7 Things I learned from Hurricane Erma

Dear Fernando,

I live in a condo on the Pinellas County peninsula, west from Tampa across the bay. I have endured three tropical storms and an earth quake since moving here 11 years ago. This was the first storm I had been preparing for since reading your blog. There is no replacement for actual storm conditions to test preparedness so here is what I learned.

1. Do NOT believe the Weather Channel

    They ALWAYS exaggerate their predictions to sow fear and terror. Knowing that once the hurricane hit dry land its force would diminish, so I rode the storm out at my condo unit with no fear and knowing I was prepared. So by the time it hit Tampa it was downgraded to a Tropical Storm. Still fierce and dangerous but no 100 mph winds and no storm surge to flood us. Note; I live 50 ft. above sea level and am not in a flood zone.

Which leads me to the following…

2. Do NOT buy the Crane CC Solar Observer for your emergency radio

    They must have a great copy writer because they sound like the be all end all of portable emergency weather radios. I bought this used for the NOAA Weather broadcasts and solar power and crank power extras and found it almost totally useless! 7 separate channels to find a local broadcast of current NOAA weather info and all I could get was an indiscernible murmur! The AM/FM radio was fair, the solar cells useless in cloud cover and I used the flash light mostly to conserve my iPhone battery as its light was far brighter. I need to do further research on what would be useful in this situation when I’m toally out of power.
    As a side note, I got ALL my storm and weather info from a web site; VentuSky.com. I saw this on a friends cell phone and dialed it in immediately before the storm. It gave me a visual and number read-out by location of wind speed, storm track, temp, waves and just about anything else climate wise. This site really refutes Weather Channel in up-to-the-minute weather data and I use it almost daily. I saw and confirmed my understanding that the storm would die down as it got onto land and decided to stay put and not evacuate.

3. ALWAYS leave some windows open, even a crack, during a Hurricane or Tropical Storm

    This I learned from being an Insurance Adjuster in the aftermath of Hurricane Iniki in Hawaii in 1992. Many homes had roofs totally blown off into the neighboring yards due to keeping all the doors and windows shut. The storm is a low pressure weather phenomena and locking up a building tight creates a high pressure in the dwelling. The roof can’t hold the pressure and it pops off. I am on the bottom floor so I told my upstairs neighbors to kept their kitchen door window open a bit and one of the back bedrooms open a bit. Our building had no problems, but one of the other buildings had the roof blown off and onto the cars parked in front.

4. Just because you had power during the worst of the storm, don’t expect it to be on after

    I had power all through the storm and up until late the next morning Monday the 11th. I am assuming the power company had all the power turned off then to check all the lines before resuming power. Then we got power back in 24 hours but all the other units and surrounding homes and business didn’t get power back until Friday the 15th. I was told that since our building was on a main road that power came on to all the street lights, homes and business first before other areas.
    And it follows that …

5. … with power down, don’t drive at night unless you have to.

    With power down there were no street lights nor traffic signals. In other countries that is standard every-day life but here in the US when you can’t see anything due to pitch black accidents can occur. I had to slow down at intersections as many people ‘assumed’ it was natural to just go through, like they had a green light. The next morning I saw broken glass and plastic at almost every intersection, by then the police had put up temporary stop signs and had traffic officers directing traffic at main intersections.

6. Be smart where you park your car

    Tropical Storms can have 40-50 mph winds with gusts up to 80 mph. That can blow down trees, fences, telephone poles, street lights and communication antenna. I had my car in the condo parking and I somehow lost a head lamp cover! The lamp works fine but is now exposed to the elements. Other condo dwellers are snow birds that come for the Fall-Winter-Spring and leave for summer. They usually have cars wrapped in some canvas and wheels on boards (the summer heat can melt the asphalt and melt the tires and ruin the wheel). Most had the covers were blown off and one under a tree had branches knocking dents in them. The city parking structures were open during the storm and next time that happens is where I’ll keep my vehicle.

7. ALWAYS check your supplies and equipment well before the storm hits

    This goes to most of the above but here is what I did wrong and right.
    As my cell phone battery ran down I tried to charge it with a cigarette lighter charger. IT DIDN’T WORK! It had worked in other cars but Apple can be finicky when it comes to non-standard adaptors.
    My food and water were adequate for a storm like this but I will check if there is anything past its expiration date. I had quart containers of frozen distilled water in my fridge freezer and that kept my perishables quite fresh when the power went off. I would like the 3 months standard you have but with the small space I have getting 90 gallons of water stored will be a challenge.
    I found that the stores and gas stations closed up within 3-6 hours once the state authorities said to evacuate. So once the storm is headed your way you should have already stocked up if you are going to. And we had plenty of warning but I noticed the shelves of water and canned goods went fast a day before the store closed. I shrugged and got what dry food others missed as far as that goes.
    I found I also needed more flash lights. I used to have two small Cree flashes and because they were so small I tended to loose them unless I kept them in my EDC. My near useless radio had at least had some utility.
    Medical supplies, I had enough to get me through but I have a prescription to self catheter 3-4 times a day and if I don’t I can’t control my bladder. I have been slowly increasing my supply every month so that I have 4 weeks in back stock but my target now is   now 3 months. As for anti-bacterial I have one gallon of distilled vinegar and one quart of raw apple cider vinegar. That will kill most pathogens and for the rest I have lots of soap and that with hard scrubbing will handle anything else. I also found small tubes of antibiotic ointment that I carry around in my EDC that has been quite useful.
    The Tampa Bay area is in the sub-topics and one must be aware of that at all times. On top of my regular supplements and cell salts for heat exhaustion I always have some sort of Vitamin C with me for urinary infections . What with cathetering I find that no matter how careful I am cleaning myself before hand, I can sometimes get those urinary infection symptoms and I have found ANY vitamin C taken will clear up symptoms within 30 minutes.

I’m sure some other things will pop up as I get on with my life but I made out Ok and will be better prepared for whatever comes next.

Best,
Mark