We had one hell of a storm here this week, and another one last week. Which follows up the 100 year record breaking snow falls of 2015, freakish Hurricane Aurther in July in 2014 (which stripped all the leaves off the trees), Hurricane Noel in 2007 and Juan and white Juan in 2003 and 2004 respectively. We are listed just after New Orlenes and Venice in terms of coasts at risk due to global warming. The storms we’ve had in the last 15 years no longer hold a candle to those I experienced in the first half of my life. We’re seeing hurricane strength winter storms on the regular now, actual class one hurricanes making landfall and once in a life time events becoming routine. That means we have A LOT of costal erosion, droughts, and waves and storm surges reaching places they never have before. Once as a child after a post tropical storm that arrived on a fall, full moon tide a snowplow was brought out to clear the beach road I live on now in September and everyone for miles around came out to see. Now every single storm a plow is stationed there to keep the road clear and the road has been destroyed twice in the last ten years. Again this week after being reinforced with a sea wall on a dead of winter (least extreme) high tide in a class 2 on the hurricane scale winter storm. Christmas day it was a class one equivalent storm.
So what makes us an authority on riding out a storm a few things actually. First of all our house is at the very top of a hill in one of the windiest parts of the bay. We live in the country so that means wells, pumps, septic systems and somewhat shoddy infrastructure. But we’ve made our house as storm proof as it can be which is good because in a storm I’m usually manning the fort alone. That’s because Richard is usually out dealing with other people’s emergencies at customer’s homes. Sometimes because they were unprepared or neglected to deal with potential problems before hand. It’s actually not that hard to do but every time there is a huge disaster people kill themselves by accident in the aftermath. You might want to think about saving this post just in case you ever need it. There are a few things you can pick up to have on hand, even in the hours before a storm and tips you can put into action even if it’s already hitting you. That being said there are certain times the best option is to leave and pay your insurance premiums. We’ll talk about preventing damage to your home in a worst case senecio long before the storm hits, how to prepare with an eminent forecast, what do do when a storm is underway and preparing for the aftermath in reverse order. Also included is a list of items to have on hand, ideally all the time, a pre-storm checklist and some signs it’s time to throw in the towel.
Before the storm: Do everything you can before you can. Start with your basic needs like medication food and water, also probably gas and cash too. Run around the yard and look for things that might blow away of cause damage to your home and deal with them. Then prepare for light issues and pay any bills you need to before the storm. Then start on you creature comforts like tea and coffee, games and activities, book lamps. Also make sure to keep a close eye on the forecast and the news. My routine includes charging the phone, putting gas in the truck, filling the tub (to flush toilets since we have a pump), securing things in the yard and freezing anything I can in the fridge. If it’s summer I freeze containers of ice for use in a cooler or to move to the fridge to keep it cold. When we have a generator we fill it get gas for it and get it started.
Now is a good time to pick up the things you need and get an emergency kit together. Pick up deep heavy tea light holders possibly at a used knick back shop for pennies. If there is a power outage you realistically won’t be next to them all the time so pick the safest ones you can find. I put them in safest spots. Some good ideas are sinks, on larger platters with ‘edges’ and along window sills. Grab a cheap battery operated flash light that runs on double A’s ideally and some spare batteries. If you run out there are lots of places to steal them from. But also check out some of the no power outages hacks I have below. Put the crap in a box at the back of a shelf so it’s a pain in the but to get to so you won’t seal stuff when you need it.
A note on generators they might not be the insurance policy they are cracked up to be. First of all more than likely you need a really big expensive one to run what you need. Generators can’t run at their full listed capacity but rather about 75-80% of that. If you heat with electric bace board you might only get one heater and the fridge and a few cell phones on a small one. The next thing is they need to be started and run all the time. The longer they sit the more likely it is they won’t start. We hear it a lot, “I have one and the gas for it but I couldn’t get it going”, having old gas in them doesn’t make it easier. Plus they make a crap tonne of noise that will probably annoy your neighbours. They burn a lot of gas when they are running and produce a lot of carbon monoxide so you’ll be running out to the yard to turn it on and off all the time. We usually buy the same behemoth for jobs when we need it and sell it later. What ends up happening is Richard sets it up with the plugs and such and then goes and helps other people while lugging gas home. I go out and start the generator every hour or two which has a push button start which usually works. We run the fridge, freezer a few lights on extension cords. Remember that means you have to have a window or door open for the cords when it’s running. Overall they might be more practical to run after a storm rather than during it.
During the storm: Ideally you’ve done a lot of this before but… life doesn’t always happen that way. Often we’re finishing up something and ducking in just as the storm is starting to hit and I suspect we are not alone in that. You definitely want to fill your tub for flushing water if you’re on a well but it never hurts in the city too. All it takes is pulling the plug if you don’t need it put what if the city water system goes down or even if the ac is out after a summer storm you might just want it to cool down and clean up a bit. Another thing that we have here in our building code is to have doors that open in. That’s for getting you out in an emergency but those doors have a tendency to blow open during a storm. Usually a deadbolt is enough to stop that but if you don’t have one plan on securing the door with something (like a chair) for high winds in case you need it. Then it’s time to get down to brass tacks realistically we’re planning for a power outage here. Absolutely no gas fired cooking elements inside the house! This is the number one way people kill themselves in storms the next is fires. Carbon monoxide is not something to be messed with.
The next thing is to stay safe, fed and watered. Light any wood stoves and fireplaces you have in the winter and while you have power leave critical things plugged in to get every last bit of juice. In the summer to heat things up use candles and a wire rack like this. Actually just check out all these hacks above. If you expect flooding might be an issue move anything valuable off the floor and consider moving it up to the second floor.
Surviving the aftermath: Experts often recommend a battery powered radio to stay in tough with the news. Perhaps more reasonable now is to listen while you charge your phone in the car. Another option is to stream a local news service on your phone. Tune in on the hour but be aware it will drain you battery and cell towers might be down, but it might wok in a pinch. Typically before a storm government agencies will tell you how long you should prepare for, it might be three days, 5 days or in extreme cases a week. But you’ve done all that so you’re good right? Probably but there might be some fall out to deal with, the bottom floor of your house might be flooded, you might be hunkered down in the living room next to the fireplace or you might be blocked in by a fallen tree. Everything your going to try to accomplish is going to take so much longer than you think it will. It takes a good hour to heat a small pot of soup over three candles or get stew going on a wood stove. Multiply that by seven if you have kids and no wifi all that is to say time passes really, really slowly. So find something to amuse yourself for hours in low light at a time with or at least near your entire family. Thankfully that gives you lots of times to think of the best and safest ways to get things done. Some things that aren’t working with no power are still the best option like hot things one the cook top. Finally if you can make sure to check in on your neighbours particularly if they are elderly.
Now I hate to have to say this and we’ve never had that issue in Canada during a disaster but people can get violent during disasters, in Canada we only do this for serous things, like hockey games. It is wise to lock your doors travel in a pairs and keep an eye on the doings outdoors just in case. If you have extra supplies it’s nice to share but make sure you are all okay first.
Long term preparations: With the climate changing the way it is even if you’ve lived through a few bad ones okay or a so called 100 years storm just passed you by, another might be just around the corner. Consider cutting down trees that could fall and damage property. I know you like them close to your house but it’s better if you decide where they fall and not mother nature. If your unsure call in an expert for a quote and a free opinion. If you have drainage issues deal with them before hand. If you’ve had an ongoing issue in past storms fix it now!
Last but not least if you’ve been advised to evacuate strongly consider it, or at least prepare to do so on short notice. In wildfires many people choose to try to save their home and stay. Go through the what ifs like what are you going to do if your town looses water or you’re on a well. On some level everything can be replaced and it’s much better to have to hold onto the memory of an object instead of a person.
- Canned food you actually like
- Manual can opener
- About 100 tea light candles (I once used these on platters to heat part of my apartment)
- About 10 candle holders
- Extra batteries
- Bottles of, or for water (1 gallon per person per day for at least 3 days, don’t forget pets)
- First aid kit
- Car charger for phones or essential electronics
- 1/2 a tank of gas for your car and new gas if you have a generator
- Instant coffee
- List of important people’s phone numbers
- A meet up plan (if you get operated where will you go, who’s house will you meet at?)
- Paper and a pen
- – Bonus:
- Chainsaw, gas, bar oil
- Rechargeable drill
- About 100 4 inch desk screws
- Labeled plywood for windows
- Run off water in bottles and fill the tub
- Run the dishwasher through you’ll need clean dishes
- Bring in wood for a fire to last 4 days or more
- Charge portable power packs
- Fill a week of prescriptions
- Storm-life essentials (for me lemonade, camomile, instant coffee and for homey near beer)
- Secure outside items
- Charge drill batteries