When Hurricane Prep and Corona Virus Planning Collide

If you look at things critically, we’ve been on a emergency preparedness footing since November.  We just didn’t realize it.

The first whisperings of a problem were around New Years, but here in South Florida we go through a twice yearly exercise.  In May or so, we begin to get supplies.  Hurricane season is coming, we need to keep at least two weeks of extra food in the house.  The assumption is that in a Power Down situation, what can you have handy to eat without anything to cook it.

Industrial sized Peanut Butter Jars, Massive bags of Crackers, Giant multi-packs of Tuna.  My own hallway has two cases of water bottles.

Mind you, here in Wilton Manors Florida, the Utilities Management staff is amazing.  The head here is “Honor Bound” to make sure there will be no problems with turning the tap and having water pour out with the exclusion of when the storm is at its peak for about six hours.  Its just prudent to have extra water on hand.  Nobody wants to stand under the drainspout to get a drink.

We have never had a problem here due to his success and his department.

The drum beat of “there’s something wrong coming” got louder in January and February.  Loud enough that by the first week of March, I managed to get to the Big Box Wholesale Club three times and stock the house for the rest of the year of those non-perishable.  Someone else was welcome to stand in line, I’ll have Spam for lunch.

Preparing for a hurricane which we are used to here, and a pandemic are similar but not identical.

What happens for a hurricane is that in May, now, we have a giant tree on the property that needs to be “thinned” as well as all the hedges and flowers have to be “rightsized”.  The hedges are fine, as are the flowers.  After all, my prize bougainvillea hedges might be nasty to work with having all those thorns, but I’d prefer to do all of that myself.

The Tree is a very different story.  It’s a Sea Grape.  Being a native species, we are not allowed to remove it, but there is no reason to have a monster 50 foot tall beast in the corner of the yard with dinner plate sized leaves.  Every year, we have it “lowered” or else it grows into the power lines.   I have had the limbs trimmed back about six feet every year, and they grow back about half that so it’s now a healthy 30 plus.

We’re about to go through that exercise.  They cut almost all of the foliage off the tree, and the fascinating thing is that the tree is evolved enough to accept that and thrive.  It almost all grows back by “next” year.  So shorten the longest limbs and allow it to adjust.

The problem is that half of my orchids were all shaded by that beast of a tree.  I had some that the elements had eaten away the pots and needed replanting again.  So pull all of them away from their home under the shed’s eaves and repot.  I was able to make an extra two pots out of the one largest plant and move them close to the house and out of harm’s way.

I guess all of this is an illustration of the “Butterfly Effect” where the flapping of a butterfly in the tropics stirs up dust that forms clouds that eventually form a hurricane.

That dust on my Jeep’s hood in the carport is from the Sahara Desert.  If I stand on the beach and look due east, my line of sight following the curve of the horizon skips over one small island in the Bahamas and then comes ashore in Boujador in Western Sahara.

You folks are welcome to the dust you lost, and here, have an orchid.

How Different Is Preparing for Coronavirus from Hurricane Prep

Image by ds_30 from Pixabay

Time for a bit of a ramble here.  After all, this is Ramblingmoose…

I am not so sure how different preparing for a feared quarantine is from Hurricane Prep, but here we go.

I have lived in South Florida since April 2006.  While we have had some near misses, we have to prepare for every hurricane like we’re going to be directly hit by a storm that will be strong enough to take the power out for an extended period of time.

Every year, usually in June, but it extends back into May and forward as shopping trips allow as far as August, we start to shop.

Normal shopping shifts from How Can We Fill The Freezer to How Can We NOT Fill The Freezer.  Only get things you actually WANT to eat.

Just Be Reasonable About All Of This.

There’s a story of two new immigrants from Syria in the Dearborn Michigan area.  Their country was damaged by the war that is lingering there and they escaped.  They were in the supermarket not knowing each other and one asked “So how long have you been away from Syria”.  The other responded “Not long, but look at these fools buying frozen food”.  They could tell by looking in each other’s shopping carts.

Basically, when the power goes out, most of the effort of keeping things from going wrong in your life will be expended in making sure that your frozen foods don’t melt.

So, don’t buy them.  Look for temperature stable foods, canned goods, and a REASONABLE amount of toilet paper and paper towels.

If you’re buying up hundreds of rolls of toilet paper, you’re a fool.  One roll per person per week is my estimate.  Even if you double that, 100 rolls lasts a year.  My own experience is about a roll of paper towels in about two weeks or so.  More if I am clumsy.

Water is much more important but ask yourself how often has water been completely absent from your life.  I can honestly say less than four hours in the metropolitan areas that I have lived in and it was because someone named “Gator” was working on our water supply pipes.

Slow down, for you to lose water service, you’re talking a Mad Max kind of post-apocalyptic situation.  Get a case of bottled water, maybe two per person and fill your own jugs when things go bad.

Power is much more likely to go out on a given day than water.  I’ve had power pops almost every single week that I have lived in South Florida.  Power was two weeks off for Hurricane Irma.  Hurricane Dorian would have been much worse for Fort Lauderdale had it not punished the Bahamas so badly.

Your food in the fridge is now suspect when the power goes out for long.  The freezer has melted.  Prefer to eat your frozen food now before problems arise, put freezer blocks in the freezer once space appears.

Got a generator?  Enough Fuel?  I’m guessing that gasoline will be the next thing people will be chasing after.

But the Russians seem to have us taken care of with that.   After all, they’re flooding the markets and pushing prices downwards.  I wonder how long it will be before gas is below $2 a gallon again?

Just be reasonable.  If you are tripping over huge amounts of frozen and refrigerated foods, you’re not doing your best work.  On the other hand, extra canned and dry pasta is worth the effort.

Since it is Strawberry Season, I’ll be canning Strawberry Jam this week to go with the Peanut Butter I have from Last Hurricane Season.  After all, fresh fruit doesn’t stay fresh forever.

Besides you are really going to be sick of canned meat once we’re back to normal in a while.

Anyone want a Tuna Hoagie?  Mmmm!  Can I trade a roll of TP for a tomato and an onion?

Dorian’s Florida Sunset

The storm in South Florida was minimal.

It did however ruin Grand Bahama.

I saw a before/after map of the island where about 1/2 of the place was underwater.  There were videos of utterly demolished places with a random wall standing and other videos of where people were standing knee deep on their second floor as flood waters were turning their couches into pool floaties.

Watching the coverage on Bahamian National TV at ZNSBahamas.com you could hear the desperation in the voices of the callers.

And this storm isn’t finished.  It’s heading for the Carolinas.  Finish your storm prep up there, don’t wait.

Even though it is currently a Category 2 storm, it can still wreck your day.

These storms are a way for the environment to move excess heat from the ocean into the atmosphere.  The explanation I heard was that this mechanism was a partial reason why Dorian stalled out over Grand Bahama.  The heat of the Bahamian ocean got lifted into the upper atmosphere and got dumped into North Carolina and broke down the steering currents.

All this caused an upwelling of the cold water in the deeper parts of the ocean and slowly weakened the storm until it got a nudge from the environment and started it moving North again.

After two days.  Imagine a category 5 storm sitting on your house unleashing the hounds of hell for two solid days.

Relief efforts are beginning.  The Major Cruise Lines pledged support.  Carnival and Royal Caribbean both have pledged direct efforts.  Disney has already announced relief efforts.  I’ll expect to hear more as the days go forth.

If you can’t give to the Bahamas Red Cross or go there directly in a Flotilla like I heard my neighbors were going to do, consider shopping those companies that are supporting the efforts and let them know why you are.

For now, there are four storms in the Atlantic, one more in the Gulf.  The season does not end until December 1 so we can have this happen again in a week or two.

Mushrooms and The Morning After Gordon

It was a noisy night.

It had been raining the day before, and well into the night.  The Radar here showed random clouds that had gathered themselves into something remotely resembling bands, Lines of Thunderstorms to non-Floridians.

This was the normal way a storm develops here.  Pop Up Thunderstorms generate over the warm water East of me, move their way over land, drop their water, then peter out.  Or they end up working their way across the state in one of a dozen directions.

These storms, though, had kept grabbing the heat of the water that was just off the coast and turned themselves into a storm of interest.  That grew into a Tropical Depression by morning.

That also had me wake up at 4AM.  If I am up that early, I’m up.  I would not go back to sleep.

Rack, the McNab SuperDog (TM) was unhappy.  He hates T Storms on a good day and this was well into the second good day.  I could hear him shivering in the dark.

Turning on the phone, launching a Radar program, I was able to see tell-tale banding and thought that this was going to turn into something that bears watching.

Yep.  By now this would be Tropical Storm Gordon, and did hit somewhere near the Mississippi and Alabama border on their Gulf Coasts as a strong Tropical Storm.

Here it was a minor nuisance.  Lots of rain.  The next day I found out it was 2.65 inches of rain.

All the South Floridians grumbling about their Labor Day holiday being a wash out, and so on.

I sat up in bed and looked down the line of pots by my pool and under the Mango Tree I saw something that looked like it had landed in the yard, but could not tell.  Since it was raining so heavily, I’ll wait for Sunrise before inspecting.

We went for our dog walk and a couple hours later I revisited the what was it in the yard.

It turned out to be four very large, six inch in diameter, palm sized white mushrooms.

I have lived here for more than 12 years now and I have never seen a Mushroom in the yard, let alone something this massive.  I guess it was always too hot, but with the cooler air due to the storms, and all that rain, it decided to send these fruiting bodies out and spread spores.

Quickly.

Weird.  It looked like a scene from Lost In Space where the Jupiter 2 had landed on the planet of the big grasses, and one of the other had ditched on its side.

If it were, there would be fire, people running around screaming, a monster that was a cat with things stuck on it or perhaps a giant 40 foot tall chimp looking thing that went “Bloop Bloop” coming off an attack space ship that was in reality a kitchen utensil.

My money is on a whisk.  If you hand a child a whisk and tell them to play, they’re going to make it fly.  Trust me.

But there the mushrooms were.

Since they didn’t bother anyone, I let them alone, and went inside.  It was raining again, and would all through the night and into the next morning at 4AM.

Luckily we slept through that.  In fact, we slept so well that I was lucky enough to see the Sunrise.  The sun coming up over the Bahamas lighting the clouds below, turned them purple and mauve, later changing to some fiery reds and oranges.

It was so stunning a sunrise that along with my mushroom pictures and sunrise picture, many other people on social media showed off their own pictures there.

I mean, come on, how often does a space ship land in your back yard under your mango tree?

Hurricane Irma, The Wait For Power

Really.   If I can sit here on a Wednesday Morning and bust out some blather about the electricity being out and that’s about it, then I will survive.

The one story that keeps coming through my mind is a woman on Barbuda in the Caribbean.  She was one of 1600 people there.  She was watching a baby and a tornado hit her home.  The baby was sucked out of her arms.  Baby found dead later when the storm passed.

Really.  So, count your blessings.  If you are reading me, you are better off.

We are without power.  The gasoline supplies are very low, we’re waiting on the coast guard to allow tankers into Port Everglades to refill.  I guess we join a long line to fill gas cans like many others.

But we’re intact here.

I caught news that the west side of the state, Naples, Fort Myers, and the like got slammed by this horrible storm.  Here, not so much.  We didn’t have a predicted 9 feet of water in a storm surge come in.  We did have white-out conditions with rain so strong that I couldn’t see the wall of a building 250 feet away briefly.

The eye of the storm crossed Cudjoe Key.  Call it MM 52 – 52 miles East of Key West.  As well as they prepared, anything not nailed down is now not in the house.  Those folks will need help getting onto their feet.

So I’ll return to putting the plants back out and scooping my neighbor’s tree leaves out of the pool.  Not unscathed, just a bit muddy.  Not really even worth taking pictures of it.

A cycle of running the generator an hour, then waiting three hours to run again.  It keeps the bags of ice in the freezer frozen and the refrigerator cool.

Much better off than many.

Yes.  This is global warming.  Anyone that tells you otherwise is a fool and should be returned to their medications.  Anyone who makes laws or votes to the contrary is a damn fool and probably should not be allowed to effect other’s lives.

But after all is said and done.  A few observations.

Gasoline.  I suspect the state has been pretty much drained of this stuff.  We’re ok for four days now, after having gotten some.  I’m sure many won’t be as lucky.  Some of the lines were blocks long.  Police were thankfully directing people around.

And Gasoline is beginning to flow in which is a major plus.  It will take a while before we start to see supplies even out in South Florida.  There was a report that in Tampa, simply forget it.  Again, Thankful but that could be “helped”.

Traffic.  We drove down to Davie about 10 miles off.  I have to say the roads work better with fewer lights.  I’ve heard a saying that “Every Traffic Light Means Someone Died Here” but I have to question if streets aren’t just badly designed and enforcement of traffic laws are simply not stringent enough.  If you follow the rules, you’ll have a better time of it.  If you drive a car like an idiot, you’ll wreck it for everyone else.

A Traffic Light that is out is considered a Four Way Stop by the universal vehicle code.  Yes, Even For you.

We did make it to Wawa in Davie.  The line was untenable.  Close to 100 cars waiting for fuel.  Might need to get up in the middle of the night to attempt it next time.

Count your blessings.  If you can read this, you’re better off than many others.  Now, go talk to your neighbor.  They just may need something.   Mine just put out another bucket of Avocados.  There are plenty left, go and enjoy.

If I could just figure out how to eat the darn things other than sliced on a bagel!  I am thankful even for avocados, weird though they are!

 

Hurricane Irma, Slogging Through Saturday Into Sunday

But hey, I still have power…

At least through Sunday Morning, I have.

It wasn’t until 4PM here that I saw the first rain that left enough water on the ground to sheen the streets.

The county declared a curfew from 4PM through.  I’m guessing the duration.  I don’t know when that is.

The only thing that has bothered me is a few power pops here and there.  When power does go out, we’re sunk.  I can’t say that they’ll be by to reconnect us at that point, because there is some wind speed that they stop work at.

I seem to remember 35mph.  We are over that now.  44 was the last check, although it’s been gusting faster.

Then you’re on your own, cowboy.

Net’s up.  Power’s up.  Water’s flowing.

This isn’t a whole lot to deal with compared with Antigua, Puerto Rico, the DR, Haiti, and Cuba.

Now the Florida Keys.

It could be worse, I could be in the Keys.  The Eye of the Storm right now is crossing into the lower keys, and they’re still predicting that trip through Key West and up the west coast of Florida.  My heart goes out to them since I can’t say I would want up to 9 feet of salt water piling up on my house.  That’s going as high as 270 CM.

This map is of the expected storm surge.  Those pink areas are where the 9 feet of salt water comment comes from.  Naples, Marco Island, north up the coast.

I grabbed that map from the NWS Miami Twitter Feed.

I stocked up on rechargeable batteries a while back.

I’ve also been harvesting old laptop battery packs.

Why laptop batteries?  Each one is a larger and longer cell configuration so they will not fit inside of a standard radio or flashlight.  They also put out more voltage at 3.7 VDC compared with 1.5 VDC for a D, C, or AA Cell.

But.

Each one puts out between 2 and 4 amps.  Connect four together and you get 14.4 VDC.  Run them through a voltage regulator like that cigar lighter thing to charge your phone in the car and you now can recharge your phone a couple times.

So those 18650 batteries will charge my flashlights for months.  Battery operated fans for weeks.  Radios will play.

The air conditioning may not work due to power outage, but I will be able to listen to crappy music.

If you want radar?  Follow this link.  Remember that the highest point in the Keys is on Key West at 18 feet.  The map showing those islands should be considered a suggestion since most of them will be overwashed by storm surge.

That “9 feet” again.

But so far, for me, I’m lucky.  Not even anything worth taking a picture of here in Wilton Manors, and I thank my lucky stars for that.

Hurricane Irma, Burgers, and Cream Biscuits

Ok, on Saturdays I usually put up jokes.

Nope.  Not today.

You may have been reading about this monster storm.  If you’re in the path of Hurricane Irma, stay safe, and stay under cover.

At one point the path for this beast had landfall in Key West – 200 miles away.

At one point the path for this beast was literally 3 blocks away from me here in Wilton Manors, Suburban Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Then it moved into the ocean between us and the Bahamas.

Then back to us.

Then to where it is, now, Friday evening.

By my reconing, it would be coming ashore about mile marker 30, the Seven Mile Bridge in the Keys, just West of Marathon, FL.

A second landfall would be east of Marco Island, and then North up the state.

Enough Naval Gazing.

A power outage here can happen because a butterfly farted on a power line.

I have become convinced that the infrastructure here is made from old abandoned barbed wire that was sourced from fence posts on a farm in the Southwestern US.

You know those pictures of rusted barbed wire stapled to a weathered piece of drift wood?

Thanks, FPL, power goes out on a Thursday here.

So I spent the day debating and went on a cooking binge.

Made up 20 hamburgers for the dog because it would free a space for another bag of ice in the freezer.  It’s now about 2/3 ice in a freezer that is about as tall as I am.

I’m a big guy.  Tall, built like a gym teacher.

Then I started looking at the fridge.

Found Cream.  Specifically Whipping Cream.

Made 2 and a half batches of:

Cream Biscuits.

2 cups Self Rising Flour.

1 1/4 cups of Whipping or Heavy Cream.

1 tablespoon of table sugar.

Mix, then knead until it becomes semi sticky.  Like modeling clay.

Divide into 10, and bake at 450F for 11 minutes or until golden brown.

Sorry for only Imperial Units, I actually weighed everything to the gram and annotated the weights in my recipe book, but it’s late and …

Hey if anyone wants my metric measurements, Ask!

See, the point is that cooked food has a longer shelf life when the power goes out than “raw”.

The other point is that you really do have to analyze your every move in a hurricane for preparation.

So this weekend no jokes.

If I get to have power tomorrow morning, Saturday, I will go through the normal morining rituals which includes putting up jokes for Sunday.  Then I’ll write something for the next couple articles.  Nothing fancy.

“If you’re reading this, my blog is on auto pilot, blahblahblah, Hi There!”

If no connection to the internet because power is down, well folks, think well of me and I’ll get back to you when everything comes back.

When Hurricane Wilma hit here in 2005, my own block was without power for 2 weeks.

If Hurricane Irma goes on that path that will do so much damage to South West Florida, the storm will not be quite as strong as Wilma was.  We here will be safe.

I’ll be back then.

Stay safe, no matter where you are reading this from in the world.

Help your neighbor if they need it.  Mine did.

Save your prayers, get off your collective butts and do something that positively changes the world.  Vote for people who will actually DO something to reduce carbon emissions and stop Climate Change or Global Warming.  Millions of people doing small acts of improvement will move the world the right way, away from having two 500 Year Storms in one month.

As the old CB Radio jargon said – See Ya On The Flip Side!