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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dear newcomers... Hurricane Advice
Article below snipped in full from NOLA.COM link above by Judy Walker
Dear newcomers: Welcome to high hurricane season. Think of this as the price you pay to live in the land of inexpensive shrimp, Mardi Gras, brass bands and all of the other reasons you moved here.

Geographer Richard Campanella estimates a few thousand young urban rebuilding professionals moved here after 2005, and he estimates a second post-Katrina wave of another 15,000 to 20,000 -- and counting. So we have two populations: the untested and those who have lived through the nightmare of Katrina and other storms.
This year, we asked newcomers, what are your concerns? The material here is from our resident storm expert, personal experience, previous stories and interviews and the storm-hardened general population.

"Much of my life has been lived in areas threatened by hurricanes, so I thought I knew the drill," wrote reader Karen Montjoy of New Orleans in a series we published on storm advice.

"Have on hand batteries, flashlights, candles, Sterno, bottled water, canned soups and other nonperishable foods, a portable generator and gas for it, keep the car gassed up, fill tubs, sinks and other containers with water. But if the BIG ONE is headed your way, get out and get out early.
"For hurricane-prone areas like the Gulf Coast, this knowledge is all elementary. Katrina, however, added a post-graduate level to my education."
The key is having a plan. You need to make one now, along with a grab-and-go bag. At the very least, you need to write down things you will put in your grab-and go bag. When a storm is in the Gulf of Mexico, you may be too freaked out to think. Don't ask me how I know this.
The hardest thing about planning is that each storm is different, and may require a different response. You must prep for the wind event, but the aftermath is just as crucial. Some of the advice here will apply to your situation, and some will not.

Today we take a detailed look at food preparation and planning, and then we hear dozens of tips from experienced readers. Please do not despair over the length of this list, as it covers many eventualities.

First, we answer questions from followers of the blog and Twitter feed. At meet-ups, the group has already discussed this topic.
The answers are from resident hurricane expert Mark Schleifstein of the Times-Picayune/

NewinNola question: How do you decide whether to stay or evacuate?
Mark Schleifstein: A news conference of elected public officials will tell you if they are recommending or ordering an evacuation. Your best bet is to listen to them.
If you do evacuate, how far do you need to go?
MS: This will depend on where the hurricane makes landfall, and how large it is, and whether you are inside or outside the levee systems. You should decide now on a location far enough north to be out of the way of storm surge. Remember, if a major evacuation is ordered, the closest motels may be outside Louisiana.
What is 'contraflow'? I just heard this term.
MS: Contraflow is an evacuation plan to use all lanes of the Interstate in one direction. On the east side of New Orleans, all lanes will funnel all traffic east, and all traffic on the west side to go west. Interstate 55 will be one-way north.
If I evacuate, what do I need to do before I leave?
MS: Determine if you can turn off your electricity, natural gas and water. If you can, do so.
Is there anything I can do to prevent possible flooding of my home? Sand bags around the doors? Where do I get them?
MS: Again, this is location-dependent. In parishes outside the levee systems, sand bags may be available in advance of some storms. Inside the levee systems, it will be difficult to get sand bags, unless you make them yourself.
Do I need to board up my windows? If I'm in an apartment,is it my responsibility or my landlord's to do the hurricane prep?
MS: If you are able to board your windows, it can prevent damage from high winds. If you are in an apartment, you should check with your landlord. Now.
If I do stay, what do I need to have?
M.S.: If public officials tell you to leave, leave. If you don't have transportation, contact your local emergency preparedness office.
Does the water go out during a hurricane?
M.S. The water can go out if the power fails at your water treatment plant.
If not, is the water safe to drink?
M.S. Yes.
Will the toilets flush during a hurricane?
M.S. Until the water pressure disappears, yes.
Tips for getting in touch with people? Text, call or email?
M.S. Text messages will go through when phones won't ring. Also: Facebook instant messaging. (Sign up now.)
What about pets?
M.S. Make provisions now. However, at least in New Orleans, the emergency plan will include transport of cats and dogs to a shelter out of the area. Animals must have proper inocculations.
What about my older neighbor?
M.S. Folks who are elderly or have special needs should contact local emergency managers if they or their family are unable to make arrangements on their own. Those arrangements should be in place at the beginning of the hurricane season.
* *

Before we get into food preparation, here are my three top general tips.
One: Get a good manual can opener with big ergonomic handles. Do not get one of those old-fashioned little metal ones or a cheap metal one with handles. They suck. Lots of things will suck after the power goes out. Getting into the nonperishable food does not have to be one.
Two: During hurricane season, do not let the gas gauge in your car fall below half full, and if a storm is in the Gulf, top off your tank every day.
Three: If you don't own one, get a car charger for your cell phone now.
If you have to evacuate, you will need a full tank of gas, as gas stations may be closed for 150 miles or more. If you stay in town and the power is out, you can charge your cell phone in your car - and run the air conditioner in it, too.

Most emergency planners advise that you stock enough nonperishable food and water to last for two weeks per person. The Red Cross and FEMA say that every household should have a three-day supply of one gallon of water per person per day, plus more for any instant foods that require water for preparation (such as instant oatmeal, dry milk, soup mixes, etc.).

Don't just fill up your bathtub. Fill up clean liter-size soda bottles, trash cans, big bowls, ice bins and any other clean containers.

This amazing note from Mojofearless was posted last hurricane season on a post about adding unusual foods to your food supply.
"Canned french butter - available at Hong Kong Market on the west bank. Vodka. Lychee juice to go with my vodka. Table top ice maker to chill my lychee juice and vodka (only have to run the ginny a few hours a day, and voila! Ice for the next 24 hours). Shelf stable milk - Parmalat, to be precise. French press coffee maker - no sense in having bad coffee during a disaster. Shelf stable bacon. Shelf stable cheese. Wasabi peas. Powdered falafal mix. Three gallons of homemade trail mix - with bing cherries, blueberries, pineapple, papaya, almonds - all sorts of fruit and nuts, plus mini M&Ms, because they don't make a mess when left in the heat.
"The list could go on for hours. We start gathering hurricane supplies in January, just one or two things every trip to the store. By season, we're pretty set to fed four for one month. And then when Voodoo Fest rolls around, we start eating/rotating the supplies, and we start all over again in January.
"It's a fine art."

For NOLA newbies, here are more basics besides lychee juice.
The Red Cross advises a three-day supply of nonperishable food per person in your household. The LSU AgCenter's list of nonperishables that require little or no cooking, and no refrigeration, includes single-serving cereal packages, crackers, granola bars, canned fruit, canned juice, packaged drink mixes, raisins, apple sauce, canned vegetables, canned soups or chili, tuna, canned chicken, beef jerky, peanut butter, canned milk or other shelf-stable milk, shelf-stable cheese, hard candy and chocolate.
Dorignac's has a lot of single-serving cereals.
Avoid salty foods, which will make you thirsty. Buy low sodium crackers.
You may not have any way to heat food or refrigerate it. Buy single-serve portions, when possible, to avoid leftovers.

*Select foods you like and normally eat. Don't waste money on food you or your family won't eat. But now may not be the time to be choosy. Pass the Pop-Tarts.
If you don't have a way to boil water when the power is off, do not include instant foods that will require hot water. Keep in mind foods that require water also will consume your water supply quickly.

Have disposable plates, bowls, cups and utensils, so you don't have to use much of your water supply washing dishes.

Remember baby food, special dietary requirements and food for your pets.
If the power goes out, several refrigerated items will still be good at room temperature: Catsup, mustards, jams, jellies, peanut butter, oils, butter; unopened salad dressing or other condiments; hard cheeses, barbecue, soy and Worcestershire sauces.

The healthiest emergency foods: beans, canned seafood, instant oatmeal, peanut butter and nut butters, powdered and boxed milk.
The most versatile canned vegetables: tomatoes, potatoes, corn, green beans, artichoke hearts, garbanzo beans, red bell peppers, asparagus.
Many vegetables and fruits last several days at room temperature: Apples, cabbage, potatoes, carrots (not the processed baby ones), peppers, melons and more. Lemons are priceless for perking up bland dishes and drinks. Onions and sweet potatoes are great for grill cooking.
Good and not on the usual lists: Cryovac-packed fish and meat, which is more expensive than canned, but great quality; canned coconut milk, shredded coconut; Boboli, pizza sauce in a squeeze bottle, summer sausage, dry salami, Parmesan cheese; instant rice; bulghur wheat to make tabouli, which does not require cooking. Those with adventurous palates (I'm looking at you, ex-Brooklynites) can check ethnic food stores for shelf-stable and small-size nonperishables. International Market in Metairie has a big variety of canned fish and meats.
Also good: low-salt broth; canned, chunk high-quality ham; Dijon and Creole mustard; real bacon bits to flavor bland dishes; instant pudding; dried fruits; unsalted nuts; tortillas and other bread; individual tea bags that don't require hot water; small jar of instant coffee plus creamer packets; small packets of condiments.

***Coffee: Starbucks Via packs are excellent and dissolve in anything. (Ignore the expiration dates.)
Try canned sardines now, if you haven't, to see if you like the strong flavor. Some of us prefer sardines over Spam or vienna sausages.
Parmesan cheese in the green can does not have to be refrigerated. Neither do whole, hard cheeses. However, they have a high salt level.
Soft cheeses (cottage cheese, brie, cream cheese, etc.) are very perishable and should be one of the first things you eat out of a failing refrigerator.
Herbs stirred into canned foods are a huge taste-brightener. Pick leafy herbs before the storm and keep fresh with the stems in a jar of water at room temperature.
Harvest any vegetable garden produce before bad weather; never eat or pick any vegetables touched by flood water.

***Foil is the emergency cook's duct tape. Have at least one roll of heavy-duty foil in your emergency cooking kit. Foil pans are good for cooking and baking on a grill.
Besides the foil, your excellent manual can opener, plastic cutlery and paper plates and bowls, an emergency cooking kit for home or on the road should include: a cast-iron skillet for cooking over a camp stove or on a grill; a pot for boiling water; waterproof matches; scissors or knife to cut open packages; gallon-size plastic zip-top bags; and a jar with a screw-top lid, to blend foods by shaking; paper towels. Dedicated cooks can add a cutting board and two knives, plus small containers of essentials such as oil, vinegar, mustard, seasonings, etc.

***If you have a grill, stock up on propane or charcoal before the storm. Communal grilling is a great non-power pastime, to use up freezer contents.
Other ways to heat food: Small, inexpensive portable grill plus charcoal; a camping cookstove plus fuel; or in a candle- or Sterno-fired fondue pot, chafing dish or candle warmer. Food can also be heated in a working indoor fireplace, but be sure to open the flue.
Boiling water: You can boil water on a grill in your cast-iron skillet or any heavy pot. An old pot is good. You can use everyday cookware on a grill, but it may discolor permanently.
If you evacuate to a motel, consider taking an electric skillet or other versatile small appliance, such as a rice cooker.

Tragedies to avoid: Under no circumstances should you try to use a charcoal or gas grill indoors. The same goes for generators. NEVER run a gasoline engine in, or near your garage or living/sleeping space. Sadly, carbon monoxide kills people in every disaster area.
Some people consider wine, beer and alcoholic beverages essential emergency foods. (Which would you enjoy at room temperature?) Beer may be useful for bartering.

Granola and baked goods can be made ahead of storms for evacuation or power-free dining and snacking.
A twenty-something we know swears by GoPicnic snack boxes, which she has found at Walgreen's as well as online.

Lots of locals limit food in their freezers during hurricane season. Start cooking meals now from the contents of your freezer, before storms come.
How long will things last in a refrigerator when the power goes out?
Anecdotally, the most common uses of generators are to run refrigerators and fans.
Highly perishable contents of your refrigerator will stay fresh for only four to six hours after the power goes out. This includes leftovers.
As a general rule, an unopened full freezer will keep food safe to eat for about 48 hours without power; a half-full one for 24 hours.
If freezer contents still have icy crystals inside them, they can be refrozen, although texture may be affected.
Several variables affect how long food will stay cool or frozen. Chest freezers may keep contents safe longer than upright ones. Also, the hotter the area where the appliance sits, the sooner the food inside will warm, too.
The American Red Cross suggests keeping an instant-read thermometer to check the temperatures of foods. Or test by feeling the package of food. The temperature you want is 40 degrees (refrigerator temperature) or below.
If food is refrigerator-cold or if it has been above that temperature for less than two hours, it probably is safe to use. In general, perishable food held above 40 degrees for more than two hours (at a picnic, on a buffet table or in a refrigerator without power) may be unsafe to eat, because bacteria can multiply rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees.
If you put 30 pounds of dry ice inside your refrigerator or freezer in anticipation of a power outage, your food should be safe inside for at least a couple of days, according to the LSU AgCenter's Food Safety After Power Outage publication, which is available online. (Dry ice should never be touched with bare hands; place it on cardboard or empty shelves in the freezer.)
If the power has been off for an extended period and food inside the freezer feels cool enough to be "refrigerator temperature," cook the most perishable food, seafood and ground meats, first, as soon as possible.
If you don't have a cooler, check outdoor stores for coolers that guarantee they will keep contents cold several days. Your cooler may be your best friend if evacuating or staying. You may want to spend the money and get a big one, or one that can be powered by your car battery.
Realize ice may be scarce, or nonexistent, if the power is out.
Open the freezer/refrigerator as seldom as possible.
If a hurricane is coming and you have large cuts of meat, cook them and slice to use as sandwiches for evacuation.
The food in your freezer will last longer if the freezer is full. If the freezer's not full, shove all the food in it close together. Fill any empty space with liters of water or water in freezer bags, which you can also use as ice in coolers. The bigger the piece of ice, the longer it will last, so consider freezing water in cleaned milk cartons.

***NO. 1 TIP MENTIONED BY READERS: Before you evacuate, put all food in the freezer inside black plastic garbage bags, then put it back in the freezer. If the power goes out, all you have to do to remove the thawed mess is throw out the bag.
At the very least, put ice pops or ice cream, in original packing, inside plastic bags closed with twist ties.
Place a clear plastic pitcher with whole ice cubes in it in the freezer. When you get back home, if the electricity is still off, throw away the food in the bag. If the electricity has gone off and come back on, you will be able to tell how much has defrosted by looking at the pitcher of ice. If it is a solid block of ice then you know that everything has defrosted. If the ice cubes were partially melted but many of them are still in the shape of ice cubes, you know it was not a total defrost job.
If you evacuate to friends or family, take the good seafood and meats with you to cook for your hosts.

Prepare a grab-and-go bag with: Medications, extra eyeglasses, contacts and prescriptions, prescription sunglasses, insurance papers, immunization records, Yellow and White pages, bank and credit union records, school records, health records.
Every evacuation handbag or backpack should carry a roll of toilet paper, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, gum or hard candy to help quench thirst, breath freshener for when you can't brush your teeth, painkillers of choice.
Survival list: Full gas cans, full propane tanks, camp stove fuel, and lamp oil with unsafe (strike anywhere) matches; batteries, flashlights, candles, Sterno, insect repellent.

Showering suggestions: Get baby wipes. Or look at drug stores in the adult-diaper section for the waterless washcloths home health-care aides use to bathe patients. These moist washcloths clean without water, and the moisture evaporates quickly without leaving a residue.
If you have a good supply of water, use a small amount (say, half a gallon) and use the old get-wet-soap-up-rinse-off drill while sitting in the tub. Use a plastic throw cup to pour water over yourself for wetting and rinsing.
Several readers have written about portable or camping toilets. An impromptu one: medium-sized lidded bucket or garbage can, tall plastic bags for liners and crumpled newspapers for absorbency -- plus toilet tissue.

Container plants, outdoor furniture and outdoor decor may fly around during hurricanes. Move loose outdoor items into a sheltered space, such as a garage or indoors.
Roll up good rugs and move them, and furniture, to the second level of your home as much as possible. Alternately, elevate furniture on blocks, etc.

Recharging your cell becomes a top priority when you are powerless. Last year after Hurricane Sandy, several tech sites published info on apps and ways to reduce the power drain on your phone so the battery lasts longer.

Never try to evacuate without the portable DVD player. People who say parents shouldn't use TV as a babysitter never sat in a car for 14 hours in one spot on the interstate with screaming kids who have nothing to do. Ditch the plastic DVD boxes. Keep all the DVDs in a large book with a zip closure and handle -- no DVDs falling out in the car.
Give kids their own snack bags for when they get the hungry in the car. This gives them some independence. Also, sometimes they don't scream when they're eating. If they do, it muffles the sound.
Let them help before you go. Even if they're little. Even if it takes them three hours to find the one thing you sent them to get. Give them something "important" to do to help them feel in control.
Let them pack a few of their most precious things. What we think is important to them isn't always the most important. Asking them helps them feel a little more in control and helps them cope, and the less anxious they are, the less stressed you'll be.
Let kids pack their school backpacks full of what they want to do in the car (with supervision of course). That way, you don't have to look for their bag, they can recognize it right away and everything's not in one bag for all the kids.
Pack board games for later. Throw the board in the bottom of the suitcase, put the small pieces in a Ziploc bag and ditch the box. Pack a couple of decks of cards.
If your child is in special education, don't forget a copy of your child's last IEP and evaluation with your important papers and the Web site for the Special Education Reporting System with the State Department of Education to verify your child's eligibility for special education services ( Your children are entitled to their education even without the paperwork, but it goes much smoother if you have it.
The tolerance typical kids have for riding in hot cars for long distances is cut by 50 percent or more for kids with disabilities. . . . Stop often, let them walk, move around and get out of the car.
And, once you're there, turn off the news and play a board game with the kids. You'll feel a lot better.

Plan for a week of pet food, medication, etc., and have cages and carriers.
Test your animals on tranquillizers before the big event...learned the hard way that the meds made my 90-pound dogs rather surly.
One thing that worked well during Katrina was a "Travel Litter Box" for our cat. I bought a large plastic bin with a very tight cover. With the cover on, we had a "ready-in-an-instant" litter box in case our trip to safety took, oh, say, 12 hours or more in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The litter box can be quickly sealed back up after use with all its contents.

Fill a water bottle half way and freeze it standing up. Then lay in down in your freezer. If it melts during a power outage and refreezes, throw out the freezer contents.
If you have fruits, yogurt, milk in the fridge, blend all of it to make a smoothie to reduce the volume of foodstuffs in your fridge, then fill several twist-lid storage containers with it. Fill each about 80 percent to allow for expansion. Stack them in the freezer, wait a day, and you have a block of smoothie that you can use as ice in a cooler, and you can drink as it melts.

Have a push-button, land-line telephone for hurricanes. Land-line service is usually restored quicker than cell phone service.

In evacuation, bring the CPU of your home computer, or a flash drive with your backed up files.

Check your tires. And the spare. NOW.

If you run a business in the city, take your occupational license with you when evacuating. It could help you get back in the city.

Have an emergency account set up with a national bank so when you cannot access money from your local bank, there is a back-up fund.

Tell your family and friends where you are going and work out a "contact person" on the outside, who can give your information to worried friends and family

If you still have a landline and a non-electronic answering machine lying around, plug it in before you evacuate. If it comes on when you call, your power is on.

Get neighbors' contact information, so you can get updates from each other.

Take photographs of everything in your house in case you have to file an insurance claim.

Don't forget to take your blank checks with you. We had our checkbooks but didn't think about all the extra checks. We had to call and cancel them. It's a good thing we did: Returning home we discovered minor storm damage but major looting .
I was in such a state of shock following Katrina that my memory was impaired. I could not remember all the different Internet log-ons and passwords that I use to access my credit cards, bank account and investments. Now I have these written down by code in my pocket telephone directory. I believe the code would prevent a thief from knowing what I've written should the directory be found. You may want to develop your own security system for protecting this info. The point is to have some safe place for referral.

NEVER leave a car behind even if you don't want to be separated from family. The car is what you need the most!

***You will be so happy if you have a flashlight mounted on a headband.
Reader suggestions on other evacuation things to bring: Pillow, a sweater, Xanax, most important jewelry, good bottles of wine saved for a special occasion, inflatable mattress, bedding.

A weather radio that operates on batteries that can be recharged by cranking a handle. Some units have TV/radio/flashlight that operates the same way.
Buy a good pair of walkie-talkies with 5-mile range for the road to communicate between family cars. Cell phones are worthless when a storm approaches

We brought the solar powered garden lights inside and used them as "candles." We would put one in each room inside of an empty 2-liter bottle and they lasted for hours. They especially came in handy for the bathroom! There was no need for batteries and no risk of children burning themselves. You just have to remember to place them outside the next day so they can recharge.

You know how people always say they have a credit card "just for emergencies"? I had gotten a gas credit card a few months before Katrina for that purpose and it turned out to be a life saver.

After spending years in Africa, I wasn't caught off-guard by the aftermath of Katrina. (I stayed.) Some things that helped: a small battery-powered fan, a screen-covered rain barrel for extra wash water, blocks of ice made in plastic containers and, for the time when sewers weren't working, a bag of cat litter to go with the plastic bags.

Go NOW to buy a long-distance calling card -- my cell phone was as useful as a brick when trying to make a call after Katrina, and having the card eliminates your host's landline being charged for your calls. Get one with lots of minutes on it as you will be on hold for most business calls should the worst happen again.

Get a Louisiana state map and a Mississippi state map. Paper ones. The state roads are in decent condition and you can make stops. Stay off the interstate.

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