Sunday, October 28, 2012

Battening down the hatches

So, for those who haven't heard, there's a hurricane headed our way. (Actually, I'm not sure how you could have managed to avoid hearing about it if you live anywhere east of the Mississippi that isn't under a rock. In the past week, we've received e-mails warning us about the upcoming storm from our local government, the power company, the phone company, the cable company, and my mom. :-)) So, being a list-maker by disposition, I naturally started running through all the possible ways in which the storm might affect us, and what we should do to prepare for each possibility. The list turned out to be pretty short:
  • Possible event: Local flooding.
    Possible impacts: This would almost certainly not affect our house, which is high on a hill outside not only the 100-year but also the 500-year floodplain, and which has never had more than a trickle of water before. But it could easily flood out low-lying roads in our area.
    Necessary steps: In the morning, look outside and see if the roads are flooded. If they are, stay home. 
  • Possible event: Tainted water supply.
    Possible impacts: Most likely, we'll still be able to shower, but we'll have to use our emergency water supplies for drinking and washing dishes.
    Necessary steps: Count the number of bottles of water we have stored up in the basement. Conclude that if we're without water for more than two weeks, we might actually have to buy some more. Get some cash.
  • Possible event: Power outages.
    Possible impacts: Since it's only October and our heating system isn't even fired up yet, we won't freeze to death. If it gets a bit chilly in the house, we've got blankets and warm clothes. Our phone will still work, because it's a cord-connected relic from the 80s. The fridge and microwave won't work—but we've got plenty of canned goods, and we can light our stove with a match. Lights won't work—but we've got flashlights with extra batteries, matches, and plenty of candles. The TV won't work—but we've got board games and lots of books. My computer won't work—but if the outage is local and the roads are passable, then Brian and I can both go to his workplace to get some work done (if I borrow his laptop and transfer files from my backup disk).
    Necessary steps: In the morning, check to see if the lights go on. If not, make one quick foray in the fridge to retrieve essentials like the Brita pitcher and the peanut butter and then keep it firmly shut until the power is back on.
  • Possible event: Disruption in Internet service.
    Possible impacts: I won't be able to work from home, since my work depends heavily on Internet research, but I can go to go to Brian's workplace as described above if the outage is local. If it's widespread, I'll have to take a day off work. And I'll be out of e-mail contact for a while, though we'll still have the phone for emergencies.
    Necessary steps: Make sure important e-mails are dealt with before bed.
  • Possible event: Disruption in phone service.
    Possible impacts: We won't be able to get any calls from political candidates asking for money.
    Necessary steps: Keep fingers crossed.
All in all, this left us with a fairly short to-do list. In fact, pretty much the only items on it were normal jobs that we just needed to take care of promptly, such as covering up the air conditioner. Last year the plastic cover we put over it for the winter kept blowing off in heavy weather—even wrapping it around with duct tape, our sovereign remedy for most household problems, wouldn't keep it in place—and eventually blew away altogether. So this year we added a couple of little eye-hooks (just visible in the photo) screwed into the side of the house and tied it down to those. We'll see how that stands up to the gale-force winds they're promising us. We also swapped out the screens on our screen door for storm windows and put the padlock back on our shed door (since the latch won't hold it securely). Then we went out to run a few errands and saw the first concrete evidence of the approaching storm: lines at the supermarket extending way back into the aisles. Peeping into the baskets of our fellow shoppers, it looked more like they were just picking up the week's groceries a little early rather than preparing for the apocalypse, but the checkers were no less harried on that account. It looked like they'd actually run out of plastic bags—and when I wondered why they weren't pushing their reusable bags as an alternative, Brian speculated that they might actually be out of those too. Faced with a choice of paper or paper, I felt very thankful (and just the tiniest big smug) to have my own reusable bag ready to hand.

So, our hatches are now securely battened, whatever that means, and all that's left to do is sit back and watch how everything plays out. Frankly, I think the amount of hype we've seen just increases the likelihood that the Storm of the Century will instead turn out to be a Tempest in a Teapot—but luckily, we're prepared for the best as well as the worst.
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