At Least, Do the Basics

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria’s Lessons

At Least the BASICS!

As we watched Hurricanes Harvey strike the Houston area, Irma strike Florida, and then watched Maria devastate Puerto Rico, we witnessed the might of CAT4+ hurricanes upon structures and people. These massive storms again remind us of our need for personal and family disaster planning. Consider what we would do if one of these hurricanes had struck our area or city? One of these days, a severe storm will inflict destruction here in our city and area.

Harvey was a “rain event” hitting Houston with continuous monsoon rains for days. Irma led forecasters on a “storm chase”. Unable to accurately predict its track, made forecasting difficult to determine probable impact area and prepare until the last 48 hours.

Maria devastated Puerto Rico and destroyed the island’s obsolete and poorly maintained power grid. Winds and flooding destroyed 90%+ of the island’s homes, structures and transportation infrastructure. Half of the island’s 3 million residents are without clean water two weeks after the storm passed. Cholera and typhus outbreaks are possible.

All three hurricanes, dangerous, and deadly demonstrate that we should be prepared for AT LEAST THE BASICS. Our efforts should do what is required to get us through. For basic planning, see CASPER (Coastal Action Storm Plan and Emergency Response) and Strategic Recovery Plan on SDCC websites: ( Join your neighborhood civic organization. Check out the SDCC website.

Consider the following:

Planning. Do enough to get you and your family through the first week following a storm. Greatest needs are:

  1. Water. Buy a water filter hand pump ($60-$300 at sporting goods stores). Set aside some clean storage containers.
  2. Food. Set aside canned foods that store well and can be eaten without heating.
  3. Shelter. Without power, a house may be uninhabitable. Buy a tent ($75-$300)
  4. Lighting. LED flashlights and lanterns offer much, cost little. Solar powered yard lights work enough. Hand-crank recharged lights work.
  5. The Stay-go discussions. Evacuating out of the area is impossible if attempted late. Staying in place may be impossible. Figure out and discuss your needs and options. Consider medical needs and probable disruptions. How much can you pack in your car? Can you get there in time before the storm starts?
  6. Medical Needs. Does a family member need chemo or dialysis treatments, or use insulin? Do you have a sufficient supply of needed medicines? Does your oxygen generator require electrical power to operate? How long will your oxygen tank last before a refill is required? Is someone medically fragile?
  7.  News and Information A battery powered or hand-cranked radio will be the source of information.
  8. Stay connected with loved ones. Use group text messaging to communicate on smart phones.
  9. Fuel Requirements. Consider how many gallons would be required to operate your emergency power generator for many days. Boats and cars could be a fuel resource, but safely accessing fuel may be difficult.
  10. ATM cash. ATM’s may be down or drained of cash for some time.

Weather Forecasting. Waiting for the forecaster’s “spaghetti” tracks to give enough warning may not leave you enough time to make preparations. Your family timeline should probably not be the same as shown by city and state officials. When state and city officials determine that the threat is eminent, it may be too late for you to react. You know your needs. It is safer for you to be cautious and follow your timeline.

Basic Necessities. Consider the necessities. Buy the basics. Don’t get fancy. Putting in a $9,000 emergency generator does no good if flooding destroys it. Consider your “real” necessities and do what will provide you, your family, and pets with the basics; food, water, and shelter, security and some level of comfort.

Communications. A text message sent from a loved one who has been in peril can ease a parent’s or spouse’s anxiety. With our smart phones and devices, sending a group text to family and friends can be easily accomplished if your phone has some power left even with a weak signal. Recharging devices can present a challenge, but is doable using your car’s outlet, with a solar charger, or connecting to a battery. We just need to have the required connectors.

Flood Insurance. As Hurricane Harvey moved very slowly through the Houston area, it became a “Rain event” causing extensive flood damages. Atypical monsoonal (1+ feet per hour) rainfalls flooded areas that had no history of past flooding. In these flood areas, only 15% had any kind of flood insurance. Flooding occurred when very heavy rainfalls surpassed city’s drainage systems capacities. Obviously, cities cannot afford to build drainage systems for 500-year flood levels. The destruction of a home that is not covered by flood insurance presents many issues, not only for the owner, but also for real estate assessments, city funding, and mortgage banking. Would it be cost efficient and reasonable to spend $2,000 to $5,000 per year for flood insurance for a once in a lifetime (?) event? Perhaps the insurance industry should offer coverage for a much lower risk flood event at a significant discount if more properties were covered? Until available, consider the “Rain event” flood possibility for your home, condo or apartment.

David Williams

CHSCA Emergency Planner

4 OCT 2017



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