Ten Things All Houstonians Should Have Now in Preparation for Hurricane Season
Sunday was the first day of Hurricane Season 2014. It is an annual ritual along the Gulf and Atlantic coastlines to get ready for potential tropical storms. Depressions can drop boatloads of rain, as can tropical storms (Allison, anyone?), so we would do well to be wary of even non-hurricane events. But when hurricanes do strike, they often leave us without power for days, sometimes without water and frequently stuck in a hot, steamy house for a couple of weeks.
Photo by Jeff Balke Post-Hurricane Ike.
That's why this is a good time to begin checking off your list of things you need in case of a hurricane. It may seem a bit silly to prepare, but it will be so much easier on you and your family if the worst happens. If nothing else, doing so will make you feel better.
10. Entertainment & Information Options
Must-Haves: Radio, Cards, Board Games
Additional Options: Portable TV
When you are stuck in your home for a week or more without power, it can get boring. But before you reach that point, you're going to need a way to find out what is happening with the storm. Keep in mind that you may not have power or even cell service. A radio (with batteries -- see below) is a great option. And having some games to amuse the kids -- or to play with your neighbors -- is never a bad option. If you can spring for a little battery-operated TV or DVD player, go for it, Rockefeller.
9. Safe Storage
Must-Haves: Document Storage, Cloud Backup
Additional Options: Waterproof Safe
Nothing can wipe out personal documents and computer technology like water. A flood or a leaky roof can destroy important documents and hard drives full of data. Making copies of your important documents before trouble starts is a great idea. Put them in a safe deposit box or, better yet, scan them into a computer and use a cloud backup service. A waterproof/fireproof safe isn't a bad idea, either.
8. Clean-Up Tools
Photo by Jeff Balke This guy in the Heights was prepared after Ike hit.
Must-Haves: Basic Hand Tools, Rake, Broom
Additional Options: Chainsaw, Power Tools
If you don't have the most basic of hand tools, go to Home Depot today and splurge the $25 or $30 it costs for a very simple set of tools including a hammer, screwdrivers and the like. If you own a home, get a broom and a rake -- mop, too -- because with high winds, stuff is gonna fall. I highly recommend some power tools as well such as a cordless drill and even a chainsaw (how else are you getting that broken limb off your car?), though keep in mind an electric one is cheaper but won't work if you don't have power.
7. Home Protection
Must-Haves: Insurance, Exterior Storage
Additional Options: Plywood, Plylox
Some people go a bit overboard on the home protection during storms. Most of us don't need to worry that much about significant problems like falling trees, but winds do blow debris around and that can break windows. Your first line of defense is obviously insurance. If you live in a flood-prone region -- even if you are not required by law to have insurance -- the extra cash for flood protection is worth it. Also, cleaning up everything outside and storing it safely will give you some added protection. If you really feel the need, go to Lowe's or Home Depot with measurements of your windows and have them cut you plywood to fit, and grab some Plylox to fasten it to your house. Once you've done it, you never have to buy plywood again.
6. Contact Information & Plans
Must-Haves: Friends, Family, Insurance, Mortgage, Landlord, Evacuation Plans
Additional Options: Key maps
Having basic contact information for your friends, family, insurance, landlord or mortgage company is essential, preferably written down rather than saved on an electronic device that needs power. Having a good evacuation plan if you are in a more vulnerable area, particularly if you have small children or elderly people living with you, is also very important. During the horrid evacuation of Hurricane Rita, I used a pair of Key maps (Harris and Montgomery County) to lay out a route to my mom's house in Montgomery County that took me only about two hours while others sat on I-45 for a dozen hours or more, not even getting out of the city. It's old-school but effective.