While we’ve all been busy worrying about the pandemic and rioters destroying our cities, the calendar has been marching on. Time, they say, doesn’t stand still for any man, and apparently it doesn’t stand still for a virus either. We’re already into the hurricane season, with two tropical storms behind us.
According to the National Hurricane Center, this is probably going to be a worse than average hurricane season. I’m not sure how accurate their predictions are, but it doesn’t matter. This will be the first hurricane season we’ve faced with COVID-19, let alone any of the other problems the year has brought us. That’s enough to guarantee that it’s going to be a rough hurricane season.
Bugging Out Is Going to Be Rough
If you live in a hurricane zone, then you really need to be ready this year. More than any year in the past, bugging out, if necessary, will be a real challenge this year. The biggest problem is going to be in finding someplace you can go, should you need to bug out.
This problem actually contains two parts. The first is finding a hotel where you can go. That’s always a problem, but this year there’s the added problem of social distancing. Hotels in some states are required to implement social distancing measures this year, just like restaurants do. So you may have to drive farther to find a hotel with available rooms, than you would have had to in other years.
On top of that, some cities may not welcome you in, especially if you come from a hotspot. There have already been several states which have instituted travel restrictions from other states which have high COVID-19 case counts. I doubt they’ll lift that for a hurricane.
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The solution to these potential problems is three-fold:
- First of all, don’t bug out unless you feel you have to. Most of us have that attitude anyway, so it’s not much of a problem. Prepare your home to ride out the hurricane and then shelter there.
- If you do decide you need to bug out, then leave early, before the government issues an evacuation order. That’s about the only way that you can be sure of being able to find a hotel within 300 miles. Besides that, you might beat any efforts to keep people from your area from invading destination towns.
- Plan on camping out and prepare for it. Even if you are planning on going to a hotel somewhere, take camping gear along with you. That way, if the hotels are full and you can’t find anywhere to go, other than an emergency shelter, you can pitch camp wherever you are. Just be sure to think it through, so that you won’t get soaked.
Before you say anything, I realize those three things contradict each other. Even so, they should all be part of your plan. Think of them as plans A, B, and C. Then decide at what point you’ll need to put Plan B (bug out) into effect. That will probably be something like a Category 4 hurricane heading right for you.
So What Do You Need?
If you’re like a lot of us, you’ve probably dipped into your prepping stockpile already this year. The numerous shortages that have existed in our grocery stores have caused us to use food, cleaning supplies and paper products that we had set aside for an emergency. That’s okay, that’s what they were there for, but I’d take this opportunity to do an inventory and restock everything, as much as possible.
Don’t think of a hurricane as a three day problem. It has been clear in the case of every major hurricane since Katrina, that things don’t get back to normal quickly and relief supplies don’t arrive on time. In every case I’ve been able to check on, people were literally dumpster diving, looking for food, weeks after the hurricane hit.
Besides that, there are some specific things you should stockpile to make it through the first COVID hurricane season:
As Far As Your Windows Go
If you’re going to stay home, then you need to be ready to cover your windows with plywood.
Taping the windows, as some people recommend, isn’t enough to keep them from breaking, especially if something hits the glass. All that does is help hold the glass in place.
Many people wait until it’s too late to buy plywood and the stores run out. You’re better off having covers for your windows prepared and kept in the garage or basement, so that you have them. Cut them to size, make sure they’ll fit, and then mark them, so you know which window they go on.
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Protect Your Home From Further Damage
Blue plastic tarps are great for protecting your home from further damage, should it become damaged by the hurricane. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about roof shingles coming off, or a tree branch crashing through a window. You can cover up the hole with a tarp and a staple gun.
Of course, you don’t want to try and put those tarps on your home in the midst of the hurricane. That would probably just result in the loss of the tarp and you getting soaked. But once it is over, you’ll want to protect your home from further damage.
Few people bother to stockpile gasoline, mostly because it doesn’t keep well. You can only store it for about six months, maybe 12, if you add a life extender to it.
Even so, you should have a couple of cans of gas stockpiled for a hurricane, over and above trying to keep your gas tank full. You can always replace that gasoline later, burning it in your car or lawnmower.
One of the problems with any mass evacuation is that gas stations run out. Then people are stuck along the road, waiting until trucks can bring in more gas. That’s obviously not a good position to be in. Keeping an extra 5 or 10 gallons of gas on hand will help ensure you can get to your destination, even when others can’t.
If you can, I’d recommend keeping that gas in metal gas cans, rather than plastic ones. While the plastic ones are safe for gasoline, they’re really not designed for long-term storage. When the gas heats and expands, it puts a lot of pressure on the material the gas can is made of. I’ve had that cause more than one gas can to leak.
As Far As Your Health Goes
With COVID-19 still raging across the land, there’s always a chance of a family member coming down with the disease. Besides that, we’re heading into flu season, with all the misery and discomfort that entails. Between the two, it’s a good time to stock up on over-the-counter medicines that help treat symptoms of respiratory illness. Granted, those medicines aren’t going to cure COVID, but they might help you deal with the symptoms. They’ll definitely do that for the flu.
If you have to bug out, you want to make sure that you take any prescription medicine which family members need to take for chronic conditions. I’d suggest trying to get your doctor to give you a prescription for some extras, so that you can keep those in your bug out bag or vehicle.
Always Good to Have
There’s always a high chance of injury in the midst of a natural disaster. The forces that nature can unleash are so far beyond anything that mankind has invented, that we have trouble dealing with them.
A hurricane, especially a Category 4 or 5, has winds so high that it can turn loose objects into projectiles, causing injury when they hit.
I’m not talking about a $19.99 kit from you local pharmacy here, but rather a good trauma kit. That small, low-cost kit might be good for a paper cut or a skinned knee, but that’s about it. You need something that can take care of larger injuries. Better yet, you need two, so you can keep one in your vehicle.
Water and a Means to Purify Water
If there’s anything that’s standard prepping supplies, other than food, this is it. We can’t count on the city water supply remaining on during a hurricane, especially if there is flooding. That could cause contamination of the system, forcing officials to shut it down. Not only that, if you have trouble finding somewhere that will accept you, in the case of a bug out, you may have to purify water that nature provides.
Once again, this is something that you want in both your home and your vehicle. Don’t just count on a straw-type water filter either. The water purifier in your car must be good enough to provide water for your whole family.
Chances are very high that any hurricane will cause power outages. Our electrical distribution grid just isn’t strong enough to withstand the high winds and there is always the chance of broken tree branches bringing down power lines. Making matters worse, if you cover your windows with plywood, it’s going to get real dark inside your home.
Most people talk about having flashlights and spare batteries for emergency lighting. That’s fine, as far as it goes. But if you’re going to count on flashlights, be sure that you have plenty of them to go around. You don’t need a good flashlight, you need one for every member of your family, plus a couple of spares.
I’d also recommend having some other lighting source, such as the old-style Coleman “dual-fuel” lanterns. Those will run off of gasoline, so since you’re going to have gasoline anyway, that will hopefully ensure that you’ve got plenty of fuel for those lanterns.
A Means to Cook without Power
If the power goes out, so does your ability to cook, if you have an electric stove. Chances are pretty good that the gas will remain on, but you can’t be sure.
You can’t really count on cooking with wood in a hurricane either, as it will most likely be raining and windy.
Even if you try and wait it out, you’re still going to have the problem of your firewood being soaked to deal with. It would be a good idea to have a camping stove, along with a good supply of fuel, that you can use.
My preference is the Coleman “dual fuel”, which will run off of gasoline. I still remember watching my dad cooking on one of these when we went camping. They haven’t changed much.
How to Keep Up With News
You’re going to need to keep up with the news about what’s happening and the easiest way to do that is with a radio. Be sure to get a good one, preferably with an extendable antenna for extra range. It has to be battery powered, so that you can use it when the power goes out. Make sure you’ve got plenty of extra batteries.
When Power Is Out
That radio isn’t the only thing you need extra batteries for. You should also have an extra battery pack or two for your phone, so that you can recharge it when there is no power. We depend on our phones for so much today, including getting the news.
Don’t just depend on having a charger, or even a car charger. Something could happen to your car, where you can’t use it to recharge your phone. Make sure you’ve got something that’s totally independent, even if it only allows you to recharge your phone once or twice.
As Far As the Pandemic Goes
In this time of COVID-19, you’ve got to have masks and gloves to protect yourself with. That would be especially true in a mass evacuation, where everywhere you go is likely to be crowded with people.
I seriously doubt there will be much possibility of social distancing, unless you do what I suggested earlier and go camping when you bug out.
Don’t count on being able to buy these when you bug out. There are still a lot of shortages, especially of gloves. If you’re caught with a lot of other people bugging out, they’ll probably empty the stores. Be sure to keep at least a box of each in your car, just in case.
Like the masks and gloves, you would better count on bringing your own hand sanitizer in the event of a bug out. While manufacturers have been churning hand sanitizer out and you can find it just about anywhere, that may not be the case when bugging out.
Keep some in your car, just to be sure you’ll have it. Since bugging out means you’ll be traveling, you’ll probably go through more than if you were staying home, so be generous in how much you take along.
If you are fortunate enough to find a hotel that you can stay in, you probably shouldn’t count on the quality of the disinfecting process the housekeeping staff has done.
While I’m sure there are excellent people out there who are doing an excellent job, I’m equally sure there are those who are just giving it a lick and a promise. It makes sense to disinfect your own hotel room, as soon as you go in.
Avoid bleach as a disinfectant, as it can discolor bedspreads and upholstery. However, you can use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide without problem. I’d be sure to have a spray bottle, as well as disinfectant wipes. The spray bottle will allow you to spray down the bedding, before using the beds.
As I mentioned earlier, your Plan C should be camping out. That means having the right equipment to do so. While most of us have camping gear for a bug out, it might not be the kind of camping gear you really need. For one thing, few of us have tents and sleeping bags.
Think it through and ask yourself what your family would need, if you were forced to live in it for a couple of weeks. It probably won’t be that long, but better safe than sorry.
A Very Important Thing to Have
Finally, make sure you have plenty of cash available. With the risk of power going out, your credit and debit cards may not do you the least bit of good. In that case, the only thing that makes sense is to have cash. Think in terms of how much you’d need to have to rent a hotel room and try to have that much on hand. Avoid large bills, as those can be harder to use.
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