Hurricane Matthew – What We Learned

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Heather says

I hope everyone is doing as well or better than can be expected. Last week, starting on Tuesday, it became readily apparent that Hurricane Matthew was coming for a visit. It was Thursday before we had a good idea of the type of visit he’d be paying.

We spent the week debating whether to go or stay and ultimately we decided to stay based on a few factors:

  • We are all healthy and the chance of our needing emergency assistance for our own well-being was incredibly remote. If you have health problems, sheltering in place can put first responders at risk. Disaster relief shelters may not be a comfortable experience, but it drastically reduces the risk others take on your behalf.
  • We do not live on the immediate coast, we’re about 25 miles inland, which doesn’t sound like much, but it makes a significant difference with hurricanes
  • Our home is on high (relatively, this is the Lowcountry after all) ground. It would take the storm surge of a category 5 hurricane at high tide to have water on our street.
  • Our home is a site built home
  • The storm would weaken significantly before nearing our area

For a little while I was unsure of whether staying during the evacuation was legal or not. I grew up here and remember Hurricane Hugo and its aftermath. I also remember the mandatory evacuation orders for those on the barrier islands. They no longer use the term mandatory. We read the order issued by the government carefully before coming to our final (but willing to change if the situation warranted it) decision.

I firmly believe, despite what the media will say, that our governor handled this situation well. I believe calling for the evacuation well ahead of the storm was the right thing to do. For the most part, people were able to leave the area with minimal hassle.

Due to all of the factors I mentioned above, weathering the storm itself wasn’t that bad. For us, the worst of it was wondering if we had made the right choice, I am a worrier, it’s my nature.

Our home had only very minor (a few shingles) damage and we are still dealing with the inconvenience of not having power.

Weathering the hurricane Matthew storm itself wasn't that bad for us, but here's things I will do before the next approaching storm.

Things I will do before the next approaching storm:

  1. Stock up on unscented candles. We both even talked about it at the store on Tuesday and got distracted. Our home currently smells overpoweringly like, vanilla, lavender, and who-bought-that-weird-one?
    Reminder: Do not use candles during the actual hurricane. Again, first responders do not need to deal with you accidentally setting your house on fire when it’s not safe for them to be out and about. That’s what your battery powered flashlights are for.
  2. Learn how to start the generator before the power goes out. The generator was new, in box. I knew we needed oil and gas and had both on hand. I figured I am a competent adult, following directions shouldn’t be that hard. I didn’t want to open it up unless we had to, as once you run a generator it needs to be winterized before putting it back into storage and I didn’t want the hassle.
    The directions, it turns out, are written for someone intimately familiar with small engines. We did eventually get it figured out, but we were already a bit cranky.
    Lesson learned.
    Related: Make sure you can figure out the stupid vapor locks on the gas can. (I know they have an important role, but I find them INCREDIBLY frustrating)
  3. The UPS I use to protect my desktop computer is very handy as a charging station for cell phones. A big shout-out to Verizon for waving data overages for those in the storm’s path. Ray and I were able to charge our phones three times during the power outage. It was really nice to not worry about. The UPS also charged up quickly when we got the generator going for the refrigerator / freezer.
  4. Get small bills. The first people to open after a storm don’t want to deal with the hassle of making change.
  5. Use plastic containers to make MORE large chunks of ice.
  6. Buy more snacks. You start eating before the storm hits due to nerves, you eat during the storm due to nerves, and after the storm you eat due to boredom. Just check the #CHS twitter community if you think I’m an isolated case.
    You also may want to add some protein to the carbs, too. It’s one thing to be bloated and cranky after a movie marathon and very different if you have a lot of yard work to do.

The line about society being 24 hours and two square meals from anarchy isn’t really a stretch. When people are worried and anxious they may also be thoughtless. Don’t take it personally.

Have your blackout pantry in place well before Hurricane Season (or blizzard or tornado) starts. Add to it as needed and stay out of the stores and off the roads as people who don’t think ahead decide to get ready.

Be patient; be kind.

I hope everyone in the Home-Ec 101 Community is safe. I hope the storm was mostly an inconvenience and not a disaster for you. My thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost their homes and families and my heart aches for Haiti.

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12 thoughts on “Hurricane Matthew – What We Learned”

  1. All very, very good advice. The one thing I might add is to get your prescriptions filled/refilled early! Pharmacies may not be open and doctors may not be available to authorize a refill. Make sure you have enough meds for much more time than you think you will need.

    Agree with you about Nicki Haley and our other officials – they actually did this one right.

    Glad y’all are safe and sound!

  2. I chose Tuesday for many of the same reasons that you did although I do live closer to the coast but I felt that a category 1 or low 2 hurricane we could deal with. Another reason that factored in was that I didn’t want to deal with the hassle and traffic of returning. I’ve been there before ironically the people in my hometown are still without power.

  3. Can’t fault the Governor, though the overwrought “you’re all going to die and involve first responders” probably applies equally to I-26EB at Ashley Phosphate most mornings.

    We rode out the storm. Very quiet, and the teenagers snacked out as you described. Our generator made its debut, but I’m familiar with the machines and got a few neighbors going too.

    Events like this are great for meeting your neighbors..

    • Ha! I hear you.

      I agree. I stopped watching the updates after the second one, except to see the sign language interpreter. He made my day. I think for rational people the language may have felt excessive and exaggerated, but sometimes there’s no other way to get through to people.

      Our neighborhood is on high ground, unfortunately, the neighborhood on the other side of the creek has the lower bank. It flooded, again, worse than it did last year and people had to be rescued during the storm itself. That is frustrating. It would be very hard to play the I didn’t know card in this case.

      We also met several of our neighbors and I think we even made a friend. 🙂

    • Ditto on the neighbor meets! Our little dead end street ended up majorly blocked in during Frances. That made an extraordinary atmosphere occur here among a dozen plus houses despite there being a great diversity of people. The pulling together, checking on each other and sharing of resources was something to behold. We went from being a street of people who occasionally waved to each other to being a neighborhood, which still exists to this day.

  4. From a multiple hurricane survivor in Florida, you offer accurate advice and keen awareness.

    The generator needs to be run periodically (every few months briefly, like a half hour) as routine maintenance. Since it can be handy for any severe weather that knocks out power, it’s wise to have it always available. Every hurricane, someone gets killed by generator exhaust so be mindful of where it’s going. One poorly placed outside near an open window can be dangerous too.

    Battery lanterns from the camping department are a great light source. As you noted, unscented candles pose a fire risk. If one does not have a battery operated radio, the car radio is the only option.

    We take extra care not to squabble as a result of the stress here so your advice about patience is very sound.

    Happy to hear y’all are fine, We’ll be cleaning up from Matthew for a few weeks and require only minor repair. The important news here is no one was hurt.

    • The news last night mentioned six people taken to the hospital, assumed carbon monoxide poisoning from running their generator in an improperly ventilated area.
      That’s a great tip re: generator storage. We just need to decide where we’ll put it so hauling it out isn’t a hassle.

  5. I’m glad you made it through the storm okay. You’re advice is very helpful, thanks.

    I feel that I must share, as someone married to a First Responder, people not heeding the evacuation requests do bother me. It’s my husband, and father of my 3 children, that ends up putting himself in danger because people did not leave and things go worse than they thought it would. Katrina is a good example, that Hurricane ended up much worse than predicted. I realize my husband chose to work in a field that has a level of risk to it, but when he works during storms, it makes me (a not normal worrier), very worried for his safety. Because my husband is needed at work during major storms, I am alone in having to care for our 3 kids which just adds to my stress. A few years ago, a first responder local to my area drowned during a rescue after a hurricane passed through our area. And I’m in the Northeast, so the storm was not as strong by the time it hit us. I think we were only Category 1 or 2, but the person needing rescued was in a flood zone, did not evacuate, and became trapped. The first responder who died was a husband and father of 2 young kids and was just doing his job. This story is what is always in the back of my mind knowing that people choose not to get themselves to safety during these storms. I pray every time my husband works during major storms that he does not end up a victim doing his job to help others.

    • Hi Ann,
      I completely understand your point of view and I agree completely.
      I strongly believe that by choosing to stay during a hurricane we forfeit our right to call for emergency services during the event. That’s why we carefully weigh the decision.

      The entire decision is based on can we handle circumstances without outside aid and are we willing to accept the consequences if we can’t.

      I wish everyone would put that level of thought into the decision.

      I wish employers wouldn’t fire people for not coming in. Here in SC, we’re a “Right to Work” state which means that any employee can be fired for any reason, including things that sound ridiculous like not disobeying an evacuation order to report to work.

  6. whoot whoot!! I didn’t realize you were so close to me! I’m in the Charleston area, shout out to Haley and all the 1st responders!! I think she did a great job! 25 miles inland sounds far but is really not, and when you add the fact the cooper and ashley run inland along the surrounding chas area makes it more problematic! We stayed home though, no damage, thank you God, and happy to be safe, this time! Anyway, just thought it was cool you were local, and I never knew!

  7. One thing that struck me of this vs Hugo was how much better it was having a cellphone – having that outside connection made it much better – knowing loved ones were safe and sound and organizing cleanup / helping everyone with their post storm needs made me really appreciate them.

    also that UPS can run a keurig long enough for a cup coffee too 🙂

    • I’m glad cell’s worked. After Hurricane Ike in 2008 in Houston, the cell towers were so jammed it was really difficult to get a call out or in.


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