I grew up north of Houston in a town that straddled Interstate 45 – the preferred thoroughfare for hurricane evacuation from the Bayou City — just a few hundred feet from the San Jacinto River. From an early age, my brother and sisters learned that, while the high winds from a hurricane can pose a significant danger, it was the flooding that caught most people off guard. After riding out several storms and even having evacuated from Hurricane Rosa via National Guard helicopter in 1994 (the only way in and out of our neighborhood was via canoe at that point), I’ve put together a checklist for riding out a tropical storm and surviving a flood.
Of course, not everyone has a canoe or kayak to navigate their neighborhood after the waters rise, there are some ways you can make sure you stay high and dry should severe weather hit your ‘hood.
Jump for more information on sheltering in place in the event of severe weather.
- The most important consideration for severe weather isn’t water or non-perishable food, or even booze (though that can sometimes make the whole situation a LOT easier). It’s communication. You want to have the most up-to-date information during a severe weather event, so it’s imperative that your communication devices are all charged and accessible. Make sure your phones are plugged in, you have a couple of spare battery packs, and that you have an NOAA radio with spare batteries. A hand-crank version is also great should you find yourself having a brain-fart and no extra power.
- The second most important consideration for severe weather still isn’t water or food, but an evacuation plan. Make sure all your vehicles have a full tank of gas before a storm hits. You should also make a plan for secondary shelter, a meet-up spot for your family should you get separated or should a storm event hit while you are at work and you cannot access your home due to floodwaters. Forward-thinking folks will have critical documents such as birth certificates, Social Security cards, and other important legal paperwork stored in waterproof bags.
- Having adequate food and water is important for sheltering in place, but before you make a run on the store, fill all of your sinks and bath tubs. Remember, when a city floods, water service is often shut off due to broken lines. That means you won’t be able to wash dishes, flush toilets, or wash hands without using your potable water. Once you’ve filled all of your vessels, make sure you have at least a three-day supply of drinking water, which comes out to one gallon per person per day. Those with electric ranges will either want a food supply that does not require cooking or they should make sure they have an alternate heat source, such as a propane stove. Don’t forget your pets, either. Make sure you have at least 3 days worth of pet food on hand so that they don’t go hungry. Hot Tip: When you buy your drinking water, put half of it in the freezer. That way, when the power goes out, you have enough ice to cool your perishable food in an ice chest. When the water melts, you then have cool, potable drinking water.
- Your first aid kit should be packed in a waterproof bag and be fully stocked with gauze, bandages, tourniquets, and wound care. Should you step on a nail that you couldn’t spot in murky, knee-deep water, you’re going to want to clean that up ASAP and get a tetanus booster afterward. If you require medication on a day-to-day basis, don’t leave that out of your emergency kit. I’ve heard of diabetics go into shock while evacuating because they didn’t pack enough insulin and didn’t have access to adequate food or water. Don’t let that be you!
- Round up all of your flashlights, lanterns, candles, matches, and batteries and make sure you have spares for everything. You don’t want to be in the dark! Make sure candles and matches are stored in plastic bags, as they are useless if they get wet. If you have a generator, do a test-start before the weather hits and make sure you have plenty of fuel.
- In the event of an evacuation, you’re going to need a bag packed with three days worth of clothing, rain gear, extra cash, extra keys to your car and home, sunscreen and insect repellant, hygiene supplies, a map with two separate evacuation routes traced, and emergency contact information should your phone die. If you have a wee one, make sure you have adequate formula (pre-mixed) or food (doesn’t require refrigeration), as well as rain gear and a tarp should you find yourself in a pinch. Don’t rely on any store to have what you need. The Red Cross has a great list, but know that it isn’t exhaustive.
So, are you prepared for severe weather?