Living on the Gulf Coast, the possibility of hurricanes and tropical storms always looms during the warmer months. Texas has seen its fair share of direct hits from hurricanes. The worst in my memory will always be Ike. I was around for Alicia; I just don’t remember that one really well. Harvey will possibly go down in the history books as one of the costliest hurricanes and tropical storms of Texas. The rain, flooding, winds, and spawned tornadoes are all things that contribute to the dangers that come with these weather events. Not only do they damage homes and businesses they also damage the utilities that we take for granted every day. And the likelihood of my family not having water or electricity for an extended period of time weighed heavily on my mind. Even though Harvey would make landfall over 150 miles southwest of my location, I knew that it could still impact our area.
While the news reports began to file in I started to think of what I had on hand. I decided that it was best to approach the situation as though I were going on a backpacking trip; just in case I had to pick up and move to higher ground on foot. I own a micro-camping stove, so I started to take stock of the amount of foodstuffs that only require boiling water to prepare. I had rice, oatmeal, ramen, beans, and various pastas; in a pinch these would do. I did have concerns that the long grain rice would take too long to prepare. I thought it over and made a plan. Last Thursday night, before the hurricane made landfall, we made a trip to the store and picked up a strange grocery list. We bought a fresh canister of camping stove fuel, two more containers of oatmeal, one large box of Minute Rice and two cases of cheap, 24 count water. It was my hope that the precooked rice would prepare more quickly and conserve fuel. I already had a few cans of beans, fruit, and vegetables in my kitchen. Those would be fine if I could stay put and had no means to cook indoors safely. Arriving back home my daughter and I began to clean out pitchers and fill them, in case we lost tap water. That would be the first thing we drank as the bottled water was reserved for taking with us if we had to flee. I also located my Lifestraw, which I still have yet to fully test, as a last resort to obtain potable water. I felt confident that I had emergency food and water taken care of.
After that, my focus shifted to the miscellaneous items. Fire is a basic need and I didn’t want to rely solely on the camping stove. I assembled my meager collection of cigarette lighters and I prepared a few cotton balls with vaseline as a precaution. We have two magnesium fire starters which were gathered as well. The cigarette lighters are ideal as they are cheap, easily carried, and consistent with producing a flame. The magnesium is a last-ditch effort to start a fire. They take time to shave down into a big enough pile that is effective. And if it were to blow away in a stiff wind is have to start over. Long story short: I plan on picking up a few more disposable lighters soon. I also asked my daughter to bring out the mylar, emergency sleeping bag and the emergency whistle/compass we had. Both I acquired at reduced price when the local Gander Mountain was going out of business (something that was inevitable). Being reflective and water repellent, the mylar sleeping bag was an obvious choice for the weather. I am still kicking myself for not purchasing a cart-load when they were on clearance. My daughter would use the mylar for warmth and protection from the rain. I would fashion a rain poncho out of a trash bag or plastic drop cloth for myself.
Next, I gathered all of the LED flashlights. I have a few small ones, which are great when you’re trying to keep the weight of your pack down. I made sure to have the Photon LED light close at hand in the event of a late night power outage. Sean has spoken of them in a previous post. I’ve been using mine nearly every week for various tasks and I couldn’t think of a better, lightweight flashlight to have handy.
Then I considered our footwear. I felt that we were, and still are, lacking that essential item. I considered my hiking boots and regular sneakers (I call them tennis shoes) but they wouldn’t provide my feet with any kind of wet weather protection. Instead, I turned to my work boots. Justin Boots makes some good products and my work boots are no exception. They’re the Driscoll Mahogany style with a steel toe. Their water resistance meant that my feet would be dry and happy as well as protected from toe-crushing hazards. I have waded in 4” to 5” of water without any moisture infiltration and that’s saying something. The best thing we could find for my daughter were her lightweight running shoes, something I’m going to have to remedy in the future.
Satisfied that I had supplies on hand to weather the storm, I began to watch as the hurricane barreled into Rockport, Texas. I sat and imagined what Mustang Island would look like when it was all over. I had camped on the beach there a few years ago and nursed a hangover with a Bloody Mary at a restaurant in Port Aransas, Texas named Moby Dick’s. I’m not sure if that establishment was spared; I hope it was. The forecast models indicated that Harvey would make landfall, go inland, and then bounce back out into the Gulf of Mexico. It would meander in the warm, Gulf waters and then make landfall once more somewhere between Houston and Louisiana. I watched with deep concern as the Texas coastline was battered by 125+ MPH winds. Then I watched with sadness as Houston was inundated by historic floodwaters and torn apart by tornadoes. I count myself very fortunate that I didn’t experience the type of flooding and violent winds that other Gulf Coast residents had to endure. I’ll count this as a good practice, while others are going to be cleaning up the pieces of their homes and lives. Now I’ve packed things away, hopefully not prematurely with Irma and Jose lurking out in the Atlantic, and breathing a sigh of relief.
Meanwhile Texans will rescue each other, comfort each other, and help each other to rebuild. We’ll BBQ, and have a few beers and nurse our hangovers. With or without a Bloody Mary.