Hurricane Storm (Warning) Preparation

A Hurricane is Coming!

Last post I went through my hurricane pre-season checklist, this post focuses on what I do once it looks like we are directly in the path of a storm. The pre-season list is pretty generic and can be used by just about anyone with maybe a few changes, the pre-storm list is a lot longer and more specific for my situation. That being said, it may still be helpful and I hope it at least encourages others people to get a similar list together. Having a list such as this takes a lot of pressure and guesswork out of the process, once I’ve completed the items I can feel confident we are ready and I can focus on helping others get ready (family and friends).

When you create pre-season and pre-storm lists be aware they are starting points and will probably be revised as they are put into practice. I’ll present this one like I did last post, in numerical order and plus a summary at the end. The order of this one is important, I do things that have the least impact and disruption first and they are the easiest to undo (if required) if it the storm takes a turn away from us.

The List

1. Get cash

If you don’t already have a cash stash on hand then this should be the first thing, get to the bank or ATM’s before everyone else does!

2. Stock up

Although I’ve already stocked up on most things pre-season, this is the time to grab some  perishable items. We normally have enough food on hand for a couple of weeks but since there’s the possibility we may be hosting and feeding a crowd it’s a good idea to grab  extra. We’ve got the basics covered so these are things that are normally not in high demand before  a storm. The cover photo for this post is one I took last year of the Gatorade aisle at a local store, luckily that’s not something I’m looking for now. The items I get: meat, milk, salad mix, potatoes. I’m not worried about losing power to the refrigerator or freezer so these will be safe. I also stock up on dog, chicken, and pond food if we are getting low just in case the stores are closed for a while after the storm. The last thing on the list is salt for the water softener.

3. Fuel all vehicles and generators

This is another one to knock out pretty early on, lines at gas stations are only going to get worse and some may even run out of fuel and close. I make sure the cars, boat (can be siphoned for extra fuel), lawn mower, tractor, and generators are all fueled up in addition to all the fuel cans.

4. Start charging all devices

Charging can take a while, it’s best to start early on. The devices to charge are battery banks for phones, weather radio, gmrs radios, cameras, rechargeable batteries, and drone.

5. Put batteries in all lights

I store all the flashlights and stationary lights without batteries to prevent corrosion issues, this is the time to put the batteries in. I’ll leave them in for the remainder of the season then take them back out after the chances of a hurricane have passed for the year. See the Hurricane Season Prep post for my flashlight recommendations.

6. Put water bottles in freezer

I’ll put around a dozen water bottles in the freezer, these will be used in a cooler as one of the last get ready steps.

7. Wash all laundry

This may take a while so best to start ASAP. If we end up on generator power for a few days it will not be able to power the dryer. It could run the washer but there won’t be any hot water.

8. Fill water softener salt tank

Water filter system with salt tank

Since we are on well water we have a water softening system which consumes salt. I’ll top this off now so it’s not something I’ll have to think about for the next few weeks in case we are busy with clean up activities.

9. Clean up yard, secure all loose items

Patio chars and table

Everything on the list to this point is either pretty easy or something that doesn’t have to be undone if the storm changes direction. The remainder of the list becomes a lot more work to undo so I wait until we are about 12-18 hours from seeing storm force winds. Cleaning up the yard and securing loose items is done to keep potential losing these items or having them become flying debris that could damage the house or a vehicle.

10. Place flashlights, inverter, and generator in get ready position

Deep cycle battery and charger

I put the fueled up generator and a spare fuel tank as close to the running are where it will need to go but it will still be protected. When the time comes to use it I just have to wheel it outside, hook up the power cord and sire it up. The battery and inverter are placed near the main TV in the house and flashlights are placed in their designated locations (bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen). By the way, the Battery Tender float chargers are a great way to keep seldom used batteries (in or out of vehicles) in ready to go condition.

11. Move plants

If a planter can be fairly easily moved I put it in the garage or workshop for protection. I’ll move the most valuable first and if time permits I’ll move some of the others after everything else is done. An EarthBox loaded with soil and water is around 80 pounds, they aren’t going to blow away but the plants could be damaged.

12. Take down sun shade(s)

Shade cloth over garden

I’ve got sun shade cloth over the main garden, this has to be removed or it would act like a big sail and lift the whole frame. The pipe frame is weighted down with concrete blocks so that is left set up.

13. Remove exterior lights

Exterior pineapple light with glass

I take the glass off of all our outside carriage lights and hanging porch lamp since these are expensive and hard to find replacements for. I also remove the bulbs, when I reassemble these it’s a good time to clean them up and put some dielectric grease on the bulb threads. This is something that is smart to do on all bulbs and electrical connectors, especially outdoors.

14. Remove porch fan blades

Porch fan with removable blades

Very important! If you have fans on an outdoor porch you may want to keep this one in mind. My fans have blades that snap off pretty easily so it only takes a few minutes. I’ve seen many cases where fans blow around and either get damaged or damage the ceiling above them.

15. Put up storm shutters

Metal storm shutters on side of house

At this point we are pretty sure we are getting hit by some bad winds. These are a bit of a pain and take a few hours but are probably the single most important thing to do. If the storm doesn’t look like a bad one I’ll leave the porch shutters off but nearby so they can be put up quickly, if it’s a strong storm I’ll put them all up now. Here’s an additional picture of the porch with shutters installed and fan blades removed. We left one shutter panel off so we could see outside and get a little light in the house.

Metal storm shutters installed on porch

16. Put secondary water hose in place

Garage utility sink

If we can’t fire the generator up right away then we have no water, one of the drawbacks of having a well. I’ve got a secondary well that has natural pressure (artesian) so I run a hose from that well head to the utility sink in the garage and keep a bucket nearby. The spigot is opened but I put a valve on the end of the hose so it can be turned on and off at the sink. We have drinks already covered, this is used to manually fill toilet tanks.

17. Stage drinks and snacks to coolers

Igloo Polar Cooler (120-Quart, White)

This is the final item and done as the winds start picking up. Remember those frozen water bottles? They go in big coolers along with some ice and a variety of drinks. These are for use while power is limited, once the generator is up the refrigerator and freezer can be used again.

The Brief List

Here’s the same list in short form without comments:

  1. Get cash
  2. Stock up – meat, milk, salad mix, potatoes, dog food, chicken food, pond food
  3. Fuel all vehicles and generators
  4. Start charging all devices
  5. Put batteries in all lights
  6. Put water bottles in freezer
  7. Wash all laundry
  8. Fill water softener salt tank
  9. Clean up yard, secure all loose items
  10. Place flashlights, inverter, and generator in get ready position
  11. Move plants
  12. Take down sun shade(s)
  13. Remove exterior lights
  14. Remove porch fan blades
  15. Put up storm shutters
  16. Put secondary water hose in place
  17. Stage drinks and snacks to coolers

The Wait

The hard part is over, now is the time to wind down and relax. Hurricanes are mostly boring, if there are really high winds they usually only last a few hours. It can be hard to sleep with the wind howling outside so we usually end up watching TV or sitting around with a cold drink in hand.

We’ve been lucky, Three Acre Paradise is protected very well by a lot of trees. These aren’t just the ones on the property, most neighbors also have dense canopies over their yards. In 2016 we sat in the garage with the door open during the brunt of hurricane Matthew, in 2017 we didn’t put the shutters on the porch and stayed there for most of hurricane Irma. That’s not to say we couldn’t get a much more dangerous storm but I’m pretty confident in staying put for anything up to a category 4 storm and possible a 5. Evacuation would be difficult, there isn’t many ways out of the county and history has shown those routes get jammed up very quickly. I’d prefer not to join that mess and make it easier for people who have to evacuate to be able to get away (beachside communities, mobile homes).

If you find this useful please let me know, I don’t have an after storm checklist but if there’s interest I can put up my thoughts and what we have done in the past. Until next post, stay safe!

Hurricane Season Preparations

Getting Prepared

Hurricane season is here! I’m going to share my seasonal preparation list, this is the things I do at the beginning of the season. It’s a great feeling to know I’m ready when the warnings are given for this area, I don’t have to run around and scramble to find last minute supplies or hope the generator runs. Being prepared really doesn’t take much time or effort, just run through your list at the beginning of the season then a pre-storm list when warnings are given for your area. I’ll present the tasks I do as a numbered list with notes about each one. I’ve also got Amazon links to a lot of the products I use, I own and recommend every one of these with the exception of the cheap flashlights, as noted I get free ones from Harbor Freight tools.

The List

1. Fill all gas cans

I actually don’t have to run out and fill a bunch of cans since I keep them topped off all the time, If you plan to do this then come up with a way to keep the fuel fresh. What I do is put a colored tie wrap (zip tie) around the handle of the gas can – a different color each year. 2018 is yellow, when I use the contents of a can then I fill it up, place it back in storage with a yellow tie wrap around the handle and pull out a can that has not been filled this year. If I haven’t changed all the fuel near the end of the year I put the remainder in the vehicles and refill the cans. For additional protection I add a fuel stabilizer, this one for gas and this one for diesel and have never had a problem with stale fuel.

2. Fill propane tanks

Just like with gas cans, I try to keep these full all year. Propane has the advantage of not going bad, it can be stored indefinitely as long as the container does not leak. If you have multiple tanks as I do you may want to be careful how you rotate them, the tanks can only be filled for 12 years beyond their inspection date. After 12 years you have to pay to have it re-certified which may be more than the tank is worth. I always have them filled, not exchanged, as it is a cheaper and the tank will be filled all the way. The exception is if a tank is getting close to expiration I’ll do an exchange. One more tip, remove the plastic wrap your tank has one, it will cause the tank to rust very quickly. If you don’t have caps for the valves and you want a good way to track which are full then look in to using safety plugs.

Here’s my overkill method for storing fuel:

Fuel storage rack

It’s a propane storage rack I got off Craigslist.

3. Fill and test generator

I’ve actually got two generators now, one I bought in 2004 and a larger one that was on clearance at Sams club a couple of years ago. The older one has a Subaru engine and has worked flawlessly every year. I’ve used it for more than just power outages, when my house was being built it came in handy for running power tools.

STOW G-4.5R generator

When I saw the clearance deal at Sams it was a no-brainer – a 5.5 Kw generator that also had a Subaru engine for around $200 (the old generator is actually 3.7 Kw, not 4.5 as the label says).  At the beginning of hurricane season I take the generator out, fill it with gas, and run it under load for around half an hour. It’s nice to have a spare to loan out but even nicer knowing I’ve got a backup.

20 amp plug

Up until last year I used a 20 amp circuit to backfeed electric to the house, last week I finished installing a generator hookup panel. This installation will be shown step by step  in a future post, as well as the pros and cons of each method.

4. Test 12v battery / charger / inverter

A generator is great once the storm has passed but what do you do when the lights go out and it’s too windy go outside? I keep a spare 12 volt deep cycle battery for this purpose, it’s mounted in this trolling motor case to make it somewhat portable. I use this 600 watt inverter with it to power the TV and a few lights, we avoid opening the refrigerator until the storm has passed (drinks have been staged into a cooler).

5. Check battery stock

This is simply making sure there is enough fresh batteries for the flashlights and radios. These are kept separate from the everyday supply to ensure they are there when needed. After hurricane season passes they are moved to the everyday use bin.

6. Stock up on toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates, cups, plasticware, foil

There is a possibility we will be providing refuge for 10+ people so I really don’t want to have to be washing dishes on top of everything else. Paper for everyone! And who wants to run out of toilet paper? I keep a case of each of these off to the side, after the season passes we return them to everyday use. Sams club is a great place for this (or Costco if you have one nearby).

7. Check tarp stock

Tarps do go bad! At least the cheap ones do, I still like to make sure I’ve got a decent variety of sizes available and that they are in good condition. Sometimes they get loaned out and not returned, when the roof is leaking that is not the best time to find out.

8. Stock up on food

I’ve got a shopping list for this plus some long term stores that can be used if needed. For the items that are replaced annually, be sure to buy stuff you like and will eat. I’ve refined my list over the years to include things that keep well and that will get used up post season.

9. Trim trees

Three main goals here. One, cut down branches that could damage structures or property. Two, remove branches or trees that could fall on power lines and three, cut down dead or dying trees or limbs that could become flying debris.

10. Check radios

This includes weather radios, Family Radio Service (FRS)  and General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) radios. This is just a quick functional check of these radios. The FMR and GMRS radios are great for keeping in touch with friends or family members, if you go this route then I’d suggest making a laminated card with instructions for whoever else may be using it. FMR radios are pretty simple but also limited, GMRS are a lot more usable but require a license (easy to get) and a higher learning curve. You could also look into an phone app such as Zello for keeping in touch but it does require an internet connection.

11. Check first aid kit and expiration of medications

To me this is one of the most important things. Last year I cut my foot pretty bad during a hurricane, this came in very handy. If you keep medications, even the over the counter variety, make sure they have not expired and replace if so.

12. Trash bags

I keep a full box of the heavy duty contractor bags on hand. These aren’t just handy for post hurricane cleanup, if you have a large group like we may then the trash can pile up pretty quickly. Remember all those paper plates we stocked? The link provided is an example but you can probably get them cheaper locally at Home Depot or Lowes.

13. Check emergency lights

This is more an inventory exercise to make sure all lights are present and accounted for. I remove batteries from most after the season so there shouldn’t be any corrosion issues. My lighting plan is simple, a portable flashlight for each group (couple, family, etc) and a stationary light for each room (one per bedroom, bathroom, great room, and kitchen). For portable flashlights I like these Dorcy lights  since each group can have their own color and they are extremely durable. You don’t need an insanely high powered light for walking around the house and yard and the batteries last a lot longer.

Dorcy flashlights

I use two different types to stay stationary, these Energizer lights and these Streamlight ones. The only reason for using the two types is the deals I got at the time.

Stationary lights by energizer and streamlight

I keep one other primary light, this Streamlight is a powerful spotlight that does double duty on the boat when we take it out at night. This is a very bright spotlight so I only need one. In addition to all the lights mentioned, I keep a supply of cheap lights around such as these (or use the free Harbor Freight ones, that’s what I do). I consider them throwaways but it’s good to have extras for kids or to just leave around.

The Brief List

I hope this list is helpful, here it is in a condensed form:

  1. Fill spare gas tanks
  2. Fill propane tanks
  3. Fill and test generator
  4. Test 12v battery / charger / inverter
  5. Stock batteries
  6. Stock TP, PT, paper plates, cups, plasticware, foil
  7. Check tarp stock
  8. Food stock – see shopping list
  9. Trim trees
  10. Check radios – weather, walkie’s
  11. Check first aid kit, check expirations of meds
  12. Trash bags
  13. Check emergency lights

Other Considerations

One other thing to note, I keep a lot of nails, screws, ropes, wood, and other building supplies on hand at all times so those are not included in my checklist but may be something for you to add if they aren’t readily available. Also, I’ve got pre-made metal hurricane shutters so those are ready to go at any time and don’t need to be inventoried.

Next post I’ll run through my pre-storm list, this is the one I go through if it looks like we are actually in the path of a storm. This list will be more specific to my property but the goal here is to give you some ideas, not necessarily provide a ready to use list for your own use. After that I’ll get back to some plant updates 🙂