Like most of Florida, we were affected by Hurricane Irma. The eye rolled right over us in Plant City, FL, at Cat 2 strength. I've been here many
years, and through more than a few hurricanes, but this was certainly the only time I was right in the thick of such a powerful storm. I have a new
respect for a Cat 2 storm....that's for sure.
Anyhow, I like to consider myself somewhat of a prepper. I mean, we had plenty of food, plenty of water (even caring for nearly 50 animals, as we
opened up empty stalls for emergency boarding of horses, dogs, even a pig and a monkey, lol.) And we are on a well, so if we lose power, we lose
Well, we were out of power for about 5 full days. While I don't (yet) have a generator, it's mostly because I considered it a luxury. Anyhow, below,
I'll detail some things that worked, and then some things that didn't, in the interest of helping others, so more folks get through such events even
Before the storm, we bought a lot of bottled water...but not for why you think. We have a fridge/freezer, but also a separate standing freezer. We
consolidated all food items into the fridge/freezer. In the standing freezer, we filled it with the bought water bottles (plenty of time before the
storm would hit). They were frozen solid when the power went out. Once it did, we stuffed any open spots in the fridge/freezer with the frozen water
bottles to help keep things cold. We then limited to opening the fridge/freezer only 3 times a day (for meals). And when doing so, keep feeding the
more frozen bottles in.
We had a large cooler, that we had our usual drinks in, before we lost power. We filled this with our drinks and ice, as the storm beared down. Once
the power went, we also took some frozen water bottles from the freezer, and put these in the cooler, this, we could access as often as we needed for
The storm hit mostly at night. Normally, I'd recommend sleeping during this, rather than being bored, but really, we were all too keyed up for it
anyhow. Luckily, we were set on lights. We have candles on wall mounted candle holders all over the house. We also have oil lanterns, flashlights,
electric lanterns, etc. This made it pretty easy to move about the house and provided plenty of light. We used the electric lantern to provide enough
light to play some boardgames while the storm raged.
Scary as it was, (hearing things hit the boards over the windows, etc.), it was really the following days that were challenging. But, we had
We had plenty of charcoal for the grill. Only had a little bit of propane (one of my mistakes, as even 3 days before the storm, this was impossible to
find...rural folks prep before city ones it seems). But, we grilled some meals, etc. Using my little water bottle trick, I still had to THAW some
chicken breasts to grill, on day 3! Having enough food was definitely a good thing.
Watering so many animals was fun. We had some large water troughs near each stable, so could just dip buckets in and get needed water. Still harder
than just using a hose, but doable. We still had some emergency water barrels for both humans and animals if needed, but never needed to go into them,
even after day 5. This was one of the things we did right.
Most of the first couple of days was just picking up mess, lots of yard debris, etc. Had also destroyed my gazebo and above-ground pool. So that
sucked. Even took off the roof of a piece of the back porch. Fun.
The one thing I didn't count on...the necessity of A/C in Florida in Sept. I mean, I figured, OK, it'll be hot, but we can do heat. No. No, we
can't. It was nearly impossible to sleep in that heat. Hence why I am now getting a window A/C unit in one room, and a generator. That was really our
One other mistake...we kept using my truck to charge our cell phones. Well, we should have kept starting it, to do this. We killed the battery at one
point. And worse, we had plenty of gas, even spare gas cans, so we could have used them. Fixed this now by getting a solar cell phone charger.
SO, BIGGEST LESSONS LEARNED....
1. Using frozen bottles of water can keep your food in your fridge/freezer good for about 4 to 5 days. That's about 3 more days than I would have
guessed, so I was impressed.
2. Definitely gas up and have gas in gas cans, at least 4 days before a storm may hit. About 3 days prior, gas stations run out, and then close.
3. To get high demand items, go to the grocery store the MOMENT they open. Each day before (and after the storm, when power came back), if you were
there when they opened, could get water, bread, etc.
4. Get charcoal, propane, and bread (for pb&j) days before the storm.
5. A/C isn't a luxury in FL, it's a NEED. Get a generator if you want to have A/C.
6. For us, and all those animals, having a LOT of emergency water on hand was a must. We used a lot of large troughs to store this, and brought these
typically outdoor troughs, INTO the stable area, etc. (so they wouldn't get debris in them).
7. For those with wells, as things come back on in town, pays to have a gym membership (my kids and I went there to get some hot showers, LOL)
8. Also, when things come back on in town (and not for you, if you are rural, as they try and get more back on first), treat yourself to a restaurant
meal (and A/C) when they reopen! Man, that was nice.
9. Having a lot of wall mounted emergency lighting was a HUGE help for our well being, and just making us feel more civilized. (and provided light to
keep the house clean, etc.)
10. The eye of a storm can move fast. I went out when the calm part was over us (to check on the animals). On my way back from the stables, I caught
the approach of the other side of the eyewall, for just a few moments. Luckily, I made it in before it was too bad. Stay inside.
11. Boarding up windows, when you expect a direct hit, is essential. If we didn't board up, we would have had at least two windows smashed in (along
with wind and rain getting in the house). There's a good reason you see people do this before a storm.
12. Cell phones are GREAT for keeping up with the storm. Being able to see a satellite image and radar of the storm, even hours after it knocked out
power, was awesome and helpful (it's when I knew the eye was over us). They are also great for letting loved ones know you are OK (my wife was in
Dallas at the time, for business), and for keeping tabs on their status as well...for example, we invited some family who lived in evacuation areas to
come stay with us. They had gone elsewhere, but good to know they were safe (and a good move, as they were out of the really bad stuff after all,
lol)....while we got socked. (though not near as bad as Puerto Rico or the Keys, etc. of course).
Anyhow, just wanted to share this stuff, and hope some of it helps others. All in all, we fared really well through a rather horrific thing. Wouldn't
want to do it again, but I do feel we are even better prepared for the next one, if there is one. If anyone has any questions, just fire away. I'm
not on all that often, but will gladly reply.