Florida is in full preparation mode. The gas stations are empty. The water is gone off the shelves. Hotels have no vacancies. Rumors are it will take days to drive out of Florida from where we are — if we could even find the gas to go. I looked up flights and they don’t exist.
I’m no stranger to hurricane warnings and storms after living on the west coast of Florida for 13 years, but as this category 5 brews in the Caribbean, I’m nervous as options narrow. I got out my hurricane checklist I’ve added to over the years to prepare my family and share with you.
A heavy feeling comes over me as gather my lists’ items and think of the current situation in Texas. My own experience with storms adds to my sense gravity. There were a string of hurricanes when I moved here in 2004 and they have made a lasting impact on me. I didn’t know many people as a newcomer and lived by myself when Hurricane Wilma struck. I evacuated and when I came back to my little apartment, I didn’t realize the only way included walking through the flooding waters. I accidentally got up to my chest in the water, carrying my belongings over my head. I made it to a road and a man pulled up beside me. “Can I give you a ride?” he asked. I would normally say no, but his eyes were kind and I was chilled, tired and shaken. So I sat down in the passenger seat of the kind man’s truck, soaking it with water, and he drove me as close to my apartment as he could get.
I made it to my apartment to find no electricity and no water, but I was safe. At night there were no street lights and the sky was black. I tried to keep my imagination under control. I had filled the bathtub with water before I left, so I scooped water from it into the back of the toilet so it would flush. I ate things from cans and finished off my loaf of bread. In the following days, still with out electricity and water, the grocery store was closed. I was running out of water. Then one morning I heard someone on a loud speaker outside announcing free bottled water. I ran out of my apartment, down the stairs and a man with the Red Cross and a smile handed me a whole case of bottled water out of the back of a truck! I get tears in my eyes thinking about it. “Thank you! Thank you!” I cried. Yes, I needed the water, but their kindness — taking their time and resources to help others — was what overwhelmed me. I had never been on the receiving end of an outreach and it touched my heart forever. I felt less alone.
Some are devastated by natural disasters, some become heroes, but we all are impacted by them.
I’ve since learned few tricks from some longtime Floridans. We are warned about hurricanes a few days in advance so there is some time to prepare, hopefully. I still fill the bathtubs with water. In addition, I now fill milk jugs with water and freeze them to keep the fridge cold so food won’t spoil right away. We have a battery-powered radio, lanterns and flashlights. And you’ll never be so grateful for instant coffee!
Here is my full, printable hurricane checklist:
Hurricane food and menu
I have three little kids now, so I can’t just eat peaches out of a jar for dinner as I did those years ago. Some of these ingredients only have a week shelf-life or so, but don’t need refrigeration. The only one that needs refrigeration are the hard-boiled eggs that should be in the cooler. This is my plan:
Healthy emergency grocery list
- canned tuna
- canned cannelloni beans
- canned black beans
- canned soup
- canned chili
- canned green beans
- jar of salsa
- peanut or almond butter
- firm avocados
- fruit pouches
- dried fruit
- dehydrated mashed potatoes
- tortilla chips
- instant oatmeal
- energy bars
- instant coffee
- paper plates, bowls, cups, silverware
- paper towel
Make ahead of time
- Cook up bacon in the freezer. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated and will add a much-needed umph to your beans and crackers!
- Hard boil your eggs and leave in shells. (Keep in the cooler if electricity goes off.)
- Sauté a diced onion to add to meals later.
- Make a loaf of PB&Js and freeze them.
- hard-boiled egg and piece of bacon
- dry cereal and fruit
- instant oatmeal with dried fruit
- tortilla rolled with peanut butter, banana and honey
- crackers and peanut butter
- energy bar
- piece of fruit
- seeds and dried fruit
- crackers and bean dip (mashed beans, salt, olive oil)
- chips and salsa
- cucumber slices
- bowl: cannelloni beans, onion, bacon, avocado and tuna
- PB&J and tortilla chips
- canned soup with crackers
- canned chili, green beans with bacon bits, crackers
- tortilla wrapped with rice with black beans, avocado and salsa
- bowl: rice with sliced hard-boiled eggs, beans of choice, diced cucumber, bacon
See the FDA’s regulations for keeping food safe if you have questions. And if you still don’t know, when in doubt, throw it out. It’s not worth getting sick.
National Hurricane Center
When a storm is approaching it’s hard to know what is sensationalism and what is real. As I was complaining about this to my friend Sasha, she suggested I get updates from the National Hurricane Center. This is what the news stations use anyway and then you can decide if you’d like the commentary or not. There is also an app. She said she looks mainly at these:
- Experimental Arrival Time of Winds
- Warnings/Cone Interactive Map
I have heard a few more clever things as we prepare for this hurricane that are new to me. I haven’t tried these yet, but thought I would pass them on!
- Close the interior doors to your house to help with pressure.
- Keep valuables in your dishwasher because it is sealed, waterproof and attached to your cabinets so it won’t go anywhere.
- Put your car in neutral and push it back so it barely touches the garage door. Put it back in park. This helps with wind impact.
- If you electricity and wifi go out, update your voicemail to keep family and friends informed.