What It’s Really Like to Live Through a Hurricane
Editor’s Note: Please give a warm welcome to a new guest writer, DannySea. Danny is a long-time Florida resident and he shares his thoughts on what it’s really like to live through a hurricane in this fantastic article. ~ Daisy
We, as preppers of one sort or another, actually have an edge. Some of us prep for day-to-day-events and some of us prep for other one-time events, We stock extra flashlights, batteries, water, have a generator and some gas and oil, hopefully, a good chainsaw, all with extra parts and duplicate items. As preppers like to say “Two is one, and one is none.”
And for practical purposes and to minimize this writing, we prepared for any hurricane heading our way. Even boarded up any weak openings. Trash cans were secured as well as the tank pulled from the gas grill, and all that stuff tucked wherever possible.
The following post will be about staying and surviving the storm and living through 100-degree weather without electric and other common inconveniences.
The hurricane hits.
About 6 hours before the storm, we lowered our AC about 6 degrees. This alone has paid off dozens of times! Lots of drinking water, water to flush toilet, everyone got showers just prior to the storm, extra books, and reading materials, set the kids up on a movie and game binge to keep their minds busy.
We started using anything that required refrigeration/freezing that could spoil, but would not cook anything that required extensive work, unless fixed prior. At this point, the very minimum you had to prepare for eats the better. Be willing to cut your losses, even with a freezer full. This is a balancing act each of us has to decide.
So, now the winds have been picking up for quite some time, but the eye is going to miss us. As the storm circulates counter-clockwise, you are still 12 hours away from the strongest part of the storm you are going to experience.
Get the little ones in a comfortable routine. Make sure they have their top three comforts: stuffed animals, and a favorite blanket and pillow. If you are fortunate, they will be sleeping through the worst part of the storm.
Don’t even think about starting to drink or any dilution of your senses. More lives are lost due to this misconception. You as the adult might need every available mind and body strength you can muster, as houses tear apart, trees fall on the roof and water is pouring in, or there is a water surge from anywhere that starts bringing in a couple of feet of water. By being in a daze or overly relaxed because you are high, you might miss that extra ten-minute warning that could save you and your loved ones’ lives.
Then the power goes out.
But you prepared ahead. You turn on one of the fully recharged lanterns, get a low light on for the kids in case they wake up. You now dig out the extra lights you have and place one (left off) next to one of the lighted ones. At this point, your fully charged laptop and/or phone can still track the weather. Set up a routine and check it every half an hour. Don’t be foolish and try to make calls or stay online. If you can, during the hours you have been waiting, set up a single message that goes out to multiple parties. Tell them you will be in touch about every 6 hours and to not call. You want to keep your phone working as long as possible.
Living through a hurricane is exhausting.
You finally reach your own exhaustion limit. Power is out, but the house is cool. The wind is so extreme it sounds like a huge train is all around you. You can hear huge trees snapping every time there is a wind surge. As in all of nature, there is a heartbeat and a rolling up-and-down of the wind speeds. This is the sustained winds (lowest speed) and the wind gusts, (highest speed.)
Listen when a weather news speaker is discussing each. Now add in tornadoes. This is where houses get initially torn apart about 60% of the time. A tornado can decimate one side of a street and leave the other side with light damage.
But by now, after 10 hours into the storm and two days of prep, you are exhausted. Everyone feels safe in their beds or temporary center-of-house locations.
Then the worst has passed.
All of the sudden you come awake, Everything is eerily quiet. You find a safe place to look out and there is debris everywhere. You know the eye did not come near you, and passed before you laid down. There is still a subtle rumble of the wind. You take a quick walk around your property. By the time you make it back to your entrance, the rains and wind are increasing again. This is the back side of the storm and you are far enough away from the eye that the feeder bands can be felt again. They are less intense and are moving usually in opposite direction that the storm was throwing at you while it approached.
Another few hours pass. No electric, the house is getting warmer but is still comfortable. After several more exterior visits, it looks like it is mostly nature that is decimated, and you sigh a bid relief. The road and your driveway are blocked and probably under water. For days.
You would love to see an electric company truck go down the street, assessing power lines. What you do not know is that FEMA now requires even the local electric company servicing men and equipment to group 4 or more hours away in a planned staging area.
You probably will not see any government trucks or road crews for another day or two. Power lines are down everywhere, including for the nature lovers that say “every leaf is sacrad.”
Obviously, since you are home, you start clearing debris off of house, driveway, vehicles. All the while taking lots of documentation (pictures.) Lots and lots of pictures, different angles, etc.
You get the generator running, and start up the water pump, then running a small window-mount AC, then running refrigerators. All activities running through a cycle of events. You have a small generator for your back porch that will run fans to sleep with as the house is now in the 80’s, but you cannot afford to leave your bigger generator run outside while you are sleeping. And for safety, you cannot leave windows open. Remember, most people are honorable, but it only takes a few per neighborhood, to wreak havoc.
At this point, we have a family meeting. Decide where to send gramma and all the kids to friends and family where power and all the creature comforts are still intact. That is, if we still have a vehicle, and can cut the driveway enough to get by.
You are now probably about 12 hours since the center of the storm has passed you by.
Picking up the Pieces: Life after the Storm.
What you do not know minute-to-minute, is how long before power is restored. Hours, Days, Weeks, Months? The damage, assessment time, available equipment, crews, and other variances will be at play. And no one can work 20 hour days in the heat, day after day. You might get power, but you neighbor might be another two weeks. It is such a variable.
Meanwhile, you are starting to notice more and more damage to your structure and trees on so many small sheds and fences. You notice a lot of roof shingles are missing you did not notice on the backside.
Immediately, call your insurance company. You don’t need a comprehensive list. DO NOT send a pkg of pix. DO NOT call them for the next 4 weeks in a row, every day. Be glad you called them ahead of 90% of the public at large. NOW, Wait Your Turn! Some companies will cut a check or a partial check, like USAA; but for most, it will be another month before your first and maybe only check arrives after the adjuster was there. 4
Each year, Insurance is evaluated and paid out differently. I have had some years the insurance paid $500 per tree fallen, sometimes only if they took out a fence or structure, and sometimes would not pay for fence or tree. Every company and state is different.
Be patient. After highly destructive storms, I found I am still making improvements a year after the damage occurred. And I am a Florida State Contractor.
Don’t even think a storm is going to be a money-maker. There are so many costs you will incur that come out of your pocket. But what you have is the fact you prepared. And that is ALWAYS a saving of at least 20-to-1.
And you have upped the survivability of your family! The real payoff! Anything else can be replaced.
Here’s why I know this.
I have been an SWFL (South West Florida) dweller since my parents moved to Sarasota when I was just under two years old. During the late 80’s my wife and myself, with our four children relocated south another 100+ miles to Collier County. Part of the Great Swamp (Everglades National Park,) is located herein of Collier County. The southern part of our county encompasses 10,000 Islands, also known as Florida Bay. There is only one county south of Collier County, and that is the county that has the Florida Keys. Miami/Fort Lauderdale lie due east of us on the east side of the lower Florida peninsula.
I’m trying to give a little feeling for those reading on the subtropic locale we live in. This past year the most intense lightning location in the world has been awarded just east of where we live here in our county. And just like the islands of the Gulf of Mexico/Atlantic Ocean, the Horse Winds blow off of the Sahara Desert (yes, in Africa,) and depending on these summer winds, and how much the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico waters heat up, plays with how much “steam” or energy that needs to be released. Believe it or not, we are actually in a cooling cycle as the sun pulsates in a 20-something year cycle. But even during these times, we can experience extreme storms, but usually not as many “bad” life threatening ones.
The key to preparation is location, location, location. If your ego and finances allow you to live on the beachfront or the bay, then you are the man who has built your house upon the sand. Expect high-percent of loss. Live inland, away from bodies of water and reservoirs, build elevated (even above FEMA recommended minimum heights.) Build with hip roof designs, when possible, follow engineering tie-down/structural designs, and you have lessened your destruction percentage again and again.
Now, as far as survivability, in the waterfront/beach scenarios above, don’t even think of hanging around, even category one hurricanes. About two out of three change their category (wind speed) even just prior to landfall. And the more severe storm, the higher the damage, including flying debris and trees uprooted and collapsing on your well-built structure.
As mentioned in Daisy’s blog herein, prepare ahead if you are in a vulnerable location. Get out of town ahead of time. If you wait until the week of the storm, it is common that no hotels, no matter the price, will be available up to 500 + miles away. Sometimes you can find a small town that is not surrounded by any main highways/interstates, might have something for a day longer than any of the national hotel chains. Even places like vacation parks, (eg Disney parks) are booked solid if they are out of harm’s way.
To break this up, I will end here, on the long-term and short-term planning.
About the Author
DannySea was born into a family where there was plenty of love, food, and work. Having a nature that was easy to be industrious and a self-starter, he focused on being a Contractor when he grew up. And all of a sudden he found that 40-plus years had slipped by and he is still learning and adapting. A war exists within to implement old ways against new technologies, proven working techniques against new sciences; and yet he is still excited to turn the rock over, and see what he did not know before.