As a lifelong resident of Southeast Texas, right on the Gulf of Mexico – I know a lot about hurricanes. In my almost 40 years of living, it wasn’t until 2005 that I had to evacuate for a hurricane, Hurricane Rita. Rita came about a month after Katrina devastated New Orleans, as well as Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi. I was working in management in the hotel industry at the time and our hotel was at capacity with evacuees as our city is just about 30 miles after you cross the Texas/Louisiana border. We erred on the side of caution and emptied the hotel because we knew the hurricane was coming and our staff needed to leave and prepare their properties. Well, early the following morning a mandatory evacuation was ordered. I hurriedly took pictures of our property for insurance purposes. Packed as much as I could into my little Honda Accord, put my sick child with a 103 fever in her car seat, grabbed my mom and my Granny and hit the road. My husband followed behind in his truck, my dad, and his two babies on the back (his motorcycles) and we followed the evacuation route. Houston was being evacuated as well and we couldn’t go that way because well millions of people in cars, including residents of Louisiana as well were leaving a major metropolitan city. Bottom line, the state informed us we could NOT go through Houston. We hit the road at 9am and it was 4pm before we made it to our destination which would normally be a 3 ½ hour drive. It was a pure mess. We kept getting turned around and told we couldn’t go this way or that. When we needed gas, we stopped and were limited to 10 gallons per vehicle. Let’s not even start to talk about the price gouging that was going on at gas stations, hotels, and stores. One of the craziest experiences of my life. We were gone from our homes for about 3 weeks. You could not enter the city because of all the dangers present. Places that were there when you left were now gone. Power lines were down everywhere and the only sound you could hear was the hum of generators and chainsaws clearing paths. The devastation was far spread and almost the entire city was without power, water, and the basic essential services. Three years later came Hurricane Ike. We were a little better prepared for that. We left early, before they called for an evacuation and a lot of people didn’t leave because of the total crap show 3 years prior. My parents stayed and I was worried the entire time. We came back home immediately after the storm. First, we stopped at the grocery store on the way home for essentials to carry us until stores were back open in town, we gassed up our generator, and enjoyed the cool days thanks to a cool front that almost immediately followed the storm.
For almost an entire 10 years we didn’t have to leave or worry about a storm, until 2017. Harvey was a doozy! Harvey had its own personal party on the state of Texas’ back. Harvey made landfall in the south, did a loop de loop, went back into the water, made landfall again, loop de loop and changed course, over a 4 day period we amassed over 60 inches of rain in my area. It left almost no spot untouched by water from South Texas to Louisiana. The wettest tropical cyclone in US history, tied with Katrina as the costliest, displacing over 30,000 people, and prompting over 17,000 high water rescues. We were a virtual island. There was no way in or out of our city. Harvey was so extensive, the name has been retired and there will never be another Hurricane Harvey again. Our home was flooded and we were one of the ones that needed rescuing. Then again in September 2019, Imelda came out of nowhere and flooded us yet again. Cars were stuck on interstate 10 over night, deer and other wild animals were being forced to find higher ground, and we were once again an island. We only moved back into our home at the end of January of this year.
Hurricanes form in the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and Pacific Ocean from low pressure systems that travel into extremely warm water. Warm air rises, causing an area of low pressure below. Air from the surrounding areas with higher air pressure pushes into the low pressure area. Then that “new” air becomes warm and moist and rises too. As the warm air continues to rise, the surrounding air swirls in to take its place. This system begins to rotate and grow by feeding off the ocean’s heat and evaporating water. As the storm spins faster, the more defined the “eye” becomes – the storm’s core. Planes fly into the eye of the storm to measure pressure and gauge the intensity of the system. Like a tornado or earthquake, a Hurricane has a rating system from Category 1-5.
- 1: Minimal damage at landfall, wind speeds 74-95 mph.
- 2: Moderate damage at landfall, wind speeds 96-110 mph.
- 3: Extensive damage at landfall, wind speeds 111-129 mph.
- 4: Extreme damage at landfall, wind speeds 130-156 mph.
- 5: Catastrophic damage at landfall, wind speeds 157 or higher.
How can you be prepared for Hurricane Season? Preparation during a pandemic is most important because preparing for a Hurricane is not normal and is a stressful situation. During a pandemic, there are extra precautions each of our families must take. Have your emergency kit stocked and ready when the season begins June 1st. You’ll need a kit for emergency supplies and a backup supply of any medications, preferably one months worth. When or if you have to evacuate, you never know how long you will be gone. Your kits should fit your needs. Hand sanitizer, masks, wipes, toilet paper, paper towels, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, basic sanitary and hygiene needs for everyone in your home. The best thing to do is have this already done and not wait for the last minute. I can assure you the basics will disappear quickly from store shelves once a storm is announced. The following suggestions should help you decide how to assemble your kits.
- Stay at home kit (2 weeks worth of emergency supplies) Include everything you need to stay home for two weeks. Food, water, cleaning and disinfectant supplies, soap, paper products and personal hygiene items.
- Evacuation kit (3 days of supplies in a “go bag”): This kit should be lightweight, a smaller version that you can take with you if you must leave your home quickly. This should be a three day supply of food, water, hygiene items, cleaning and disinfectant supplies that you can use on the go (tissues, hand sanitizer (make sure it is at least 60 percent alcohol and disinfectant wipes). You will also need cloth face covers, masks, scarves, bandanas, anything to cover your nose and mouth. Each person in the home should have their own bag. We are still in a pandemic. Continue to social distance and adhere to the guidelines.
- First Aid Kit: This should include what a first aid kit would normally have, as well as a one month supply of any prescription meds, fever meds, medical supplies and equipment that you or another family member may specifically need.
Remember, you may lose power in a hurricane, and if you have plans to stay home you have to stock up with that in mind. Non perishable food items are best or things that can be cooked on a gas top. I have cooked on a gas stove without power in a storm because that was my option and to keep food from spoiling. My advice is to plan accordingly, plan ahead, and this year…2020, plan with the pandemic in mind.