8 Lessons From Hurricane Harvey While It’s Still Happening!
As I sit here writing this article, the devastation from Hurricane Harvey continues.
Harvey made landfall three nights ago and he is STILL devastating the Gulf Coast.
While Harvey has been officially downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, don’t let that fool you. Harvey is still not finished wreaking havoc on the great state of Texas and other states on the Gulf Coast.
This particular event is especially troubling/challenging from a preparedness standpoint.
If you have been paying attention to these events as they have unfolded, then you can see why the typical prepper scenario “role-playing” becomes fairly problematic for a number of reasons.
I recall reaching out to friends and family in Texas on Saturday evening, checking in with them via text and instant messaging to make sure they were OK. As a “survival guy”, I have many “survival” connections in my network.
One chat in particular from that evening with one my friends from the Gulf Coast area stands out. This friend is actually quite accomplished in the survival realm, and she indicated…
“Just business as usual here on the Gulf Coast. But don’t worry… I relocated out of the path of the hurricane to Houston.”
Houston. The city that is currently under roughly fifty inches of rain at this very moment. And rising. Just three days after initial landfall of the hurricane.
Just re-typing that response from my friend above gave me chills after having just watched on television various watercraft like bass boats, jon boats, kayaks and jet skis navigating what used to be all of the Houston roadways… that are now covered in five or more feet of water.
I haven’t been in contact with my friend since Saturday evening. I hope she is OK. It just goes to show that even “survival experts” aren’t impervious to such devastating events.
Here’s the reason that this particular event is so troubling/challenging and why we should heed the numerous lessons that we can already glean from this disaster:
Harvey hit us with a left-hook… immediately followed by an uppercut. Harvey turned out to be a “double-whammy” of colossal proportions. Typically when most of us think of preparing for a disaster, we don’t necessarily approach our preparations anticipating a compound scenario like this.
I think most Texans simply expected this to be the standard hurricane drill. Because that is what they are used to. Because of this, most of them “prudently” relocated to higher ground when the hurricane evacuation warnings came, which is great!
But then the situation became multi-faceted when Harvey transformed from a devastating hurricane into an unprecedented flooding event in Houston and the surrounding area… where many of these early evacuees decided to take refuge.
And it’s not even over.
At this very moment, latest update is that FIFTY PLUS inches of rain have fallen in some Texas locales. And still falling. Harvey is currently off the coast gathering more water from the ocean and is projected to make landfall again tonight dropping more water on the area.
Just for perspective, most areas would feel the impact of just six or eight inches of rain in a single day, let alone twenty plus inches for two or three days in a row.
While these events are still unfolding and we don’t have a lot of official numbers in terms of death toll and scale of destruction, there are already a number of learning opportunities that I have observed in the past few days. Let’s take a closer look at these:
1. PREPARE IN ADVANCE
This is the first and most important step in ensuring your family’s safety. Don’t make the mistake of failing to prepare. Your preparations don’t have to be expensive or fancy.
At a minimum you should have at least 72 hours worth of water, food, clothing, lighting, etc. for each family member. All in one place. In a container of some kind that you can quickly grab and go. This is a must. One week’s worth of supplies is even better. Two weeks worth is better still.
Another good reason to store up on some supplies is… price gouging. Sadly, these types of events can bring out the worst in some people and these individuals can sometimes take advantage of people in need during such a crisis.
In the case of Harvey, I have heard of reports of price gouging on two primary commodities: Fuel and water. So it is prudent to store up items like this ahead of the crisis. And it’s also prudent to rotate your supply so it stays fresh for when you need it!
While setting your family up with a convenient and carefully considered “grab and go” stash of supplies (often referred to as a “72 Hour Kit” or “Bug Out Bag”), it’s not enough to just have these kits and items at the ready. You’ll need a couple of other things to go with them:
- First, you need a carefully considered plan. And that plan needs to have built in contingencies. Harvey is proof of this need for contingencies. Just think of the people from Corpus Christi that evacuated to Houston to escape the hurricane… only to be swamped by flooding in Houston!
- Second, you and your family need to be familiar with and know how to use these supplies and gear.
One of the best ways to do this is to simulate a disaster scenario. This can be done in the comfort of your own home with the lights turned out or by taking the family on a weekend camping trip and make a family challenge out of it. Your preference.
The point of this exercise is to simulate a disaster scenario for the purpose familiarizing you and your family members with your kits, tools, and supplies. That’s all. Get to know your kits and gear and how to use them so it’s more “second nature” to you all when a real disaster strikes.
You don’t have to scare the crap out of your kids when you do this! Make it a fun learning experience (game or challenge) for them so they are NOT scared when a real crisis strikes!
2. WATCH WEATHER REPORTS CLOSELY
In the case of Harvey, the weather professionals did an incredible job forecasting, modeling and predicting how things would go down. The technological advances in terms of weather forecasting is incredible these days!
We knew well before (three or four days) Harvey struck that this system was going to be unprecedented on numerous fronts.
They warned us that Harvey was coming and that Harvey was powerful and dangerous.
They also warned us that Harvey was slow-moving and LOADED with water.
We were warned of all of this well before Harvey even made landfall.
3. HEED WARNINGS EARLY
Ultimately it is our personal responsibility to take action based on these warnings from the professionals. They can only issue the warnings. WE are the ones who have to respond to those warnings. Quickly. That window of opportunity is only open for a brief moment. At best.
4. TAKE ACTION EARLY
You have made your preparations well in advance. You know what’s headed your direction. You have been warned. You are poised for action. Now what?
It’s time to put your plan into action. It’s time to gather the troops and pack the kits and gear and “get out of Dodge”. Pack, double-check your list, count heads and make sure everyone is accounted for, then you are ready for the next step!!
5. MOBILIZE EARLY
There are two criteria that you MUST meet before you even consider mobilizing:
- Are you packed up with everyone and everything you need to sustain yourselves self-sufficiently for at least three days, and do you know exactly where you are going and exactly how you are going to get there?
- Are you leaving BEFORE the crisis has started?
If you cannot answer “Yes” to both of these questions, then you have no business going anywhere at all. Mobilizing at this point would statistically put you and your loved ones in far more danger than just staying home and fortifying.
If the event is still hours away and you were prudent enough to have accomplished the prior steps, then and only then should you consider mobilizing toward safer ground.
Mobilizing after an event like this starts only exposes you and your loved ones to extreme danger. You are far more vulnerable and exposed to lethal winds and flood waters in a vehicle on an open road than you are back in your home.
If you didn’t accomplish any of the prior steps…
6. STAY PUT!!
This is a tough one, particularly in the complex scenario of Harvey. Yes, statistically you are much safer staying right where you are if the event has already begun. But sometimes under certain circumstances (like 5 feet of standing water in your home), it’s not realistic to safely stay home any longer.
Here’s the good rule of thumb on this kind of compound scenario: If the hurricane has not struck yet and you still have some time to get out ahead of it, by all means leave. If not, driving in gale force winds is a suicide mission. So stay put. Once the winds cease and ONLY when it is safe to go outside (remember, the hurricane may be gone, but accompanying pop-up tornados can strike at a moment’s notice), then cautiously assess the situation and leave if safe. BEFORE the flood waters arrive!
I know, it sounds a bit like a mixed message. Which is precisely why this more complex scenario known as Harvey is so challenging. Let me try to simplify it for you a bit:
If a threat is bearing down on you at that very moment, STAY PUT.
If the threat lets up and you think it’s safe to drive, MOBILIZE CAUTIOUSLY before the next wave of the event (in this case, flooding) has a chance to make impact!
7. DON’T RELY ENTIRELY ON THE GOVERNMENT TO SAVE YOU!
Now when I say this, this is not a knock on the government at all. It’s still too early to be able to really evaluate anything at this point, but from all indications that I have seen, local, state and federal agencies are knocking it out of the park in terms of response to Harvey! Which is fantastic!
But even the government is limited in terms of capacity and resources. I heard earlier that the U.S. Coast Guard is KILLING it out there rescuing people in Houston from the flooding. But then I also heard that they are using a grand total of twenty helicopters to evacuate people. In a city with a population of 2.35 million. And that’s not counting all of the folks that evacuated from other cities to Houston to avoid the initial hurricane!
My point is… those helicopters don’t hold that many people. And there’s only twenty of them. And government trucks carrying supplies can’t access the millions of people in need of them because the roads are covered with five feet of water!
From a simple logistics standpoint, the government simply can’t “save” everyone. Definitely not quickly. So you’d better have some provisions of your own if you don’t want the next three days (or, God forbid, several WEEKS) to be really unpleasant.
8. LEARN FROM PAST MISTAKES
When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans twelve years ago, many of those New Orleans refugees relocated to Houston… and stayed there. Sadly, thousands of those New Orleans transplants who survived the flood waters of Katrina are facing the same scenario again in Houston today. Hopefully many of them learned valuable lessons from Katrina that are informing them now in Houston.
TIPS ON PREPARING FOR FLOODS!!
- Kayaks/Canoes (shallower waters)
- Life Jackets
- MICROCHIP YOUR PETS!!
- Pet Life Jackets
- Muck Boots
- Vacuum Sealed Changes Of Clothing
- Heavy Duty Garbage Bags And Drum Liners