A Hurricane Guide from Louisiana to the East Coast

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Hurricane Irene is aimed at the East Coast and now maybe people in the Northeast are trying to figure out what to do about it. I figured a guide written by someone who’s lived in hurricanes might be useful .

What are the Dangers?

For all dangers, it’s worse on the east side of the “eye” because hurricanes move in a counter-clockwise direction. By the time the wind and rain hit the western side, much of the punch is gone having been used up.

Wind: This is the danger that measures the strength of hurricanes. How much damage it can do depends on what it has to work with. For homeowners, the threats are numerous. There is debris flying around, such as patio furniture, plant pots, etc. This stuff has the potential to break windows, which can lead to serious damage inside the house (b/c the rain and wind will get in).

However, the more likely damage is to roofs and trees. My guess is that roofs in your area aren’t built up to the codes they are in LA, so you’ll lose plenty of shingles (these shingles and the tacks & nails they contain will litter the roadway, so be careful driving afterwards. Likely you’ll get a flat so be prepared for that). You could have more serious damage: That would be the roof of my apartment after Hurricane Gustav. The jerk making the thumbs-up sign would be me.

The other danger wind causes is falling trees. Yes, trees provide nice shade which keep down energy bills in the summer, but trees in these storms are nothing but logs waiting to be pushed over. Branches over houses can get knocked off and crash into the house, if not the tree itself. If you haven’t been making sure your tree is still alive and healthy…well, now if probably too late. If you know a tree is dead and have the time to cut it down, that’s probably a good idea.

Storm Surge: This only applies to those living on the coast. How far from the coast depends on the hurricane’s strength at landfall, but this is the most powerful part of the storm. It’ll wipe out floors or entire houses depending on its size. Essentially, storm surge is the wind pushing the waters, so that it’s frequently described as a wall of water coming at you.

Flood: Although this is a bigger fear for New Orleans, you’ll still have to deal with. Chances are you just lose your carpet, but if the water sits you may have to replace the drywall in your house. That is not fun, especially if you don’t have flood insurance, which most people don’t have.

Other concerns:

When things flood, animals get displaced, so you have to watch yourself for snakes and other creatures, especially in the flood water.

Chances are you will lose power. How long depends on the damage to the area, your type of power grid, and where you are on that grid. You’ll find out that if you’re close to businesses, you’ll get power back faster. If your area has underground power, you have a good chance of keeping it but overhead wires are likely going to be blown over or knocked down by falling tree branches.

Looting: likely not an issue, but if the damage disrupts the police department (specifically by making roads impassable due to water or debris) it will happen. This is more of a concern for business owners. Fire protection is also hindered due to low water pressure and again roads.

FEMA & Insurance co. They suck. No two ways about. Judging by the handling of BP, the Obama administration is even worse than the Bush in this area. The only thing that it’s in their good hands is your money. While some insurance companies are reasonable, sometimes they’re not.

How to prepare:

Evacuate: if the government is telling you to get out, it’s probably because of the storm surge. If power could be out a while and you have small children, you might want to take a trip to grandma’s house. Bring about a week’s worth of clothes because you don’t know how long it will be before they start allowing people back into the area.

Canned food, water, batteries, flashlights, other necessaries: remember, power is likely out and cooking is not an option (gas may still be there, but gas lines could be broken so you can’t count on that). BBQ is a possibility, but not during the storm (this should be obvious. it’s not apparently).

Entertainment. You’re going to be sitting in the dark without A/C with no TV, Internet, phones, etc. You may have to talk to your family. Board & card games are the best options; books won’t work too much. If you have a laptop with a good battery, charge that up (charge up all your stuff to be honest) and use it as a DVD player. If this sounds terrible to you, you can buy a generator but they can be expensive and dangerous (every storm someone puts a generator inside and it either it catches fire or the people die from carbon monoxide poisoning).

Gas up the cars: some pumps don’t work without power, so you need to do this before the storm.

Hurricane Party: You may think I’m joking, but there’s a reason New Orleans has made this famous. You can’t do anything at this point to stop it (other than pray). Alcohol is a must, such as the hurricane drink. If you’re adventerous, you can go outside during the beginning stages of the storm and play frisbee or football. You can go instead when moving becomes difficult.

The important thing is to have a good attitude. Everyone’s in the same boat, and chances are you’ll get to meet and deal with people you don’t usually get to. New Orleans ended up a stronger city after the storm because everybody went through the pains together. Complaining does no one any good.

So those are some quicks tips from Louisiana. Glad to help y’all out. But if the next time a hurricane is pointed as us, you Yanks could refrain from questioning why New Orleans ought to be rebuilt, we’d much appreciate it. Enjoy your hurricane party!

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  1. Another excuse to raise gas and food prices, fed by media frenzy. In the Midwest, we call this an afternoon shower.

  2. Sadly, Don, prayer didn’t do much for the 1,800 who died from Katrina or thousands of others in previous storms. I’ve often wondered why these natural disasters are called “Acts of God.” I guess because He’s easy to blame.

  3. Some other tips I’ve picked up around the net:

    — If there are people you want to contact to let them know where you are, or that you are OK, WRITE the list down on paper. Don’t leave those numbers stored on devices that are dependent upon electricity. You may be able to use a landline phone or borrow a phone from a friend or neighbor if yours doesn’t work.

    — Do ALL your laundry now, before the storm hits.

    — If you have an ice maker, use it now and store up as much ice as possible.

    — Take pictures of your house and all your stuff NOW and store them in a secure place (could be a computer hard drive or other device). If you suffer damage, you will now have “before” and “after” pictures to show your insurance company, which will greatly ease your claims process.

    — If you have a “safe place” designated for hunkering down in case the winds get too high — like a closet or bathroom (similar to what Tornado Alley residents do during tornado warnings) — make sure it’s not cluttered. You don’t want to be moving stuff out of the way when you’re in a hurry to take cover.

  4. “Act of God” is merely a poetic expression of the Law Joe in regard to natural catastrophes, and indicates that no human agency is at fault. As for the dead from Katrina, I would assume that they would have considered their prayers answered if they arrive in eternity in purgatory or heaven. Believers do not pray simply for a good life, but also for a good death.

  5. Practical as always Elaine. A few hand crank rechargeable radios aren’t a bad idea. If you have a sump pump in your basement as I do, a backup battery generator for it is an excellent idea. If you have small kids bring some books and games to keep them distracted. Praying the rosary with them can be very calming for all concerned.

  6. A good death? Almost an oxymoron. Also, wouldn’t eternal purgatory be an oxymoron since it’s supposed to have a finite ending? I’ve often wondered what would be worst than death and then I saw The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a true story about a man who had “locked-in syndrome” and had full mental capabilities but could only blink with his left eye. When asked at first what he wanted, he managed to convey “death” as being preferable, but he went on to write a book by blinking the words — once for yes, twice for no when he was shown letters. I thought it was an amazing triumph of the human spirit, but on reflection I would have rather died than go through what he did. I would have blinked, “pull the plug.”

  7. Not an oxymoron at all Joe. The most important part of our existence begins after our death. Eternity Joe consists of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. No one will be in Purgatory for all of eternity, although on my worst days I think that I might set some records if I attain Purgatory.

  8. So purgatory and hell are different places? Or is just “time served”? I’m thinking a Motel 6 in heaven would be fine rather than a Radisson in hell. Who was it who said, “everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die.”?

  9. Yes Joe, Purgatory is a distinct place from Hell. The soul is purged there of the sins that make it unfit for Heaven. Dante in his Purgatorio captures the essence of Catholic teaching on the subject. Purgatorio was the first part of Dante’s Comedia that I read in a cheap Pelican paperback edition in Junior High, and it has a warm place in my heart.

    “Who was it who said, “everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die.”?

    Someone unfamiliar with Saint Paul’s cry “Death where is thy sting?” no doubt.

  10. It’s important to remember that you have to be saved to get into Purgatory in the first place, so it’s really a part of, or a first stage, of Heaven.. Some would call it the vestibule or mud room of Heaven — the place where you get cleaned up, take off your muddy (sin-stained) boots and other stuff, before you walk into the main rooms of Heaven. Or you could compare it to a field hospital where souls wounded or sick, but still alive, after slogging through the battles of life are restored to spiritual health so they can enjoy Heaven to the fullest. How long it takes for them to recover depends on how badly they were “wounded” in life. Prayer, the sacraments and works of charity done on earth help keep you spiritually healthy, so that when you die, you don’t need as much “treatment.”

  11. I’ve often wondered why these natural disasters are called “Acts of God.” I guess because He’s easy to blame.

    With the advent of Katrina, they are called Acts of Bush. I guess because it’s more politically expedient to blame him.

  12. Hurricane Irene is aimed at the East Coast and now maybe people in the Northeast are trying to figure out what to do about it.
    Thank you for the post. Katrina was horrifying to watch on cable news. And, yes, I heard things said about the idea of living below sea level. See what happens when charity doesn’t rule words! We are going to see. Oh, the Hurricane drink (huge glass) – I had one once in the 70’s on a visit to my brother and his wife – don’t remember much after except music and the Lake Pontchartrain bridge. We saw the Camille effects on the MS coast and the oily sand sticks in my mind as it did to my feet. I wonder now about that after BP.

    If you have a sump pump in your basement as I do, a backup battery generator for it is – excellent idea.
    Battery powered (!?) – Just went to the top of my list, but probably too late. No floor drain in this old cellar, on ledge with very high water table, BUT – two electric portable sump pumps hoses attached ready and waiting for, eek, electricity – then water. Thank you. I avoid gas powered things with pull cords.

    ALL your laundry now – At least, that is covered.
    As well, empty spaces in freezer and refridgerator have containers of water.

    Most of all thanks for the reminder of essential contemplation – Psalm 23 can begin 100 miles inland from me in the Connecticut River valley probably this time tomorrow.

  13. Elaine mentioned it, but I want to be a little more specific: Be sure you have a landline phone, but specifically have one that is not cordless.

    As a Louisiana resident, I learned the hard way that even a landline is no good is the phone is a cordless model that needs electricity to recharge the handset. I bought a cheap ($10) model and a long phone line. It works just fine with or without electricity.

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