Friday, October 26, 2012

My experience with Hurricanes - Immediate Preparations/Supplies needed and what could happen in New York City with a direct hit

UPDATE 10/26/12 - I wrote this last year when hurricane Irene was going to hit New York City last year.  This still applies for Hurricane Sandy in what preparations need to be done to be ready for it and the aftermath.   This goes for the whole North East area for what the media is now calling Frankenstorm (Sandy).   They are saying no electricity for awhile.   

So.... I am bringing this post back up exactly as it was, except for putting this top portion in and a picture of Hurricane Sandy's forecast.  
 Hurricane Sandy's projected track.



Hurricane preps

I went through Hurricane Hugo in St. Croix Virgin Islands.  The island was wiped out including my place and all I had. The night the hurricane came through, we had to go from one room to another as each room was being taken out.  We ended up in a bathroom with a mattress over us.  

I moved into some friend's house (they did not live on island full time) , which was one of the few that survived some what in tact (windows doors taken out, but outside walls still standing) on the East end of the Island.  Electricity did not get to that part of the island until 9 months later (hurricane in Sept 18th 1989 - electricity restored in May 1990).    I lived without electricity and I understand what you need to have to survive any duration without.  But I was not in the densest city in the United States, which I can not imagine being stuck in without utilities.    My story is not what is important, but understanding I have survived and endured not having electricity or capabilities for months and I know what I am talking about, is what matters.

There are very important items you absolutely have to have for even the shortest amount of time without electricity.  

I am asking all of those who are in the line of Hurricane Irene, especially in NYC to please stock up on these items immediately and take these steps immediately.  It would be better for you to get out of the way and evacuate. 

  • Store Water (as much as you can), fill up your bathtub for "working" water.  Fill up every container you can. 
  • batteries
  • flashlights
  • candles (many)
  • food - canned - anything that does not need cooking - peanut butter, cereal, beef jerky, canned vegs, crackers,  cookies/sweets/hard candy,  canned beans (lots of protein), nuts, dehydrated milk,  tuna fish in oil not water (more calories, which will be needed), no diet or low calorie stuff, get all high calorie items,
  • manual can opener
  • ice in ice chest 
  • freeze water in plastic bottles right now, so they are part of your ice chest and helps keep things cold and you have it to drink later
  • cook as much as you can in your freezer NOW - it will all go to waste and you will not be able to cook it, if there is no electricity or gas after the hurricane.  Cook your meats and everything and refreeze it Today so it is in a frozen state at the beginning in a ice chest after the hurricane passes.  This gives you a few days of having that food.  
  • battery or wind up (better) short wave and regular radio
  • extra propane tanks for grills - or extra charcoal for grills (to be able cook)
  • generator (can not use it in an enclosed room) it has to be able to be outside (balcony), otherwise don't even think about it.  

  • extra gas stored (if you have a generator or vehicle) 

  • First aid kit.  Have hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, band aids, etc.
  • get huge packages of "Wet Ones" (diaper wipes) so you do not have to use water for your hands or cleaning yourself.

  • antibacterial gel (get a lot) for your hands, instead of using water.

  • Chlorine - to use to sanitize water and anything else

  • vitamins (get multi ones) so you have the needed minerals and nutrients that you can not get from eating and keeping your body strong

  • medicines (diabetes, blood pressure, etc) that you need and can not live without.  Call your doctor TODAY and ask for prescriptions and get them filled immediately! 
  • copy all your bank statements, stocks, money market accounts today, put it somewhere safe - on a USB drive, hard paper copy to prove what you have.  Also put all your important papers in plastic bags and somewhere deep within your place for safe keeping.
Putting the above and below in plastic bags, then a steel container or even plastic container - taping with duct tape that then somewhere safe deep in the middle of the house/apt etc.
  • (last thing) if you have time - put your photos in plastic bags and in a closet deep inside your place

  • pet food

  • cards/games/books - for having something to do for kids, if stuck inside for any duration
The above are supplies, this does not include taking the most basic preparations needed of bringing things in from the outside (so they are not missiles flying through the air), boarding up windows of houses etc.  - all around preparing your house for high winds and the most common sense preparations needed.   The above are things, people may not think to do in preparing and having on hand.

If you are in NYC, the scenarios are horrid of what can happen if it hits directly. NYC could literally be shut down for months if not some things (transportation) for years. 

As crazy as it sounds, this could be much worst than Katrina and New Orleans flooding out.  They were able to work above ground and all the water was above ground in New Orleans. Nothing in New Orleans is below ground, because it is already lower than sea level and digging in the ground after a bit, will bring up water.  This is not the same in NYC. every thing is underground there. Water was pumped out of New Orleans from on top of the land, it would be much more difficult pumping water that has filled the underground.  

The subway would flood with salt water and all electrical items would be ruined throughout it.  This would not be a quick fix at all, NYC transportation could be shut down for months and months. 

All the utilities are underground and are old already, them getting flooded could destroy them.  I am talking about water lines, sewer lines, gas lines and electrical lines.   

It is hard to imagine no water, sewage, electrical or gas in a high rise.  

The biggest nightmare I can imagine is the hurricane hitting NYC directly, as everyone lives in high rises, everyone is dependent on public transportation,  and it is the highest population in a small area anywhere in the United States.   I simply can not imagine how horrible it would be, to be stuck there with absolutely no form of utilities at all.  

Please remember Atlanta and the tornado that went through, windows were taken out during it, but even in weeks after glass/windows were falling out of the buildings and streets were closed off due to that.  The streets of NYC could become death traps of glass shards raining down on people for weeks/months afterwards.  Atlanta 3 years later has just gotten (Weston) all the glass replaced in that one building). 

I could go on about this seriously being the absolute worst place for a hurricane to hit and all that could happen. 

The above may seem extreme to you, but it is better to prepare for the worst and get much less, than not to be prepared at all.  I am having a hard time believing that NYC could be crippled and shut down for any length of time, but I also had had a hard time imagining an oil leak would go on for months and destroy the Gulf of Mexico also. 

Video - Short About "The Longest Night" movie about Hurricane Hugo hitting St. Croix - aftermath worst than storm - no communication, no way to get out, no help, lawlessness etc.

FYI - (I decided to add a few bits of my experience on St. Croix after the Hurricane - to help people understand, it is better to evacuate than to stay where a hurricane is going to hit)

The lawlessness after hurricane Hugo was unbelievable on St. Croix.  People began looting all the stores and then after a couple of days, began going house to house looting.  We barricaded ourselves as best as we could in the torn apart place we were sheltering in at that time and had gone through the hurricane in.  We had no doors or windows and only a partial roof left.  We had a run in with people with machetes.  My friend had a gun so the gun won out and the machete people backed down.  It can become very crazy (mad max from thunderdome type situations) after a hurricane.  Look at New Orleans and it's lawlessness as the most recent event.  I am thankful in St. Croix (though it took many days for any outside help to come to the island), that we didn't have U.S. Marshals coming and confiscating our guns, as they did in New Orleans, because a gun had saved us against machetes.

likened by some St. Croix residents to a nuclear holocaust, produced a sort of "day after" effect marked by a major breakdown of law and order. 

(SQA note - I believe it was more than 3 days - as the 3rd day is when we barricaded ourselves in the house - I remember it taking a week, we heard the military took so long due having to be ready of what they thought would be actual combat on the island) Three days of near-anarchy followed Hugo's terrible passage during the night of Sept. 17-18 and prompted President Bush to dispatch about 1,100 Army military police and 170 federal law-enforcement officers, including 75 FBI agents and a "special operations group" of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Their deployment Sept. 21 quickly quelled what the Federal Bureau of Investigation called in court documents here "pervasive looting" on St. Croix, the worst hit of the territory's three main islands.

As many as 90 percent of the island's buildings were damaged, communications and transportation were knocked out and, for a time, St. Croix's 55,000 people were simply cut off from the world.

Maj. Gen. Robert Moorehead, commander of the Virgin Islands National Guard, said of the scene on the morning after the storm, "In all my military experience, I had never seen anything like it. It appeared to me that we had been the victims of a nuclear blast."

The plunder started on the day after the Sunday night storm, as panicky islanders sought to stock up on food. It quickly degenerated into a free-for-all grab of all sorts of consumer goods that some witnesses likened to a "feeding frenzy." With no police or National Guard members attempting to restore order, many looters stole merchandise and trashed stores.

Although personal violence was rare, some occurred. An American dentist was struck on the head with a 2-by-4 while trying to photograph looting, and one alleged looter was fatally shot by a store owner in Frederiksted. The best-organized merchants proved to be Palestinian immigrants who took up arms and manned rooftops and barricades to defend their stores. (SQA note - I remember that so well - no one touched their grocery store - mid island, there  were many of them,  standing on the roof top with lots of guns)


  1. Sherrie, you preparedness advice is excellent. I have often wondered why people are so reluctant to evacuate when something as undeniable as a hurricane is bearing down on them...
    I must say, as I have watched this develop I am becoming less concerned though. It is beginning to look more like a typical hurricane that is getting the "Full Fear Monger" treatment. Still, if I lived there I would take a few days and go see how the corn in Kansas is doing or something.
    If this hurrican would blow the cracked top off the Washington Monument, I would definately call THAT "an act of god" - lol!

  2. The roads will be completely useless, even worse than being in the city is stuck on a shut down road!
    Are the ships in NY harbor staying in port? If not get on one or a train and do not get stuck on the roads and end up in some football stadium for months.
    All the emergency preps you make will not help if you are stuck on the road.

  3. Correct Anon - look at what happened around Houston when people were evacuating for a hurricane, they were stuck on the highways. That is why people should get out of NYC today and not wait.

    Much better to be safe than sorry.

  4. I knew I smelled a rat... There was profit to be made.

    Whenever the government acts concerned for your safety - RUNNNNN!!!!!!!!

    Note they are mum on the Gulf? THERE is a real problem.

  5. I was a small boat pilot from the USS Stephen W Groves, we pulled into Fredriksted day after Hugo hit. The armory was raided, and there was automatic gunfire from looters. We made one beach landing to bring food and water to some people from AUTEC who were hiding in the hills, and once to meet up with the chief of police.. but we could not setup aid stations till we linked up with the MP unit sent in..

  6. I was a smallboat pilot on the USS Stephen W Groves FFG29, we pulled in to Fredriksted the day after Hugo. A looted national guard armory, and automatic weapon fire kept us to night operations until we linked up with the MP forces. To hear that chief of police say it, a bunch of crackheads got
    the guns, now their looting. We ask about the island national guard, he said that's who the looters are!! I made a night beach landing to take food and water for some AUTEC families held up in the hills with shortwave. The looters could hear our diesel engine and were spraying the night air as they came down the beach.. When we finally linked up with the MPs, we got a generator and desalination. Plant going, it took a few days though. I was also part of the diving team that swept the harbor clear for relief ships to later come.