Disaster preparedness: Getting ready for Florence

September 24, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 24, 2018

As mentioned in my previous post, Hurricane Florence largely spared the Research Triangle. But up until Tuesday, Sept. 18 (if memory serves), the projected track showed the storm heading directly for our area. I was determined to be ready for it.

In the very early hours of Monday the 17th, near the end of my drive home from an evening of playing free poker, I diverted to a Durham gas station at the corner of Main and Ninth streets. After filling my tank, I went to a nearby 24-hour supermarket so I could stock up on fruit and canned soup. If the storm hit my city hard, I’d have enough gas to travel a few hundred miles and enough food to eat for several days.

There was more to be done to prepare for trouble. I always keep some large bottles of water in my refrigerator, but I filled additional containers to be on the safe side. (Most emergency preparedness guides recommend having one gallon of water per person per day.)

I took a number of steps to guard against a possible power outage. For one thing, I made extra batches of pasta and rice that I stashed in my refrigerator. I tried to keep my main phone charged. My rarely used hand-me-down iPad got topped off. I also took my old iPhone from my car and made sure that it and its battery case were at full capacity. My emergency jump starter, which is also capable of powering other electronic devices, got the same treatment.

I have a flashlight, a headlamp and a lantern in my house, none of which were functioning. I lacked the AA batteries that the first and last of those required to function, but I had fresh AAA batteries on hand. Once the headlamp was ready to go, I put it beside my bed.

I don’t usually have ice in my freezer, but I filled two trays with water, put the resulting ice in a container and then refilled the trays. I also stuck some water-filled containers in there as well. If the electricity failed, or if I had to evacuate, the ice would help cool my food for a while; afterward, of course, I’d be able to consume the meltwater or use it for cleaning.

Speaking of evacuating: I packed my duffel bag with clothing and put it in the trunk of my car. A bag filled with soup, a large package of granola and some fruit also got thrown in there. Naturally, my old smart phone and emergency jump starter were also returned to my vehicle after being plugged in and restored to full power. I have a second headlamp stored in my glove compartment; when I checked it, I was happy to discover that it seemed to be working fine. That was stowed back in its usual spot.

I also swung by an ATM and withdrew a few hundred dollars. If an incident causes widespread and prolonged power outages, many area business may not be able to accept payment by credit card or check.

When I travel, I place my leather toiletry kit in my main piece of luggage. That went in my duffel bag along with important medications. So I wouldn’t have to pull stuff out of my car nightly if I didn’t have to evacuate, I picked out five days’ worth of three different pills and capsules, shrink-wrapped like with like, and tossed these little packets into an empty pill bottle in my house. (I used plastic wrap to prevent any unintentional effects caused by different kinds of medicine interacting with one another outside my body.)

It wasn’t until after Florence had swept through out of the state and dissipated that I bought additional AA batteries. I got the lantern functioning, but I wasn’t able to figure out how to unscrew the flashlight’s battery compartment. I guess that’s still on my “to do” list.

As previously stated, the storm didn’t cause much havoc in the Triangle. But that’s not to say that the system passed entirely without drama. I’ll get into that in a future post.


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