At the time I began writing this, Hurricane Irma had hit only eight days earlier. From it and other hurricane experiences, I have learned some valuable lessons. The first is, use your head. No, do not use it to hammer the shutters down. What I mean is, use some common sense.
Demonstrating a Lack of Reasoning
Here are some things that happened here in South Florida that demonstrated a lack of reasoning:
- A guy burned down his house because he wasn’t careful while pouring gas in his generator that was running. The spillage later caught on fire, torching his entire hacienda.
- My girlfriend forgot to take a shower right before the hurricane hit. On the fifth day without water or a bath, she sprayed Febreze all over her body. She’s now waiting for recovery from the repercussions of that move.
- A guy waited until the last minute to put his hurricane shutters up on the second floor. The wind gusts blew over the ladder, and he died.
- People spent lots of money on huge amounts of bottled water and then discovered they had no food.
- Many people stayed in the Keys. They stayed even after they were ordered to evacuate.
- I saw this guy on the news looking for shells in the Tampa Bay, where the water had just been sucked out to sea.
Common Sense Survival Tips
- Don’t wait until the last minute to leave town, because there’s going to be a million other people doing the same thing. Three days before is pretty good, preferably in the middle of the night.
- Make sure you have a paper map in your car. Do you know, those old-fashioned pieces of paper with different colored lines printed on them? Newsflash: Your GPS won’t get you anywhere when the cell phones don’t work.
- Cell phones do not work after a hurricane, even if you have battery. Text messages will work, though I’m not sure why.
- Don’t put “big Xs” of masking tape on your windows. Not only will it look stupid but you won’t be able to get it off when the sun bakes the adhesive to the window. It won’t help to prevent your windows from blowing out.
- Get an off-road SUV that carries stuff. You can’t get much of what you expect to ever own again in a Mini-Cooper. Plus, with millions of people on the same road, you may need to do some creative driving.
- Take the back roads. Use your paper map. Sleep in the day. Drive during the night. Do the opposite of what everyone else is doing.
- Don’t stay in a mobile home. It’s literally like standing outside during the hurricane.
- Don’t wait until the last minute to get gas. Many people waited in line for the whole day and got nothing.
- You don’t need a million paper towels. Use real towels. You can actually hand wash them in tap water!
- Baby wipes are good alternatives to showers.
- Don’t buy bottled water and then throw empty plastic jugs out to the street. Save all plastic bottles and put water in them. Freeze the bottles and turn your refrigerator into a cooler. This will save you from frantically going out to look for more bottled water or buying ice and then complaining you have no money.
- Don’t run the generator in your house. You’ll fall asleep and never wake up. It’s called carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Don’t open your windows during a hurricane, thinking you need a breeze to break the humidity or that you need to let the house “breathe” or relieve pressure. Doing so will result in a panoramic sky-view of the storm, as your roof will fly off.
- Turn your air conditioning down to as cold as possible, a couple of days before you lose power. It takes that long to get super cold. Then when you lose power, it will take a couple of days to get back to normal. This way you don’t die of heat exhaustion on day one.
- Feeling too cold? Suit up! Drag out those winter sweatshirts and sweatpants. Wear layers, baby. It’s the style!
- Your power is more likely to go out than the water pipes breaking.
- Don’t drive in water where you can’t see the bottom. Not only may you anger some alligators but your car could get stuck in the water. The alligators may then eat you. Or, you could just sit on the roof of your car for a week until the water subsides. Ditto to snakes.
- After the storm, don’t open your door to anyone who says they are FEMA or the electric company. They will stick a gun in your face and then it’ll be “bye-bye” to all your stuff that the hurricane didn’t take.
- Don’t go walking in puddles after the storm. Water is conductive of electricity, and power lines are down all over the place. ZAP!
Past Florida Hurricanes, Like Andrew
I have been through a few hurricanes here in Florida. However, for me, this one was the mother of all. I was in Miami’s Hurricane Andrew in the outer bands but was allowed into the worst damaged area right after the storm. This was the case because my husband was an insurance adjuster.
He was not a homeowner’s insurance adjuster but an automobile claims adjuster. However, the insurance companies were so desperate for insurance adjusters that if you had an insurance license for anything, you were told to strap a ladder to your car roof and go into the belly of the beast.
What I saw was staggering. There were huge, uprooted trees lying flat over roads, making access to homes impossible. Thirty-foot high mounds of tree branches and unrecognizable debris were all over. FUBAR was everywhere you looked.
People had their roofs blown off, with the harsh sun beating down on them. They were found wading around their homes in knee-high deep water acting dazed and zombie-like.
Prepare To Defend Property
I learned that you need to be prepared for a hurricane. Then you need to be prepared to defend your property.
A girlfriend who was in the eye of Hurricane Andrew saw her couch fly out the window as she ran into an adjacent room. Afterward, her husband slept for short periods of time in his running truck for two weeks, just to feel some cool air during the day. He stayed up all night, sitting by the front door with a shotgun.
Hurricane Irma- Andrew On Steroids
Hurricane Irma was like Andrew on steroids. Everyone was/is affected, and most people were affected significantly.
A friend showed us a picture yesterday of a famous bar in the Upper Keys that is there no more. The roof is sitting on the sand, and the building is gone.
As of now, no one is allowed into the Keys. I heard that just yesterday they started to open up some of Highway 1. There are still many trees down, covering the only road to get there. The military is using tanks to plow over fallen trees, in order to get to the people who ignored the evacuation order. All of the Keys is supposedly destroyed. Some people are living in tents outside of their homes. If they managed to salvage a tent.
And everyone knows that the east side of the hurricane is the “dirty” side. In this case, it could spawn hundreds and maybe thousands of tornadoes.
Natural Disaster Like Going Through Boot Camp
Going through a natural disaster like Hurricane Irma is like going through boot camp. At least that’s the closest analogy I can think of, having not actually been through boot camp. It tests and uses up every fiber of your emotional and physical strength, to the last drop, and then it squeezes out a few more drops.
I had this dream before the storm. It was of those biblical guys, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, not burning in the furnace they were thrown into. I felt like I went into an oven and came out alive. Really.
There is incredible physical stress. I could only sleep three hours a night and could barely eat. I couldn’t even eat a whole yogurt. Don’t worry about that diet you were on. You won’t even remember to eat. I lost five pounds in one week.
Then there’s the emotional stress of a Cat 5 Hurricane headed right toward you, only an hour away. Lucky for me, it turned due east in the last moments. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing this story.
Everything Turns To Evaluating Priorities
When a natural disaster hits, everything instantly turns into a game of priorities, falling in the hierarchy of the most important priority to the least important. I do mean “everything”. You think things like:
“Is milk more important than bread?
Perhaps bread is more important than water?
Is fruit more important that lunch meat?
How long before it spoils? Does cheese freeze?
How many loafs of bread can I fit in the freezer?
No wait – I need the freezer space for ice!
No wait—I need to put the lunch meat in the freezer…no wait—
I need gas to power the generator to make the freezer run!”
You get the picture.
The Body and Everybody Focuses on Survival
Unfortunately, in a survival situation, your body says it doesn’t really need that much sleep, because there’s too much else to do to survive. I know that I’m not the only woman who reacted this way. Every single woman I’ve met in the grocery store said the same thing.
Another interesting factoid is that everyone in the supermarkets was suddenly talking to each other. Complete strangers became your new chat buddies.
The grocery store attendants are listening to people’s stories. They were doing this while trying to stack bread, which was instantly snatched before they could get it on the shelves. People made lines at the bakery, waiting for the next batch of bread to be baked. It was then instantly sold out.
Women Looked Haggard
All the women looked haggard, including myself. I haven’t put on makeup for about two weeks. Forget my nails. I’m lucky if I can find a brush to run through my hair.
Hurricanes Are Gender Dividers
Speaking of hurricanes, I’ve noticed that they are the great divider when it comes to genders. The men, you know that other biological species, who is not supposed to be any different than women in this gender neutral world? Well, the men don’t look haggard like the women.
One primary reason is that they don’t wear makeup. Another shocker is that they are actually physically stronger than women. They are now in their glory while carrying plywood, dragging generators, and sawing down trees. You know; they’re doing physical labor.
Concerned of Women
We, women, are the ones that do all the worrying, the planning, and carry all the mental stress. We’re concerned with:
Where is the storm going?
What will we eat for dinner?
How will I keep the food from perishing until the next meal?
Where can I find bread? How will I get there? How long are the lines?”
In a survival situation, men and women instantly revert back to their instinctual gender-differentiated roles.
Top Scarce Commodities In A Natural Disaster
So, what I have gleaned is that these items are of utmost priority:
- Gas cans
Importance of Gas and Gas Cans
They’re important because you can’t get out of Dodge if you don’t have enough gas. When I left town last Thursday, the city of Miami was simultaneously evacuating 650,000 residents. On top of that, the Keys were evacuated just one day before. That’s a lot of people on the road. And a lot of people ran out of gas and were stranded by the side of the highway.
The gas stations instantly ran out of gas. Even though extra trucks were headed to refuel, they would quickly run out as well. There’s only so much gas one of those trucks can hold.
Not only do you need gas cans to get out of Dodge, but you need gas to power a generator when the power goes out. And five gallons, which is what a large gas can contains, will only last a day or two, if you shut it off periodically. And that’s just to power the refrigerator and a small A/C unit.
Bread is great for making sandwiches, but it takes up too much room in the freezer and will go bad if you don’t at least refrigerate it. It’s quite a dilemma. I’m thinking a bread maker might be handy, although I’m not sure how much power that thing needs to create a loaf.
Speaking of creating loaves, the garbage bag in the toilet with the cat litter is actually a workable solution when you don’t have water to flush the toilet. You don’t want to flush all the water you saved in the tub down the toilet. You need it to wash your face, brush your teeth, and clean your pits.
And to us ladies, you know how we have to pee all of the time? I actually had to do it on the side of the road when evacuating town, hiding behind an open car door. Any tips on improving that method would be greatly appreciated.
Now I have to go out hunting for gas.
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been the first entry for Round 73 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- 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.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
- 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,
- 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),
- An infrared sensor/imaging camouflage shelter from Snakebite Tactical in Eureka, Montana (A $350+ value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
- Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- 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,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site, and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A custom made Sage Grouse model utility/field knife from custom knife-maker Jon Kelly Designs, of Eureka, Montana,
- 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,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
- 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), 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.