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Hurricane Week Revisited Part 3: After the Storm

Editor’s Note: Back in 2013, I ran a three-part series on what to do when a hurricane was approaching. Seven years later, with two named storms actively churning it seemed like a good time to look back, while also looking ahead, with the three phases of the storm. The three phases are before a storm arrives, the event horizon of storm arrival, and the aftermath following a storm’s departure. While this information is mostly geared to residents of coastal states in the path of storms, we encourage all of our readers to learn about the three phases of the storm. Today let us turn our attention to what to do before the storm arrives.

Although it may seem to some that the worst is over once a hurricane makes landfall and moves away or rains itself out, that is not always the case.

In a best-case scenario, one is left with some well-watered grass and a few tree limbs down. In a worst-case scenario however, one can be left with no power and in some case no home.

And as is the case with hurricanes and tornadoes alike, sometimes the line between the best-case scenario and the worst-case scenario is visible from each side.

Finding your boat after a hurricane is a good thing. Finding your boat on dry land however can be a bad thing.
Photo R. Anderson

There seems to be no rhyme or reason for why certain homes are flattened and others a few feet away in some cases are spared.

That is just the unpredictability of weather and shows why everyone needs to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Solely hoping for the best with no preparation could leave one far from high and dry.

As mentioned before, Hurricane Ike was the closest I ever came to realizing the worst-case scenario of a direct hit from a major hurricane.

Thankfully, once the storm had passed and I returned home, I found no damage and also had power and air conditioning.

A few towns up the road however my parents were not as lucky. While their home was completely structurally sound, it had a forest of fallen tree limbs in the front and no power inside.

The power was out for about a week at my parents’ house. Despite my invitations for them to come where there was power, they soldiered on in a nomadic tent fashion along with their neighbors until the lights were once again restored.

Tree limbs are a common casualty of hurricanes and can leave quite a mess when they fall.
Photo R. Anderson

In case you are ever faced with a similar situation, let us focus on some tips for what to do in a post hurricane world with no power.

The first step for restoring order after a storm is securing the property. This could include removing tree limbs or simply mending fences or placing tarps over holes in the roof. As storms can arrive one after the other it is crucial that one is as prepared as possible to avoid further damage from additional rain. Calls to insurance adjusters will of course also need to be made during this phase.

The next phase of storm recovery, is to ensure that one has enough water and food to maintain proper hydration and caloric intake to accomplish and recover from the post storm cleanup.

Following Hurricane Ike, there were several areas set up where residents could pick up cases of water and Military grade Meals Ready-to-Eat (MRE).

When faced with no power after a storm a supply of MRE rations can come in handy.
Photo R. Anderson

Each day I would drive up from my comfortably air-conditioned residence and drive a few towns over to visit my parents in their self-imposed tent city. Upon arrival I would check the progress of the cleanup efforts and then take my mom to the park down the road where the ice, water and food was being handed out by relief workers.

It really was quite the operation to drive thru, pop open your trunk and have supplies loaded and then be sent on your way. While I do not wish a storm to come and put anyone in that position it was nice to see how calm the recovery can be.

Once back at my parents’ house it was usually time to crack open some MREs in the backyard tent. Of course, the first few days of meals consisted of neighbors grilling meat from their freezers as each level slowly defrosted. But once the meat was gone it was time for the MREs.

Now for anyone unfamiliar with a MRE, it is set up to allow troops out in the field to have a hot meal despite being far away from their base. This is accomplished through a chemical reaction that heats up the food to near boiling point without the need for open flame or anything not included in the MRE bag.

Of course, as a word of warning for anyone on a sodium restricted diet, MREs contain about 200 percent of the recommended sodium intake. These meals are purposely sodium heavy to replenish the salt lost by troops marching throughout the day.

So as a rule, if one is not doing massive amounts of physical exertion then a diet heavy in MREs would probably not be advised. It should also be noted that the chemical reaction that takes place in an MRE is banned on commercial airliners due to the potential explosive risk.

But during a post hurricane time of moving tree limbs, MREs can be and very much are a lifesaver and one tries to not think of the fact that they are basically cooking with explosives; albeit low grade ones.

Beer companies also pitch in and send relief water after a storm.
Photo R. Anderson

Regarding the post storm cleanup, it should be noted that there are out of state contractors who will enter an area hit by a storm and offer to help areas recover. While most of these outfits are well intended, caution is certainly advised when dealing with out of state workers who do not have a brick and mortar office to bring any complaints to.

A good rule of thumb being if the price seems too good to be true, the bulk of it is required to be paid before any work is done, and the base of operations is the Motel 6, odds are it is not as good of a deal as it sounds like at first look.

Hurricane season is here and while the bulk of people will only have to deal with the before the storm phase, if at all, there will be a select few who experience all three phases of the storm this season.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a hankering for some MRE’s for some odd reason. I wonder how long they stay good for?

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

Hurricane Week Revisited Part 1: Before the Storm

Editor’s Note: Back in 2013, I ran a three-part series on what to do when a hurricane was approaching. Seven years later, with two named storms actively churning it seemed like a good time to look back, while also looking ahead, with the three phases of the storm. The three phases are before a storm arrives, the event horizon of storm arrival, and the aftermath following a storm’s departure. While this information is mostly geared to residents of coastal states in the path of storms, we encourage all of our readers to learn about the three phases of the storm. Regular baseball themed content will return next week but for now, let us focus on a message of public safety. Today let us turn our attention to what to do before the storm arrives.

As I have mentioned before I would much rather face a hurricane than a tornado any day of the week.

That is not to say that I want to experience either. But given the choice of the two, hurricanes are preferred in that they allow more time to prepare people and property prior to their arrival.

For the most part residents in the path of a storm will know days in advance of the likelihood of their being impacted by the storm through computer modeling and tracking.

It should be noted that the tracking models from various agencies around the world do not always agree on the path of the storm which leads to models showing a variety of impact zones.

The time to prepare for a hurricane is long before the first rain bands hit.
Photo R. Anderson

These impact zones are than tabulated to create a cone of uncertainty where the center of the storm is most likely to arrive. Of course, depending on the size of the storm, impacts can be felt for hundreds of miles away from that landfall area where the eye touches dry land first.

Once a storm is predicted to hit a certain region, the residents spring to action and buy up all of the water and other supplies that they can get their hands on.

Of course, one does not need to wait until a storm is barreling towards them to get their supplies. In fact, it is best to get the Hurricane kits made early in the season so that in the event that a storm if approaching time can be used for securing property and planning an evacuation from the path of the storm as needed.

So, what should a good hurricane kit include?

While each kit can be tailored to the person making it, a general list of items to include in a hurricane kit includes a first aid kit, water, supplies, documents, clothing, and of course food. The general rule is that the kit should allow enough supplies to last three days.

Let’s look a little more into each of the areas, shall we?

The American Red Cross recommends a first aid kit for both home and car ahead of the arrival of a hurricane.
Photo R. Anderson

First Aid Kit: A first aid kit for both car and home is a good rule of thumb. The kits should include prescriptions, band-aids, antibiotic ointment, alcohol wipes, bandages, gauze, tape, pain relievers, antihistamines, latex gloves, safety pins, tweezers, aspirin, antacids, a towel, Calamine lotion for insect bites, insect repellent, tissues, and sunscreen. As water is a major component of Hurricanes the kits should be placed in water proof containers to protect them.

Water: The American Red Cross and other agencies recommended having one gallon of water per person per day. Half of the water is used for drinking with the rest being available for hygiene.

Supplies and Tools: A fully charged cell phone and flashlight will be useful in the event of electricity going out. Having a car charger for the cell phone is also worth packing. A battery powered radio with plenty of spare batteries is also a good thing to have in order to hear updates and instructions that may come across the airwaves.

Plenty of flashlights and batteries can shed light on dark days after a storm knocks out power.
Photo R. Anderson

Do not assume that there will be power and cable service. It is best to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

Plastic utensils, paper plates, plastic bags and napkins and antibacterial wipes are also important.

Documents: Passports, birth and marriage certificates, social security cards, deeds, insurance papers, wills, and other important paper work should be placed in water proof containers as well, in order to be ready to grab quickly in the event of an evacuation.

Clothing: Assuming one might not be able to bathe for a few days, a change of clothes can be very important to help feel less overwhelmed. In addition to the normal items one might wear, since rain will likely be a factor, it is good to also pack waterproof outer clothing and boots to avoid that soaked to the bone feeling.

Non perishable food like the items pictured are crucial to have after a hurricane hits.
Photo R. Anderson

Food: Be sure to stock up on non-perishable foods. Some of the best items to consider are energy/protein bars, crackers, peanut butter, nuts, canned fruit and vegetables, canned tuna/chicken, cereal, dried fruit, and even baby food.

And of course, even though many cans offer a convenient pop top opening don’t forget a manual can opener.

This is of course in no means a complete list of items to grab before the storm but it is certainly a good starting point for anyone in the path of a storm to keep in mind.

I have ridden out storms where the electricity didn’t flicker once and I have had storms where I lost power so no storm is exactly alike and all regions are not affected the same way. I do know that when the power is out it is definitely not the time to go try to find batteries at the store.

Proper preparation prior to the storm definitely makes riding out the storm more comfortable. At least as comfortable as it can be.

Now if you’ll excuse me all of this talk about canned goods has me tasting some canned ravioli. I just hope I remember to save some cans for the supply kit.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

Way back Wednesday: Remembering the Lost Art of the Postcard

Editor’s Note: I wrote this column on the lost art of sending postcards back in March 2013. During the current climate of COVID-19, as well as the attempt by some to disrupt the United States Postal Service’s mission to ensure that, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” it seems appropriate to reflect on the connection people can feel through the mail.

It is also important to remember the old AT&T telephone jingle to “Reach out, reach out and touch someone,” during this time of COVID-19 to let people know you are thinking about them.

Of course, in the current COVID-19 climate, any reaching out should be done from a safe social distance. In the meantime, please enjoy this column as part of our occasional Way Back Wednesday feature.

In this age of instant messaging, e-mail, Twitter, and other ways to communicate at the speed of light, it may come as a shock to some of the younger readers that there was once a time when correspondence was not handled as quickly.

Before the days of Facebook, it was not possible to post a status while on vacation to all of your friends to let them know that you were “Having a great time exploring the world’s largest ball of twine.”

Instead, when you were at that ball of twine, and you wanted to let your friends know how much fun it was before seeing them again in person, you had to buy a postcard and actually place it in something called a mailbox. Your friends would than receive the postcard, and your thoughts on the ball of twine in a few days.

Yes, I know mailboxes still exist, and based on what comes in mine they tend to be a conduit for junk mail and bills alone.

As such I now only check my mail a couple times a month; since there really isn’t anything worth reading that would require me to check it any more frequently.

Once upon a time mailboxes served as a window to communicate with the world. Today, mine mostly serves as a place for junk mail and bills.
Photo R. Anderson

I have made a career out of writing. I was able to made the transition from writing for print publications, to writing for electronic platforms.

For the most part, writing is writing. There will always be a need for clear content to be communicated regardless of the changing platforms as technology moves forward.

While I know that the ways people communicate has changed, sometimes I find myself feeling a bit of nostalgia for the written word and the simple act of receiving a post card through the mail.

Part of this nostalgia was the result of looking through my postcard collection the other day to help remember the name of somewhere that I went on vacation many years ago.

I ended up finding that postcard and my memory was jogged. Looking through the box, other memories were set free as well.

Many of the postcards in my collection were sent to other family members before I was born and were just passed down to me; but several are actually addressed to me. One particular series of cards was the result of a chance encounter on an airplane.

When I was in third grade, my mom and I were on a flight from Washington D.C. to Orlando, FL. There was an older gentleman in the row with us (of course when I was that age everyone was older, so my memory of how old he really was may be warped).

As it was a relatively long flight, we ended up making conversation. Over the course of the conversation, he mentioned that he did a lot of traveling as part of his work with the Army.

I do not recall the whole scenario of how it occurred, but addresses were exchanged and he mentioned that he would write me from his travels.

The postcards did not always include a message but this is typical of the type of message when they did.

In this more jaded world that we find ourselves in now, the chances of a stranger getting the address of a young child under the guise of sending correspondence would probably be less likely to occur.

I for one have become way more suspicious of people’s intentions the older I get.

While it is certainly good to be skeptical, and careful of one’s surroundings, and those that enter them, I sometimes wish that I could see the world through younger me’s eyes when the world was a far less scary place. Back then, the only things I needed to worry about were which pair of pajamas to wear, and how many days until I could ride my bike to the 7-Eleven to check out the latest comic books, or buy a pack of baseball cards.

A few weeks after returning home, I got my first postcard from the man on the plane. The postcards continued for several years, and always included a short note about the destination included on the front.

One of the postcards my pen pal from the plane sent me.

The cards stopped one day, which could have been the result of many factors including the forwarding address feature no longer working, or perhaps the man behind them was no longer able to send the cards for whatever reason.

While I do not remember his name, I do remember the simple act of sharing postcards with a wide-eyed child and the effect that had and continues to have. I have no way of knowing if that man on the plane is even still with us.

If he is, I hope that he is well and is still able to take those wonderful trips that sparked my imagination so many years ago.

But those postcards, as well as the others I received from friends and family, helped me see parts of the world that were harder to see in the pre-internet days and certainly helped nurture my love of traveling.

Some 30 years later I still fondly recall the postcards from my pen pal. Tweets and e-mails will not hold up as well through the decades I imagine.

Today, thanks to the internet, if I want to see a picture of something I need only type it into a search bar and before long I will have more pictures to look at than I could ever hope for.

The Internet has opened the world up to us but in some ways it has also made us more alone than ever before.

I often think about other chance encounters and people who come into our lives for a brief moment and the impact that they have on us. Had my mom and I been seated in any other row on that airplane, I would not have received the postcards.

When I was in Journalism School, one semester my professor assigned the class a project to go to the food court at the mall and observe people. The point behind the assignment was to make note of the various interactions of people coming and going in order to imagine various scenarios as to what brought them there. To this day, I still enjoy people watching.

The next week, the same professor assigned us to go back to the same food court and find a stranger to interview. The point of the exercise being that everyone of us has a story to tell. The trick is to know the right questions to ask to get the ball rolling.

While the memory of the man on the plane will probably not make me any less cautious than I am, since the world today is so much different than it was all those decades ago it is still a nice memory and shows that we all do have stories to tell. The key is to just be open to hear them.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I am going to find a food court and see if my interview skills are still as sharp as they once were.

Copyright 2020 R Anderson

Atlantic Hurricane Season Starts Today

Today, June 1 marks the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season.

The edge of hurricane Claudette arrives in Pensacola. Photo R. Anderson
The edge of hurricane Claudette arrives in Pensacola.
Photo R. Anderson

I realize for many people not living near the coast this fact does not hold much water.

But, for those people near the shore today marks the start of a six-month period of keeping their eyes on the skies and hoping for another year free from the devastation that a direct hit by a hurricane can cause.

Of course recent rains around Houston have shown that it does not take a hurricane for water and flooding to cause severe damage to property,  and even cause loss of life.

When I lived in Florida I rode out many hurricanes from about 30 miles inland. That central location meant that by the time the storm reached me it was normally just a wind and rain maker.

The Gulf of Mexico churns ahead of the arrival of a hurricane. Photo R. Anderson
The Gulf of Mexico churns ahead of the arrival of a hurricane.
Photo R. Anderson

The highlight of those storms being a water spout that picked up a school of catfish and deposited them in my parents’ yard.

I can still picture my mom running around trying to save all of the fish that were very much out of water.

Since leaving Florida I have had a few vacations cut short due to the pending arrival of storms that I have had to outrun in my car to reach the safety of home and avoid getting stuck. To that end I try to avoid travel during the peak of hurricane season now to minimize the chances of having a trip washed out.

Upon moving to Texas I came a little closer to the shore through my proximity to Galveston Bay. While still around 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico the Bay acts as a direct line for storm surge as demonstrated during Hurricane Ike.

Like moths to the flame news vans like this one on the Seawall in Galveston become a familiar sight before and after the arrival of a hurricane. Photo R. Anderson
Like moths to the flame news vans like this one on the Seawall in Galveston become a familiar sight before and after the arrival of a hurricane.
Photo R. Anderson

In the little over a decade that I have lived in Texas I have evacuated ahead of the storm twice.

The first time included a 17 hour drive to Irving (a drive that normally would take five hours when not ensnared in bumper to bumper traffic) and a more reasonable seven hour drive to Gulfport, Mississippi during the aforementioned Hurricane Ike.

Hurricane Ike marked the closet I ever came to losing everything to a hurricane. Ike made landfall right at the mouth of the Bay which allowed the floodwater and storm surge to push well inland. When I returned back home I realized that the damaging floodwater stopped a mere two miles from my house.

While waiting out the storm in Gulfport I was glued to the television set watching the coverage of the pending storm. Ironically by evacuating east for the storm I actually experienced some of the outer bands of Ike in Gulfport before it made landfall in Texas.

Returning back home was like driving through a foreign land. There were still familiar sites but the parts of buildings strewn everywhere made it clear just how powerful the storm was.

A news van from New Orleans waits for the storm to hit in Pensacola. Photo R. Anderson
A news van from New Orleans waits for the storm to hit in Pensacola.
Photo R. Anderson

One particular comment from the reporters on the seen was the proclamation that the Galveston Hooter’s restaurant was gone.

Truth be told, the Hooter’s was one of many buildings perched on stilts above the water that were picked up and tossed onto the seawall like Tinker Toys.

But for whatever reason the reporter on the scene felt that the most prudent way to help the viewers at home understand the scope of the damage was to focus on the loss of the Hooter’s. The singling out of the Hooter’s made me laugh for some reason which may have just been a coping mechanism since I did not know what I would be coming home to.

To this day when I am driving along the seawall I will stop at the spot where the Hooter’s once stood and in my best Anderson Cooper voice will proclaim that the Hooter’s is gone.

Much like the Hooter's restaurant the 61st Street pier fell victim to the pounding storm surge of Hurricane Ike. While the Hooter's has yet to be rebuilt a new version of the pier has returned to the shore. Photo R. Anderson
Much like the Hooter’s restaurant the 61st Street pier fell victim to the pounding storm surge of Hurricane Ike. While the Hooter’s has yet to be rebuilt a new version of the pier has returned to the shore.
Photo R. Anderson

After Ike the area around me rebuilt and for the most part there are few signs of the furry of the storm.

There are still pockets that have not come back and individuals still dealing with the loss but by and large a first time visitor to Galveston would not really be able to tell that a storm had flooded so much of the island.

The same is true in other places that have had storms hit. After the water recedes the cleanup begins and lives are slowly put back together.

The Flagship Hotel in Galveston was another victim to the power of Ike. The area has since been converted to the Galveston Historic Pleasure Pier. Photo R. Anderson
The Flagship Hotel in Galveston was another victim to the power of Ike. The area has since been converted to the Galveston Historic Pleasure Pier.
Photo R. Anderson

With the exception of Super Storm Sandy it has been a few years since a storm of the major category has made landfall in the United States.

Here’s to hoping for another year where the big storms stay away.

But if a storm does head this way this year I think I will most likely ride it out. It is not that I am being brave or foolish for that matter it is just that after seeing the worst that a storm can do from afar I would rather be up close and relatively safe than battling the thousands of people on the road heading north.

Now if you’ll excuse me I am off to check my hurricane supplies.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

New Year, Same Old Resolutions

Today marks the second day of 2015.

Today also marks the time when people drag out their New Year’s resolutions, which for many are the same as last year’s resolutions.

The most popular resolutions year after year tend to revolve around weight loss based on the amount of commercials flooding the airwaves this time of year for gyms and diet programs.

Turn on almost any channel, and the odds are pretty good that in any given commercial break a commercial of some sort of weight loss supplement, program or device will be on.

I revolved to get healthier this year. That resolution will likely be accomplished through weight loss the old fashioned way and will not be accompanied by any crash diets or expensive gym memberships.

More power to those people who will be partaking of the fad diets, but they are not for me.

Another popular resolution this time of year involves many people searching for better jobs.

The better job can be in the form of higher salaries or just increased happiness.

Having a job where one is paid well, challenged and appreciated is always a good thing to find so it is certainly a valiant resolution to find such a thing.

Of course, having a job that one enjoys can go a long way as well.

Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to have many jobs where it was a joy to go to work. In some cases, this was because the people I worked with made the day more bearable. In other cases, it was the work that was a joy to complete.

These jobs allowed me to cover many memorable events. They also helped me feel like I was part of a worthwhile cause that made a difference.

There have also been jobs that I have had that sucked the creative juices out of me and were a complete drag to go to. These jobs offered little more than a chair that spun and paychecks that cleared on time.

For all of those people in those mind numbing jobs, I wish them more fruitful career pursuits in the New Year. I also hope that they find a rewarding job where their talents are fully utilized.

The new year is also a time for many in the media to compose lists containing the best and worst “fill in the blank” of the previous year.

Over the past few weeks, I have read lists of everything from the best television shows of the last year, to the best plays in college football.

These lists are subjective and are 100 percent in the eye of the beholder. However, it can be fun to see what people found amusing in the previous year.

For the record, I will not be compiling any year end wrap up lists of what I think was the best and worst from the past year.

Another tradition this time of the year is the inclusion of predictions for the year ahead.

This can come in many forms. Predictions often involves an “expert” weighing in on who they feel will be the best in a given sport during the coming year.

As I have mentioned before, I do not really believe in predictions involving sports teams.

There are just too many factors that can impact the outcome of a game, let alone a season. So, trying to predict what will happen really holds little weight in my book.

The College Football Championship Game will feature Oregon and Ohio State this year. While there were certainly some people who saw that coming at the start of the year, I am sure the bulk of people figured it would be Alabama and Florida State.

Despite a game that was not predicted by the majority of “experts,” I feel that the stage is set for one of the more competitive finals in recent years.

In the world of baseball, the consensus preseason favorites for the World Series were noticeably absent in October. Instead, many unexpected teams crashed the playoff party.

In both cases, the games were entertaining despite defying the predictions from the enlightened minds.

My resolution for the New Year would be for people to rely less on what the “experts” say will happen in a game and to spend more time watching the games and letting them unfold as they should.

After all, if all of the outcomes in life were predetermined, life would truly be a boring thing to go through.

Instead of making resolutions that will come and go, just make the most of each day and be the best person that you can be.

If you can do that, the rest will fall into place without the need for crash diets of celery and grapefruit.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some exercise to get to.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson