|Photo taken from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e7/Felix_from_ISS_03_sept_2007_1138Z.jpg
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I’m a Miamian, born and raised, so I’ve witnessed several hurricanes ravage my beautiful city. My first (and scariest) hurricane was Andrew in 1992. But, more recently, Hurricane Irma paid us a nasty little visit. Miami lost some trees, phone service, electricity, cable, and internet for a while, but parts of the Florida Keys were destroyed.
My family and I were lucky enough to have survived the storm with minimal hiccups, and, now, I want to share some tips on how to prepare your family for the storm.
1. A few months before hurricane season starts, make your house as hurricane proof as possible.
We started looking into impact windows in May, found the right company for us in June, and by the end of July, we had all of our windows (except for one) changed to impact. Make sure to research how the windows stand up to high wind speeds or get shutters installed. Shutters are usually able to withstand higher wind speeds and will protect your windows from being damaged by any projectiles caused by the storm. I will say, though, that our windows stood up to Irma’s 90+ mph winds without a problem. Comment below if you’d like to know the model of our windows or the company we used to install them.
|The window at the top of the door came in the wrong size, and that stalled the changing of the front door and side windows, so we just boarded everything up.
2. Start preparing as soon as you hear that the storm may be coming.
On Labor Day (Monday), we heard that the storm might be headed our way, but we decided that the storm was still far away, so we went to the mall instead of stocking up on hurricane prep essentials. The next day, we were more certain that the storm was going to hit us, so I went to Publix with the intention of buying canned foods and water. The supermarket was packed with people, the canned and other nonperishable foods selection was abysmal, and they were already out of water.
Also, that same day, the lines to buy gas were longer than an hour in some gas stations.
The storm wasn’t expected to hit for another four to five days!
Lesson learned: start buying water, canned goods, and gas as soon as you even hear mention of a potential storm headed your way.
Make sure to buy at least one week’s worth of food and water (see tip # 3 for more specific water-related tips) to ride out the storm, and the aftermath. Roads may be impassable and a lot of places may be closed after the storm, so make sure to stock up.
3. Stock up on water.
One gallon of drinking water per day per person for at least a week is advised.
Also, fill your tub with water in case the water is shut off or contaminated after the storm; you can use this water to flush toilets, brush your teeth, bathe, or wash dishes.
|You don’t want to have to buy water from this guy, so buy water as soon you can or fill up all your tupperware with water before the storm.
4. Buy lots of snacks!
Being anxious about the storm and being cooped up in the house for an extended period of time led us to stress eat. Luckily, I’d stocked up on a lot of snacks, and we had more than enough to ride out the storm.
Some of our favorite snacks to munch on during and after the storm included:
Ritz Handi Snacks (the little individual packs of crackers that come with cheese spread on the side),
various types of crackers,
various types of cookies,
and shelf-stable milk.
|Our shelf-stable milk options. We tried hemp milk for the first time during the storm, and even my picky toddler drank some, then decided she hated it. Luckily, we stored her regular whole milk in our freezer for the 36 hours that we didn’t have power and both cartons survived! Hoorah!
5. Stock up on pet food and other pet essentials.
I have to buy my dog’s food at a specialty dog food place because she has really bad allergies. I went to buy her some wet food on Wednesday and found most of the shelves empty. Luckily, my dog needs to eat the more expensive limited-ingredient stuff, so I was able to purchase enough for about two weeks.
6. Stock up on or refill your medications.
If you, a family member, or pet, take any medication, make sure to get your prescriptions filled and your medication bought for the storm and for a couple of weeks afterward. I got my prescriptions refilled a bit earlier than usual, and picked up some allergy medication for my dog to ensure that we had enough for the storm and two weeks after. You just never know how long it’ll take your doctor, your pharmacy, or your pet’s vet to open up after the storm.
7. If you have the budget for it, invest in a good generator.
We were so lucky to have lost electricity for only 36 hours because many people lost their electricity for much longer. My mom didn’t have her power restored for seven days! Luckily, she was able to stay with us. My husband’s aunt told us her house reached temperatures in excess of 90 degrees at night after 3 days without electricity.
Also, buy a fan or portable air conditioning unit that you can plug into the generator to make those hot post-hurricane nights bearable.
8. Stock up on gas.
Fill your car’s gas tank as soon as you can. You may be in an evacuation zone, and don’t want to have an empty tank when the time comes to leave. Many businesses will close a day or two before the storm, so you don’t want to procrastinate on this.
Also, it may take a while for power to be restored in your area, and gas stations may not be able to open right after the storm, so you want to make sure you have enough fuel for your generator or car for at least a few days.
Extra Tip: You can use the GasBuddy app to see which gas stations have run out of gas or still have gas, and it’ll even tell you the prices of gas in the gas stations near you.
9. Go to the dollar store and buy anything that could entertain your toddler.
I went to Dollar Tree and bought coloring books, crayons, lots and lots of playdough, foam ghosts, googly eyes, and glow sticks – all for under $20.
|Our grim grinning ghosts come out to socialize. The wind was howling outside and we were painting.
10. Have some cash on hand for after the storm.
Before the storm comes, stop by an ATM and withdraw some cash. Many businesses after the storm will open up even if they do not have electricity, and will only be able to accept cash as payment.
Extra Tip: Some businesses will have generators. Some gas stations have generators, and you can find a list of the ones in South Florida online here (INSERT LINk; https://www.local10.com/weather/hurricane-irma/gas-stations-in-south-florida-with-generators-for-after-storm). If you live in Florida, it might be helpful to know that all Sedano’s Supermarkets have generators, so they were able to open up almost immediately after the storm.
For a list of Sedano’s Supermarket locations in Florida click here.
11. Have a few air mattresses available.
The mattresses can be used so the whole family can sleep in the same room during and after the storm. After the storm, they can come in very handy because you can use your generator to power a fan or air conditioning unit in only one room, so you use up less fuel than you would in trying to cool multiple rooms or the entire house.
In our case, the mattresses came in really handy when my brother, mom, and husband’s aunt slept over after the storm because we were the first house in our family get our power back. But, you’ll never know if you’ll need those mattresses to take to a family member’s house who gets power/water back before you do.
Click here to see which self-inflating mattress we own, and highly recommend.
12. Talk to your toddler about what to expect during the storm.
13. Purchase some battery packs for your cellphone and other rechargeable electronics.
You want to be able to charge your phone and other electronics after the storm. In my case, my cell phone company (T-Mobile) had no service for four days, and my internet was out for two days. I was able to text my family and friends from my iPad, which was connected to my husband’s cellular data plan (AT&T).
|My husband bought these power banks, and we got lucky that we only used one of them to charge three phones and one iPad before we got the power back.
14. Buy several battery-powered fans.
Your generator will need to take a break for two reasons: (1) to conserve gas and (2) so the unit does not break down. Your generator will thank you for the break, and you’ll thank me for giving you the idea to have battery-powered fans. It gets hot after the storm passes! The air was heavy, humid, and hot. It felt like Irma skipped town with all of our cool breezes.
15. Make sure to have an emergency plan.
We had a meeting place inside and outside of our home.
An appropriate emergency meet-up location inside your home would be a room with no windows (it can be a closet, but preferably a bathroom with a tub – you can bring a mattress with you into the bathroom, you get in the tub, and cover the door with the mattress, to kind of vacuum seal yourself into the room in case the wind makes its way into your home) or a hallway with all of the doors closed. We opted for a bathroom without a window (it doesn’t have a tub) with the alternate location being the hallway with all of the doors closed. Our meeting place outside our home was a nearby police/fire station.
Extra Tip: Before and during the storm, keep all of the exterior and interior doors and windows in your house closed; this helps to disperse the pressure in your home, which helps keep your roof from flying away with the storm. You can read more about it by clicking here.
16. Secure your outdoor furniture and other loose outdoor items.
Bring in your garbage cans and recycling bins, patio furniture, playground equipment, and potted plants. Tie down loose fences or gates (so they won’t be damaged by being swung open and closed by the wind). Also, tie down any swing sets and other heavy playground/outdoor equipment. You can tie your patio furniture to your sturdy fence or tree if they do not fit in your home.
|We tied down our swingset so the winds wouldn’t tip it over. It survived undamaged, and more importantly, it did not fall on anything.
17. If your pet is housebroken, let them outside or take them for a walk right before the storm is expected to hit and equip your home for them to do their business indoors.
If your pet is housebroken and only does their business outside, please make sure to somehow train them to go inside the house on newspaper or some other way, because the storm can last for a long time. We made the mistake of not preparing our dog to do her business inside the house, and she ended up having to hold it for 34 hours! We just thought that if she needed to go badly enough, she’d just go in the house, but we had no clue how much staying power she has.
For the next storm, we will set up some pet training pads or a plastic kiddy pool with dirt and sod (in a room away from our handsy toddler) for our pooch to use as a potty station.
This is the last, but the most important tip on the list.
If you are advised to evacuate, please, EVACUATE, EVACUATE, EVACUATE. No piece of property or material possession in this world is worth risking you and your family’s life and wellbeing.
I hope these tips help you and your family to prepare to weather the storm with your toddler and pet. If I forgot anything, please comment below, and I can add your tip to the list.
Thanks for reading, and stay safe!
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