Before A Hurricane Strikes –
Get Prepared   
I’ve lived in Southeast Louisiana all of my life, so part of summer was dealing with
the chance that a hurricane might hit this area.  The truth is though, that we
didn’t get hit very often, and the bad ones were years older than my memory. It
wasn’t that big of a deal. The worst I ever remember happening was being without
power for a few short days. Hurricanes were, are, just a part of a life.

We prepared for them, because after all, a hurricane is a hurricane. If you live in
Louisiana – or Texas, Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama -- you watch any tropical
system that gets into the Gulf, you have a strong respect for them, you even
might fear them, but they are part of life, so you accept them without too much
apprehension.

When I was a child, preparing for a hurricane meant my parents saved empty jugs
and filled them with water, the last minute they filled the bathtub too. They
bought extra can goods, bread, lunchmeat, kerosene, candles, flashlight batteries,
ice for a the big ice chest we used for summer vacation, put crisscrosses of tape
over the windows, and that was about that.   

After I became a mom, I did what I learned from my parents, prepared the same
way. Some things changed over the years, but not that very much. We mostly just
got ready for a few days of no power, maybe a day or so of no stores being
opened, and sat and waited for it to “blow” over.

Then in 2005 there was Katrina.

Funny how the name alone is enough to give me a chill even now. She was bigger
and badder than the kinds of hurricanes I had seen since I was old enough to
remember such things. She kind of snuck up on us, supposedly heading toward
Florida, and then over the weekend building more and deciding she liked the look
of Louisiana better. We live an hour and a half from New Orleans, a few minutes
from the Mississippi state line. We are well inland; we’d lived in the same house
for over twenty years without water coming in on us. The older part of our home
is brick outside, block walls inside, sitting on a cement slab. My husband built
the newer parts of our home until the old, using strong lumber, extra braces,
hurricane straps, and anything else I thought of that would make our house
stronger. We also have few windows. They didn’t call for us to evacuate, none of
my family ever had, there was no reason to think this time would be much worse
than the other two really bad hurricanes that had hit this area. One before I was
born, the other when I was very small. My home had stood through both of those.

And yet, as soon as Katrina got in the Gulf, I got a really bad feeling about her. I
was scared, really scared. I watched news a lot, prayed a lot. I couldn’t explain
why I was so afraid this time. Something told me to run, but I thought I was just
over reacting. One of the things I learned from this, was to listen to that warning
in the pit of my stomach. Somehow I knew something deep down inside that I
shouldn’t have fought.

Almost too late, we found out Katrina was coming our way – we wouldn’t know for
weeks that we had actually gotten the eye wall of her powerful center. We rushed
around Sunday, trying to make extra preparations.  I had already done the normal
things I do anytime a storm is in the Gulf, like bought water, batteries, bread, ice,
can goods, extra snack foods, drinks, ect…

Sunday I wanted to leave, I felt the need to flee with my family. Although my
husband and son didn’t feel the same way, they agreed we’d go if I really felt we
should. We had never boarded up windows before, but I thought we needed to
this time. By the time we were done with the windows on our home and my son’s
next door, we heard from a friend that the roads were almost impassable, the
traffic was crazy, stations were running out of gas. It was too late to try and head
for family out of state. Leaving would mean risking the chance of being stuck in
traffic or running out of gas, being stuck some where in a car or who knew where,
when the hurricane was coming for us.

The choice was out of my hands. All we could do was go to the store and buy
more supplies from the meager items they had left, and then sit and wait.

We had done everything we had been told to do. We had food, water, ice,
batteries, kerosene, and medicine. We had boarded up the windows, moved the
cars from under the trees, and set up a safe spot in the middle of our home. We
actually did more than ever before. We charged up our cell phones, bought a
battery-operated television/radio, we bought a five-day ice chest, extra food and
water, dog food, and everything else we thought we might need.

And it wasn’t enough.

We weren’t prepared for the days that followed. That’s why I’m sharing with you
the lessons I’d learned. You can never stay in place and be prepared for
everything that a hurricane might do, but you can be as well prepared as possible.

So here goes…

If you live in a trailer or any kind of home that isn’t very sturdy, or if you leave in
a flood area or near the water, or any area where you are asked to live for your
own safety, if you are expecting, recovering for a major illness, have a small baby,
have a very elderly person in your home, or anyone who has health issues that
might require medical attention at anytime…don’t bother with the below info. Just
leave. Life is more important than anything else, and if there is ever any doubt,
the best thing to do, the safest thing to do if you can, is to simply get out of the
path of an on coming hurricane. If a train was heading for you and you had hours
to move, you would. A hurricane is a big train -- move if you can.

If it’s safe for you to shelter in place, still think about leaving if you can. If you are
going to stay, I hope the below info helps.

First, know if you stay you are going to have to be prepared to be on your own,
completely on your own, for at least a few days, maybe a week or even two, and if
the worst happens, maybe longer. You can’t count of stores to be open, phones to
work, power, roads might be blocked, the hospital might be closed, the drug
store, the gas station, no local radio or television station, there will be no 911, no
police officer.

When help finally does come it will take time, and then they won’t have every
thing, you might not know where they are, and they might not reach you for days
more even after they get to your area.

Shopping List
Water – Buy plenty of drinking water. Fill up other containers, fill up your
bathtub, then buy more water. It’s best to have a gallon of drinking water per
person, per day, on hand. They used to say have three days worth of water. I
think you should have at least a week’s worth. The water in the tub can be used
for pets. That’s right, don’t forget about the pets. Every pet you have will have to
have water too. If you have running water in your home, if won’t be safe to drink,
maybe not even safe to bath with. If you don’t have running water in your home,
you might not have any for a long while. Be prepared. You have to have water to
live.

Medicine – You should have a normal well-stocked first-aid kit on hand. That way
you are ready for a headache, fever, a cut, a sprain ankle, or anything else. You
should also have at least two weeks’ of any prescription medicine. That means if
you take blood pressure pill, if your dog takes seizure medicine, ect… Have at
least those two weeks’ worth of any kind of prescription medication that anyone,
human or animal, takes that will be sheltering with you. One or two more weeks’
worth wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Food – Canned food should be tops on your list. (Don’t forget a hand-held can
opener.) Along with can food, get bread and lunchmeat which if you have an ice
chest, will be easy to keep and use over the first couple of days. Longer lasting
items like peanut butter, chips, cheese crackers, cereal bars, meal replacement
bars, protein bars, cookies, any nonperishable items are good to have. The more
nonperishable the better. Instant coffee, tea, ready to use powdered drink mix,
can all be a good idea. If you have someone who is a diabetic or has special food
needs, don’t forget about them when you are buying food. The same for your
pets. They will be depending on you.

Cash – If anything is left open, or if things start to open after a few days, it will be
cash only. It won’t do you any could to have money in your checking account or
on a credit card. You have to have that money in hand, so before the storm hits,
go to the bank, to ATM, what ever, and get what cash you can. If there is a place
to buy food, or gas, or medicine, you want to have enough cash to get what you
can or what you need. If you have to leave after the hurricane, you will need cash
for that too. Remember that cash always spends.

Gas – Make sure the tank on your car, truck, what ever you plan to use after the
hurricane is filled. Have a few gas cans around and fill them if you can. (Don’t
keep them in your house, even during the storm.) If you have a generator, even a
small, you are going to need gas for it. After Katrina, when the roads opened up,
people had to drive three hours or more away to buy gas. You want a full tank,
extra gas, and cash to get it when you reach it.

Other – toilet paper, feminine hygiene items, address book with family and other
important addresses and phone numbers, pictures of house and household items,
road maps, cell phone with charger that can be used in car.

For pets – food, water, collar, leash, meds, pet carrier, cage, important papers

Hurricane Kit – I have a big plastic container that I keep in my bedroom closet on
the floor. I call it my hurricane kit. It doesn’t have everything in it I would need,
but it has a lot of stuff. It’s a sealed thick plastic container with a lid, kept in one
easy-to-get-to spot, so it’s a safe bet for me.  I have batteries in there, matches,
fuel-filled strike lighters, a few big emergency candles, a small battery operated
TV/radio, a couple of new flashlights, wet wipes, mosquito repellent, that liquid
hand disinfectant that you don’t have to have water to use, a couple of camp
lights, some peanut butter, crackers, snacks, as well as instant coffee, and little
packs of cream and sugar, a few meds and other odds and ends.

Extras To Make Things Better
* A tent with those meshed net sides so air can get through easy. Sleeping at
night in a hot house with no AC or even fan, is hard. Out in the open you have to
worry about mosquitoes and the dangers they carry. A tent is a good option to
have.  
* Things to entertain yourself and your children, such as books, game boards,
cards, colors, paper and pens, battery operated radio/CD player (If you have
enough extra batteries.), toys to play with the pets, and handheld toys for smaller
children.
* An air mattress for the tent.
* Generator. Many people can’t afford one, or can only afford a small one. Get one
off-season to help save money. Even a small one is better than none. (Remember
though, without gas to run it, it won’t do any good at all, so check out how long it
runs on how much gas before you buy it.)  

To Do List Before the Hurricane
If you are asked to leave, leave. If you can leave, leave. Don’t leave pets behind. If
you won’t be able to take them with you, make arrangements and figure out
where they can go for safe keeping and how they can get there.  If you stay,
prepare your supplies and make sure you have everything. Double check. Put
food and water and medicine up high enough that water won’t get to it. Fill your
gas tank. Cover windows, clean up the yard and secure anything the wind could
toss around or blow away. Make sure important papers are in a safe place and all
together. Make sure the pets are inside with you.

To Do List After the Hurricane
Remember that most times more people die from accidents while cleaning up from
a hurricane, then actually from the hurricane. Be careful. Even if you’ve cut
damaged trees before, think it through before you start. Watch where you step
when you move around outside and inside if there has been any damage to the
house. Check on neighbors. You might be the best help you will each have for
days. Don’t let pets out of your home if you have a fences in yard until you check
the yard and make sure it is safe and that the fence is still in place.

To Not Do List Before the Hurricane
Stay when you were told you have to leave. Leave but leave pets behind. Kind of
just go with what you have and figure the storm will turn or won’t be that bad any
way.

To Not Do List After the Hurricane
Try to pull, cut, or get rid of leaning trees or other damage without knowing for
sure what you are doing and having help. Go riding around the town for fun and
to sight see. Let your pets run loose. Go out after dark if there is a curfew.

Hints
Pets – Please don’t leave them out in the storm, and please don’t leave them
behind, even if you think you will only be gone a few hours. They deserve better
than what happened to all of the pets that people left behind in New Orleans and
other areas, thinking they would be returning to them the next day. Remember if
you do have to leave, human shelters don’t take animals. Think well ahead and
have plans and a back up plan for your pets. When we left days after Katrina, we
had eight dogs in the truck with us on a fourteen-hour drive.

Flooding - If your house is on the ground, and even if you think it won’t flood, be
prepared for it. My home hadn’t had water in it in the whole twenty something
years I had lived in it. I’m way away from the Gulf, I’m not near a river, and yet
when Katrina hit, about two feet of water came into my house. I lost my car,
books I forgot in the bottom shelf of a closed bookshelf, pictures and family
mementos that can’t be replaced because the water got high enough to flip the
huge plastic keeper it was setting on, as well as other things.  We also lost some
of our water supply because we had some bottles sitting on top of others. The top
ones held the bottom ones under water, which allowed some of the floodwater to
seep in. Can foods that were on bottom shelves were covered with the floodwater,
and there was no way to clean the outside of the cans. Floodwaters are nasty
dark waters filled with mud, sewer, chemicals and who knows what else. Play it
safe and have things put up even if you think flooding won’t be something you will
have to deal with.
Go to my hurricane Pictures Page One, Pictures Page Two,
Pictures Page Three, some Newspaper Articles about
Bogalusa, Louisiana in the first weeks after hurricane
Katrina, or even read
My Own Katrina Story.