Letter Re: Hurricane Matthew–Some Lessons Learned

Good Morning, SurvivalBloggers,
SurvivalBlog recently had a very good list of hurricane preparation tips in Hurricane Matthew–Some Lessons Learned, written by a Florida resident. As a former 20+ year Florida resident I’d like to add to his excellent piece.

In Florida, hurricanes are a way of life, and the period from June 1 to November 30 is known as “hurricane season.” The period from December 1 to May 31 is known as “not hurricane season.”  “Not hurricane season” is when one should be doing their preparation for the other six months. During “not hurricane season” one can find plywood on sale occasionally, generators are plentiful, frequently at reduced prices, and contractors and handymen are available.
“Not hurricane season” is when one purchases plywood (tip: thicker is better), cuts it to fit windows and vulnerable doorways, drills mounting holes in it and labels each sheet as to which window or door it fits so installation can be done faster when a hurricane arrives during “hurricane season.” In short, anything non-perishable that one might need during “hurricane season” is procured and gotten ready during “not hurricane season.”  This includes laying out multiple travel plans to escape direct contact with a hurricane. As the writer pointed out, the primary travel direction in Florida when hurricanes are imminent is called “north.” Unfortunately, <i>everyone</i> in Florida knows this because they probably emigrated from “north” so like lemmings headed to the sea, all 20 million residents will instinctively, and simultaneously,  seek to return there because “north” traditionally does not have hurricanes.

There are a limited number of solutions to this problem: 1) Go “north” early, before everyone else, or; 2) Go in a different direction. Florida is only about 150 miles wide, which in the case of a hurricanes like Andrew in 1992 or Wilma in 2005 will not provide much protection, so diagonal travel may be required, for example Miami-to-Tampa, Ft. Pierce-to-Bradenton, Naples-to-Melbourne, etc. Pay close and frequent attention to the predicted hurricane track and adjust your destination, as necessary.

Perishable preps – refrigerated food, gasoline, etc. – are performed during “hurricane season” as soon as possible after a published track shows a hurricane is headed toward the Florida peninsula. It is possible that, should the hurricane not visit your area you will not be able to consume all the perishable food before it degrades beyond usefulness. Some of this is to be expected, and is called “the price of living in Florida.” Most Floridians faced with this problem either donate the food to a charitable organization while it is still good, or use it for a neighborhood cookout. Gasoline, properly and safely stored will not go to waste. What doesn’t go to generator usage will fit in your vehicle’s gas tank and can be consumed during daily transportation duties.

Speaking of gasoline, should one have to relocate and wish to bring along additional fuel, safe transport should be utilized. It is not safe to place filled gasoline containers inside a vehicle, so consider a trailer hitch-mounted basket for that purpose. If one has NATO steel cans, then four 20 liter cans  will lie flat inside a 20″x60″ hitch-mounted cargo basket with room for a waterproof 20″x60″x15″ gear bag on top, providing additional space for non-critical gear as well as somewhat camouflaging the gas cans. (Tip: Use a steel cable and combination padlock to secure the cans to the hitch-mounted carrier to prevent those who consider themselves “more needy” from diverting your supplies to their purposes. Combination locks eliminate the “where’s the key?” problem.)

It’s been said by many that “No plan survives contact with the enemy”, but that is no reason to not have a plan, and having a plan is no reason to not have multiple fallback plans. As the Marines teach, “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.” Consider likely scenarios, develop a plan to deal with them, then begin considering less likely scenarios and develop alternatives to deal with those.  Alterations to an existing plan to accommodate variations is much more easily accomplished than having to come up with a completely new plan each time a variation occurs. – N.K.

JWR Replies:  Your suggestion of short-term horizontal stowage of fuel cans has some merit, but I must remind our readers that it is crucial to first test every can you own to see if their gaskets are tight enough to prevent leaks, in that position!  If their gaskets are “weepy” and you must therefore stow them vertically, then I recommend that you find a large cardboard shipping box for an appliance (such as a stove or a compact refrigerator–NOT a high theft item like a generator!) that is large enough to camouflage your fuel cans.