Hurricane Sandy is now bearing down on the Northeast and looking like it’s going to cause an awfully tough time for up to 60 million of our citizens. Evacuations have started in low-lying areas and I can only imagine what the grocery and hardware stores look like as people race to make last minute preparations.
My own phone started ringing a couple of days ago once it became clear what the storm’s true potential was. Friends from North Carolina all the way up to New Hampshire checked in with me and they all wanted to know the same thing. What can I do to get ready for this?
I don’t want to bother talking about all the things that should have been done over the past year or more to prepare for an event like Sandy, heck we’re writing about that stuff every other day. I’d like to talk about what folks can do even at the last minute to help them get through this situation as safely and comfortably as possible.
So I’ll just imagine for a moment an average house that has zero Preps. Just the usual non-prepper house with a few days of food, a couple of flashlights with questionable battery life, a few spare batteries, a few bottles of water, and hopefully a box of bandaids in a bathroom drawer somewhere. Not ideal but very common. There are literally tens of millions of people waiting for this storm to come charging into them whose situations look similar.
So, what can you do at the last minute? Well, there are actually a few things you can do before the storm hits to improve your situation. First of all you can see if your local stores still have anything left on the shelves. This may seem terribly obvious but many people will just assume the shelves have been emptied and won’t bother to check. In reality as the supply chain hasn’t really been disrupted yet there’s a good chance that the larger stores have gotten extra deliveries from regional warehouses. Remember that big grocery chains are set up to make as much profit as possible. With a storm like Hurricane Sandy approaching you can bet they’re doing everything they can to sell as much merchandise as possible and that means extra trucks running to keep stores stocked.
If there are items still left on the shelves you should be aiming for food that can be easily prepared without power and that don’t need refrigeration. Think canned meats, soups, chili, nutrition bars, things that can be eaten “as is”. If you have a gas grill grab an extra propane tank for it. I doubt there are a lot of flashlights, candles, batteries, or the like still around but if there are you should choose a few, but don’t start hoarding, that’s just bad form. Instead, swing by your local Halloween party store. These places open up all over the country for just the month of October so there should be one in your area. Guess what you’ll find there? Glow-sticks. Tons of them! Buy a whole bunch, they’ll make your house much more comfortable at night if the power is out for a while (which it likely will be). Also, pick up a bag or two of candy while you’re there.
Next stop is the hardware store. Here I fear you’re going to be out of luck as even the big stores are unlikely to be resupplied as quickly a a grocery outlet, but it doesn’t hurt to take a look and see what’s left. Plywood will likely be all gone but you may be able to pick up some of those big blue plastic tarps. Also, grab some scrap 2×4′s. Together with the tarps you can use them to patch up a broken window.
On your way home fill your tank with gasoline and check the gas station convenience store to see if there might be some powerbars, beef jerky, or anything else that could come in handy.
Now back at home. First thing to do is to gather up all of the supplies that may be useful while the power is still on and you can search through the basement or attic without needing a flashlight. Make sure everyone in the house has a stack of warm clothes and sturdy shoes right at the end of their bed so they don’t have to go fumbling around in the dark should they be needed. Also, pull together whatever flashlights you have and then scavenge around for batteries. Just because you don’t have packages of fresh batteries in the closet doesn’t mean you can’t come up with extras taken from various video games, remote controls, etc…
Clean the bathtub out and fill it with water. If you have more than one tub fill those too. Fill any plastic containers you have (not all the way to the top) and put them in the freezer. These can be used later to keep the food in your refrigerator cold, plus once they melt you can drink them.
Once you’ve gathered up anything that might be useful do a quick inventory and take stock of how you will need to ration your supplies. This includes not only food but also things like light. For instance you may decide that bedtime is a lot earlier for everyone while the power is out so that you can conserve your batteries and glow-sticks.
Next, check out the garage. If you have a cordless drill make sure it’s fully charged. Likewise for any other rechargeable items you may have at home including laptops, phones, gameboys, etc… Gather up a tool box with hammer, nails, and anything else that could come in handy should you need to make some quick repairs to your home. Even scrap wood and an old sheet could be fashioned to cover a broken window to keep at least some of the rain out. Keep these in one place so you’re not fumbling around in the dark when they’re needed.
Once you’ve got your house in order head outside and take a look around with a critical eye. It’s October in the Northeast, there are leaves still on the trees and lots scattered all over the ground. If there is a storm drain near your house make sure it’s clear of leaves to help prevent flooding. If there are any heavy branches that look like they could be a threat to your home once they’re soaking wet and hit with high winds then you may consider trimming them back if you have time to do that safely. Make sure any rain gutters or other drainage pipes are clear and make note of where they are so that if water does start to back up you’ll know where to go to clear them of debris.
Take in any patio furniture or anything else that could be a hazard in high winds. The last thing you need is a lawn chair to come flying through your kitchen window propelled by 50 mile per hour winds. As comedian Ron White once said, “It’s not THAT the wind is blowing, it’s WHAT the wind is blowing.”
Finally, keep a pencil and paper handy so that while you’re sitting around in the evening bored with the power out you can make a list of all the things you’re going to do after the storm to Prep up and make sure you’re not in this situation again.