Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hurricane How-To 101

As Alex, this year’s first hurricane, churns across the Gulf of Mexico, with the Gulf's namesake country squarely in its sights, perhaps now is as good a time as any to review what I consider to be The Logical Person’s Guide to Hurricane Survival:

  1. Don’t go running to Home Depot with all the other people who didn’t keep their plywood from the last storm. Sure, covering up your windows is a good idea, but how much space does plywood take up? Can’t you simply stack it up against a wall in your garage when it’s not protecting your home?
  2. Consider investing in hurricane shutters. True, they cost more than plywood, but something tells me that steel doors will withstand a lot more force than bits of wood shavings glued together. If you're going to buy a home in a hurricane-prone area, doesn't it make sense that you should budget for things that will help protect your investment? Or is going to the hardware store every time it comes a storm just part of coastal culture?
  3. If you have a garage, and it’s been emptied of the plywood you’re using to cover your windows, put your cars in your garage. How many times have we seen news reports of devastation with trees laying over cars left in driveways?
  4. Same for your patio furniture. News reporters standing out in the blinding rain always talk about the plastic chairs flying around.
  5. If an evacuation is ordered for your area, don’t assume it applies to everybody but you. Do you not realize how selfish you are to remain in danger’s path? Invariably, the storm is gonna get too much for you to handle, and then you’re gonna scream for somebody to come and get you out. Or you’ll try to out-drive the storm when its eye passes overhead. Hey – there are two sides to every hurricane. The eye is like an intermission. It don’t mean the storm has quit. What about the poor folks who then have to go out and risk their own necks because you didn’t think enough about yours? Here’s a news flash for ya: it ain’t their job to enable your stupidity.
  6. Try not to talk like a hick southerner when talking about people who defy evacuation orders.
  7. Those steel storm shutters help protect against looters if, as you say, that’s the reason you stay behind and defy evacuation orders.
  8. And that show of bravado about not lettin' no hurr-kane make you leave? That ain't bravado we seen'n your eyes; it's a mix of naivete, misplaced trust, and maybe a macabre appetite for chaos - none of which is too appealing for anybody with common sense. (Shoot! Remember Number Six!)
  9. Get your facts straight about all of the other hurricanes you’ve survived over the years. You lose credibility when every person a reporter interviews thinks a different hurricane was the worst.
  10. And speaking of reporters: hey, all you blow-dried TV news people: don’t tell us the wind is fierce when wide palm fronds dangling behind you aren’t moving at all. Don’t exaggerate the weather conditions just because your producer wants to juice the station’s ratings. Wear a hooded raincoat when you stand out in the rain – you’re getting no sympathy because your hair is sopping wet. And by the way, we’ve all seen rain, so unless cats and dogs really are falling from the sky, skip the bogus shots of downpours and water running down gutters and give us some more close-ups of people buying all the plywood at Home Depot.
  11. After the storm has passed, evacuees should wait until given the all-clear to return home. Don't assume you're the exception to the rule. In the meantime, what roads are clear will be needed by emergency crews to search for stubborn folks who ignored the evacuation order, start restoring power, and make sure areas are safe enough for residents to return.
  12. When you do get to return home, take an inventory of what preparation procedures worked, and what didn’t. If your property has unfortunately sustained considerable damage, don’t just say “we’ll rebuild” unless you know the reasons for the destruction can be mitigated by better construction. For example, if you had a beach house that was washed away, maybe Somebody other than your insurance agent is telling you something about building on sand.

Now, for people who live in The Big Easy, there is an addendum to this list:

  • If you don’t have a car, and Amtrak offers to let anybody who wants to obey the evacuation order ride their trains out of town for free, then what’s stopping you?
  • If you don’t have a car, and the city’s school buses will just get destroyed if they remain parked in New Orleans, why not organize an evacuation via school buses?
  • If you don’t want to leave your pet behind, you can’t afford any protection for your house from your hometown’s rampant crime, and nobody you know has access to a car (despite scenes of streets lined with cars submerged in water), then what are you doing living in a city next to the Gulf of Mexico that is below sea-level, and has such incompetent leadership that levee reinforcement money was used instead to dig up levees to install fiber-optic cable? Don't just assume the entire country is going to subsidize all the bad choices which come from living in one of the most corrupt cities in North America.
  • Yes, Brownie did one h*** of a bad job responding to the crisis in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina blew through. But if Katrina has taught us anything, it's that there’s no better resource than personal responsibility when it comes to dealing with hurricanes.
  • And it starts with you and me.

Happy hurricane season, everybody!



  1. Big difference between "Southern La." and New Orleans.

  2. OK, since somebody caught that, I'll go ahead and change it... I was trying to diversify my wording by using the "southern Louisiana" but you're right, that makes it inaccurate.

  3. Haha. This was a great read! Wish it would actually make a difference though. It's ridiculous how many people think they can stay behind in a hurricane.

    I don't know if this happens every hurricane, but I remember when one was about to hit the Houston area pretty hard, the city was being evacuated. A lot of people were refusing to leave though, so city officials finally just told them, if you're going to stay behind please take a sharpie and write your name on your body so we can identify you later.


Thank you for your feedback!