Thursday, August 25, 2011

Preparing for a Hurricane in 5 Easy Steps

It seems like only yesterday when I was writing about an earthquake, and now it is time to prepare for a hurricane. My own home is within the forecast cone of Hurricane Irene, which is powerful enough that it could potentially still be a hurricane this far inland, so I need to make sure I have food set aside, enough water for a few days, camera batteries charged, candles, matches, and so on.

Whatever scale you are working on, a hurricane calls for a change of plans. These are some of the basic strategies to consider:

  1. Get Out of the Way. This morning the U.S. Navy is ready to take a fleet of ships out of the Chesapeake Bay into the Atlantic Ocean, where they can avoid the worst effects of the hurricane either by seeking deeper water where the waves aren’t as high, or by sailing far enough east to miss the storm. Tomorrow, if the forecast stays the same, airlines will be keeping their airplanes out of harm’s way by canceling Saturday’s flights to cities like New York.
  2. Keep a Low Profile. Most of us have seen enough television to know the importance of throwing the poolside furniture into the pool so that it won’t become airborne. Similarly, flags and banners may have to come down, and garbage cans may be tied down or carried indoors. Along the same lines, power plants, refineries, and similar installations will prepare to shut down as a precaution around the time that hurricane-force wind gusts arrive.
  3. Cancel. The Florida Marlins have already rescheduled today’s game, playing it yesterday to avoid the risk of a washout today. It will not be a surprise if a similar adjustment is needed for Saturday’s game, also in the path of the storm, in Philadelphia. Unless the hurricane takes an unexpected turn, there will be announcements of a wide swath of stadium events canceled starting this morning. Picnics, meetings, trips, festivals — not much will stand up to a hurricane. Stores and offices may close for a day just so workers can stay home.
  4. Reduce Expectations. If you’re in the path of the electric outages, getting the laundry done on Saturday may not be an option. I know I will be printing a few documents on paper so that I can work on them without the benefit of electric power, if it comes to that. Reading a printed book by candlelight might not seem very productive, but it’s something you can do when the Internet is down.
  5. Stock Up Early. Friday could be the busiest evening of the year in local supermarkets. Tonight will be busy too as shoppers go out early to beat the rush. If you bring home a brownie mix, plan on baking early. In Pennsylvania, we may make fun of our tendency to buy a week’s worth of supplies in advance of a storm, but going hungry because you can’t get out to the store in a storm would be even more foolish.