IT IS HURRICANE SEASON! We’re from the northeast (like the real north, where we get real winter, real cold, and real snow. And, real ice). One thing we don’t get much of is hurricanes. We got a little more experience with hurricanes when we moved to North Carolina ten years ago, but through various lucky circumstances we managed to out run a few of them purely by chance. We were in the Dominican Republic on vacation for one, in California at a friend’s wedding for another, that kind of thing.
Well, not so much traveling happens these days with two small children, so we’re staying put this year, and as luck would have it, a hurricane is headed right for us in Raleigh, NC!
If you’re geographically challenged (or just don’t feel like finding it on a map), Raleigh is in the center of the state, so 2-3 hours from the coast. When hurricanes come up this way, we usually end up with the outskirts of the storm: lots of rain, some wind, but life more or less moves on as usual.
This time, however, it’s headed right for us! So, while I’m no expert, this is what we’re doing to get ready. We did and are doing these things now while it’s clear and sunny, so that we don’t have to go digging when the going gets tough. If you’re in the Carolinas, I hope this post reaches you in time, and you stay safe!
We have 2 adult flashlights, and 2 kid flashlights, so we made sure we had enough batteries to power them if need be. We’ve also got 2 iPhones, and 1 old iPhone, that can be used for a flashlight. I’ve got a lot of candles, too, which I got out of the Christmas box beforehand. No one wants to search for candles in a box in the attic in the middle of a power outage, hurricane or not.
We also lucked out by timing our Costco/BJs shopping trips two weeks ago to stock up on batteries: because we had a coupon, not because we knew this was coming. We definitely got lucky. I was told Dollar Tree had emergency and flameless candles, so if you’re near one, definitely stock up! Can’t beat that for a buck!
We have a few of these backup battery chargers for things like tablets, iPhones, cameras, etc. We’ve got them plugged in and charged NOW, so that if we need them, we’ve got them.
We got full tanks of gas in both of our cars. We are not in an evacuation zone OR in a low-lying area, so we aren’t leaving, but we did want to be prepared for the next week or so in case the gas pumps lose power or we have to turn on our cars to charge devices.
Hopefully we have no need to use them, but in the mayhem of the anticipation, lines were around the corner and the wait for gas was 20+ minutes! Some stations even ran out of gas because of the rush. I was glad I left myself a few days to fill up so there was no panic. If we do need to evacuate, assuming we don’t spend ten hours sitting in standstill traffic, we should be able to get pretty far on a full tank of gas in either car.
A big danger is power lines and trees falling, so if you don’t have a garage, I recommend trying your best to park your cars away from these things if at all possible.
Because we are outside the city limits on well water, we need to be prepared in case the treatment system goes out or flooding causes other damage. Our water usually still works when we have no electricity, though we won’t have hot water. (We are on a maintained community well, but some of my friends are on individual well water, which doesn’t work without electricity!)
I filled up Nalgene water bottles, Contigo cups, sippy cups with water and put them in the fridge. I put a few bottles in the freezer, too. Full refrigerators and freezers will stay cold longer if (when) the power goes out, and ice can be used to keep the fridge cool and the benefit is it melts into water!
That said, a few days before the expected storm, we emptied our ice tray into another compartment in the freezer, and let it refill, so we have more ice than usual. We can use that water for cooking (though we have an electric cooktop, so that’s not exactly helpful to us if the power goes out). Some people with top-loading washing machines filled theirs up with ice to keep food and drinks cold (this apparently works for DAYS), and the water drains away as it melts. We have a front loader, so this won’t work for us, but it sounds like a good idea.
Many of the grocery stores and big box stores around us ran out of water bottles and jugs of water, so if you have any empty cartons or clean buckets, you can fill them up with water before the storm to save it for things like cleaning, brushing teeth, drinking, etc. Some people fill up their clean bathtubs with cold water to use for drinking etc, and that can be very effective. However, we have two toddlers, and the idea of leaving a tub full of water in this stage of life is a little unnecessarily unnerving for me because of the drowning risk, so we opted not to do that this time around.
For drinking, we also got Snapple tea, juice boxes, Gatorade, and TONS of La Croix. You know, the essentials. I’m told if you’re on city water, you might not need to stock up on water. Since as I said, we are on a well, we have lots of things to drink just in case!
Food & Cooking
We stocked up on canned food, dry cereal, and other non-perishables. I tried to focus on things we can make and eat without refrigeration or power. Nothing we need to cook because if our power is out we can’t boil, microwave, or bake anything. We do have cast iron skillets so we can grill some things on the stove if the eye of the storm passes over us (and we have two full propane tanks for that), but since the most recent trajectory of the storm has it shifting more southwest, we likely will not be in the eye anymore. Which also means we probably will NOT be grilling in 30+ MPH winds and 15+ inches of rain.
Some of the other things I stocked up on for our pantry are cans of broth, shelf-stable milk (TetraPaks of Almond milk, etc), soups, canned beans, corn, fried beans, rice, and Chef Boyardee-style ready made meals for the kids. I also got a lot of peanut butter, marshmallow fluff, Nutella, hummus that we can make sandwiches with. I got lots of bread and bagels. I tried to think as filling and nutritious as possible, without power.
The challenge for me is that I have Celiac disease, so I have to prepare an extra stash of food for me. Many gluten free breads require refrigeration or are kept in the freezer because they don’t have as long of a shelf life, so thankfully I had a bunch on hand already (I buy Canyon Bakehouse breads at Target when they’re on sale and keep them in the freezer!) The good news is that if our power goes out I’ll be eating it, and it doesn’t take long to defrost at room temperature, so I’m not as worried about that spoiling.
We brought in our deck furniture and put it along the outside of our house inside the screened in porch. We took down our bird feeders, moved small planters, and will probably take the glass globes off of our outside lamps — I’ve heard some people do this, and I’m not sure it’s essential, but I definitely see the value in protecting them so you don’t need to replace them later. Light bulbs are certainly easier to replace than globes/shades.
If you don’t have an attic/protected porch/crawl space/garage where you can store things like lightweight toys and furniture that could blow around or become dangerous, you can bungee things together. I have some neighbors who have spent today doing this.
Some people recommended we tape our windows to avoid shards of glass breaking off and flying into the house, but I read a few things that recommend against that. We don’t have the ability to board up windows, and I think ordinarily we don’t need to, but if we were able to and in an evacuation zone, we would. Right now our risk is more from power outages, so we need the window for daylight.
Knowing that we might lose power, and thus not be able to clean anything, I made sure all our laundry was cleaned and dried before the storm hit. Folding all that will give me something to do if nothing else, and the heat and humidity with no A/C will mean some stinky people, so having clean clothes, towels, and sheets is helpful. Depending on how long our power situation is out, I also wanted to be able to have clean stuff for as long as possible, especially if the situation took a dire turn and we needed to evacuate.
We also got everyone clean and showered. I don’t mind a day or two without a bath, but knowing I might not have the chance to do so in warm water, I gladly hopped in to shave my legs and condition my hair. Again, the essentials. Focus on what you have time for. Who knows how long I might be cleaning myself with a baby wipe; might as well give myself the best start!
As I mentioned above, some people recommend filling up their bathtubs for water for using for drinking water, cleaning, flushing toilets. If you don’t have small children who are at risk of falling in and drowning, this is a good option and one way to prep inside.
If you have guests staying with you, or think you won’t feel safe sleeping in your normal sleeping arrangements for whatever reason, having an air mattress or two can be helpful. Some pumps are battery-operated, but they can take a while and usually the batteries don’t last for more than 1-2 mattresses, I’ve found. If you have an electric pump, fill up those air mattresses now while you still have power.
A neighbor mentioned she also takes the days before a big storm hits to empty out the coat closet under her stairs of all coats/stored items so that she can hunker down in there with her crank radio and flashlight. If you have anything like this, that might be a good idea.
First Aid & Medications
If you don’t have a first aid kit (a lot of new cars these days come with them), I recommend one. If you’re home, you can pack one up easily before the storm hits. Basically it’s just an easy way to find things you might need if you don’t have the light to be able to search for them.
In the event of a speedy evacuation, it can be helpful too. Items I easily rounded up in a safe place (accessible but away from small children): band aids, first aid cream, alcohol wipes, children’s ibuprofen and acetaminophen, children’s Benadryl, our adult prescriptions, vitamins for the whole family, and anything vital like Epi-pens, inhalers, etc. I also stuck in a small flashlight (one of those LED keychain ones), a nailclipper, and a thermometer.
Some of the ice in the freezer can be used as ice packs if needed, too, though I hope we won’t find ourselves in a situation where ice packs are required.
Children & Pets
I’m not sure why I titled that pets, as we don’t have any, but I imagine there are a few things you can do to calm your pets. Chances are if you have them, you know what riles up and calms them, so take those precautions ahead of time. I saw somewhere on Instagram where someone put some sod from their yard in a baby pool in their garage to let their pets relieve themselves without going outside. Again, we don’t have pets, but that sounds pretty genius to me.
For the kiddos, no videos or screen time if the power is out, so plan ahead. Books, coloring, painting, puzzles, building blocks, balls, anything they can do without power. Battery-operated toys that don’t require wifi are fine too, but of course you need to make sure you have the batteries on hand if you’re planning on using those for any length of time.
Kids, at least mine, feed off of the excitement (positive and negative) of adults. They’re watching us, our reactions, our preparations, listening to the news, etc. Even if they’re not saying it, they feel the tension, so talk to them. Have them help: gather up special stuffies for their bag, invite them to make up the guest bed or air mattress with you, gather some non-electronic activities with them. Ask them what they want to do! They might surprise you! Claire told me she wanted to make sure her raincoat, boots, and umbrella were handy–atta girl, I hadn’t even thought of that! One of my fondest memories as a child was riding out a storm at the beach (my parents did not put us in harm’s way) — when it was safe but still stormy, we’d put on our boots and rain jackets and try to walk down our street. Jumping in those puddles and feeling that strong wind blow my dad across a driveway was so fun!
I feel like I need to add an obvious disclaimer here that I will not be taking my 1 and 3 year old out in gale force winds or jeopardize their safety in any way. But I DO enjoy puddle-jumping during a nice rainstorm, and in the next few days we’re sure to have some rain puddles to jump in. The muddier, the better.
Diapers & Infant Feeding
I’m putting this in it’s own section, even though it probably belongs above. I mostly use cloth diapers, so I’ve saved a box of 100+ disposables for this storm. I’m using up my cloth stash first and will do laundry the day before the storm hits us so that everything is clean and can air dry while the power is off. It’ll take a while, but at least it’ll be clean. I do not want stinky diaper pails full of soiled diapers in a house with no power and no A/C!
I’m breastfeeding my youngest, and I have a manual and battery-operated breast-pump, so I’m not worried about that. Breastmilk is very hardy, so it can sit out at room temperature for several hours LONGER than cows milk. I also have a 3 year old who will drink it if there’s some that needs to be consumed.
However, if you’re formula feeding and you’re using powder, make sure you have enough bottled water for the amount of feedings you think you’ll need. If the water is not clean, and you don’t have the power to boil, you don’t want your babe to be sick! Having extra cans of ready made formula can be helpful, but without refrigeration, it can be tricky to keep it at a safe temperature, so plan ahead with small but plentiful quantities. Having extra clean bottles and nipples can be helpful too in the event that you don’t have clean water to do dishes and wash bottles. If you still have some time, I’d recommend getting some cleaning wipes like these that are food grade and safe for bottles when water is not readily available for cleaning.
I’m sure I’ll follow-up when it’s all over, Lord willing. What did I miss? Leave a comment, and stay safe, everyone!