What I Learned Living Through Harvey, by M.S.

I’ve lived through several disasters and learned some thing. The worst events, in my experience, were the World Trade Center attack, Hurricane Sandy in New York City, and then most recently Hurricane Harvey in Beaumont, Texas. South East Texas was hit with life threatening, devastating rain fall, which put entire cities under water, turned towns into islands, and crippled the municipal water system of Beaumont. The following is a list of lessons I learned during this experience.

1. I’m not overly paranoid.

I’ve been freedom oriented and interested in prepping for a while, and many of my family and friends think I’m just being overly paranoid. I was hoping this was the case, but unfortunately it’s not.

2. Every disaster, natural or otherwise, presents its own challenges and obstacles.

One common issue is self defense as well as defense of one’s family and belongings. This was a continual struggle while I lived in NYC, since although I managed to obtain a pistol license (which was an incredible challenge), my NYC Pistol License did not allow for carry outside of my residence. Once I moved to Texas, I immediately obtained my concealed carry license. Although I’m guilty of not carrying 24/7, it was certainly comforting knowing I have the ability to carry a gun for defense in instances such as a disaster or crisis. Everyone in Beaumont couldn’t have been nicer, perhaps because no one got to the point of desperation. However, I still carried, and I’m glad I did, just in case it got worse.

My petite, disabled wife is a strong believer in carrying concealed. If you ask her why, she’d tell you because there’s no other way she could fend off a 200lb man. I understand there are many people who don’t like guns. My response is to ask them if they dislike guns so much they’d refuse the ability to protect their family.

3. Keeping between one and three month’s worth of shelf stable food in your house is not ridiculous.

Beaumont was only cutoff from deliveries for a few days. Some of the outlying smaller towns were cut off for longer and didn’t benefit from all the MREs being distributed around Beaumont. Having enough food to stay home and not having to venture out into the chaos was priceless.

4. Minimizing injuries became an obvious priority, once the hospitals evacuated and shut down.

Being self-sufficient at home to not only protect my family and dwelling but to reduce the possibility of a car wreck or other accident became a priority.

5. Keep a water storage device on hand and fill it before a storm.

On day three of the hurricane, I finally decided to open my bathtub water bladder. I almost felt stupid filling it up but figured if now wasn’t the time, then when? And, of course, in the back of my mind I figured I was again being overly paranoid. My wife even made a joke while I was filing it. I texted my friends that lived in the area, reminding them to fill their tubs with water in case the water shut off. Only one of my friends actually did it, and ironically she was one of the few that didn’t lose running water. We lost city water the day after the hurricane.

Many people figured the worst was passed and started to relax. I usually keep enough bottled water to last a month, but having that extra amount in the tub that I could use to drink or wash my hands or face with, was priceless. Again, it kept me from having to go to water distribution sites or under-stocked stores.

6. A somewhat eye opener was that I didn’t have enough buckets of water for flushing toilets.

Five-gallon buckets are inexpensive and take up very little room in a shed or garage. In hind sight, if I had had a few, I could have filled them and left them outside. Instead, I had to make alternate arrangements, which was harder than I had anticipated, being that I live in a suburban neighborhood. (I, of course, wasn’t going to waste any of my precious drinking water.) One of the first things I bought after the storm were more buckets and a camp potty. I won’t be caught in that situation again. Many people took buckets or whatever vessels they had and filled them in the river or drainage canals to flush with. This just seemed like an unnecessarily dangerous task for multiple reasons.

7. If you have unscented regular bleach, it can be used for water purification in a pinch.

Luckily, it didn’t get to the point in my situation I needed bleach, but I was ready in case the water in the tub got stale, or I had to improvise water from another source. As a rule, I don’t buy scented or any other type of bleach other than ***regular***amazon.com/Clorox-Bleach-Regular-64-oz/dp/B0014D2BKY/ref= for that reason.

8. Fill the freezer with ice, just in case.

I miraculously didn’t lose power through the whole ordeal but plenty of others did and were without functioning freezers, for days if not weeks. It was nice and important, as with the water and food, to have enough to be able to share with those less prepared or less fortunate.

9. Fill up your gas cans.

I usually keep five gallons of ethanol-free gas. This is enough for my tools and to keep in the truck during a road trip, but it definitely wouldn’t have been enough to evacuate. In Beaumont, the roads opened up quick enough to get deliveries of gas, but some of the smaller, more isolated towns were running out and couldn’t get deliveries. I recently bought a 14-gallon container just to have. I don’t plan on keeping gas in it all the time, but if the time comes to evacuate, with that additional container, I’ve almost doubled the fuel capacity in my truck.

Not having to stop as frequently to gas up during an evacuation is safer and provides more of a possibility that I actually will make it out. During Hurricane Irma, Florida had a gas shortage with bumper to bumper traffic throughout the state. Having enough gas to get out of the danger zone could mean the difference of getting out or getting stranded.

10. Having a generator can make riding out the storm much more pleasant.

I was holding off on getting a generator installed, because of cost. I just called an electrician, and he is coming next month (since there is such a backlog). Suck it up and spend the money, especially if you have babies or children in your household. Just the comfort of being able to turn the lights on or run an A/C does wonders for morale, even when everything else outside is a mess.

11. Try not to accumulate dirty laundry.

I learned about dirty laundry the hard way. We had way too many dirty clothes and no way of washing them, because there was no running water. Luckily we didn’t run out of clean clothes, but it was getting close.

12. Have a garbage bag full of clothes and supplies ready to give out or donate when a storm hits.

We had donated clothes a week before the storm and hadn’t gone through our wardrobes since. During the storm we just went into our drawers and gave away clothes we would have otherwise still worn just to be able to offer something to those who lost everything and were displaced in the shelters. It would have been nice to have been more organized in that respect.

13. You can never have enough garbage bags and zip lock bags.

Garbage bags and zip lock bags were needed at evacuation and shelter sites. That’s something I usually have lots of, and I keep a whole roll of garbage bags in my bug-out bag.

14. Be ready to bug out when the time comes.

Have your vehicle packed with bags, food, water, gas, et cetera and ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Also, when things get bad, be dressed with everything you need to evacuate on you. In other words, 100% essentials must be on your person, such as important documents and medication. You can’t rely on your bag making it. Some shelters were requiring ID to get in. Some shelters also weren’t allowing firearms. Have all that information written down or memorized so you have a plan of where you will go if you have to.

Have a list of people’s phone numbers/addresses, in case you don’t have your phone or it’s not working. Those in shelters that couldn’t get picked up by friends or family had to be flown by military cargo plane to San Antonio and Dallas. The bizarre thing is there have been no reports on the news or otherwise as to where these people are or if and when they’re coming back. It wouldn’t take much to be one of those people.

15. Email all important documents to yourself so that you can access it from any computer.

16. Keep $1,000 cash.

We were late doing a lot of these things, and in a bigger city, such as NYC, such resources would have been unavailable. Monday (during the storm) we were able to get more supplies, gas, and money.

17. Live in a medium-sized, industrial town where there aren’t not too many people but it gets supplies quickly.

Beaumont has about 120,000 people. This seems like it is a good size. There were plenty of supplies. Smaller towns ran out of supplies quicker and took longer to get supplies, as well as military help, therefore staying isolated longer. Larger cities have too many people and not enough supplies. There is also no way of getting enough supplies in for all the people in need. The balance of people to supplies in Beaumont seems right. The fact that so much industry is in the area was a huge benefit as well. The only reason our water was turned on so quickly was because the oil refineries and big construction companies rigged temporary pumps to pump river water into the water treatment plant.

This ideal ratio of people to space and supplies I believe also helped with everyone being pleasant and generous, as opposed to angry and greedy. People were offering food and supplies everywhere. There were no instances of looting in Beaumont. Just for full disclosure, there was one murder during the storm, but it was determined not to be storm related. Compare this to NYC during Hurricane Sandy where people were stealing everything. During Sandy in NYC, we had the generator chained up in the back yard and I was still nervous it was going to get stolen.

18. Don’t buy or have anything you can’t walk away from.

A big reason people stay during a disaster is to protect their possessions. I fully understand this as I am also attached to my possessions. Possessions represent, at the very least, the time spent accumulating that wealth. You have to be able to abandon your possessions and house in order to protect your life and those of your family. Don’t go down with the ship (or house).

19. Don’t forget to help those around you in need and be as generous with your time and money as you are able to.

I’m extremely lucky and grateful that I was not displaced and my home only received minor damage.

20. Finally, I’d like to thank everyone in Beaumont, Texas and the surrounding states and areas.

As I mentioned previously, people couldn’t have been more generous. Words fall short in describing the civilians, risking their lives, performing water rescues in their own boats, or people BBQing in parking lots, spending their time and personal resources, giving out food to everyone. It was truly the embodiment of “Love thy neighbor”.

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 $1,095 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),
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  7. Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value), and
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Second Prize:

  1. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
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Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
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  6. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).

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.


  1. I really appreciate the tips in this article. There were a couple I never would have thought of. But more than that, I heartily approve of the attitude. Nothing sensationalist, just solid preparation tips and a desire to help those around him.

  2. Great article! I would like JWR opinion on the safety keeping gas in a vehicle as I just don’t know. Also, what are his thoughts on emailing important documents to yourself. It seems like a great idea, but is it too easy for hackers?

    Thank you,

    1. I can tell you first hand that it would be very unsafe to carry extra gas in your vehicle unless it was an emergency. Just a little over a month ago I was returning to my home in Wyoming from a class reunion in Missourah and I had two 5 gallon containers of kerosene in my trunk that I bought in Missourah for my camp heater since kerosene is much cheaper in Missourah, to make a long story short, I was rear ended on I29 and both containers of kerosene ruptured and soaked everything in the trunk. Sure would hated for it to have been gasoline. who knows what would have happened. Trekker Out.

  3. from middle florida…73 years…my mother and wife would always wash clothes and clean the house before a storm….we lost power for 9 days…with 5 cases of water in the chest freezer we still had ice at day 7 when we left town. we live in a city and never lost water. living on a well is a lot more fun(work,plan,store). i had a battery powered fan the wife ran all week on the same set of 8 D cells, she REALLY LIKED that fan!!!!
    i restocked water and batteries early but the day before found the radios needed C cells…most ALL the batteries were GONE at LOWES i found a few at the contractors checkout .

    1. Batteries are batteries and volts are volts. I can’t take credit for this, but during Hurricane Charlie we had a radio that needed 6, 1.5V batteries, which we did not have. My brother taped together an assortment of D’s, C’s and AA’s and stuffed them in the battery compartment. Worked like a champ.

  4. Re: gas cans in cars. Can’t comment on the safety, but Canadians routinely fill up 3or4 plastic gas cans here in the U.S., take home to Canada in the back of their mini suvs. I’ve begun swapping out my own plastic cans for metal ones, which I understand don’t leak fumes, so the gas stays fresh longer.

  5. I don’t keep a lot of food in the fridge, since there’s only my wife and I living here. Because of the lack of food in he refrigerator there can be a large shift in temperature when the door is opened. In order to fix this, we keep about 10 large blue cooler packs in the freezer and 10 in the refrigerator. The cooler packs are about 8”x8”x2” The rotation between fridge and freezer is done weekly.

    This has two benefits. It reduces the temperature swing, preventing the fridge compressor from running non-stop, and when we expect a long power outage, we move some those into a few coolers and put the food there.

    When this refrigerator dies, I’ll be getting a model with the freezer on the bottom instead of top or side. Since cold air flows down, it should help keep the colder temperature in the freezer longer.

    1. You might consider a chest freezer with a thermostat that keeps it at ‘refrigerator’ temperatures. You can open the top, dance with your wife, and come back to the freezer and it won’t have changed temperature at all, since cold falls and heat rises.
      You may need two chest freezers: one to refrigerate and one to freeze.

  6. With regards emailing documents to yourself, it will depend on how your email system works. Some systems keep all the emails on the mail server unless you decide to delete a given email. Others do not keep the email once it has been downloaded to your PC. I use gmail setup so it keeps copies of all my emails. That way I can access them from anywhere I can reach the Internet.

    My preferred way to backup important files is using DropBox. I keep all important files in my DropBox which stores them in a secure server in the “cloud”. I have computers in two states which also store everything in my DropBox. Each of my laptops, stores a subset of the entire DropBox, and can access the rest through the Internet. I can even access my Dropbox from my iPhone or iPad.

  7. Documents should be scanned onto a flash drive and put into your BOB.

    Thanks for a great article. I suggest you look at the Long Term Fuel storage link at Solar1234. Science-based recommendations. Go with PRI-G for gas, NOT Sta-bil. Get the 15 gallon barrels with tight bungs.

  8. We were 10 miles from the Harvey eyewall in Victoria. Sustained winds of 80 +- and some gust of 90+- (this was not a major storm), compared to 1961 storm Carla which hit the area around 130 +- it was a major storm at landfall.
    Have prepped for many years, but every storm is different. As long as you have the basics Water, food, gas, propane and a generator there is no need for lost refrigerator food, or a lack of too many discomforts. A stronge residence is a requirement.
    This is my 3rd storm in my location since the 1961 storm. Major flood in 1998 kept power out for 7 days as well as Harvey.
    Lots of rain caused problems a couple of hundred miles from the storms epicenter, but those areas did not receive the wind.
    Tropical storm Alicia cause considerable damage from flooding in Houston as well as Hurricane Ike.
    I did have damage as well as losing a 33’ sailboat that went through the Cat 4 eye in Rockport. It built up quick and disappated quickly. We had approximately 18” of rain in a short period of time causing lowland flooding.

    In perspective, those that prepare do ok without outside help, but as usual there are those that never learn, and every day is a new day, and what they learn yesterday has nothing to do with today or tomorrow.
    At 70 years of age I have less and less to tolerance of those who never try to help themselves.

    1. Sort of tongue in cheek: How much TP would you store if you knew none would be available for the foreseeable future? I think of survival essentials as being similar to fuel in a airplane: the only time you have too much is when you’re on fire!

  9. I was just down in Beaumont with Team Rubicon helping clean out houses of flood victims. The people of Beaumont, Bevil Oaks and Port Arthur are great. They lost everything, but their dignity. Great article.

  10. Emailing the documents to yourself. Don’t. Unless you are OK with Google/Other email entity being able to scan and read your documents.

    If you are, please encrypt the documents and then log in to your account via a browser and start a new email, attach the file(s) and save it as a draft for easy retrieval.

    As for USB thumb drives in your BOB, make sure you are using one that has at least 128bit encryption. Also, make sure you have a PDF reader that you can install (download the full installer)on any computer on the thumb drive also. You would hate to go a computer that is not yours and try to open a document, but the computer does not have a PDF viewing application.

    For me… Originals in the bank safe deposit box, hard copies at home in my G.O.O.D evacuation bag, an encrypted copy on my computer, an encrypted copy in the cloud (Dropbox, Box, Gmail, Microsoft… does not matter) and on an encrypted thumb drives in each B.O.B.

    Please be very careful, if someone got a hold of your info electronically, they can recreate your life as theirs and it would take a very long painful time to work it all out.

    Remember to always keep your passport updated.

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