It is the height of hurricane season, and the hurricane predictions have been published. Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science released their forecast of the upcoming Atlantic hurricane activity, and they think, given the prevailing weather conditions, that there could be up to five major hurricanes. Living on the south west coast of Florida, this interests me greatly. The weird thing about hurricanes is that it’s not afterwards that’s a problem, unless the hurricane nails us. It’s not during the hurricane, either, since it can actually be pretty exhilarating. The hard decisions must be made before a hurricane arrives! There is one major question on everyone’s mind when a hurricane threatens Southwest Florida. Do I run from the hurricane or do I hunker down and ride it out?
There is nothing straightforward about preparing for a possible hurricane. We in Southwest Florida have days of warnings, sure, but hurricanes are notoriously rebellious, going where they will and not where anyone thought they would. That makes running from them a dicey proposition.
If you decide to run from a hurricane, you still must board up your house You have to provide for your pets, but where do you take them? Kennels are full, and all of your friends are facing the same decisions you are. Even if your friends decide to stay, not too many people want to be huddled in a storm with your hysterical pet! You can try to take your pets, but if you do, you better make sure that the places you intend to stay will accept pets.
Another thing to consider when a hurricane threatens is your job. I know everyone thinks all Florida citizens are retirees, but alas, that is not true. Companies based in hurricane zones are not overly sympathetic with their employees when it comes to hurricanes, especially given the mercurial nature of the storms themselves. If you miss work, you’ll be doing it on your dime, so you better have some vacation time saved up.
After you decide what to pack, find a gas station that is not out of gas, and wait in the long line to fill up, you are free to head out in to murderous traffic on one of the few roads out of Florida. As you sit in what basically amounts to a huge parking lot, you will have time to figure out where to go, and hope there is an available hotel room when you get there. You can of course try to gauge your driving time and call ahead, but in this traffic, it will be very hard to figure. Going south or east means possibly getting hit worse than if you stay put, but going north could have the same effect. And if there are traffic accidents on northbound I-75, the main evacuation route from Southwest Florida, you could be a sitting duck. Not to mention the hurricane could miss Florida altogether and you’ve missed work for nothing.
Or you can stay home. Which is frankly far preferable, but exhausting none the less. First you’ll be running around trying to get the right amount of bottled water and canned food for each household member for at least 3 days. You will still need to sit in that long line at the gas station to fill the car tank, because there isn’t always gas after a storm. By the time you get to the pump, there may not be any gas at all.
If you manage to get gas, the next thing on your list will be batteries. Some stores will be out. You may decide it would be better to just run a generator, if you’ve previously paid hundreds of dollars for one and it hasn’t been stolen yet. It’s not an easy decision, because not only does it cost $40 a day in gas to run it, but far too many people die from carbon monoxide poisoning from their generators. If you decide to run the generator and are able to get enough gas, you’ll have to be very careful that the generator is not too close to the house, while securing it some how from theft. And if the hurricane doesn’t come close after all, you’ll have to find a way to safely store the gasoline in the summer heat.
The heat is quite oppressive after a hurricane goes by, the air still and heavy. If you don’t use the generator when the electricity goes off you’ll need to make sure you have some battery powered fans handy. Before the storm hits, you’ll need to clean up the yard and porches of possible projectiles, do laundry and dishes in case there is no water or electricity for a few days or weeks after wards, buy or make lots of ice to keep food and drinks cool when the electricity is off (and you’re overheating from cleaning up after the hurricane goes by), cook food that might otherwise spoil, check on family, and a million other details that need tending to. (For instance, cleaning out the freezer is an essential hurricane-preparedness task. I suggest you grab the ice cream, remove the lid, pour syrup inside, and dig in!)
After all this preparation, the hurricane could veer another direction, leaving you tired from all the preparation, but grateful that it was for nothing. Or, it could hit hard, while you listen to the howl of the wind from the hot, dark interior of your home and hope your roof stays intact.
So, what should you do if you are potentially in the path of a hurricane: run or stay put? After weighing all the pros and cons of fleeing a hurricane versus preparing to ride one out, each individual will ultimately have to decide for themselves. But using all the information available to you, you can make an informed decision about whether to run or whether to stay put when a hurricane threatens Southwest Florida. Welcome to Paradise!