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Eating Hurricane Andrew

August 26, 2011

When a hurricane rolls around, you want a Floridian nearby. I still remember a unit on hurricane preparedness from my seventh grade civics class. But also every year Publix would print hurricane-tracking maps on all of its paper grocery bags. Hurricanes were just something else you had to deal with as a resident of South Florida.

While I don’t watch the TV news, I do imagine they are making great hay of the approaching storm. And it pays to be careful. But there is also no reason to panic.

For the most part, people don’t die in hurricanes. Okay, smart people don’t die in hurricanes. If you walk out into the storm, you are likely to get seriously injured. Most hurricane deaths occur after the storm. People get electrocuted from downed power lines and fall off roofs and ladders while making repairs.

Your property can suffer. But at the end of the day, it’s just stuff.

The good news is that Albany isn’t Miami. And as someone who was living on the edge of the evacuation zone for hurricane Andrew in 1992 (and chose not to evacuate) I should be able to provide a unique insight into preparations for and life after a significant hurricane. And don’t worry, there’s food in here too.

Miami in August is brutal. You wouldn’t want to imagine life there without air conditioning. But after the storm, there was no power for days. Everything was wet, and the humidity prevented anything from drying. The smell of heavy moldy air was inescapable. And of course there were mosquitoes.

During the day it was so hot, all I could do was lie there in my own sweat. Showers were inadvisable because overflowing sewers contaminated the water. If you were desperate, the advisory was to keep the water out of your eyes, nose and mouth. And there was no relief. Not even a cold beverage.

But Albany isn’t Miami. We are already experiencing the cooling breezes of fall. So even if the hurricane does hit here and we are without power for a few days, it shouldn’t be unbearable.

You should really have water and shelf-stable food on hand. I presume Mr. Dave already has this covered. But it also makes sense to have some cash, because ATMs will run out, and credit cards may not work.

After Andrew hit, the restaurant I worked in was handing out payroll advances and giving away frozen food that was thawing and would soon be spoiled.

That got me a few hundred dollars in cash and several pounds of large thawing shrimp. With power out, we took a pot and filled it with beer, dumped in the shrimp, and put the whole thing on the grill. Leftovers couldn’t be saved, so we made sure there were no leftovers. It was an orgiastic feast of succulent beer-boiled shrimp, eaten with hands, by people who hadn’t had a good meal in days.

It’s my best memory from the experience.

For future hurricane warnings, I did better at making sure we had delicious things on hand that required no refrigeration. My sister and I found pre-made shelf-stable crepes. Naturally we purchased Nutella, strawberries and bananas to go with them. Our storm provisions were off to a splendid start.

Except the thing was that most subsequent storms seemed to pass us by. I’ve learned over time that meteorologists can’t predict a path of a hurricane. But that doesn’t stop them from trying.

Still, this doesn’t mean one shouldn’t take the threat seriously though.

Young Master Fussy is with his grandmother in Providence right now. I’m just about to leave to bring him back a few days early. The original plan was to keep him there until Sunday. But discretion is the better part of valor.

We have a ton of seltzer on hand, plenty of peanut butter and bread, and no shortage of tomatoes. What we don’t have is a grill. But I’m not sure there is room for one in the garage, and if a storm looks imminent, you’ll want to bring everything inside. When winds are in excess of 75 miles an hour, any debris can be a major hazard.

If things do get really hairy, find an interior room of your house with no windows to ride out the storm. Ideally one with pipes in the walls, which provide extra structural support. And in the unlikely event of the eye of the storm passing over us, even though it looks clear outside, DO NOT leave your house.

There are a few other tips I remember like where to park a car to help keep it safe from falling trees (flush against the side of a building), and the thing about opening leeward windows to equalize the pressure inside your house (so the roof doesn’t blow a hole in it).

It’s a fine line one should walk in times like these. Don’t panic, just be prepared. And make sure you’ve got plenty of good things to eat and drink. Then, should the storm pass us by, you already have most of what you would need to throw a party in addition to a worthy reason to celebrate.

Now if you have any hurricane questions, I’ll do my best to answer them during those few hours today that I’m not behind the wheel.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. northcountryrambler permalink
    August 26, 2011 12:48 pm

    …and make sure your gas tank(s) are filled. Fill some five gallon buckets with water (for flushing, etc.)

  2. August 26, 2011 3:25 pm

    Great post and very helpful, thank you Profussor. Safe travels and keep the radio on to be aware of highway diversions. In Jersey, it’s already be announced that the road heading out of Long Beach City will run in one direction only, west.

  3. Kerosena permalink
    August 26, 2011 6:28 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I know you’re probably on the road by now, but I have a few questions for you. Please pardon my ignorance.

    1. Do I really have to buy bottled water, or can I fill up water bottles/pitchers/jugs that I already own?

    2. If we’re not getting the worst of the storm here as predicted, should I be concerned about parking my car against my house?

    Thank you in advance, and “safe trip” to you and yours.

    • August 26, 2011 7:16 pm

      1) You can totally stock away water in various containers, but I would not advise using that for drinking. In school we were told to fill the tub and in an emergency could even utilize the water in the toilet holding tank. But even in the aftermath of Andrew it never came down to that. There are methods for making sketchy water safe for drinking, although I’m rusty on those. I do recall something about a bleach solution and something else about boiling. But if you don’t want to mess around with this, I’d pick up some bottled water. We have a ton of seltzer on hand, so I’m just planning to use through that stockpile in case of emergency.

      2) I’d say it depends on your trees. We’ve got big trees. Branches can break at wind speeds significantly lower than hurricane levels. So I’m putting one car in the garage, and the other right next to the house, but still in the driveway. Or at least, I’m going to try.

  4. August 26, 2011 7:18 pm

    Being a faithful servant and protector of my fellow Upstate Americans (I am doing my other career for a bit again), I haven’t had too much time to prepare myself for this one, going to do a bit of shopping tonight.

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