I live in the area hit hardest by Hurricane Wilma a few years ago. We also got a direct hit by Katrina before she went for the gulf coast area. Between those two storms, I spent nearly a month without electricity and a bit longer without my other basic services. Since then, all of us here have been reevaluating our emergency plans. The most popular ways of surviving after a storm, gas generators and grills, are what just about everyone has and everyone is looking for more fuel for these items after a couple of days. Gas, propane and charcoal were scarce and impossible to find anywhere unless you waited a couple of hours in line for these items. Some would wait all day and not get any of what they needed. Most people did not have a "plan B." Here are some tips which are more cost effective and which can be used for any area without electricity:
Have a Sterno stove and fuel, or if you were a girl scout, you may know how to make something like this out of a coffee can for the stove and tuna cans, cardboard and wax for the Sterno. The advantage of this, in my eyes, is that this is safe to heat things up inside the house. In addition, the canned heat is relatively inexpensive, will boil water and heat or cook most meals. It is also shelf stable for a pretty long period of time and not as explosive as gas.
Have a camp shower or garden hoses. Without hot water to bathe in, life is really bad. A camp shower is basically a large plastic container painted black. In the sun, it heats in an hour or so, maybe less, even if there is snow on the ground. Or, you can use your existing water hoses filled with water in the sun. The water will be very warm. Of course, the more people in your family, the more you would need.
My company purchased for all of the employees a crank radio with adapters to recharge cell phones for Christmas. There are some which can also be powered with solar cells. Hunting around online, these can be quite cheap. Some are better than others and a cranking can last from five to ten minutes to an hour or more.
You'll need water. But why purchase bottled water when you can use empty two-liter bottles instead? I had always wanted one of those five-gallon ones used in water coolers. I found one in the trash after a picnic one morning. But, there are hundreds of ways to get containers, such as asking at any party for the empties. Just fill them up before the storm gets here.
Food. In my area, one of my local stores gives three free items with a $25 order before any coupons. When there are good hurricane supplies, I ask neighbors for their flyers (these only come in the mail with these coupons). I have gotten four six-packs of water for free, several cans of tuna, pasta, pasta sauce and other canned items. I also buy some "comfort food." Being stuck for days without your normal comforts is more mentally taxing than I thought it would be. So, having a pop tart or being able to heat a canned meal was nice after clearing trees, standing in long lines, etc.
If you live within easy distance of neighbors, it is nice to go meet new people, catch up, share a meal, etc. if you have an extended time after an emergency. As a result of Hurricane Andrew many years ago, this area started a "neighbors 4 neighbors" connection. Basically, we all look after and try to help whoever we can. After Wilma, many of us went back to work a couple of weeks before we got electricity. So, people with gas cans filled and delivered gas to people who did not have any. We brought in extra batteries, water, and food for people who still did not have electricity. My work even sprang for lunch for two to three weeks so we would not have to be out on the streets. To some of us, that was the only hot meal we had during that time. They also shortened work hours so that no person was traveling to or from work at night. This was extreme but being snowed in is just as isolating or more so. And, I was asked to relocate for a weekend by my work and left information with my neighbors as to where I was and how I could be reached.
The one thing I want to stress most is that any sort of emergency or weather incident can be a lot more traumatic than you would think. I do not believe that humans were made to be totally alone. So, get to know who is around you and make plans together to get through the emergencies. My church, as Andrew approached, made sure that every single in the church would be riding the storm out with one of the many families in the church. It was a good, secure feeling.
"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by mailto:MyStory@stretcher.com
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