As you might have gathered by now, 400 km huge Hurricane Earl hit us head on and did quite a number on the island. Fortunately, houses here are built with concrete and steel so structural damage was minimized and no injuries were reported, making us once again very lucky. We did loose lots of trees and power poles and hence power and water for 4 and a half days, which wasn’t comfortable. A friend down the street organized a power generator for us a few days after impact, which was amazing as it allowed us to have either water OR internet and refrigeration. Your guess as to which was chosen most of the time 🙂
Although I’ve spent over 30 hours in category 3 hurricanes, it’s difficult to describe what it feels like. Not just the part during the hurricane, but the aftermath, driving through a country that looks like a giant Edward Scissorhands took some rage out on to. Normal things like ice become a rarity sold only to the closest of relatives on island and the grocery stores become gutted. If you find a gas station that’s open, you’ll be standing in line for quite a while. Our supply boats arrive once a week and with rough seas, that means there are no supplies reaching for some time.
Probably because I am so connected with the outside World via internet so I rarely feel like we live on a remote island. Having a boat and plane service stop to Anguilla and being literally cut off from the rest of the World will set all that into perspective. Worrying about when the ferry boats are going to run back and forth to St Martin again, or when the next supply boat arrives will be a stark reminder of where exactly you live.
Since I had quite some time on my hands to think about all this, here some tips on how to prepare and deal with a hurricane and what exactly to expect. Realizing that most of you don’t live on a remote island or in hurricane country, there is a good chance this list may not help anyone but me prepare for next time, which may be later this week as Hurricane Igor is headed our way, although forecasts predict it to go well North of us.
- Before you loose power, eat all the ice cream you have. And seriously, minimize what you have in your fridge and freezer as you may loose it during extended power outages.
- Buy a case of small water bottles, drain about 1/3 of each bottle, squeeze slightly to remove air and allow the water to expand as it becomes ice. Shut tightly and put it in the freezer. These will help keep your frozen goods frozen for a few days and also, you will be super thrilled to get to drink some cold water after going a few days without refrigeration.
Ice works for this part in theory but the mess is not worth it.
- Get a couple of large freezer bags, like the one’s you use to carry frozen goods home from the store. Before you loose power, fill them with all your frozen “valuables” and leave enough room to surround the whole thing with the above frozen water bottles. Put back in the freezer for 12 hours, then seal tightly. If you never open your freezer nor the bag, items in this bag will keep frozen for 3-4 days.
- Depending on where you live, make sure you have enough (non-refrigerated) food and drinking water to last you 4 times as long as you think you need. In other words, you think you’ll be out of power/water for 2 days, make sure you got 8 days of stuff on hand. That formula might seem overkill but the last thing you’ll want is to worry about if you have enough food before the next supply boat arrives.
- Move everything outside that can move as a projectile, I’m talking furniture and in our case coconuts. Also, having a bunch of coconuts in the house may come in use later if you need to weigh anything down. They’re also a tasty snack and are fun to open with a machete.
- Organize buckets and lots of dry towels, horizontal rain being flung at your house at high speed means there will be water coming in anywhere through doors and windows and any tiny cracks anywhere.
- Check your first aid kit, make sure you have pain medication for everyone in all age groups in the house. Also, get a couple of cans of fix-a-flat cause it would suck to have to go somewhere after the hurricane and have a flat.
- Get enough candles of lamp oil to last 4(expected power outage) so you’ll have light. Also get enough batteries for flashlights and a radio.
- Charge all electronics including your tools and then unplug everything in case of power surges. Make sure you have your tools inside with you in case a door blows off or something needs to be fixed in a hurry.
- Board up all windows, especially if you don’t have slat windows since large panes of glass are more susceptible to breaking under pressure. It’s probably a safe bet to do this even if you don’t expect a big hurricane. Otherwise you might find yourself covering windows with a mattress and weighing it down with coconuts. (queue ominous sequel music)
- Gas up your car and any other gas containers you have, then store them in a safe place.
Part 2 to come shortly, which includes the “during” and “after” parts as well as how to re-create your very own hurricane environment!