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Advice for Those Facing Hurricane IRENE (from an IKE survivor)

If you are in the path of IRENE, do this NOW:

1) Get away from water. Some people in Bolivar Island near Galveston, TX refused to leave their houses when Hurricane IKE hit Houston in 2008. Their bodies were found in another county, along with huge piles of debris that floated across Trinity Bay. One man was found –alive–hanging in a barbed wire fence in an empty field, miles from his former house.

You are safer if you are not trying to avoid being drowned in high winds. The water will have a lot of floating debris like splintered wood, so it is to be avoided.

2) The weakest link of every building is the glass. The higher you are in a building the higher the winds. A CAT 1 on the ground will be a CAT 2 when you get over 25 floors high (and a CAT 2 becomes a CAT 3). The glass in a Houston Penthouse blew in during IKE. The residents tried to open the door to flee into the hallway — but the wind pressure was so high they couldn’t open the door! Imagine that scenario.

Flying glass from broken windows (or windows that are sucked out as happened to commercial buildings in Houston) will be the biggest threat after rising water. Glass is like shrapnel. A break causes internal air pressure that blows off the roof of houses and opens the building to water damage, mold and MONTHS of rehab. If you don’t have armored safety glass or a chance to ‘board up’ try to cover the windows from the inside until this passes. It’s all you can do at this point. After the storm passes, armor your glass!

IKE blew out windows over 50 miles inland. (IKE raised hell and blew out power all the way to OHIO, after hitting Houston in 2008). IKE was just a CAT 1, like IRENE might be when it gets to New York. IRENE is actually much wider than IKE.

If the hurricane “eye” passes over you – it’s not over! Several TV crews in NC had that happen to them. They forgot that the winds would hit them again from the OPPOSITE direction. When that happened it knocked down their satellite dishes! Don’t get out in it – a flying metal street sign could impale you.

3) Fill your bathtub with water – you’ll need it to flush your toilet. Don’t plan on drinking it.

4) Get a lot of bottled water. You’ll need it for drinking and cooking.

5) Get a camp stove if you don’t have a gas stove.

Your freezer will thaw so you’ll end up cooking it ASAP (in Houston we had neighbors over for camp stove meals – a lot of people did the same). Then have canned food available because that’s all you will get after the freezer meat is eaten or spoils – until restaurants and food stores can reopen. It took about three or four days for many of our grocery stores to reopen. A BBQ grill also comes in handy. Don’t expect to have pheasant under glass (no pun intended).

6) If you have a car, get a full tank of gas. Power outages will prevent the pumps from working and you’ll soon be out of gas. Even if the stations have gas in their tanks, without a generator they won’t be able to run their pumps.

7) Get a solar charger for your cell phone. You probably won’t be able to make calls if cell towers are down but texting usually works – the cell systems aren’t designed for 100% use which tends to happen in a storm or 9/11 type event.

8) If you have a car charger for your phone you can recharge your cell just by plugging it in (leave the engine off – the big car battery should not run down for the tiny phone battery). If the battery does take low it will recharge when you start the car for an errand).

9) Get ready for a lack of electricity for days or a couple of weeks! Fortunately natural gas lines still worked after IKE so people with gas water heaters could take a HOT shower in the morning, even if the house was DARK and HOT. Just getting a hot shower every morning helps you feel better!

10) It will take a while for power to be restored – trees fell on our lines during IKE so some people never lost power and some were out of power for almost two weeks. It will happen whenever it happens. Nothing you can really do except get a generator – but few will run an entire house. And the noise of gasoline generators will drive your neighbors crazy. After a few days, I wanted to blow up the neighbors noisy generators after a few hot nights trying to sleep. Usually a generator is not big enough to run your air conditioner.

11) Watch out for people offering to “cut your trees off your house” after the storm, especially if they want a deposit. We had a lot of “cowboys” after IKE who showed up with a borrowed chain saw. Our neighbor hired one of them since a giant tree was leaning against his house. The guy cut a piece too big and it created a big hole when it fell through his roof!

12) Watch out for downed power lines. Stay away.

13) Houston’s streets looked like “Sherwood Forest” after IKE – totally GREEN from leaves, branches, etc. Amazingly, people came out of their powerless houses, and starting sweeping! In a couple days it was all in neat piles on the side of the road.

Our rebuilding after IKE took over a year. It took a couple months just to get homes cleared of debris, trees off roofs, etc. It cost almost $30 billion in damages. Small businesses like mine (and a lot of people) lost three month’s of income before things started to roll again.

Anyone hit by IRENE will face the same problems. Our hearts go out to you.