As the United States grapples with strong storms, it’s important to be prepared for whatever comes next. With Hurricane Laura bearing down on Lousiana and Texas, those living near the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean should prepare themselves.
Here are nine hacks that can help you get ahead of the curve and be prepared for power and water outages.
1. Freeze Water Bottles
For residents of the Gulf Coast, who regularly deal with hurricanes from June through November, it’s a common practice to focus on the freezer first. Keeping extra water bottles in the freezer helps keep the temperature low even after the power has been cut. Additionally, if water goes out later, naturally, these reserve bottles can be used for drinking and cooking.
The other advantage of stocking your freezer as full as possible is that it improves efficiency both with the power on and off. As a Houston, Texas, resident told local station KPRC-TV, “Freeze a lot and pack your fridges and freezer tight with stuff.” The experienced tropical storm prepper said, “[t]he more packed it is, the less room there is for warmer air to start circulating, keeping it cool longer.”
2. Freeze Zip-Top Bags
According to the FDA, a fully stocked freezer should remain cold for about 48 hours. If the freezer’s not full, it will remain cold for about 24 hours. This means that whatever you can do to stock it up can make a huge difference.
This is where zip-top freezer bags can come in handy. In addition to freezing ready-to-go meals like soup or pasta sauce that can easily be heated on a gas stove during a power outage, these bags can also be filled with water.
Once frozen, they’ll function as large ice blocks just like water bottles. One Houston resident, well versed in prepping for tropical storms, told KPRC that she lays them down flat to make it easier for packing and handling.
3. Fill Your Bathtub With Water
Before the storm is forecast to hit your area, another great way to prepare is by filling your bathtub(s) with water. By doing this, you are creating your own backup water source in case of disruption to municipal water supplies. Whether it’s broken pipes or contamination caused by a storm surge and floodwaters, the danger of water outages can be real.
However, if you’ve got a bathtub or two full of water, you can draw on it for flushing the toilet, washing dishes, and even as a source for drinking water, provided you disinfect it. The FDA explains that “boiling water will kill most types of disease-causing organisms that may be present.”
If all your cooking devices are electric, then you can disinfect it using household bleach. The FDA advises adding “1/8 teaspoon (or 8 drops) of unscented household (5.25 percent concentration) liquid bleach for each gallon of water. Stir it well and let it stand for 30 minutes before you use it.”
4. Make Sure Your Laundry Is Clean
If you know that a big storm is approaching and there might be disruptions to electricity and water, why not get a jump on your laundry? That way you’ve got plenty of clean clothes for the days to come. This will also mean that you have enough towels to clean up any flooding or water damage from heavy rains.
Remember that power and water can remain offline for several days after the storm has passed as emergency crews attempt to clean up and get systems restored.
5. Use Your Washing Machine as a Cooler
Once you’ve done all your laundry ahead of time, the washing machine, like your bathtub, can be repurposed for the storm. By filling it up with bags of ice, it can become another place to keep food and drinks cold. By keeping the lid on as much as possible, you’ll create a secondary fridge/freezer.
Don’t worry about the ice melting as it will simply drain out of the canister as it would when doing a load of laundry.
6. Freeze Washcloths for Heat Relief
Even though the rainfall that accompanies tropical storms will cool down temperatures, hurricane season falls at one of the warmest times of the year in the southern United States. Thus, when air conditioning and fans go out, it gets sweltering quickly.
You can anticipate this problem by setting aside some washcloths in the freezer. Take them out and wrap them around your neck or use them to cool down your forehead.
7. Have Your Essentials Packed in Plastic Tubs
Rather than placing a few changes of clothing, documents, and medication into a suitcase or backpack, which could easily get soaked, try using plastic storage bins with a lid as an alternative. If you do end up needing to leave because of an approaching storm, the belongings you take will be better protected.
In the days before the storm arrives, you could put aside the most vital items and empty out whatever is currently in the storage bins. This way you’ll be ready to leave as soon as an evacuation notice comes up.
8. Fill Up Your Gas Tank
Gas stations might run out of gas, be closed during storms, or might having impossibly long lines once they are open. Thus, take the time to make sure any vehicles needed for evacuation have a full tank and are ready to go.
9. Keep Your Pets Safe
Your pets need your help too amid a strong storm. So try to keep them closer to you so that even if you have to evacuate you can take them along easily. Additionally, make sure that your pet has some identification like a microchip or collar with your family information, so that even if you’ll get separated, someone can easily locate and trace them back to you.
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