Advice for East Coast Friends Prepping for Irene

I wanted to share a few hurricane preparedness tips with my friends on the eastern seaboard. Well, that, and I wanted an excuse to use the phrase eastern seaboard. Don’t get enough chances to break that out.

My great hope for you is that Irene goes to sea and stays to sea, but it never hurts to be prepared. I’m sure you are hearing the usual – get batteries, get a weather radio, taping your windows doesn’t really do much but makes you feel like you did something, etc.

My top hurricane tips:

  1. Water & Ice.
    Get some gallon-sized, freezer-strength ziplock bags. Fill them with water and rest them on their sides on cookie sheets. Slide these into your freezer until you can’t fit any more. This way, if the power goes out, you have ice that you can use to keep your food chilled. If the power stays out, and the flooding was bad, you will also have melted ice, a.k.a. water, to drink, without having to buy cases of bottled water. [You should also fill all of your pots, pans, and bottles with water; I’m told you can purchase a bathtub liner that will allow you to fill the tub, too.]
  2. Get a non-battery-reliant telephone.
    This means a phone that plugs into the phone jack with a headset attached to the phone by a cord. Even if the power goes out, the phone lines will generally work, whereas even fully charged cordless phones often cannot, without power to the base, get a dial tone.
  3. Write down important phone numbers.
    Since you may lose your regular phone, and your cell phone charge may wear down, just copy down the important numbers you’ll need now.
  4. The junk food goes first.
    If you go to the store, you will see shelves completely stripped of two things: bottled water and junk food. If you cannot live without Fritos, better stock up immediately, because trust me, it will all be gone soon. Only after all of the bean dip is gone to people start to pick up practical things, like raisins or tuna fish.
  5. Get extra cash and produce.
    Get extra cash in case the power goes out and you can’t pay with a credit card. Also, at the last-minute, buy produce. That was what we missed in the days following Hurricane Ike and Tropical Storm Allison–Tex-Mex places had tortillas and meat, but no lettuce or tomatoes. Worst-case/best-case – as you are helping all of your neighbors eat their defrosting meat, you can offer to bring salad! And, hello, lemons and limes for your cocktails . . .
  6. Make queso.
    See the emergency recipe and fancier preparation here. Trust me, you’ll be a hero even if the power stays on. Also, trust me, do not use the generic processed cheese. Spend the extra scratch and get Velveeta.
  7. Bug spray.
    If the power goes out and the rains come and then it gets muggy, you’ll want the windows open. Do you have screens? Any chance you’ll be cooking outside on a grill? You’ll be glad to have bug spray.
  8. Extension cords.
    Sometimes, the power loss happens not citywide, but building by building (or house by house) because limbs have fallen on the lines. If you have one or two 50 to 100-foot extension cords, you can always pull a bit of power from a neighbor, or run some over to a neighbor who is without, so you (or they) can charge phones, run a fan, etc. I’m talking the big, heavy-duty cords that go on a spool, not little ones that hang on a hook at the grocery store next to light bulbs.

I hope you don’t need to worry about any of this, but since we’ve been having one of the wackiest weather years around, it seems prudent to be prepared. Be safe, stay dry, and stay away from big windows when the wind starts.

Update: If you want calm, rational discussion of what’s happening with Irene, you can’t do better than the Houston Chronicle’s SciGuy blog by Eric Berger. Just ignore all of the comments about evacuating from Katy in the comments.

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