This was not my first hurricane. We did live in Charleston, SC for four years. There were at least two times that I really, really thought we were going to get hit. I went and bought obscene amounts of bottled water and candles. Josh made fun of me when I bought three boxes of fire logs for the fireplace (that we only used once) and a giant flashlight. But the worst we ever got was some light rain and wind. It wasn’t even hard rain. I count my lucky stars we got off so lightly. A local that I worked with brought in photos from a past hurricane that flooded her house with mud and caused a great deal of damage.
Last Wednesday we packed up for a trip to West Virginia to see Josh’s family. As we were getting ready to leave, we decided to bring in everything from outside because there was a chance we could see some action from Hurricane Irene. We didn’t take it too seriously. But we moved the outdoor furniture in, parked our other car in the garage, and I moved the afghan stand my grandfather made me onto the futon. It’s the only piece of furniture I cannot replace.
West Virginia is also known as “The land of sparse internet.” We got there on Thursday (after a stop at my parents’ house) and on Friday I went by the local library to use their internet. I had 102 emails, which is a little on the high side. Suddenly I was informed that the hurricane was barreling directly toward Dover AFB. There were emails about how to prepare for a storm, instructions to take your outside items inside, tips from the legal office to photograph your furniture in case of flooding, tips from other spouses about shelters that would be open, and the list went on. I am also a key spouse (I help keep tabs on other spouses whose hubbies aren’t around). I had urgent emails to call people and find out their whereabouts in case of emergency.
Needless to say, I was pretty shocked and rather alarmed. I began to fear that our 15 minutes of hurricane prep might not cut it. My dear, dear, wonderful neighbor agreed to go in and move the Wii, xBox, and wedding album to higher ground. The news kept up a doomsday tenor as the eye was predicted to pass within miles of the Delmarva peninsula. Delaware declared a state of emergency and kicked out all non-residents on vacation. I was further worried. Then to top it off, the base declared mandatory evacuations for the lower lying areas of base housing—this would include our street. Serious panic started setting in. We were already evacuated, but I was mentally ticking off all the things we should have done and the items that we should have moved.
Other wonderful, dear neighbors assured us that the flood map they handed out on base showed that our house wouldn’t be affected unless there was more than a nine-foot storm surge. The news then predicted a surge of 15-20 feet. Gulp! And Irene just loitered up the coast, taking her sweet time. A tornado destroyed a house in Lewes, DE, which is only 40 minutes south of us.
And then…nothing happened. The neighbors called to say that there was no visible damage and no one had flooding. Irene was not as big a deal as everyone feared. We arrived home yesterday to discover that there really was no damage. So far I’ve only seen one piece of loose siding on a neighbor’s house. Dover is so windy that I’ve seen worse damage from standard issue wind storms.
Is there a moral to this story? It might seem that the moral is: hurricanes are no big deal. If this is the message you picked up, you should keep reading. The real moral is: be over-prepared so in case something does happen, you’ll be ok; then hope that nothing happens and you seem foolish for over preparing.
That being said, do you have an emergency kit in your house? Do you have a plan if there is a hurricane or some other event that might cause extended power outage or prompt you to leave the area? Do you know what irreplaceable items you need to take with you? It may seem dumb, but give it some thought. You don’t want to wait to think about it until the rain starts to fall.
If you want to get a head start, check out the NOAA’s pageon hurricane preparedness.