged the 10 year old propane tank with a fresh replacement, and made sure it works properly
  • Continue to maintain a 2 to 4 week supply of groceries
  • Have collected 5 gallon buckets to have on hand for storing water and flushing toilets

If I’m not all set yet, I am close. You can be too with a little initiative. Remember, this year is going to be different, no matter what happens on the weather front. You just need to be one step ahead.

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