Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hurricane Season 2011

Today is the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season, which traditionally ends November 30.  Careful weather observers will point out the hurricanes that have formed outside of that time period, well into December.  Other observers will remember hurricanes that wandered into areas where we don't usually find them.  To all of you, I say, "Yup.  Prepare now."

Everyone I talk to down here in South Florida feels a bit nervous this year.  It's been awhile since we've had a truly dreadful year (2005).  But what makes us really nervous?  The severe weather across the rest of the country this year:  blizzards, floods, tornadoes.  It's hard not to feel the bullseye on our backs.

So, it's time to start eating down the food in the freezer, time to stop buying so much in quantity that requires electricity to stay good.  It's been a few years since I bought batteries:  time to do that.  Time to start picking up a few pantry items each time I shop; we're short of peanut butter, a staple I used to keep in multiple quantities when hurricanes were fresher in my mind.

I have to be honest, the water is the problem.  We lost water in 2005, and even though I'd stored the amount of water officials recommend, and even though we were parsimonious with our water usage, we ran out.  We were lucky.  Our water problem was localized, and once we found the leak, we could fix the pipe ourselves and restore water to the house.

I'm not too worried right now.  The sea temperature is not as hot as it will be.  Hurricane season almost never shifts into high gear until August.  Except for the 1996 season, where Bertha and Fran tore apart the North Carolina coastline in July.

Even if you don't live on the coast, it wouldn't hurt to make a few preparations.  I'm thinking of the residents of Sumter, South Carolina (roughly 90 miles inland) who had devastating losses when hurricane Hugo came ashore and just kept driving inland.  A few years ago, I had friends in Asheville, N.C. (inland and upland) who had a worse hurricane season than I did, when one of the huge Panhandle hurricanes (Dennis?) roared ashore and kept going.

Could you and your family survive if you couldn't get to a grocery store for a week or two?  You may scoff, but we're all increasingly reliant on food that's shipped to us from elsewhere.  What if an emergency elsewhere meant your grocery store couldn't get food?  We've experienced that before.  What if part of the electric grid went down?  Do you have batteries for your flashlights?  What if something happened to disrupt shipments of gasoline?  Do you have more than half a tank of gas in your car right now?

Until recently, most of us assumed that we lived in a world with stable, predictable weather patterns.  Surely no one believes that anymore.  Until recently, we assumed that our government could save us from anything that might go wrong.  Believe that at your peril.  At least realize that it might take awhile for your government to ride in to the rescue.  Could you eat in the meantime?

It's time to return to the idea of self-reliance.  Maybe you don't want to go as far as buying a generator or canning your own food.  Maybe you don't want a weapon to call your own.  But now is a good time to take stock:  count your supplies, take some pictures of your valuables, put those pictures with your insurance and other important paperwork.  You do know where those important papers are, don't you?  You could grab them at a minute's notice, if you had to evacuate?

And while we're at it, we should back up important papers and important pictures.  If you can't afford cloud computing, you can e-mail files to yourself.  Or put it all on a data stick and ask an out of town person you trust to hang on to it.  That way, even if you don't have access to your hard drive for whatever reason, you've got your important stuff.

Maybe I'll read Thoreau today.  Maybe I'll read Laura Ingalls Wilder and think about Pa, who could seemingly build a cabin in a week-end.  Self-reliance was once a proud tradition in the U.S.  It's time to return to it.

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