Hurricanes don’t usually menace the southern New England area, so we aren’t as experienced in hurricane preparedness as those farther south may be. But we do know how to prepare for snowstorms. I don’t usually get too verklempt about storms in the winter though, but Hurricane Earl is a little too close and weird for my comfort. I’m looking forward to whatever breaks this awful heat wave, however. I was originally planning to go to the grocery store tomorrow, but in view of the weather reports, I decided to ramp that plan forward one day to avoid either an early-arriving storm or last-minute panic shoppers. For those of you familiar with it, in the last 24 hours the French Toast Alert Level has been upped from low thru Elevated and High and is currently sitting at Severe. This is as high as the chart goes, but I have a feeling that an entirely new category, “OH $%*!,” may be instituted tomorrow afternoon. When I visited the nearest chain grocery store this afternoon, it wasn’t any busier than usual and the shelves were all fully stocked, INCLUDING bread, milk, and eggs (the basis of the French Toast Alert system). If today was Severe, tomorrow looks to be Pure Gibbering Panic. So in addition to regular groceries and groceries for guests, I stocked up on a few hurricane-preparedness items. This list can also be used for winter storm preparedness, so I think it’s convenient as a reminder for myself as well as a memory-jogger for anyone else preparing to batten down the hatches for a big storm.
- Milk, eggs, bread. The milk and eggs will quickly cease to be useful if the power goes out for more than a little while, but the bread can be put to good use in peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. This is more of a precaution in case utilities are intact but the roads are impassable, and you can hold a French toast party to pass the time.
- Toilet paper. You’ll be sad if you run out.
- Canned soups and stews. They can be eaten room temp (blech) or heated over a camp stove.
- Instant coffee. No one’s ever mentioned instant coffee to me in conjunction with storm preparedness, but it makes no end of sense to have a small jar on hand. As long as you have good hot water running, you can get some sort of coffee-like substance in to your system, which for many, including most Greater Boston twentysomethings such as myself, is imperative.
- Shelf-stable cans of tuna salad, chicken salad, and crackers. It isn’t awesome, you won’t feel stuffed after eating it, but it’s food, and it will carry you through in a pinch if you run out of peanut butter.
- Anything that can be grilled. Even if we lose power, we’ve got a grill and two canisters of gas, so we can have steaks or barbequed chicken or grilled vegetables or whatever.
- Bottled water: Two surprise instances of losing potable water to the house this spring have led me to be absolutely nuts about having enough water stored away in the basement to keep a Roman legion on its feet. Emergency management officials recommend having 1 gallon of water per adult per day on hand. For example, ten days of water for two people is twenty gallons, plus water for infants and pets.
- Speaking of pets, you’ve probably got enough canned food and/or kibble on hand to get by, but just in case your kibble bin is looking low, consider stocking up early! Amy has plenty of noms in her kibble bin, considering she’s only 1 month in to a 50-pound bag, so she’s ready for any storm that comes our way. (On a side note, I really need to figure out how much one day’s worth of kibble weighs. Or how many cups 50 pounds of food is.)
- And speaking of infants, diapers and jars of baby food should be a part of your staple grocery lists already, but having extra on hand in case of an emergency never hurt anyone; they’ll be used up eventually.
Other things to think about:
- Try to trim back any tree branches that may have been damaged during other summer storms, or that are simply too close to your home. I’ve noticed a good number of people in our neighborhood this week shearing off branches, in preparation for this storm, I presume. This can protect both your home and your neighbors’ homes, as well as your vehicles.
- Bring any window air conditioning units in if you can! I don’t know about you, but I have one old one in my office window that leaks like a sieve in the regular rain, so saints preserve us when we’re talking tropical storm force winds and buckets of rain. The only units we have left out are the big downstairs behemoth which is bolted in, and the one in our bedroom.
- Secure anything outdoors or bring it inside, if possible. Lawn furniture, lawn ornaments, sheds and outbuildings, tools, toys, trash and recycling barrels, anything loose: batten it down or bring it in.
- Bring flags in off the front of your house. The pole could snap right off the house, potentially damaging your siding, and at worst be picked up by the wind and tossed through a window. I’m having Jim bring in ours tonight.
These last two are less pertinent when preparing for winter storms, since the wind in those storms is usually secondary to the amount of snow that’s expected to come down. But Hurricane Earl could bring tropical-storm-force to hurricane-force winds to coastal areas, so I’m preparing for winds in excess of 60 miles per hour. Luckily, our section of the coast is in a deep, protected bay, and winds and even waves may be less intense here than along coastal areas fronting the ocean (such as Nantasket, which is across the bay from us and protects us from the brunt of major storms).
- Cell phones, flashlights. Although the cell phones will stop being useful about 12 hours after the power goes out. Make sure you have fresh batteries for the flashlights on hand as well.
- A back-up generator. Normally I’d say this is going overboard, but in some instances it could be imperative. Friends of ours have a sump pump in their basement which is overactive on normal days, and any prolonged loss of power would naturally result in a flooded basement for them. A small generator will keep that pump going and, hopefully, their basement dry no matter what happens.
- A hand-crank radio. Mostly this is useful in areas of the country affected by tornados, because real-time tracking is essential to survival. In our area of the country and in the situations we find ourself in, the hand radio becomes a simple lifeline to the world and source of entertainment if the power goes out. I don’t think we have a hand radio, and I’m willing to sit tight until the power comes back on to find out what’s happened in the world while I was away.
- Books! I will gleefully batten down in my little beach cottage as long as there is a pile of literature to hand. Preferably something dreary that plays on the isolation you will feel while burrowed away. I think it might be an excellent time to finish the bio of Anne Boleyn I started some weeks back. Murder mysteries are also highly recommended, so I also have the second Sister Jane mystery, Hotspur by Rita Mae Brown on deck, as well as Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I might also recommend Moby-Dick, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, and Shakespeare’s King Lear. I absolutely forbid you to read anything that makes you wish it were nice out. On the flip side, I also forbid you to read Sudden Sea, the story of the great hurricane of 1938 that devastated Connecticut, Rhode Island, and parts of Massachusetts. No point in depressing yourself too much.
Alright, Earl! I’ve got a jar of instant coffee crystals and enough murder mysteries to last a lifetime. Come and get it!