Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Hurricanes on Top of Pandemic?

Given the spread of the coronavirus, some South Carolina folks have mused about posting "No Hurricanes Allowed!" signs along our coastlines for the rest of the year. Dealing with a pandemic and another hurricane like Florence in September 2018 or Matthew in October 2016 (or huge Hazel from back in '54) is painful to contemplate. Nevertheless, Mother Nature does her own thing. And I am fully anticipating at least one major 'cane in the August/September/October timeframe. (After all, could 2020 -- the freaky year of calamities, natural or manmade -- be complete without a few hurricanes?)

Heat fuels these monsters. It's not just that it's been unrelentingly blistering here on the coast and farther inland, with a long series of 100-plus "real-feel"readings and no end in sight. The big deal is that ocean temps in the storm-brewing cauldrons are frightfully high -- way up in the 80s! And the Sarahan sand clouds that have been suppressing tropical-storm development are now dissipating.

So the course I am beginning to stay now is hurricane prep. Having lived through dozens of these starting with Hazel, I am probably ahead of the game. Nevertheless, there are gaps and unknowns in my plan. Such as where would we go in the event we decided to evacuate. 

We've only done that once. It was when trackers detected a late wobble by Florence that seemed to put us directly in the crosshairs. (Turns out, it wobbled again after we left, so our home was intact, thank goodness, when we finally were able to return.) The state's official hurricane planner advises that you decide months ahead of time where you will stay when you evacuate. The big problem with that is that hurricanes often set out in directions not foreseen. We headed north to our long-time home city of Richmond, and damned if the remnants of Florence didn't follow us! The swirling winds spawned a record outbreak of tornadoes in and around Richmond -- nearly 20 in one day, and we barely dodged a couple of them. And then in trying to go home we found that Florence flooding had blocked off major southbound routes forcing us to do a long western end run in order to find an opening. So evacuation is no picnic.

We have sheltered in place without harm for several Category 1 hurricanes (74-95 mph). Matthew's back winds may have touched Cat 2 (96-110) and it was scary as hell but we survived. Cat 3-5 -- no thank you! Would need to skedaddle -- to wherever. South Dakota maybe.

Whether staying or going, it is important to have a disaster kit at the ready. We are doing well with stocking some things, such as a portable radio, extra batteries, all our meds and first-aid items, a NOAA weather radio, flashlights with extra batteries, and waterproof case for all important documents. We are storing bottled water. You should have drinking water stored in airtight containers amounting to one gallon per person per day. And at least a week's supply. In case you're sheltering in place, you also should have water stored in case waterwater disposal is disrupted. A family of four might need 25 gallons for sanitary purposes. We fill up old two-liter soda bottles and save them for that.

Of course, we would never forget our beloved dog. So extra food for her, leash, carrier, vaccination records. And I guess you really do need to research in advance the location of pet-friendly motels within your zone of possible evacuation. Wouldn't want to be flitting between motels trying to find one at a time of emergency.

Something I need to find is a reliable mobile device charger in the event power goes off at home or if you are at a remote location. Not even sure how those work or where you find them. Maybe someone can educate me. Got to stay connected.

One item on the disaster kit list is hand sanitizer. Thanks to the pandemic, we have tons of that now, though it was hard to find for a while.

My family kids me about being such a disaster-planning nut. Maybe someday they will thank me.

© Robert Gray Holland  2020

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