We are three to three to four days out from a likely Category 4 direct hit in South Florida. We are here and we are prepped. So are a lot of our neighbors, if not most of them. Mind you, none of us are in an evacuation area. No risk of storm surge, nor are we in flood plains. If you are, you need to evacuate. Mobile home residents as well, no questions asked.
We have Hurricane Irma pre-storm, during storm and post-storm plans as a band of neighbors and friends. We have covered protection, water, food, gas, cash, cars, security. Best of all we are prayed up. If you don’t know God, you might likely find Him as you watch a hurricane with 185 mile winds barrel towards you.
What prompted this blog post is the consistent “theme” I am reading on other prepping sites and even mainstream blogs in regard to Floridians preparing for Hurricane Irma. I keep reading the rhetoric of “See? These Floridians weren’t prepared and now look at what a mess they are in when they stand in line!” This has been the focus of most of the prepper related blogs I have read through. Well guess what? They are off the mark, dead wrong frankly.
Let me tell you why. Last Sunday, a week before Irma will hit us, our grocery store bread and water shelves were bare. I was astounded! I thought, “My neighbors are preparing!” Why was I so shocked? A week out is like a lifetime for most Florida residents when it comes to stocking up for hurricanes. You see, hurricanes allow you time to prep (whereas tornadoes, flash flooding and many other natural disasters do not.)
Rather than point a finger and say, “See, you should have already had all that stuff!”, I will take the approach of encouraging my fellow residents in choosing to not wait until one or two days before the hurricane hits, as has historically happened. And a kudos for making sure that they far surpassed the 3 day emergency preparedness supply recommendation – most had multiple weeks of food and water on hand. Well done! You see, after living through decades of hurricanes, the “day-before prep” becomes a normal complacency pattern for Floridians. This time it is different. I think that Hurricane Harvey was a wake up call.
And it wasn’t just food and water that they gathered early, the same occurred with gas. You see we don’t just fill our cars, we prep for weeks of power outages and gas generators. That is ALOT of gas. And most stations ran dry by Monday – because people were PREPPING with a week to go. They were filling multiple cars and 10 to 15+ five gallon gas tanks. And the stations continued to bring in tankers and refill overnight. I have to give a shout out to Governor Scott and the neighboring states that stepped up to logistically aid in petroleum tankers getting in to Florida – thank you!
Yes, there were lines. But people were buying AMPLE amounts of gas, food and water in addition to what they already had. And the good news is, our local grocery chain, Publix, and many others have consistently restocked overnight, with weary, but pleasant employees greeting residents at 6:00 and 7:00 a.m. every morning. My Floridians were the most preparedness minded I have ever seen them! They weren’t content sitting at home with 1 gas can, a case of water and a couple of cans of tuna (we joke that these are the usual “hurricane preps” for Floridians, but it is all too true.)
And guess what? I, the owner of an emergency preparedness company, went to get extra gas, well frankly my husband and older daughter did. I went to Publix and picked up some extra water and groceries. I didn’t have every last thing – actually, we could have survived just fine, there was simply time to add a few conveniences and comfort items that the ample warning of a hurricane allows. What is a hurricane without Twizzlers and Blood Orange San Pellegrino?
We store all of the necessary preps year round. It is worth it, but not easy. Gas is a pain to store in Florida – we stabilize and rotate in cars, storing away from the house, often in 100 degree heat. But we had just rotated a large portion of our gas in to cars and wanted fresh gas for this storm. I don’t store massive amounts of water – with 100+ degree heat in our garage, water storage is more hassle than it is worth. I rely on our Berkeys, knowing I have a non-saltwater pool (that was intentional) and a lake 1/2 block away. But frankly, fresh store bought water is sometimes a bit more convenient for busy moms. I bought some extra water so I wasn’t dumping bath water in to the Berkey right away – for my convenience! I want to initially focus on comforting my kids and making sure we are functioning comfortably post hurricane.
Then there were the blog lectures on why all of us Floridians should have been prepared to bug out. I can tell those authors never lived in Southern Florida. Want to shutter up and leave a week early? Your home is now a prime target for theft, because your garage side door is the gateway to all of your possessions while the entire world knows you are gone. Then there are those of us that have to shutter up and put emergency procedures in place for our businesses and our employees. That is not a one day event.
Finally, if you decide to leave, as many friends did today, you find yourself stuck on the one open highway, as the Turnpike is currently so gridlocked that everyone is having to go east to 95. The worst part is, you are crawling at 10-15 miles an hour and then find yourself without gas, and the stations are all empty along the highway. I just spoke to a friend that had just hit Daytona. It had been 8 hours of crawling and they had taken all of their gas for their generators and refilled their car on the side of the highway. What would we be doing with aging parents, two kids, and a 55 pound dog on the side of 95 at 11:00 p.m. on the side of the highway?
And here is the real secret, many Floridians wait to get on the road to make sure the residents of the Florida Keys (25,000 people thus far), that are almost always under mandatory evacuation orders can easily evacuate the state. That is right, that they would leave safely, before those of us that can shutter up in more stable structures and less flood risk prone areas. Our neighbors to the south typically have the greatest hurricane risks and the most challenging geography when it comes to evacuation. Would you like to attempt the Seven Mile Bridge with a hurricane heading your way and another 24,999 people attempting to leave at the same time?
Should Floridians have ample supplies year round? Yes, of course they should. Did something change with this impending hurricane? Yes, it did. I am willing to bet that after Irma, my fellow residents will be even more prepared in the future. Not perfectly prepared, but improving. We sold a lot of LifeStraws to locals. I bet they will move up to Berkeys after this storm. I know that many of them will be upgrading their generators (I am going to a whole house generator with my husband’s okay.) They will also learn more about food and food storage after they work to plan meals for weeks without electricity. Frankly, they should be prepping year round, not just during hurricane season, but I saw a level of awareness and progress towards longer term prepping than I have ever seen before. Baby steps.
A few final words to get off my chest before I lay down to get some rest for more hurricane shuttering fun throughout our neighborhood tomorrow. Fellow preparedness merchants – don’t raise your preparedness product prices and price gouge (we didn’t and won’t.) Shame on you Amazon retailers that have done so, you know who you are. Don’t spend time writing endless blog posts about how unprepared Floridians are. You can craft some wise words, checklists and recommendations after Hurricane Irma when you have attentive eyes and ears. And enough with the ridiculous articles on Hurricane Irma becoming a Category 6 hurricane – there is no such category, talk about hype and scare tactics. Floridians need your support, encouragement and prayers right now. Most of all prayers – this hurricane is a big one.