Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hurricane Gustav

With Hurricane Gustav rapidly approaching the Louisiana coast, it seems appropriate to shift my emphasis from photography to local reporting. By local reporting, I really mean personal reporting. I hope that I don't get any interesting photographs.

We live in a relatively new house, only four years old, and are located about 10 miles south of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Depending on how the distance is measured, we are some 50 to 100 miles from the Gulf or open water. We were in this house during Hurricane Katrina and had essentially no damage. We’re hoping for a similar result from Hurricane Gustav.

My wife and I grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and endured several hurricanes and tropical storms there. We know, or should know, how to prepare for a hurricane. As a side effect of various hobbies and interests, especially camping, we are somewhat equipped. Of course, each storm is different.

For inland locations such as Baton Rouge, our major concerns and considerations are strong and gusty winds, localized heavy flooding and loss of electricity for an extended time. We know these things will happen. The worse situation – and entirely unpredictable – is tornadoes. Hurricanes spawn many, many tornadoes.

Like many of our friends and neighbors, we have a gasoline engine powered generator for emergency power. After Katrina, we used our generator for about three days. Ours is a medium sized generator, 6KW, and it was sufficient to power many lights, a refrigerator, a freezer, a small window unit air conditioner, the television and many fans. At this time of the year, it is still very hot in south Louisiana and that little air conditioner was a blessing. Unfortunately our generator cannot power all those devices at the same time. We leave the little air conditioner turned on all the time but alternate power between the refrigerator and freezer. Our power distribution system is three long extension cords. One of the first steps in preparing for a hurricane is to get gasoline and oil for the generator and make certain that it works!

While getting gasoline for the generator, we fill the gas tanks for our cars.

When the electricity fails, the water supply becomes limited. We buy bottled water but also fill every container we can find with water – even the bathtubs.

In addition to water, we replenish our pantry because stores may be closed for several days. Canned goods are the main purchase because refrigeration might be limited. Medical prescriptions refilled, check.

Our stove is natural gas fired and the supply of natural gas in our area is usually not affected after a hurricane. Just in case, we have propane stoves in our camping supplies.

We spent yesterday and today preparing the house and yard for Gustav. All loose objects are moved from the yard to the garage – which means re-organizing the garage! Some small trees were braced. Some of our windows have shutters; these were closed and braced with a wooden board. Other windows don’t lend themselves very well to being boarded in. Looking up and down our street, a few houses are completely boarded in but most are spotty – like ours.

All batteries are charged. Because of my interest in flash photography, I have a handful of AA batteries and these are all fully charged. My camera batteries and spares are also fully charged. Cell phones charged. I also have battery powered handtools with matching flashlights.

After Katrina, we spent a lot of time trying to get in touch and keep in touch. Strangely enough, we found that text messaging worked but cell phones and land lines usually did not. Of course, the television cable service was out for a long time and we had to revert to an old set of “rabbit ears”. Wonder how those will work in our digital future?

1 comment:

Dennis said...

We are all hoping your home/area is spared any serious damage, and no loss of life.

As for rabbit ears in the digital future, you should probably prepare for that too. Our adult children live in Detroit and Charleston, SC, and both use antennas to receive digital TV signals (as well as analog). Since you are an engineer, I assume you realize an older analog TV would require a digital converter box.

My daughter's TV is connected to a roof antenna with a rotator, while my step-son's TV uses an indoor set of rabbit ears. Both use a signal booster, since digital TV requires stronger signals than analog. If the signal is too weak, you get nothing, instead of analog snow.

Also, here's a link to a site that will allow you to locate all the broadcast antennas in your area, both digital and analog, so you know where to point those rabbit ears.