In South Florida, we’ve had enough hurricanes and hurricane warnings that most of us have memorized the list of essentials we need.
The items are basically common sense: water, food, clothing, first-aid supplies, a radio, flashlight, and lots of batteries.
If you forget, just go to your local supermarket once a warning has been issued and see which shelves are empty.
Better, of course, to stock up ahead of time. The season for hurricanes runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.
One of the worst things about hurricanes is their unpredictability. The fact that one is forming or heading this way is very predictable. But that ‘s the end of what can be foreseen. Precisely when and where they will strike is always unknown.
So, too, is what damage they will inflict. At worst, they will blow your home away. At the very least, they will knock out your electricity.
To be truly prepared, you need to take some extra steps. That is, if you want to be as comfortable as possible in an uncomfortable situation.
If you can’t afford or accommodate an electric generator – which can consume lots of gasoline and infuriate your neighbors with its noise – then you have to adjust to life without air conditioning.
The best way to do that is with a battery-powered, 10-inch fan. Or maybe a couple of them, depending on how big your house and your family are.
The trouble with batteries, of course, is that they don’t last long, particularly if put to continuous use. So you have to use those devices that rely on them sparingly.
Perhaps the single most important purchase is a quality cooler to hold all that non-perishable food and all those quarts of water and other beverages.
If the cooler in question will preserve ice as long as possible, then a higher price may be justified.
But before I make a recommendation – and I have a couple – let’s consider how long ice should last. If a cooler only preserves it for a few hours, then that cooler is useless.
That’s what a cheap Styrofoam cooler will do.
No matter what cooler you buy or may have on hand, there are some things you can do to make ice last as long as possible.
For starters, buy ice in blocks, not crushed or chipped. Freeze one or more gallon jugs or quart water bottles and pack them carefully. The tighter your cooler is packed, the longer the ice will last.
Ice packs are also useful. They come in a variety of sizes and can help fill the spaces of your cooler.
Have at least two coolers on hand: one for food and one for beverages. That saves opening the cooler with the food frequently and thereby speeding up the melting of the ice.
What cooler you buy depends on how much you want or have to spend.
The top of the line, best-rated cooler is the YETI Tundra 65. It has a capacity of 52 quarts. It sells on Amazon – brace yourself – for $400!
The good news is that it will keep ice frozen for seven days or longer.
If that’s too rich for your blood, then there’s the Coleman 52-quart Xtreme Cooler for $49. That’s advertised to keep ice for five days, although actual users have gotten longer times.
A good cooler or two, at least one portable, large-size fan, and lots of batteries in all different sizes will get you started. But there are several other items you need to be completely ready.
Consider the following:
- A flashlight’s range is very limited. Lanterns can substitute for table lamps and help make you forget you’re sitting in the dark. The best are ones with a high-low setting to conserve battery power. Some even have a remote-control switch so you can turn them on without stumbling in the dark.
- A hand-crank radio. This, too, will save on battery power.
- Extra, fully charged cellphone batteries. Smartphones may become unusable if the battery goes dead or the wind knocks over a cell tower. Don’t count on the phone surviving the storm, but an extra battery or two could help.
- A portable, battery-powered TV. The visuals you get from TV are better and more instructive than what you can hear on the radio. The added bonus is that you can relax and unwind by watching one of your favorite shows. The caveat, of course, is that you’ve got to limit your viewing.
- Meal, Ready to Eat or MRE: These are the pre-packed meals provided to soldiers by the military. There are also civilian versions. They offer a variety of main courses, side dishes, desserts, and snacks. Depending on how they’re stored, they can last from one month to five years. They’re packed in cases of 12 each. A good price ranges from $45 to $60 per case. Shipping might be extra. (A case weighs 24 pounds.) Best source, provided you read the listing carefully, is eBay. Worst source is an army surplus store, which typically overcharges.
- Odds and ends: This is a catch-all category for those things you might need or want to help you make the best of a bad situation and to chill, literally and figuratively. To help pass the time, books, cards, games, and toys for you and your children can do nicely.
A word of caution: Avoid Sterno cans and grills unless you can use them outdoors on a cool night. Inside, they are extremely dangerous. Outside, they only produce more heat than Mother Nature is already providing.
With hurricane season already here, it helps not only to remember the Boy Scout motto but to live by it: