With Hurricane Ida making its way up to destroy Louisiana once again, I'd like to take this opportunity to give you some hurricane preparedness tips that you may not see on the TV. I found some of this stuff out by losing power for a week during Hurricane Isabel and don't want others to go through the same pain I did.
- Keep cash on hand. If a place doesn't have phone service, they probably won't be able to process credit/debit card transactions. They can perform a force authorization, but those who know how to do it probably won't because it's a vector for fraud.
- Test your generators before the storm. Nothing worse than preparing predicated on you having electricity and then finding out that the generator is broken. The manual should tell you the process to test it and how often, but you want to take care of any issues before the storm, rather than live with a busted generator during it.
- Keep any portable generator at least 10 feet/3 meters from the house while running. If you can't do that, leave it off. Generators produce carbon monoxide and you want that to be properly vented so as it doesn't enter your house. If the carbon monoxide concentration in the house is too high, you go to sleep and that's the end of you.
- Fill up your gas/diesel tanks before the storm. Not many gas stations have generators and those that do will have long lines. Some states don't have anti-gouging laws, so the stations that are open may increase their prices substantially. Some places may actually run out of fuel because they can't get a delivery to refill the tanks and you really don't want the dregs at the bottom of the tank.
- Fill up propane tanks before the storm. Once the items in your refrigerator and freezer pass 40F/4C, they're in the food safety danger zone and you have to dispose of them before they make you sick. You'll have to decide to cook or dispose of them before they reach that point. If the tank is empty, you'll have to chuck them.
- Full refrigerators/freezers stay cold longer! Food/water takes longer to warm up then air, so the less air you have in there, the longer items will stay cold. Also, the less they are opened, the longer they will stay cold so minimize the amount of time that door/drawer is open.
- Keep your phones charged. This is one of your means to receive emergency information and tell your family/friends of your status. There are external power supplies, solar panels, inverters for car cigarette lighters and regular cigarette lighter car chargers that can keep them up. Solar panels are less effective than you think so don't rely on them entirely. Bluetooth kills the battery rather fast so keep that off. Also, the less signal you have, the more power your phone will expend trying to maintain a connection to towers.
- Get the minimum items you need to take with you together in one place. If you have to evacuate, minutes and seconds count. The sooner you can get out of there, the less likely you are to get stuck in a traffic jam with everybody else bugging out of there as well. Even if they turn the opposing lanes your way, it can only double the amount of people that can leave and they're all going to have to merge back together at some point.
- Find some means to occupy yourself that doesn't take power. You're going to be stuck inside either a house, a hotel room elsewhere, or a shelter until this all clears up, so find some means to occupy yourself and possibly others for a while. You don't want cabin fever and there's nowhere to go to, so you have to make do with what you have.
- Remember the topography of your area. Low points and places downstream from them are likely to flood. Bridges near them may be washed away. Roads near them may collapse. If you have to leave, be sure to avoid those areas on your way out. If your only way out is through one of those areas, you may want to leave before the storm hits as not to be stranded for a while.
- Your water service is possibly dependent on having power. If you have a well, you may want to install a hand pump just in case you lose power. If you have a water service, they may not have a generator on their pumps, or may only have a generator on the well long enough to build up pressure in the pipes.
- Save up about 10 gallons of water per person. You'll need it for drinking and for washing. Much as you might like a hot shower given how sticky it's going to be afterward, it's not going to happen unless you have regular water service and hot water is a dream unless your generator is heating the hot water. Also it's really unpleasant when you have to make soup using water from the toilet tank.
- Try to get along with your neighbors. You all may have a lot of storm debris that needs clearing of a tree may be blocking the road out. Clearing it goes a lot quicker with more people helping.
- After you lose power, digital telephone may not work for long. You may lose power and internet at the same time. In the strange case that you lose power and not internet, your phone service will be dependent on how long the battery in the modem lasts. Once that's gone, you lose digital telephone service.
- You may not have power back for a while. If you are on a circuit shared with critical infrastructure (police, fire, rescue squad, hospital, etc), you're first priority to get back online. Then it's descending order of most populous areas that have lost power. This is judged by whatever sensors that the power company has and reports by customers. Check their website for the number to call to report you've lost power.
- Assume any downed line is power and live! If you see a downed power line, call the power company immediately! Don't touch it unless you want to become a crispy critter. There's a reason why power line workers have fiberglass poles to touch lines instead of touching it themselves. Even phone lines aren't entirely safe because copper phone lines have 40V running them.