(Note: I hope everyone affected by the recent storms are well or on their way to recovery! We only dealt with superficial damage and have most utilities back. PS: If you have extra water and canned goods, don’t attempt to return them to the store, they may be discarded. Give them to local charities and food banks.)
I moved to Florida more than 20 years ago, shortly after Hurricane Andrew. Andrew had hit my new neighborhood with tornadoes that skipped hither and yon, destroying homes seemingly at random. Back then, weather alerts were broadcast solely over TV and radio. Very few people had weather radios. My earliest storm memory is of getting a phone call from my mother, telling me to get into a safer room immediately. I moved, turning the TV to The Weather Channel. Commercials exhorting people to come visit beautiful Sunny Florida played, while red banners warning of tornadoes and dangerous lightning streamed across the bottom of the screen.
I’ve been through dozens of “live fire storm drills” over the years, as the storms missed over and over again (or nearly so), refining my approach to storm prep and recovery as I go. As of today, my worst storm remains Wilma, a direct hit that came barrelling through shortly after I closed on a new-to-me home. I’ve added and discarded plans and supplies, and have a pretty tight and effective routine down at this point.
While helping friends post-mortem their storm prep after Irma, I laid out my lists and plans and how they changed as my house, family, and budget grew, and realized something: My approach to storms is the same as my approach to other issues. I solve it “like a burrito” following my beans, cheese, and tortilla model.
I break down Hurricane Season prep like this:
Beans: Top off major supplies for the season June 1 (or thereabouts). Water or water containers, tarps and ropes for this and that, grocery shop for more canned goods to rotate through the pantry, check battery powered lights and battery powered fans. Check the propane stove and supplies (we have a full-on grill and a small camping stove).
Cheese: Keep the yard in decent shape, make sure the shutters and other protective supplies are organized and accessible. This year, tired of sawing by hand, I bought my first camping ax.
Tortilla: Have a plan to keep the stocks up and rotated. Be ready to buy the last things (ice, extra single serve waters) and do last things (bag up garbage, trim a few branches and shove them in the garage).
Irma, slow as she was, headed our way this year. We buttoned up and battened down, and I fell head over heels in love with my little ax. I trimmed, I cut, I hacked away at the shaggiest of our trees and shrubs, intent on minimizing projectiles. We’d lost a tree during Wilma, and had some bushes washed away … I was wary.
We had a usual bulk pickup day scheduled for two days before the hurricane, so I dutifully piled everything up to be hauled away. My axe rang as the hours passed on pickup day, bringing down one more troublesome branch after another. Every hour pickup was delayed, the pile grew.
Finally, a neighbor stopped by. Her friend had called the utility and was told bulk pickup had been canceled. The pile by the curb looked big enough to fill all the space my shutters and a family-sized batch of bicycles had recently taken up. Nothing to be done by me and the neighbors but to clean up our respective bunches of brush.
So I actually made a brush burrito. My cute little ax sang again and again, breaking the brush down from bulky pickup-approved size branches taller and wider than my spouse to a more manageable size: smaller and skinnier than my youngest child. We rolled out a huge tarp and piled the debris in the middle, alternating bulky sides and skinny sides to make the pile as small as possible. Then we folded and stomped and rolled and rolled and stomped again, ending up with a very small (proportionally) burrito-style blue bundle. It tucked neatly into the compact space where our shutters usually rest. A few bits of wood to prop it in place, and we still had most of our garage space left.
Taking it out was easy, too. It turned out the neighbors were wrong — bulk pickup had not been canceled, and we could hear the truck coming around the block. I grabbed a kid and a free neighbor and we hauled the burrito off of its shelf, fast, and unrolled it at the curb at breakneck speed. If we’d simply shoved the original pile into the garage, we wouldn’t have made the pickup on time, and had a grand disaster to sweep up once power came back.
Sometimes you actually solve your problems not only like a burrito, but actually using one (and an ax!) as well.
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