Prepping for Hurricane Irene: a New Orleanian’s Guide

As of right now, it looks as though we’re going to be spared the worst of Irene’s wind strength and rainfall: WJLA is reporting that Washington will likely not face tropical-storm force weather, with winds instead peaking around 50 mph, with heavy rain reaching D.C. late Saturday. Storm conditions will likely peak Saturday night, with heavy wind expected into Sunday afternoon.

However, just because Georgetown will (probably) be spared the worst, don’t think that the city will not see some serious effects from the storm. As a person who has seen his fair share of Hurricane hits and near misses, your loyal Vox editor advises erring on the side of caution. Pepco is warning that D.C. residents could face extended and severe power outages, several major events in the District have been cancelled this weekend, and the University has postponed convocation from Sunday to Tuesday.

Given that the District and the University have a somewhat uneven reputation for handling major crises, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to be prepared. Fortunately, various D.C. agencies and newspapers have published guides for everything a person should do to prepare for a storm, dealing with issues including:

Where has all the power gone?

Pepco is cautioning its customers that they could face significant power outages possibly lasting several days, with the company’s President Joseph Rigby warning that “there is a very real possibility for significant damage to [Pepco’s] electrical infrastructure.”

The company advises people to prepare for the storm with an emergency kit containing:

  • A battery-powered radio or television
  • Flashlight
  • A first-aid kit
  • Battery-powered or windup clock
  • Extra batteries
  • Special needs items, such as an insulated cooler
  • A list of important and emergency phone numbers.

…with Georgetown administration and the Washington Post echoing the advice. Unfortunately, it may be impossible to gather all the items on this list: based on my own observations, it appears that few stores in D.C. continue to carry flashlights (although a certain “Bed Bath and Beyond” in Columbia Heights is doing a brisk business in candles and glow sticks). However, it wouldn’t hurt to check today, since store shelves are generally stocked Saturday morning rather than Friday night.

The University will also be bringing in several heavy-grade generators in the event of power loss. Power supply will be prioritized to dining services in Leo’s in Leavey – all other buildings will have emergency “life safety” power covering emergency lighting, fire alarms, and a single elevator per building.

The best decision might be to purchase a robust number of battery operated fans, which will stay friends with you long after your AC fails.

Water, water, everywhere…unfortunately, it’s all floodwater.

Given the aforementioned power outage, the likeliest problem you might face is ensuring access to cold water during the storm. An email from DC Water assures us that their  “facilities are equipped to withstand weather-related events and water service interruptions are not anticipated during the hurricane,” including during power losses.

Nevertheless, you’re likely to want some cold water at some point during the storm. If stores are sold out of bottles by Saturday, find some food-grade storage containers and turn the tap on – DC Water reminds residents that they only charge a penny per gallon. If you’re not a fan of drinking directly from the tap, store the water anyway and borrow a hallmate’s Brita if the power does go down. According to DC Water’s email, stored water can also be frozen in jugs and used to keep food cold in the event of power loss.

Food n’ booze.

Although dining services should remain open, it wouldn’t hurt to have some food on hand for the storm as well. The Sun-Sentinel’s list (put together by people who know their hurricanes) includes the expected assortment of canned goods and boxed dry food, but also includes some other useful tidbits:

  • Consider procuring some fresh fruit including bananas, apples, lemons and oranges, all of which will keep for several days unrefrigerated.
  • Condiments are quite useful to stock up on – they keep forever, and are great for giving some flavor to canned vegetables.
  • Finally, consider augmenting your collection of Cheez-It boxes with some dried raisins, cranberries, and other snack fruits.

For those of you looking to wet-ride through the storm, there’s no particular reason that alcohol sales should stop – however, bear in mind that North Carolina’s state liquor stores have all shut down due to the storm, so take that omen as you will. On the upside, if you really feel like ignoring all of Vox’s good advice, check out WCP’s list of hurricane drink specials at venues around the city.



5 Comments on “Prepping for Hurricane Irene: a New Orleanian’s Guide

  1. Remember, prepare at least 72 hours worth of food. That’s approximately six to nine chicken madnesses.

  2. WJLA is reporting that Washington will likely not face tropical-storm force weather, with winds instead peaking around 50 mph…

    Er… “A tropical storm is an organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds between 17 metres per second (33 kn) (39 miles per hour (63 km/h)) and 32 metres per second (62 kn) (73 miles per hour (117 km/h)).”

  3. I think the distinction comes between sustained winds – your quoted definition – and gusts – which would be closer to “peak” winds

  4. Right, but “winds peaking around 50 mph” does not tell you whether or not sustained winds will fall in the tropical storm range. Which, indeed, they did:

    capitalweather Capital Weather Gang
    True tropical storm conditions in DC now. Reagan Natl sustained wind of 41 mph (39 is criteria for trop storm), gust to 58!/capitalweather/status/107681289896869888

  5. Pingback: Vox Populi » Comments of the Week: We got hit by a hurricane…of freshmen

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