26. August 2012 · Comments Off on Issac: Thoughts on Hurricane Preparation · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

While everyone’s minds are on preparing for the storm itself, something many folks don’t think about life for the week-or-so after the storm!

I’m slowly working through our checklists for getting the house prepared for the storm.  I just got back from the store picking up some preemptive supplies, and I filled up a spare 5-gallon gas can that we have.  I think we’re about as ready as we can be with the current forecast information.

For those new to the hurricane-life, folks may not realize how post-apocalyptic things get in an area recently ravaged by a storm.  After hurricanes France and Jeanne in 2004, during which our house suffered VERY minimal damage, we were more traumatized by how things were in the week after the storms hit.

  • Gasoline. In preparing for tropical storms, do your best to fill all gas tanks and save your driving for absolute necessities.  Gas pumps were largely empty for about 3 days after the storms in 2004, and it took over a week for all the local gas stations to be fully replenished.  There were plywood signs with “NO GAS” spray-painted in front of all of our local stations.  In addition, gas stations, with their aerodynamically-challenged protective shelters over the pumps, will take much more damage than the average structure.  So even if gas could be available again, if the station itself is even remotely compromised, they won’t accept delivery.
  • Evacuation hotels. I remember calling a 1-800 number for Marriott, and the attendant was extremely helpful in finding us a pet-friendly hotel…she probably had a mapping function that helped her easily see what hotels were available.  She got us into the absolute closest Marriott pet-friendly hotel she could: Hapeville, Georgia, which is adjacent to Atlanta Airport.

These trucks dominated our highways during our southbound return from our evacuated location. They came in from all over the county. These workers were doing a thankless job — braving some very storm-ravaged areas to bring power back to our communities. Don’t think they weren’t compensated, they certainly were paid very well for their efforts. That doesn’t change the fact that they were away from their families, working around the clock to help bring Florida back to normal life.

  • Evacuation Traffic.
    • Northbound Traffic. Our family evacuated for Hurricane Frances which struck near Labor Day weekend in 2004.  I remember Dave and I making the decision to evacuate on the Thursday prior to landfall — we elected to hit the road at 5am so that we would beat the traffic.  Well, we didn’t.  We had smooth sailing leaving Melbourne and heading west to Orlando, then when we got on Florida’s Turnpike near sunrise, the most surreal thing happened: there were thousands of vehicles pulled over on the shoulder who all seemed to turn on their ignitions and join us on the highway…all at once!  These were evacuees from the Miami area, who had been ordered to evacuate about 24 hours prior to our receiving the recommendation.  They were sleeping on the side of the road overnight Wednesday.  Once all those vehciles decided to join us, we were in stop and go traffic from north of Orlando all the way to Atlanta!  So our 5 hour drive to Atlanta (where we had the hotel reservation) took us about 12 hours.
    • Southbound Traffic.  This was downright scary!  Not “I’m going to die” scary, but just very surreal.  We elected to take back roads back southbound, not picking up a major highway until I-95 near Brunswick, Georgia.  Stop-and-go, once again.  Dave and I returned a day before most people were comfortable returning, and we understood why after that trip: the highways were filled with power repair trucks and emergency vehicles!  Not long after we got on I-95, probably just north of the GA/FL border, we started to see the signs: the plywood and bedsheets with “NO GAS AT THIS EXIT” spraypainted on them.  The large digital signs that present pertinent information read “Minimal Resources in Florida, Emergency Vehicles Only”…or something like that.  This website gives a nice photo essay of what the Florida highways looked like before and after Frances.
  • Cell phones.  Do you have unlimited minutes and free roaming?  Be careful if you don’t!  Dave and I racked up several hundred dollars in roaming fees during our evacuation.  Many of the higher-quality cell phone towers lost service and we were left to roaming.  And we had a lot of folks to keep in touch with during our drives.  Our bosses, our subordinates, and the evacuated mission at their location elsewhere in the United States.  At the time we didn’t have free roaming coverage, but these days it’s typically included in most cell phone plans.