I’ve now lived through two hurricanes in Houston. Hurricane Ike 2008, and Hurricane Harvey 2017. Both were completely different experiences for me. Ike was a disaster, because I wasn’t prepared; Harvey was a breeze, because I was.
Making it through a hurricane without personal tragedy is all about preparation. Pay attention to the changes in forecast as the storm approaches so that you’ll have sufficient information to base your evacuation decision on. Have your home stocked ahead of time so that, if you decide to ride out the storm, you can hunker down and avoid going out to compete for the limited resources needed to make it through the storm and its aftermath. Grocery store shelves and gas station fuel tanks empty quickly, and people panic when they do. Best not to be anywhere near those places as a hurricane approaches.
Hurricane Ike 2008
I was new to Houston and had no clue what to do to prepare for a hurricane, and honestly I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. I lived over an hour inland from the coast in a great big house. My only preps before the storm were to drain the pool, buy some bottled water, fill up my gas tank and make sure I had batteries for the flashlights. I was a fool. Maybe a better word to describe me was naive.
The category 4 hurricane hit in the afternoon and my pool was overflowing before the sun went down. Ike spent all night wreaking havoc all over Houston. When the sun came up the next morning I had no power. There was so much debris in my pool that there could have been a VW bug in there and I wouldn’t have seen it. One of our trees in the backyard was on its side across some power lines. There was a huge fallen pine tree blocking access to our cul-de-sac, trapping us in because no one could drive out. And water was half way up my lawn.
In the end, the electricity was out in our neighborhood for five weeks because the whole power line infrastructure had to be replaced, not just repaired. The tree was a problem because not a single person in our cul-de-sac owned a chainsaw. But luckily a neighbor did have a generator, so we used circular saws to cut a gap in the tree large enough to drive through. I had to rent a water pump to clean out the pool. Our house didn’t flood, but half of our neighborhood–including two of our cul-de-sac neighbors–weren’t so lucky.
Things working against us during and after Hurricane Ike:
- Lived in a large older house in an area prone to flooding.
- Lots of old trees in areas where they could block streets or damage homes if they fell.
- Overhead power lines were taken out by fallen trees.
- Located close to large creek, which flooded once the rains became too much for the drainage system.
Hurricane Harvey 2017
By 2017 I have been in prepper mode for a while. I moved to a neighborhood that had newer homes, sitting just high enough to avoid flooding. My wife and I made a habit of keeping our pantry stocked with enough food to feed our family for weeks, if necessary. Our home gets water even when the pump station fails because we are downhill from the water tower. And we have a 1000 gallon water harvesting tank in our back yard, just in case. So, the only thing that we had to do before Hurricane Harvey hit was fill our vehicle gas tanks. We didn’t need to do anything else. We were set. We had plenty of food, water and supplies in our home.
Our neighborhood had over 36″ of rain in four days, but our power never went out for more than thirty seconds. We had flooding all around us, but our neighborhood didn’t flood. There were no trees down in our neighborhood that affected us. Partly luck, partly careful preparation in selection of where we chose to buy our home. We were very fortunate. We made it out without any damage or trauma.
In fact, we ended up doing more to help others than needing help ourselves. We did a lot of donating–clothes, toiletries, cleaning supplies. Stuffed animals for little kids to cuddle with. A little bit of money to help neighbors who’d lost out on work because of the storm. And my wife baked bread to give out to people that needed food, because most stores were closed and those that were open were completely out of food staples like bread. Strangely, though, the baking aisles had plenty of flour and yeast. People could’ve done what we did and made their own bread. I guess most just don’t know how to do that anymore.
We used Nextdoor.com to coordinate volunteer efforts, keep up to date on where flooding was closest to us, and spread information about where shelters were, what they needed, and how we could help. It was great to have that resource in time of emergency. Usually all we see from Nextdoor.com is reports of wandering dogs, suspicious vehicles, and lost pets. Having that resource in place for Harvey made all the normal nuisance posts totally worth enduring.
Things that worked for us during Harvey:
- A house in a neighborhood on higher ground that has never flooded.
- Fewer big (older, weaker) trees around the house and lining the neighborhood streets.
- Power lines are buried.
- A neighborhood between two small creeks that flow into a large creek, providing good drainage.
Why Being a Prepper is Important
Mother Nature doesn’t care about who you are, where you live or how many kids you have. As far as she is concerned, humans are just another creature walking around on her. Hurricanes will change your life if you are not prepared. But if you’re planning to move to a place that is close to the coast, you should know at some point you will be hit by one. It is the same as living in the middle of tornado alley in a mobile home or in California on the fault line. Eventually Mother Nature is going to reach out and bitch slap you. She will give you the chance to appear on TV in the news as a tragedy that people will set up some fund to “help support those poor people.”
I’m sorry if that came across as insensitive to the people dealing with tragedy after Hurricane Harvey 2017. That is not my intention. All I am saying is that if you live in a place that is prone to natural disasters, than be prepared to handle it. Educate yourself about what could happen and what supplies you will need to have. Then buy them. Don’t wait to the last minute when the stores are empty. Have a place in your home to stock up on necessities.
Know what to expect. And have what you need — sturdy shelter on higher ground, clean water, shelf stable food, and fuel — on hand so that you can deal with whatever the storm throws at you.
Other Houston Prepper Blogger’s Affected By Hurricane Harvey 2017
- Apartment Prepper – Hunkering Down Awaiting Hurricane Harvey
- The Survival Mom – 50 Survival Tips Harvey Has Taught Me
- Ed That Matters (Prepper Website) – In the Midst of the Storm – My Personal Preparedness Experience in Hurricane Harvey