We hunkered down in The Jackson Restaurant, which was my grandmother’s restaurant in Holly Hill, South Carolina.
I was four, so hurricane season was inseparable from summer, as much as visits to the lake and Dad making ice cream. I didn’t think it strange at all when my parents began pulling together supplies, securing windows, and moving vehicles out from under trees. When they took my eight month old brother and me to the restaurant, I probably just thought it was a fun sleepover with my grandmother.
My mother told me later that I slept through most of it. I only remember two things. One, going outside during the eye of the storm. My father stood in the open doorway and pretended to scream and be frightened. It was a good tactic, making the whole scenario seem like a game, but that was also Dad. He wasn’t joking around, though, when I woke up at one point and watched part of a roof roll by.
When we returned home, only our back porch was damaged. A pine tree had fallen onto it. However, we were without electricity and water for a week or two. Homes out in the country, like ours, had lower priority than towns and cities. Among the victims of Hurricane Hugo, we were the lucky ones.
Hurricane Hugo was a giant monster of a storm that piled boats inland like a child tossing his toys. It ripped houses and lives apart. It even wrecked the weather pattern. I remember it snowed that winter. I remember because it was my first snow and my first snowman. Since then, no other hurricane could compare but every hurricane season brought the fear that, with it, would come another Hugo.
With that in mind, and since hurricane season is now well upon us (it began June 1st), I’ll share some of the tips I’ve picked up from nearly thirty years of hurricane seasons.
Southerners are notorious for sticking around during hurricane season. We’ve “seen it all”. But, sometimes even we have the sense to get out. Be sure to know the evacuation route for your area and have a map handy. Also, don’t wait until the last minute. The longer you wait, the more likely you’ll be caught in heavy traffic and you won’t get far enough when the storm strikes.
Batteries and Other Essentials
If you stayed and the electricity is out, then you’ll need to be able to power things like flashlights, lanterns, and radios. Be sure to have batteries for each device you’ll need to power. It also wouldn’t hurt to have one of those power packs for your cell phone.
Other essentials include
- a first aid kit
- canned food
- dry food
- pet food (if you have pets)
- extra medication
- important documents
I highly recommend having dried milk rather than buying regular milk, which can spoil. Did you know you can purchase MRE’s (Meals-Ready-to-Eat)? Though my military husband advises against having a diet solely comprised of MRE’s, they will certainly do in a pinch. And they keep forever.
Water, Water, Water
This is especially important for country dwellers. Hurricanes are liable to knock out power and compromise wells. Depending on where you live, and how extensive the damage is, you could be without power (and water) for hours or days. You’ll need not only drinking water but also water to flush toilets and do any cleaning.
We usually filled a bathtub with water, as well as one or two five gallon buckets, and that was our water for non-drinking purposes. Drinking water we kept in jugs and bottles. You really can’t have too much.
Batten Down the Hatches
Finally, if it looks like a hurricane is going to make landfall near (or on) you, then you’ll want to prepare your home.
Secure anything that can be picked up and tossed by the wind. This includes bicycles, trash, toys, etc. If you have a car port rather than a garage, then make sure that the car port is secured and isn’t going to go on a trip when blasted by 45 mph winds. Park vehicles away from trees (though that doesn’t really promise anything; my father did that one year and his truck was crushed by a cypress tree).
If you have working shutters, use them. If not, then consider applying duct tape to the windows in an X formation. That way, if the window breaks, glass won’t go flying everywhere. Or, you can just board up the windows with plywood.
If you live in a place prone to flooding, then move important documents and items to high ground.
Happy Hurricane Season
And those are your basic steps. For a more comprehensive list, read this page by the National Hurricane Center. If you plan to stay and ride out the weather, then good luck! If you plan to run at the first sign of a storm, well…maybe you’re smarter than the rest of us.