Wednesday, September 13, 2017

HURRICANE IRMA: BEFORE, DURING, AFTER, AND A REVIEW OF OUR HURRICANE PREP.

Hurricane Irma has come and gone. In her path, much of Florida lies broken, powerless, and flooded. 
You can get those details from the news.
This Pure Florida post is about what we did here at PFHQ.
We'll cover what worked, what was genius, what was last minute, and what could have been done better.

This is PFHQ. Built in 1989, she has weathered multiple tropical cyclones including the amazing season of 2004.
She sits in a clearing, that is maybe a half acre of open space. 
The rest of PFHQ's 10 acre square is mostly Oak and Pine forest... mostly Oaks.
The older oaks in this forest are approximately 80 years old based on a few storm casualties that I have cut up over the years.
During high wind events, the encircling forest of very tall oaks sway wildly, but in doing so, they are absorbing much of the wind energy.
The result is that while standing on the porch during tropical systems, you may feel only a brisk breeze.
I give these trees all the credit for the fact that PFHQ has never had as much as a knick from decades of storms.
 Mr. Majestyk, the giant live oak that sits in front of and over parts of PFHQ is my only tree worry, but so far, so good.
He is "danger close", but we love him.

HURRICANE TIP NUMBER 1:
STOCKPILE WATER IN EVERY CONTAINER AVAILABLE.
Spotlessly clean containers should be filled with clean water and labeled if you are hosting family, etc. No one should be bucket flushing a toilet with potable water. 
Also, make it clear to your fellow refugees what your rules are for dipping water out of said containers. 
I chose one stainless steel pot with a long handle to be the official dipper.
 As I write this, it is Wednesday, 13 August 2017.
The ice chest of clean water above is just now empty after I allowed myself the luxury of a soup pot full of gas stove heated water for the first "shower" since Saturday.
I still have a second ice chest filled with potable water and the 60 gallon barrel below is still untapped.

Every year, at the beginning of hurricane season, I clean and refresh this barrel of water. The barrel is food grade and the top has a rubber gasket that completely seals it from bugs, tree frogs, geckos, etc.
Before I screw down the top I toss in a cap full of Clorox bleach.
So, here I am days after the storm, still without power 
re-connection, but drinkable water is not a concern.
I watched people in Walmart before the storm, frantically shoving water jugs in their carts, and was glad that wasn't me.

HURRICANE TIP NUMBER 2:
HAVE 5 GALLON BUCKETS ON HAND FOR TOILET FLUSHING. PLACE ONE IN EACH BATHROOM.

Unlike in the city, when our power goes out, we lose our well pump, which means we lose our water supply.

 Above is a small sample of my non-potable water storage that I assembled before Irma's arrival. 
This is basically flush water, so no worries about water quality here.

HURRICANE TIP NUMBER 3:
HAVE A GOOD SET OF BATTERY POWERED TOOLS, ETC.
I am TOTALLY a Ryobi One+ system guy. Ryobi has over 50 devices that run on the same powerful, rapid charging batteries.
I only boarded my most vulnerable windows, but the job was a breeze with my Ryobi tools.
 Speaking of breezes...
After the hurricane passes and things calm down, Florida returns in all her hot, humid glory. 
Only, now you have no air-conditioning.
Get this!
This powerful fan has been a night-time sleep lifesaver!
A little thing like this can make all the difference.
I actually bought this a few years ago to take camping, but it has been worth it's weight in gold this week.

 Spend a little extra and get the hybrid model. That way you can run on the battery below or plug it in if you have a generator running.
I use it in the shop to blow dust from my saw out the door.
This is useful year-round, not just during a hurricane. 

This larger battery will power that fan on high all night.
Nuff said ... Ryobi Rules.




Our power went out around 9:30 am on the day of the storm. At the time it was barely breezy and the storm was hours away.
When it came on after a half hour or so, I decided to gamble.
All I needed was about 3-4 hours to cook the thawing frozen turkey in the ice chest. 
Worst case scenario, the power goes out and we grill the bird.
So I went for it and we had a complete meal of roast turkey, rice and gravy, and green beans. 
Plus brownies courtesy of Liz after she got home from managing evacuation shelters.

HURRICANE TIP NUMBER 4: When you are buying bags of ice pre-storm, consider buying a frozen turkey. Double bag it in garbage bags to prevent any chance of leaking in the ice chest. Then let the frozen turkey help keep things cold in the chest as it slowly thaws.
Refrigeration and food all in one package.
Rob, full of turkey dinner with Ollie.




Somehow, on the day before the arrival of Irma, Liz got word of a shipment of generators coming to Green's Outdoors in Trenton. She called, we discussed, ($799...ugh). We had never had long term power outages here, but ... this storm was still forecast to be a 3 as it went over... So we got it.
To Green's credit, their price was not storm inflated, but exactly the same on several online sites.
It is running right now as I write this, in the kitchen, sitting on an ice chest that now contains more liquid than solid water.



HURRICANE TIP NUMBER 5:
DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE STORM IS 24 HOURS AWAY TO LOOK FOR A GENERATOR...ALTHOUGH ONE COULD JUST DROP INTO YOUR LAP (the way mine did), YOU SHOULD NOT COUNT ON THIS HAPPENING.



HURRICANE TIP NUMBER 6:
YOU CAN'T HAVE ENOUGH LIGHT SOURCES!
(AND BATTERIES)
Headlamps are indispensable in my book. Also, get some of these tiny LED lights.

 They work forever it seems and are super bright for their size. 
Plus ...
They have a tiny magnet on the back so you can stick 'em all over the place like dark bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens, etc.
I already had these in the house and they were so handy.


That's me, a little tired, but happy after firing up the
 Generac 5.0 generator.
The house is dark except for the kitchen which has become a command center of sorts. 
The generator is powering freezer, fridge, lamp, computer, Ryobi battery charger, coffee maker, and phone charger at the moment. 
It could do much more, but that is all that is needed currently.

Post hurricane season task:
 1. Buy tiny trailer kit from Harbor Freight.
 2. Build generator shed on trailer...thank you Pinterest.
3.Contact electrician to install a proper whole house outside generator plug.

That will get rid of this spaghetti mess.

Before the generator was unboxed and started, no one was allowed to open the fridge or freezer. Based on prior experiences, the power had never been off here for more than 24 hours. 
We were hoping that kept closed, these two devices could stay cold enough to save our food by the time power was restored.
Once the generator was turned on, normal access returned and the first thing I did was make a chef's salad. 
My body was craving something green after going without.
I pretty much inhaled that salad.

Gas lines...
Be nice.
Wait your turn.
Thank the cops who are dealing with thousands of frustrated drivers.

Trees...

Here's a tree just waiting to kill or injure someone.
The tree has split and very large limbs are propped up by limbs on the ground and the fork of a nearby tree.
I will study this one carefully before I ever start the saw. The basic plan is to slowly nibble away pieces until it settles to the ground.
If you just charge in with chainsaw roaring, you could be severely injured or worse.
Speaking of chainsaws, did you think to fill up the oil mixed chainsaw gas can and test run your saw before the storm?

Storm cleanup is unfun, hot, and tiresome. The excitement of the storm has passed, the power is still out, stores are closed, gas is hard to find, people may be grouchy.
It's a pisser for sure.


In the midst of all the temporary hardship and disruption, don't forget how lucky you are and what is really important.

11 comments:

Striking Splendor said...

So glad you and your family are safe!

robin andrea said...

Thank you for writing this all down. Hope the power is restored there as soon as possible. I will remember this post when we get our earthquake prep kit ready (which we have managed to put off doing for an embarrassing number of years!). Take care there.

roger said...

well done hurricane prepper. i like your advice about water storage. we lost power when we lived in grass valley. in winter. no woodstove. no well water. no central heating. the well needed a big generator to run. we got it. and ran extension cords all over the house. glad your family are all safe.

threecollie said...

Some things...I am so grateful all our Florida friends came through the storm safely, although some are still incommunicado due to lack of power and cell phone service. I am also grateful for strangers who were good enough to relay info on those folks so we know they are okay. And I have been so grateful to watch your family come through this....we were worried about you and Dani and a number of others, plus family in Jax Beach and Port Orange. Well done! And oddly enough many of the same tips apply way up here in the north where we seem to get floods and blizzards all too often. Thanks for the update and please keep those Ollie photos coming.

Wally Jones said...

Great post with excellent tips!
One thing we found useful was several "tap lights". I had a couple of packages lying around from several years ago. Popped in AA batteries, dispersed 'em around the house and they gave enough light to function.

Good ideas on the water.

Happy to hear you are okay!

R.Powers said...

Thanks for the comments everyone! The power came on a few hours ago, so spirits are much higher around here!

MyamuhNative said...

Hey FC, when you go to Harbour Freight, check out the 100 watt solar panel kits.
I bought one on sale and two batteries . That along with a couple of inverters will run fans,lights and charge laptop and phone.
I precharged the batteries with aHB battery charger I already had. With the lack of fuel frenzy happening here , it is nice to know we have options other than the generator. Btw I bought my generator after weeks of no power in 2005 and 2005.
Rain barrels are great for toilet water source too!

Btw how did Cedar Key fare?
Is the festival still on?

Lisa Greenbow said...

It is good to read that you and yours are safe and you have power. It was a scary time. How did your school fare?

R.Powers said...

So funny Myamuh, For months I've been eyeing Renogy Solar starter systems on Amazon and I've been reading my Off Grid Solar book. Just about ready to start my expandable solar generator.
Cedar Key did well. As far as I know the festival is good to go October 21-22.

R.Powers said...

Going to work tomorrow, but I think all is well there.

Bradenton Lurker said...

Glad to hear you and the fam came through okey dokey. Thanks for the tip on the Ryobi fan, didn't know they had one. Also like the tip of keeping a flush bucket next to the toilet. For water, we bought the large version of the Lifestraw, will filter more water than half our block would need. Used the small battery t-lite candles as nightlights. When it's that dark, those candles are very bright! Did you get out to see the Milky Way?