How to stay prepared during hurricane season

Mary Grace Granito, Contributing Reporter

outline of Louisiana
States like Louisiana are hit hard during hurricane season, but these tips can help you stay prepared. (Maggie Pasterz)

I am writing this informative guide as I sit in my family’s cramped 2010 Sienna minivan driving to Houston. It is Saturday morning, barely 48 hours after Hurricane Ida crept onto our weather radar. With bumper-to-bumper traffic on the horizon and a catatonic labrador in the backseat, I’m once again left wondering how long it will be this time until I return home. 

Being born and raised in New Orleans, this is a question I have had to ponder too many times before in my short life. After Hurricane Katrina, my mother, another native New Orleanian, swore to never be unprepared again. Since 2005 she has had our evacuation plan down to a science. Unfortunately, hurricane season isn’t over until the end of November. And with climate change a present force, we must prepare for the inevitable once more. 

1. Water and nonperishable foods are a must

During the main months of the Caribbean hurricane season — June through November — it’s never a bad idea to have an emergency stash of water and nonperishable food items at your disposal. Buy gallon jugs of water to reduce the amount of plastic that comes with individual water bottles. You should aim to have about three to four days worth of supplies in the event of waiting out a storm. Buy batteries, flashlights and candles as well. If you wait till the danger is imminent, you will waste gas driving all over the city for panic buyers’ scraps.

2. Prepare your home/shelter

If you choose to stay during a storm, you need to prepare for flooding and high winds. Lift anything of value off the ground or to a second story to protect it from washing away or possible mold damage. Secure outdoor furniture so that it doesn’t become a possible projectile. Make sure you remove any picture frames or loose wall fixtures off the walls as well. If you have a car, bring it to higher ground. New Orleans often lifts parking penalties so you can park anywhere you need to keep your car away from floodwaters. Wait out the storm in a high area away from windows, such as an upstairs hallway.

3. Empty your fridge — please, I’m begging

Storms can appear at the drop of a hat, but if you don’t make time to clear out the fridge you will regret it. As you may know, intense storms cause power outages and the longer the power is out the longer your food sits to rot. After Katrina, my family had to throw out the entire fridge and everything with it in order to get rid of the stench and bugs. Throwing out some food now is better than throwing out your fridge later. Make three piles: food to throw out, things that you can cook and eat now as your pre-storm meal  and a small amount that can be kept in coolers with ice for later. This reduces waste and makes refrigerated necessities easy to transport if you choose to evacuate. 

4. Evacuation

Evacuation is not an accessible option for everybody, but if you have the means to leave, you should. Make a list of emergency contacts, friends or family that you can stay with or borrow supplies from who are as far from the path of the storm as possible. Driving is better than flying because you can take more belongings and loved ones with you. If you must book a hotel, do it as soon as possible before rates go up. When packing to evacuate, include all irreplaceable items such as family heirlooms or valuables. Pack all important documents such as passports and birth certificates. If you can, keep a transportable container of gas in your trunk, so that you can drive a little further even if you are low on money or gas stations are out. 

The devastation that Louisiana has faced due to hurricanes is immeasurable. While we all work to recover from Ida, we must also face the reality of our future. Another natural disaster is inevitable but this guide will hopefully minimize further damage any would face. As my mom always says, there is no such thing as being too prepared.

For more information on how you can help citizens of Louisiana recover from Ida and learn more about disaster preparedness, please visit these mutual aid resources: Southern Solidarity, Another Gulf is Possible and American Public Power Association.