I was texting my cousin in North Carolina yesterday, to see if the family is ready for Hurricane Florence.
She was checking the generator at her mom's when I texted.
She's a really together person... so I was a little startled for her to admit she was scared.
I know she's been watching everything, but sometimes there's just too much information.
So I boiled it down to just a few things---
"Just make sure you have food, water, all your meds... enough to last at least 3 days. And keep phones and electronics charged up. Best to have cash and full tank of gas. Pumps and ATMs don't work when power is out."
Those are the biggest lessons I've learned.
3 days. We don't tell people that enough. Everyone expects immediate help, as soon as the storm passes their house. But that's not how it works. Yes, state and local resources, FEMA, the National Guard, power crews and even the Cajun Navy and Geaux Rescue are pre-positioning supplies and people... but they can't move in safely until the storm is over. It takes time to get power back on, and hospitals, first responders and others have priority over your neighborhood for obvious reasons. And some people may be in imminent danger. So be prepared to be on your own for 3 days.
After Frederic, the grocery store where I had been working was trying to open up and help people... but without power, they didn't have working cash registers. Fast forward to today, and you'll understand that cards won't work without power either. Have cash on hand.
After Ivan, gas was hard to come by. Whether it's evacuees trying to get home, or just the fact that trucks can't get into a storm-struck area for a while, there were a lot of places that ran out. And as soon as one got gasoline, the line wrapped around the block.
Something else I learned, though, after Frederic, Ivan and Katrina. Neighbors can come together and help each other even if they've never met. We had just moved into our home before Ivan and when we got back from our evacuation to the radio station with a brand new chainsaw, we met a lot of people who were very happy to see us.
And after Frederic, with power out for weeks in some areas, the one thing I remember is everyone on our block meeting at our neighbor's house, bringing all the food that was thawing...steaks, shrimp, you name it... and cooking on their gas grill. It's my absolute favorite memory growing up in that neighborhood.
Oh, and something you SHOULDN'T do before a storm... is put your valuables in the dishwasher. Or any appliance, for that matter...
(Photo credit: Getty Images)