Another Gulf Coast Hurricane – Harvey

Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey

I have lived on the Texas Gulf Coast my entire life. I should be used to the hype and hysteria promoted when a tropical cyclone is developing in the Gulf. However, I am not. I pay very close attention to the weather reports and damage predictions.

Today we are faced with yet another massive storm in the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Harvey is barreling down on the coast and there is once again no real way of knowing which way or who will actually be affected. The reports are somewhat scary. It appears it will actually go on shore west of us and we will not be affected by the winds much but the forecast shows it may turn around and dump massive amounts of water on us. Flooding is a prospect I do not look forward to.

Although there have been many more storms to come through or close to this area the ones that left their mark on me were:

Hurricane Alicia, 1983

Tropical Storm Allison, 2001,

Hurricane Rita, 2005

Hurricane IKE, 2008

The saying goes “hide from the wind and run from the water”. We do not live on the actual coast; we are about 35 miles from the actual beach area. The bay does come up into the Clear Lake area and in a really bad storm we may be evacuated. The only storm it has been recommended that we leave was Rita.

Hurricane Alicia

In 1983, Hurricane Alicia – I was in my early 20s and really didn’t know what to expect. I lived in an apartment and only wanted to be at the home I grew up in, with my family. At the time, the unknown was the worst part of the entire experience.   I was not too worried about property damage as I was not a property owner at the time.   Even though it appears the news is hyped up, I now I understand it is better to know what may happen in order to prepare for you and your families safety and comfort.

The damage from Alicia was widespread, however my Mom’s house only suffered minor damage to the roof and we lost a tree. We were without power for several weeks.

Tropical Storm Allison

Tropical Storm Allison formed off the coast of Galveston in one afternoon.  It literally happened in an afternoon.  There was no time to prepare. It was not a big wind event but dumped so much water on the Houston area we were waterlogged.  There were over 100,000 homes in the area damaged by the flooding.  We had family members who had 5 feet of water in their home.  It seemed everyone either had water in their home or knew someone personally who did.  This shut down the city and it was difficult for people to recover from the flooding.  When you end up with water in your home you basically have to throw everything away.  All of your appliances, clothing, household items are ruined.  Most also lost their vehicles also.

Hurricane RITA

TrafficAfter Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, society broke down and thousands of people died, in 2005, another storm came in right behind it, named Rita. It appeared Rita was heading right at us. The storm was at one point, a Category 5. The local news made it sound as if you stayed you would certainly face death along with anyone with you. Everyone was terrified.

Although we do not live that close to the coast, we were under a mandatory evacuation. The freeways all around us were already completely gridlocked once the evacuation was called. We did not leave until late. We left when they started opening up the freeways in what is called contraflow. Basically they made all lanes of the freeways turn in one direction. Even with the additional lanes, it took us 9 hours to travel the 70 miles up to my dad’s home in Willis, Texas.   Gas stations were out of gas, there was no place for food and sitting on the road with everyone created a very eerie atmosphere. Many people died on the road. Many people also lost their pets.   In the end the storm turned and went in further east. It was still a devastating storm for the people who were directly affected.

Hurricane IKE, our storm!

I will have to say either I matured or Emergency Management in our area did, maybe a little of both. The Emergency Management of Harris County kept us informed, explained why we should not all run for the hills.

We all learned from the mass exodus during Rita. I learned if you cannot get out early enough it is better to prepare your home and be as ready as you can be. There is no way to evacuate a population the size of Houston and its surrounding areas in a short period of time.

The saying goes: “Hide from the wind and Run from the water”. During Rita everyone attempted to leave. This blocked the freeways and made it impossible for the ones who truly did need to leave to be able to.

The day before the storm was projected to hit, I drove to Crystal Beach to get my brother and sister from their homes.   The storm surge cut off the route within hours after we got off the island.   I remember thinking the traffic was not bad coming out of Galveston and it didn’t seem like that many people were leaving or maybe they were waiting until the last minute. After that there were hundreds of air lifts trying to get people to safety.

When they tell you to leave – DO IT!

At first, I had trouble convincing my siblings to leave. I did have tell my brother “they have told you to get your butt out of here and your transportation is here . It is time to go.” The local government Hurricane Ike Damagealso put out a recommendation asking people who were determined to stay to write their social security numbers on their arms to help with identification after the storm. That was a sobering thought.

My brother did finally give in and leave when we did. Part of the problem, there was a storm a few weeks before that did not take the track that was predicted. People end up getting storm fatigue and become convinced it is another false alarm. Just to drive this point home, we never found my brother’s travel trailer he lived in fulltime. My sister’s was completely destroyed. The RV Park where they lived was unrecognizable. And the town of Gilchrest a few miles down the road from Crystal Beach, only had one structure standing after the storm.

Ike was devastating to the entire area.

We ended up with a little damage from IKE at our home; lost the fence and several places on the roof were damaged. The electricity was off for more than a month afterwards. The aftermath of a storm is actually the worst part. We are so accustomed to the conveniences of life that when we are faced with a time where we will not have them, we do not know what to do.

There are going to be storms

Each year somewhere along the gulf there is going to be a storm. Nothing is going to change that. It is a sure bet, if you live on the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas you will be affected one way or another eventually. I have realized the storm itself is not the main issue. Don’t get me wrong, I do not minimize the actions you should do to ensure you and your families’ immediate safety. However, the time after the storm, the attempt to return to normalcy is what is the most difficult.

Preparation is the Key

A little planning and preparation will go a long way in making this time easier. Every time a storm is in the Gulf, the stores are packed! The shelves are emptied and there are not enough supplies for everyone.

Hurricane Harvey is no different. Gas stations are out of gas, the shelves at the store are emptied and water is difficult to find.

Although it will not eliminate stress, an emergency kit prepared in advance will help reduce the stress during these times. It will be one less thing that you need to worry about in an already frazzled time.

Some of these items will cost but will only be a one time purchase and are very worth the peace of mind. Try adding one at a time and updating your emergency plan periodically.

ONE TIME PURCHASES:

  • GENERATOR – we never think we really need one of these until the power is out for over a month. Think about the food in your refrigerator. The time to purchase this is not when you need it. Make purchasing one a priority during a time when it is not really needed. When the time comes and you need one you will be so glad you did. Please be sure to read all of the safety recommendations before using a gas powered generator. Never use inside an enclosed area.
  • 2-5 gallon gas cans – Fill up at the beginning of the season, use but refill as soon as they get low so you are not in line during the mad rush. One thing we did not realize and it took us by surprise in IKE was with the electricity off, the gas pumps do not work.
  • FIRST AID Kit – a well stocked first aid kit is needed. Make sure you have antiseptic cream, over the counter pain relievers.
  • Can opener manual- that electricity thing again.
  • Flashlight with additional batteries – check batteries when ever there is an announcement there is a storm forming.
  • Weather Radio– Portable and battery operated – During the storm, you may not have electricity or local stations.
  • Portable power station such as the Stanley Fatmax 1000 – the main reason I like this is to charge electronic devices.
  • Ice Cooler
  • Gas Grill-A way to cook outside of your home either a portable gas grill or a BBQ pit.

BEGINNING OF EACH SEASON

At the beginning of the Hurricane season prepare early. You may not need these items right now, but will use them in the long run and having them on hand will save you from having to worry about fighting the Empty Shelvescrowds at the store.

WATER AND FOOD

 

  • Purchase additional cases water to what you already purchase normally. Keep an additional case of water for each person in your household on hand during this time. You can rotate it out normally and replace normally as you use.
  • Add a few extra bags of charcoal – watch for sales. Just like the water, you can rotate out once your additional supply is met.
  • Add to you supply of non-perishable foods. Add items you would use to tide you over during a time of Such as keeping an extra jar of peanut butter and box of crackers on hand. Add a few additional cans of canned vegetables and other canned goods. Rotate as necessary.

 Ensure you have what you need and a plan mapped out

Check the batteries in your emergency kit, replace if needed

Go over your evacuation plan. Where would you go?

Refill your portable gas cans.

GET ALL OF YOUR IMPORTANT PAPERS TOGETHER

Birth Certificates

Insurance papers: Homeowners Insurance policy, Flood insurance policy, Vehicle insurance policies, life insurance policies.

Medical Records: shot records, updated list of medications taken by each member of your family, list of Doctors, with addresses and numbers, prescriptions for medications, eye glasses and their prescriptions.

During Katrina one of the major problems encountered by medical personnel was many people did not know medication names or the dosages. Keep these papers in a gallon zip-lock baggie so you can grab them at a moments notice if you must leave.

In Conclusion

While this list is not exhaustive because we all have different daily needs, its purpose is to get you to start planning now.  Make a list of your must have items.  Look at the list and figure out what you can store for a period of time.  In the long run you will have what you need and will not have to put yourself through the stress of not having the items you need in a time when you really need them.

Remember the saying “Run from the water and Hide from the wind”, and how important it is to listen to local emergency management instructions. If they say to evacuate, do so as soon as you can. When you stay you are not only putting your life in danger, you are putting others who will have to come to try to get you out when you realize you made a mistake in staying.

Hurricane Harvey went inland west of us last night and spared us so far. I say this because the jury is still out on whether he will turn and dump massive amounts of water on us. However, I wish to extend my heartfelt prayers to the people who were directly in the path of this destruction.  My prayers also include the ability those affected are able to weather this storm and will be able to return to normalcy quickly.

 

What are some must have items you would need and could purchase early and store.

As always feedback is welcomed and appreciated.  If you need to contact us directly please Contact Us

 

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One Comment

  1. Rowena says:

    This is an excellent article, and clearly written by someone who has lived through a hurricane season or two! The advice you give regarding preparation can (and should) apply for any disaster preparedness.I’m certainly going to use it as a checklist for my own prep. I can see mine isn’t as thorough as it could be.. Excellent post!

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