Having lived on the Virginia Atlantic coast all my life, as many others have, hurricanes, Nor-Easters and tropical depressions are not uncommon. Most are minor in terms of risk and damage, but once in a while a scary mess hits us. The last big one was Isabel in 2003. It was the costliest US hurricane of 2003. But we’ve had others as well.
The first storm I recall of anything significant was Agnes, in 1972. It was the costliest hurricane to hit the US until then. It damaged quite a few things in my home town of Hampton at the time. Our house didn’t suffer too much direct damage aside from a broken wooden fence. But we were without power and water service for around a week. Some nearby houses suffered some damage to roofs, siding, windows and doors, and vehicles were beat up pretty bad. Anytime you see a metal trash can flying down the street, near to the height of the telephone poles the entire way, it’s not a good thing.
Anyhow, you learn to make adjustments. But with each storm, and the years that pass in between, our lives, material possessions, and locations, often change. Most people that have lived here long enough have acquired the usual array of hurricane goodies, such as gas-powered generators, chainsaws, duct tape, plywood panels, and friends with trucks (you can’t have enough of them!).
Today, with the possibility of Joaquin bearing down on us, I made the usual rounds about the yard and house to make sure things are in as good of shape as I can make them. Aside from the obvious preparations, like propane, food, batteries, water, and so forth, here’s some things that I’ve learned to check:
- Parking – If you own a car, move it where trees are less likely to fall on it, and where it’s not in a low spot (flooding). Also, even in an open space, check to make sure there aren’t loose items in the distance that might easily break off and fly around (hitting your car)
- Wind Direction – Monitor the track and flow of the storm. Make note of the wind directions as the storm approaches and when it will be leaving as well. This will help you survey your property for what might face the brunt of wind from each direction. It’s easy to forget that the wind changes direction as a hurricane passes by, or directly over, your location.
- Zip Lock Bags – Have a box of them on hand. During Agnes, some houses suffered roof damage and the owners scrambled to wrap pictures and other valuables in something waterproof. Plastic bins work as well.
- Laundry – Get all your laundry washed and dried. Nothing worse than a pile of dirty, stinky laundry sitting around for days when the power goes out.
- Trash – Collect it all, bag it and get it into the trash cans.
- Trash Cans – Move them out of the path of wind. If you don’t have any weight in them, drop something heavy inside to help avoid them blowing down the road.
- Freezing Food – If you have a freezer, pack it with enough to make it for a few days, in case your power goes out. Perishables are the obvious choice. Meats, milk and dairy products, and so on.
- Gas Up – Fill your cars. Even if you don’t drive anywhere, you may need to run your engine to charge phones and other battery devices. You may also want to listen to the radio (if you don’t have a portable, battery-powered radio already)
- First Aid Kits – Seems obvious, but many people forget to check that they have bandages, tape, scissors, wrappings, etc.
- Beer! – Yes. Alcohol can not only be comforting (whether you hate the stuff or not), but can serve as a bartering tool when you need help recovering from the damage.
- Check for Debris – Even if you don’t lose power, it’s a good idea to check frequently around your house to make sure debris hasn’t clogged your HVAC (or heat pump) unit, drainage ducts, gutters or vents. Make sure nothing big landed on the roof and may risk caving in (large tree limbs, etc.)
As for electric power services, it’s amazing how many people assume it will be restored as quickly as after a common thunderstorm outage. But with a hurricane, the scale of damage and debris adds a lot of hassle to getting to the problem areas, and repairing them. Crews may be stretched thin, even when all staff are on call.