By Yvonne Florian and Christine Kelly-Begazo
Hurricane season will be upon us June first. As if we didn’t already have enough to keep our pantry challenged, add to it the task of stocking up for storm season. But this can be accomplished even in these times of sparse store shelves with a little creativity. Just purchasing a few items a week along with regular groceries can add up to a well-stocked pantry. Following are some tips and things to think about while wrapping our minds around hurricane preparation in a time of pandemic.
If there are just too many gaps in the grocery store shelves for you to make a well-stocked pantry, try perusing the International Foods isle. They often are stocked by the vendors directly and may have canned beans, tuna, sugar, evaporated milk, and even rice and corn meal under different brand names. And you’ll get to practice a little high-school Spanish in the process. If that is not an option for you, try ordering groceries online or even consider picking up some from the dollar stores.
Only buy what you will eat
One thing we’ve all learned about stocking a hurricane pantry is that it comes in handy for more than just storm season. Another is that we should only buy things we will eat. Don’t buy sardines, for example, if no one in your house will eat them. Think about the canned and boxed food items you would usually buy on your weekly grocery list. Buy two or three extra of these each week. Also add just a few comfort foods and nutrition bars for quick meal replacements while doing the work of clean-up after the storm. You will be using more calories than normal.
You will need bottled water during and after a storm. The ‘rule of thumb’ for water is: One gallon of drinking water per person per day plus more for cooking and washing. It is a good practice to always keep a three-day supply of drinking water at all times. We use a lot of bottled water because of my husband’s job. I try to keep double what he would use in a week as we approach hurricane season. This can be kept in sanitized refillable jugs. There are coin operated “water machines” in most grocery stores, usually with a reverse osmosis and UV light treatment system. You bring your clean jugs and the water vending machine dispenses filtered water by the gallon or 5-gallons.
Fortunately, hurricane recovery time usually only lasts a couple of days to maybe two weeks here in the United States. After this time of quarantine, that may seem like a walk in the park.
If you plan to evacuate, your evacuation “go bin” should contain enough shelf-stable foods for two days for each family member along with batteries, flash light, important papers, medications, water, a change of clothes or two and toiletries. Items such as books, puzzles, small games (non-electric) and age appropriate coloring books to keep the children occupied would be very handy. But don’t forget the dog (cat, goldfish, chickens, etc.).
What to do NOW to prepare ahead of time
- get your trees trimmed
- bottled water!!! We need 1 gallon per day per person, more for washing and cooking. Keep a 3-day supply at all times.
- check/tune-up the generator
- make a plan to batten down
- inventory your valuables, video your household
- have an evacuation plan
- inventory your hurricane pantry
- create your safe room plans
- fill the propane tanks
- buy batteries in sizes you need
- think about pets and livestock
- make an evacuation “go bin”
- clean out the refrigerator & freezer, use up anything you won’t use in a week.
- be sure you know where your hurricane shutters are.
- if no shutters, buy plywood & screws now and cut to fit your windows
- have a plan for your boat
- make a legible list of all important phone numbers: doctor, pharmacy, E.O.C., Insurance company & policy numbers, contractors you may need after storm is over, far away family
- refill all prescription medications
Last minute storm preparations:
- charge all cell phones
- charge all drill & driver tools, and the portable DVD player
- pack a small “go” bag for a short evacuation
- put batteries in all flashlights, radio, fan,
- unplug appliances small & large
- ice your coolers & empty the refrigerator.
- fuel your vehicles
- fill fuel cans for generator
- put up storm shutters
- Evacuating? Shut off house power & water as you leave
- place charged cordless drill with driver bits in vehicle floorboard, along with a good hand saw.
After the storm it will be important to contact insurance agents BEFORE you clear away anything. They will need to send an adjuster to look everything over.
Be sure to keep yourself fed and well hydrated. After-storm clean up is a grueling task and it will be hot, humid, and seem never-ending. Take frequent breaks, talk to neighbors and remember to stay “Socially Distant”. Also, there will be more displaced wildlife after a storm is over. Keep vigilant for them where you may not have ever seen wildlife before. Some of the common wildlife sightings after a storm for me were hummingbirds, strange butterflies, a poisonous water snake, ducks. Lost pets have also found their way to our area including dogs, cats, chickens, parakeets and a cockatoo.
For more on evacuating for a hurricane, please see the following University of Florida’s EDIS publications:
#ABE374 How Safe is Your Home?
And for more Hurricane preparedness: UF/EDIS hurricane preparedness topics.
Another great place for lists & plans, Department of Homeland Security’s disaster preparedness website.