My First Hurricane: How I Stayed Safe but Prepared!

By Libby Hikind

My first hurricane in Florida I realized I did not have hurricane shutters. Figuring this would be an easy problem to solve, I ran to Lowes to buy boards.  There were no boards left and the shelves were picked clean.  There was one corrugated plastic sheet. Great idea, I thought at least light will get through. Unfortunately, there was only one.  I went to all the check out lines and a few people took from their piles, giving me enough plastic to cover my windows. “Cha-ching $800!!!”

Next, I went to the parking lot and played helpless, except this time I really was. A contractor, who I never met before, agreed to take the corrugated plastic sheets in his truck and come to my home. He offered to drill into the stucco and board up my house. “$250!!”

There was light, but we couldn’t see out the windows. Gratefully, after only a few temporary outages, trees down, and some minor outside flooding, the hurricane was all over.  It cost me another $100 to have the plastics taken down, afterward I stored them on the porch. All this because, being a first timer in Florida, I realized too late that I did not have hurricane shutters.

After a few months, I got a permit and had all my windows replaced with hurricane shutters. However, the evidence of the plastics can still be seen in the patches of stucco near the windows. “Cha-ching, you don’t want to know!”

Before the most recent hurricane, however, I was ready. What I wasn’t ready for was the 10 days without electricity following the storm.

Here are some of the preparations I made in advance that helped get through the storm:

I froze small water bottles before the storm to keep my freezer cold for a few days. As things defrosted, I brought the food to a friend who was barbequing. At the barbeque, I had steak and baked potatoes.

My mom couldn’t stay without her oxygen machine and air conditioning so the paramedics took her to the hospital in the middle of the hurricane. I live only a hop, skip, and jump away from the hospital, but they told me to remain indoors.

All our laptop equipment was fully charged, so after we lost power, I could still charge my iPhone and communicate via chat to my community. What I didn’t prepare for, was the loss of tv that told me when to run into the bathroom to take cover from potential tornados. So, I added a 9-volt battery to my shopping list and tested my radio before the next hurricane.

I went shopping for food that I could precook and freeze that would last me about 3 days. Also, I called the pharmacy to order any medicine I feel I may be running low on because the pharmacy cannot dispense medications if their WIFI or electricity are out.

I made sure to have cash on hand, because cash is king when the ATMs stop working and you can’t pay for gas, groceries, or a taxi with a credit card.  I topped off my gas tank so if I needed to head for the hills, I could. 

Next, I packed a to-go bag. My to-go bag contained power bars, almond milk cartons, a can opener, flash lights, a long term candle, food I could eat cold if needed, copies of my personal docs, such as my drivers id, medical cards etc., and matches (the ability to start a fire is the one thing that every Survivor watcher knows is very important!).

One thing most people forget to do is straighten, clean, and declutter their living space! If the power goes out you will not have hot water to wash your dishes and there is a possibility that the water purification system could go down. If the lights go out, you will want to make sure you have a clear path through your living spaces. If there is flooding and the power is out, there could be an even worse mess to clean-up if you do not prepare your living spaces.

Recently, we have faced many issues here in Florida. With Hurricane Irma and the damage that swept across the state with her, or Michael and the large number of fatalities endured, it’s no wonder people get worried when a storm comes knocking. You can never be too prepared. As they say, it is always “Better to be safe than sorry.”

So, what happened to GrantWatch in the aftermath of the last hurricane?  My entire staff came to work.  We grabbed our laptops, went to Dunkin Donuts, and commandeered a table. We bought a lot of coffee and used our laptops and headsets to answer the phones. Unfortunately, Dunkin ran out of Donuts at 1:30 pm, so they closed the shop. After leaving Dunkin, we went next door to a fish and chips restaurant, bought soda, and used a table until 6 pm. That was our new pattern so our subscribers around the country forgave us for the background noise in the restaurants. 

There is always one good thing that comes out of a hurricane or natural disaster – that being the people always rise up to the top of the human race to help others. GrantWatch.com and YouHelp.com had several campaigns organized by nonprofits for the hardest hit areas.

Locally, a Chabad organization had power and started cooking meals. At dinner time, the Rabbi’s daughter came knocking at the doors of my community to deliver hot food.  I was so ready for a hot meal after my food ran out and the contents of my fridge were no longer edible. All because, this was my first hurricane in Florida I realized I did not have hurricane shutters.

Let’s hope the hurricane BLOWS OVER quickly only sustaining minimal damage.  Stay safe, but stay prepared.