I moved to Miami in the spring of 1992. The first hurricane I ever experienced was Hurricane Andrew, just a few months after we arrived from New York. I was a young girl in a new city who knew nothing about hurricanes and thought everyone was just a little bit loco running around buying up everything in sight at the local Publix Supermarket. Water, batteries, gas, dry goods, you name it.
And then the storm came.
It is a day I will never forget. The months following I won't forget either. I have never forgotten the fear, either. By the grace of God or some other powerful force, I was spared the atrocities that affected so many others. But I learned a lot.
Mostly, I learned that you should never screw with a hurricane, you should never underestimate its wrath. The hurricane will win.
Here are simple, easy tips I learned in my 15 years in Miami. They can help you stay safe and then help you bear the inevitable inconveniences that a hurricane brings to the table.
Listen To The Warnings!
If you are told to evacuate, heed the warnings. This is non-negotiable. If we learned anything from Katrina, certainly this would be it.
Have a Hurricane Kit (and no, it's not too late)
Cash, batteries, flashlights, battery operated radio/television, bottled water, toilet paper, non-perishable foods such as cereal or crackers, canned goods, a can opener, a small cooler, candles and diapers, baby wipes, formula, baby food if you have small children. If you take prescription medicine, make sure you have extra on hand. This is especially important for people who are elderly or have medical issues that require a little extra care. It could be a few days before you can get to a store.
Put your refrigerator at the coldest setting. Fill your bathtub with ice. Set your air conditioner really cold, too. This way, if you lose power it takes much longer to defrost and ruin everything in there! Make sure you buy a lot of food. It's always better to have more than you need. Cans of tuna, bread, snacks and other non-perishable items.
Fully charge ALL of your electronic devices and then fill up your car with gas. You can always charge devices in your car.
Secure Important Paperwork
Place all your important papers in a secured plastic bag, box or even better, a small safe. Identification is difficult and time consuming to replace so be sure to include social security cards, birth certificates, titles or deeds to property, as well as your hurricane insurance policy, should you have one. Special family photos like wedding photos, baby pictures should also be considered.
Go To Home Depot
Plywood is a coveted commodity for those of who decide to stay. Boarding up windows that will take the brunt of the wind and rain is a wise decision. If board is not available, protect your windows from the wind by criss-crossing them with layers of duct or packing tape. This will be enough protection for light-to-medium winds. If you need plywood, go to your local Home Improvement store asap. Trust me.
Don't forget your pets! I have had two dogs throughout every major hurricane in the past 15 years. They get scared, just like we do. Keep this in mind and give them some extra TLC. Dogs are especially intuitive to weather conditions and might get more freaked out then you. They also get hot. Ice, water and extra treats and cuddles are a must.
Prepare For Loss of Power
Assume the power will be lost. It might not happen, but assuming you will lose power will prepare you much better. You will be hot, sticky and pissed off. Water, a bathtub of ice, lots of beer, wine and/or hard liquor usually helps. If you have kids, you're kind of screwed. They get really bored really fast. Board games, books, a fully charged iPad with tons of movies are your new BFFs.
Don't go outside. It is hands down the dumbest thing you can do. I cannot stress to you how many stories I've heard through the years of people getting struck by a tree, a down wire, flying debris. Stay inside, stay inside, stay inside! When you go outside after the storm, assume ALL WIRES ARE LIVE WIRES! Thousands of people have been electrocuted after major storms by touching live wires. When walking your dog, make sure you have them on a tight leash and monitor where they go.
Be A Good Neighbor
After the storm, check on your neighbors. Sometimes, a pack of D batteries is all it takes to make someone else's day.
Good luck and stay safe.