What Irene taught us about being prepared

Submitted by OcracokeWaves on Wed, 08/31/2011 - 01:28.
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When a hurricane misses an area, there is always a collective sigh of relief. When one actually pays a visit there is lots of extra work and some lessons to be learned.

Certainly Cape Carteret and the beaches of Emerald Isle survived Irene.  I suspect many in the area were ready for even more than the lengthy beating that Irene gave us.

This was our first serious hurricane in the five years that my wife and I have lived along the Southern Outer Banks.  While we had a hurricane emergency kit almost from day one here on the Crystal Coast, it evolved to something much more sophisticated by the time Irene came ashore near Cape Lookout on Saturday, August 27.

There was nothing magic in preparations for Irene, mostly we used common sense and listened to the experts.

Over time we have gathered three LED battery powered lanterns and a couple of very compact LED flashlights.  These emergency lights and my well charged Android smartphone are the first level of defense along with our battery powered transistor radio.

The next items on our list are a couple of coolers. Forty pounds of ice completely fills the two coolers.  I loaded them with ice on Friday afternoon before Irene arrived.  The automatic ice machine in Peletier had a large line so I drove across the bridge and got my ice in Emerald Isle just before they closed the bridge.  That gave me a chance to go take a few pictures of the Bogue Inlet Pier as the first big waves were hitting it.

When the power started flickering on Saturday morning, we took items out of the refrigerator that we planned to use in the next couple of meals and put them in the small cooler.

The big cooler stayed closed as a reserve for ice.  It still had over 75% of its ice on Monday morning after Irene.

My wife had cooked some chicken for sandwiches the day before Irene.  We had stocked up on tuna fish, peanut butter, and bread to go with the canned soup, salmon, and chicken that we already had on hand.  We also got some paper plates and cups along with plastic utensils and a fresh box of large garbage bags.

Our grill gets its fuel from the large propane tank that feeds our fireplace and gas stove.  Our plan was to cook on the gas grill if the power was out for an extended period of time.  Unfortunately, it was still raining at dinner time on Saturday so I opted for the toaster oven.

In addition to food, we stockpiled water. In previous storms we bought flats of bottled water, but we found them hard to use up, so this time I bought a six gallon water container, and we filled a few one gallon jugs that we had around.  We also bought a dozen small bottles of water in case we had to leave by car.  We had about nine gallons of water for the two of us.

I also filled our bathtub with water and had buckets ready to fill if I thought the situation was going to get serious.

As my wife secured our personal papers, we made the difficult decision to buy a generator.  With a freezer full of frozen homegrown tomatoes, and packed with meat we have bought on special, we decided it wasn't worth gambling.  I did some research and decided upon a Troybilt  generator that had almost all good reviews. Fortunately I got mine from Lowe's early so I still had some choices.

With the generator, I got a spare gas can to go with the two that I already had.  I had enough gas on hand to run the generator sporadically for four or five days without siphoning gas from the boat or truck. I also got oil for an oil change.  The generator performed perfectly. It started on the first pull.  I wired a couple of circuits so that we had the refrigerator,  lights, coffee, and a toaster oven.  We could also run our computers and Internet access, but it wasn't available when the power was out. The Internet came back not long after the power returned..

Beyond the generator, I had a large rechargeable spotlight in case I had to do something with our boat during the night.  We also stockpiled extra batteries.

We have the normal first aid supplies that most homes have, but we also have the emergency gear we carry in our boat which includes a larger first aid kit, flares, emergency marine radio, and emergency noise makers.

Our preparations also included getting some cash from the ATM, checking on our supply of medicines, filling both vehicles with gasoline, and making sure that all of our bills which might come due during the storm were paid ahead of time.

Actual preparations at the house involved bringing inside any items that might blow away and using bungee cords to secure our deck furniture to the deck railings.

The final thing I did was to put our boat on storm footing.  This is the one place that I deviated from the experts.  Most people recommend taking your boat off of your lift.  However, we have a side pole lift which doesn't have the boat suspended from cables. Our skiff sits on two metal arms. I have always believed the boat is safer on this kind of lift than on a trailer. 

I removed the safety bumpers and raised the lift as high as possible.  I then ran a bow line to my truck and another from the stern to the truck.  A safety cable that goes to my bulkhead was attached to the two other cables, and I pulled the plug so the rain would drain from the boat.  Our skiff came through with no problems.   It is an impressive sight to see the skiff tied down and attached to my Nissan Titan.

Everything worked as planned.  About the only thing that I would change is to wire some more circuits, one to run the ignition system on our gas stove, another for the dual stage septic pump that we have, and a final one for the ceiling fans  in our downstairs.  I have talked to an electrician about adding a box to run those circuits, but there was no time to get it done before Irene.

I think it was well worth being thoroughly prepared for Irene.  Preparations next time around would be a snap.

I am hoping we don't have to come back to full alert status again this year.  However, Mother Nature is truly unpredictable, so we will do whatever we have to do in order to stay safe.

This is a link to a few picture of the high water in Bluewater Cove during Irene.  If you want to get a taste of the rains and winds that we experienced for hours, check out this YouTube video that I did during the height of the storm.


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