After Action Report On Hurricane Irma, by Florida Dave

The Prep Prepping

Our prepping to deal with Hurricane Irma was done in a series of steps based on the probability of a strike affecting my area. I wrote about this in a previous article posted on SuvivalBlog. My preps for a Hurricane started two weeks prior when I notice a storm taking a track towards Cuba and local meteorologists saying, “We need to watch this one.” I had recently completed a quick inventory and tested the generator, lanterns, and camping stove. So my two week prior check was done, or so I thought.

Pre-Labor Day Preliminary Prepping

On the Thursday before the Labor weekend, August 31, Irma was tracking towards Cuba and ten days out. It was then that I did the following:

  1. Checked my supplies.
  2. Purchased 30 gallons of fuel in 5-gallon cans for use with the generator and cars. (I added 4oz of Stabil to each 5-gallon can of gas. This will keep the gas good for up to 1 ½ years.)
  3. Purchased 40 Gallons of purified water for home and 10 gallons for use at work.
  4. Purchased one package of D batteries.

Sunday, September 2

The Storm was tracking more towards Florida and the masses were not yet preparing. At that point, I:

  1. Filled up all the cars.
  2. Cleaned the rain barrels. Rain barrels can provide my family with about 150 Gallons of water each time it rains. The water is clear and silt free. To purify the water, I run it though a Berkey water filter.
  3. Pulled the box fans, coolers, and storm shutter fasteners from the attic.
  4. Picked up AAA batteries at Lowes and salt for the water softener. (It could be a long time before salt would be available.)
  5. Shopped Walmart for last minute items to pick up: two gallons of unscented, regular bleach, large pack of toilet paper, bandages, and some additional first aid supplies, dish soap, and body soap.

Storm Tracks Toward Florida

 Monday, September 4

The storm was tracking towards the east coast of Florida. After garbage and recycling was picked up, I cleaned and bleached both cans. From this point on I took garbage to work and tossed it in the dumpster, thinking it could be a couple weeks or longer before garbage would get picked up. Should the storm get close to us, I would fill each can about 1/3 up with water to keep it weighted down and tuck them between shrubs on the side of the house. My son cleaned the rain gutters.

Tuesday, September 5

The hurricane path was now tracking towards the center of Florida and panic prepping was all around. Gas lines were long, 10-15 deep at Costco. The county was preparing to order Level A and then Level B Mandatory Evacuations. People were trying to get out. Ironically, people were still being civil and polite. My prepping of supplies was done except for keeping the cars filled up.

Wednesday, September 6

The track looked like it was holding on the center of the Florida, and reports were saying my area was expecting Tropical Storm force winds (below 74 mph). People were a little more relaxed. I needed some non-prep related items from Costco, so I stopped by on the way home from work. Gas lines were five deep, but at least they had gas. Most stations by this point were out of gas, though some still had diesel. I was able to get some eggs and items I would like to have but did not need. The lines at Costco were normal, but water was completely gone. I overheard a Costco employee say they only had 2500 gallons of fuel left.

Thursday, September 7th

The track had changed, and we were on the X for a CAT3-CAT 4 storm. The seriousness of the situation was sinking in. People were not panicked; they were frightened and almost sad in their demeanor. Roads were clogged with people evacuating. Most gas stations did not have gas. I had overlooked one thing and that was shuttering my front door. This required installing mounts using Tapcon screws, which I had purchased some time ago. I did this after getting home from work. It was tiring and kept me from doing other prep work I should be doing. (Note to self: Next project like this, don’t procrastinate!)

Serious Matters With High Patrol Escorts

It was on Friday and Saturday, September 8 and 9, that the Florida Highway Patrol began escorting tankers to gas stations. Regular gas was becoming available although only at a few gas stations. By Friday night there were very few cars on the road, and most business were closed. Both my wife and I found regular gas, so we topped the tanks off. By Saturday at noon all stores, including gas stations and grocery stores were closed. Walmart, Lowes, and Home Depot may have stayed open a few hours later.

The roads were empty; it was eerily quiet. Local and state government personnel held regular news conferences, One thing that stuck in mind was when the Sheriff stated, “After the storm, the County would be locked down; no one would be allowed in until a full damage assessment was done.” The reasoning was to make sure electrical lines and trees were not blocking roads and EMS personnel could operate without interference from a hoard of people trying to get back in. I began a 12-hour on/12-hour off work schedule preparing the business I work for to operate during the storm.

Remaining Preps

My wife and two teenagers completed the bulk remaining preps, which included the following:

  1. Installed the hurricane shutters.
  2. Brought all loose objects in from outside.
  3. Made ready two battery-operated lanterns and two additional flashlights.
  4. Put new batteries in the radio.
  5. Communicated with family members and asked them to use text messaging only when communicating and to not worry if they don’t hear from us for a period of time.
  6. Finished all the laundry.
  7. Turned the fridge and freezer temps down.

Final Preps as Storm Pounds Key West

Then on Sunday and Monday, September 10 and 11 Irma was pounding Key West and destroying infrastructure. At home before going into work, we finalized plans for dealing with the storm. Prior to wind gusts starting, we did the following:

  1. Moved immediate needed items from the fridge and freezer to a cooler. Fridge and freezer were not opened from this point on.
  2. Cleaned the kitchen sink and ran the disposal unit.
  3. Charged cell phones and laptops.

I had my “go bag” with me and necessary supplies at work. Now, we rode the storm out and hoped our preps were done right.

Irma, The Aftermath.

The storm had past and we got lucky, experiencing only “tropical storm” force winds in our area. We did have a major power outage affecting most of the county. There was no power at the house; however water, sewer, and cell service were all working.

County Opened Only After Prompt Damage Assessment

It did not take long for the county to complete a damage assessment, and the county was opened around noon on Monday 9/11. On my way home at 3:30pm, I noticed none of the traffic lights were working. The city already had generators running to provide power to the lift stations (sewage pumps). City and County LEOs were positioned at major intersections and around gas stations. They kept traffic flowing by preventing left hand turns at major intersections. All intersections were treated as 4-way stops. Driving was slow, but with little traffic on the road driving was not much of a problem.

I arrived home to hear the generator running and was told my son had fired the generator up at 10am. Everything in fridges survived. The generator was then run 7am-11am, 1pm-3pm, 6pm to 11pm. The schedule easily allowed us to charge laptops and cell phones, provided lights as needed, and kept fridges cold. This schedule required five gallons of fuel per day. Prior to the storm, I gave my son instructions on how to get the generator going, which he executed to perfection.

Generator Setup and Operation

My generator setup and operation is as follows:

  1. The generator is a standard 5500 Watt gas generator.
  2. The generator connects to an NEMA L14-30P 30 AMP outlet on the side of my house. This outlet accommodates up to a 7500 watt generator.
  3. The outlet feeds a 30 AMP breaker on my main panel.

Cutting House Power Over To Generator

To cut over to generator, the process is manual and is as follows:

  1. Turn off all breakers.
    1. Cut the main breaker off.
    2. There is a metal device that slides up, blocking the main breaker and allowing the generator breaker to be turned on. This prevents back feeding the grid or damaging the generator when power is restored.
    3. The generator is locked to a large tree and grounded to a grounding rod using battery jumper cables.
  2. Turn on the generator and let it warm up for 5-10 min. Flip the generator power output switch on and the generator is now feeding the panel.
    1. Breakers marked in green can be turned on; those marked in red should not be turned on.
    2. Breakers are turned on one at a time. When a breaker is turned on, anything not necessary on that breaker is turned off.

Actions During Power Outage

During the power outage, we did the following:

  1. Food from the fridge was used first, and cooking was done using the grill as an oven or using the side burner.
  2. It was hot in the house but not intolerable. Nights were relatively cool. Taking a cold shower right before bed helped.
  3. Coffee kept me going. We made a pot each morning while the generator was running. If it got bad, I have an ample stash of instant coffee.
  4. During the power outage, we always had someone stay at the house.
  5. Time was passed reading, listening to the radio, cleaning up, and prepping food.

I have not discussed security for OPSEC reasons. If anyone tried to rob us or do us harm, they would have a had very bad day.


  1. The stress of dealing with these situations cannot be underestimated. Prepping for and dealing with the aftermath takes a lot of energy. Sleep and eating schedules are thrown into disarray. For three days prior to the event, I got about three or four hours of sleep per night. The day of landfall, I was up for 36 hours. I ate when I could and not my normal diet. Lack of sleep, a not so great diet, and stress leads to slower reaction time, clouds judgment, increases frustration and irritability. This can be mitigated by paying attention to diet, prepping as much as possible way ahead of ahead of time, and resting whenever possible.
  2. The generator was too loud. There were many generators running in my area, so the noise was not an OPSEC problem. I am working on a solution to quiet the generator down. Solar would be nice, but it is not in my budget.
  3. By the second night of no power, some neighbors were starting to get irritable. This will be a problem for longer events.
  4. Hooking the generator into the panel as stated above worked great. There were no extension cords strewed about the house. It was a good investment and made things easier.
  5. I like outdoor cooking and thought I would cook up some good meals using the camp stove or open fire. That did not happen. I was just too tired. We cooked quick and easy using the grill.
  6. Gas lines started earlier than anticipated. I need to store some extra fuel for the cars.
  7. Government from the state down to the local level did a fantastic job preparing for Irma and managing the aftermath. Their communication was excellent. Local TV and radio were a big help with communication. Critical infrastructure was protected and brought back online quickly and efficiently. There was very little looting in my area and surrounding communities.
  8. We did not lose water or lift stations. It would have been much worse if we had.

Final Thoughts

This was a wake-up call. Sixty miles in the storm track made a huge difference. My preps worked fine for me and my family, but we have some tweaks to make. We only had the inconvenience of not having air-conditioning for few days. We could have gone way longer and in much worse conditions if we had to. However, the neighbors were already on edge and that would have or could have been bad.

Thanks to JWR, HJL, and all who have contributed to SurvivalBlog. I salute those of you who have relocated to the American Redoubt.

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been another entry for Round 73 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,090 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  7. American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses, and
  8. Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of (a $180 value).

Second Prize:

  1. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  2. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  3. A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
  4. A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
  5. A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
  6. A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by,
  7. A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
  8. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
  6. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from (a $240 value), and

Round 73 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.



  2. Something that helps with all the stress that you spoke about, which my wife and I experienced during Irma, was taking multivitamin once a day. We were without power for 11 days and also experienced the eating and sleeping disruptions. I think supplementing the body with the vitamins helped us avoid getting sick with the stress of preparing the home, during the Cat 3 hurricane and the cleanup after, especially for more mature persons who are on the shadier side of their prime years.

    1. Great idea. I too am in the mature persons group and have supplemented my diet with vitamin supplements for over 30 years. While I got tired as the event progressed, I bounced back fairly quickly and did not get sick during or after the event. Most of my fatigue is due to age, I just can’t do what I did when I was in my 20s, so better preparation is now even more critical.

  3. Thanks for the details. I learned a new thing today. 64 years old and a Hugo survivor. One thing I might add is to open the main breaker before the lights go out for good. that might prevent that surging on refrigerator/freezer, and Air Conditioner circuits that can be very harmful to those compressors and circuit boards.

  4. Good point from Dataware on preemptive grid separation; additionally I would share our solution to the A/C problem (assuming you don’t have a generator capable of supplying whole house AC for a week); I purchased one of those 115 VAC portable units that the big-box stores sell. It’s large enough to cool a bedroom, will easily be powered off a standard generator (<10 amps), and requires no permanent installation.

    1. Thanks Florida Guy. I have a portable AC unit that we did not use because we only incrementally ran the generator. I have used the AC unit which is a 10,000 BTU unit when our main AC was out an it cooled a room perfectly. My concern during the Irma event was sleeping in a room with AC and running a generator made it hard to hear noises for security reasons. Also I wanted to be respectful of my neighbors and not run the generator between 11pm and 7am. You can bet once I get the generator quieted down and can run it day and night, I will be running that AC.

      Florida Guy, you have a great idea using a portable AC and any one living in the south or tropical climates should have a portable AC unit.

  5. The described system of connecting the generator to the house appears to be safe as a transfer switch completely isolates the generator from the grid and does not rely on just opening the main breaker. If that is not the case then a transfer switch must be installed.

    For others considering implementing a similar system here are some thoughts. I had a well pump on my retreat property that was a 30 amp 220 volt unit. I wired a manual transfer switch to the pumps so it could be powered by the grid or the generator with isolation from the no used source.

    This is a link to a typical transfer switch but not the single circuit on that I used if you were powering more than one circuit. Realize that you will probably have to institute manual load management.

  6. I’m off grid here so power is dependent on my efforts but people on grid should consider installing part of what I use, namely;
    A battery bank and an inverter. Mine are 8 golf cart batteries and a 4kw inverter. These run the house full time. Those without out solar can charge the batteries through the inverter. My propane powered 8kw genset will charge mine in an hour, once a day. A 4kw would work just as well.
    This way people can have almost normal conditions without excessive use of a generator.

  7. This is an excellently written, well-organized account of the incident. Thank you very much for taking the time to write it; your real experiences are so valuable to all of us. I especially appreciate your mention of things you could have done better, will do next time, etc. It sounds as if your family was a help during this stressful time. Give my respectful regards to your son!

  8. I had been living on my boat in the San Francisco bay area and had just recently moved into an apartment with my GF. We had a hammer wind come through. (A hammer wind is when you are working on your boat and put the hammer down on the dock. The wind then blows the hammer off of the dock into the water) Anyway, suffice it to say that it was a very strong wind. Power was knocked out in our apartment for three days. Driving up to the apartment building you would see light in only one of the apartments. Ours! We had brought our kerosene lamps from the boat to the apartment. They were a great asset and we now have them available in our house in the Pacific Northwest.
    Fuel for same stores for a long time but I did have one small plastic bottle that fell off of a shelf in the garage. The (old) plastic fractured and we now keep the fuel in a blue kerosene jerry jug.

    We had a very full fridge and by leaving it closed the entire time we were able to keep all of the food. Granted temps were moderate and in a warmer climate it would not last as long.

    I do have a couple of questions for the author and the readers. First, I just added Stabil to a couple of 5 gallon jugs of gas and the directions said 2 ounces for 5 gallons. Why did you add 4 ounces? Second question is on the generator muffler. We have a 7500 watt duel fuel propane or gasoline generator hooked up to manual transfer switch. Where we live power outages are not uncommon and we have used the generator a few times and it is loud. Would we risk damaging it by installing a second muffler? I’m thinking of maybe attaching an old VW bug type muffler to the exhaust. I know that muffler design is critical on 2 cycle engines and ours has a 4 stoke engine. Thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.

    1. from experience…it is very hard to quiet a noisy generator…muffler has very little effect…generator housing very difficult to construct with proper ventilation and also to keep the muffler from burning it down…the best solution in my opinion is to buy a quiet generator to begin with…check the decibel ratings..I usually use a Honda 2000 watt when noise is an issue…also bigger is not better..worse fuel efficiency and more noise…I have an off grid cabin and have wrestled with these issues for several years…there is no easy solution except solar which I use and very much recommend

      1. I’ve been in the power generation business for over 30 years (mechanical engineer, power plant maintenance superintendent, and power plant manager) and have made a commitment to my wife that we will have power in times of emergency. As such, we have a number of generators. The quietest generator is a military diesel MEP-803a Tactical Quiet (1800 rpm). They’re available on Ebay and elsewhere for around four or five thousand dollars. The next best is our Onan 7.5JB propane generator with an automotive muffler. It also is an 1800 rpm machine. We have other generators including the Honda 2000eu, which is a good quiet little generator. Each of the generator have specific purposes based on ease of setup, needs at the time, and noise level. For a substantially sized generator, the one thing to shoot for is 1800 rpm, for both quietness and reliability. Keep in mind that the big box store generators are 3600 rpm screamers that are destined for short lives.

    2. Hi, a couple of answers to your questions:
      1) Sta-Bil – 2oz for 5 GAL of gas will get you one year 1 year of storage of fuel. Using 4oz will get you up to 2 years of storage. Nothing stores great in Florida due to heat and humidity so I use 4oz and swap fuel every 12-16 months. So far the gas has always been good.

      2) Regarding a muffler for the generator. I removed the factory muffler had an adapter welded on to which I connect a flexible pipe to a standard car muffler. I have been told by several engine mechanics that using a muffler will decrease power output of the generator engine, by how much? I do not know. Also, when I first fired the generator up after installing the muffler I discovered the generator makes significantly more noise than the exhaust. I have removed the muffler until I get a better understanding of the power loss and build an enclosure for sound dampening.

      I think your choice of a 7500 Watt duel fuel generator is an excellent choice. It’s not to big to move around and will put out enough power for the essentials.

  9. Regarding generator noise. A muffler shop once told me to hold a rag over the exhaust side of the muffler [for a moment] and if that doesn’t quiet it down neither will a muffler. Usually the noise is coming from the mechanics of both the engine and the generator.Solution buy a generator with a lower decibel level or build a sound proof box around the generator. Note: remember to build in proper ventilation for cooling and exhaust.

  10. PRE—pared pre being the key pre storm or incident cook alot of cold or frozen food like 5 to ten days worth of meat rice pasta . put in ziplock bags or plastic containers . then when needed reheat or eat cold ! no power would you rather have raw chicken or baked / grilled / fried chicken ready to go ? same with pork or beef or fish . if it will go bad anyways cook it PRE before then put back in fridge if you have to evacuate you can load it up and take with to eat as you move . if crowds from other area’s are around food being cooked “smells” after event will bring alot of hungry folks to you location and could be dangerous . power and or fuel to warm is minimal. plus your diet/intake will be wonderful not sparse and your stress level will be less with not having to worry about cooking food daily . the time not cooking can be invested into recovery or whatever .package it into portions that will work for your family/group to control inventory and access into cold storage time to minimize loss of temp sorting out later. even label with marker for ease of id . cook more than you think you will need by factor of x2 ie 3 days cook 6 days,,, 5days cook 10days if recovery happens quicker then great help others with meals or don’t cook after power comes on for couple of days.

  11. I lived in hurricane alley all my life and lived through 7 of them. That being said SOLAR is the best way to go. Fuel gets burned, candles melt down, but the sun will sooner or later start to shine again. SOLAR lights/radios you keep in the window 24/7, a huge battery you attach a trickle charger to so it will be topped off when you need it, and solar panels NOT attached but in a closet so you can set them up where needed.

    This and converting most of your portable electronics to rechargeable C, AA, and AAA batteries. Using converters for D sized.

    One other very necessary item; a gallon of hurricane wine in the pantry.

  12. Great post thanks. I do have a question, what is the grounding rod for the generator? And how deep is it sunk into the ground.

    I am in real rocky soil that makes placing anything I into the ground very difficult.

    Thanks again

    1. Hi Skip,

      I am using an existing ground rod that I am told is 8 feet deep. Below is YouTube video showing how to use a homemade water drill to bore a hole for a ground rod.

      You can also dig a trench an bury it vertically as long as the trench is two feet deep.

      Try looking for an exiting rod near a Phone or /CATV Box or by the electrical panel.

      Good Luck.

  13. Excellent communication of the events leading up to the main event. Take away, spend time now with some critical thinking of what you will need and do. Some events require minutes or hours to execute. Stay safe and prepared at all times my friends.

  14. I managed to jerry-rig (hope I can say that without offending anyone) a motorcycle muffler to a 10hp/6500 Briggs 4 stroke engine, with a buried 8′ tailpipe. Change in exhaust was less than 2 decibles according to a local code enforcement officers meter.
    It seemed to run ok but I eventually removed it because of no real information available on back pressure specs for small engines, and no real advantage.
    I finally went with an 2500/5000 inverter and an old truck with a 180amp alternator. Easy peasy, just connect to battery, fire her up, switch on the inverter, bring it up slowly. No more having a cardiac arrest jerking a recoil start!
    Ran the reefer, window unit AC when needed, puter, and lights over an 83hr outage after Irma. (have to have a longer outage to fully depend it though)

  15. Good article, excellent timeline account.
    On the generator noise its hard to quiet them down but I have a dedicated shed that I can leave the doors open to direct the exhaust outwards which also directs the majority of the noise. That direction is towards that backside of my house. While some find that irritating at 100 feet away its not bad and allows me to listen for any disturbance in motor noises. It also keeps ice off the controls during winter storms.
    Again great job in doing and articulating the account.

  16. Randy, Keith, Thanks for the opinions. I was hoping for an easy fix. Oh well. My problem is I can’t go much smaller and be able to run my 220V submersible pump. I’m thinking now I’ll build a dedicated shed and insulate the heck out of it. I can rig an exhaust fan to run when the generator is on.

  17. Excellent article,a wider view of weather patterns/trends may have given a longer lead time(the track kept progressing west due to a buckle in the jet stream). A little meteorology is just one more on the list of preps to learn.

  18. Great article. We came through Hurricane Harvey, 5 miles from eyewall. Lots of tree, shingle and fence damage. Lost a 33’ sailboat owned for 37 years in Rockport. We were on generator for 7 days, ran a window unit at night till midnight. A week after the storm we had a 30 amp plug wired into the main house panel to eliminate the suicide cord. Also picked up a new 10kw dual fuel. Wish I had it during Harvey, then I could have used the 5kw to run the well. Oh well we are ready next time. Refrigerator and freezer kept food at proper temp with management. We have gas stove, water heater and of course an outside grill. Noise was not much of a concern, except to us, as our nearest neighbor is several hundred yards away.
    The new gen will run most everything with the exception of the 5 ton AC. Of course not at all one time.
    We had most preps well done ahead of time with lanterns, gas, food and water.
    We are thankful that the storm quickly downgraded to a 1 by the time it hit us, or there would have been a lot more damage.
    It has made an impression on the neighbors though, nearest one is getting a whole house Generac, neighbor across street is installing a 45kw Cummings to run his house and honey farm operation.
    Lessons learned. Few nights without AC in South Texas is an eye opener.

Comments are closed.