Since so many people last year found my blog by Googling "Flush a toilet in a hurricane" I thought I would do a reprise of last year's post before Hurricane Irene. Originally posted 8/26/2011 -
Unless you have been locked up in a dungeon somewhere being asked to “put the lotion on its skin”, you know that there is a major hurricane coming toward the northeastern part of the United States.
I know that a lot of people are really freaking out about the impending storm, but there are far more people not paying attention to the warnings. So, from my knowledge of hurricanes (living in North Carolina), here is the advice I can give about preparing for a hurricane.
What can happen:
Rain: This storm will bring a considerable amount of rain. While rain falling from the sky in itself is not hazardous, the accumulation of rain over a small period of time can be very dangerous, leading to excessive runoff and flooding. When it comes to a place like New York City, underground tunnels have the capability of serious flooding, basically halting all traffic in and out of the nation’s largest city.
Wind: The wind will be excessive. Strong, over 100mph winds are nothing to joke over. Trees will topple over, crushing power lines and cars. Some houses may suffer from considerable damages due to falling trees and limbs. The wind will be so strong that cars will be pushed from one side of the street to the other. Rain will come in sideways, ocean and river waves will swell 3 or 4 times their usual height. Which brings me to:
Storm Surge: With New York’s five boroughs being surrounded mostly by water, this could very well be the most dangerous. When the bodies of water are disturbed by the hurricane, waves pick up and slam into the shore. That, combined with natural tides, a storm of this size could bring swells of water in the 20 feet range. This could be detrimental to low-lying places such as Downtown Manhattan, Coney Island, and the Far Rockaways in Queens. New York City has never (EVER) issued a mandatory evacuation for flood zone areas. Take heed and evacuate if you are told.
Power: Power outages across the five boroughs will cause a great inconvenience to most people. It may take a large amount of time to restore power to the masses if downed trees and flooded areas cause problems.
Water, Gas: I don’t foresee the water or gas lines to be messed with within the city, but if for any reason, New York City’s water becomes tainted by sewage, having bottled water on hand will be you only option. If the water does go out, you will not be able to flush your toilets. It may be a good idea to fill up your bathtub full of water so you can manually flush the toilet in the event of a water outage.
With power outages and extensive damage to the transit systems, you may have to stay where you are for several days. This means having non-perishable food items on hand to eat for a few days. Please remember that if you have an electric can opener, it will not work if the power goes out (That seems obvious, but you’d be surprised). Do not open your freezer for any reason. Once the power goes out, you need to keep that cold in there for as long as possible in hopes to save some things that may be in there.
Don’t do anything stupid. Don’t go swimming before a hurricane comes. And don’t rush out to clean things up until emergency personnel have at least taken a look. Don’t touch downed power lines and don’t stand underneath leaning trees.
One thing to note: If the storm comes straight across Manhattan, it will stop for a period of time. This does not mean the storm is over! The eye of the hurricane is an eerie, slightly sunny, calm period where many people think the worst of the storm is over. STAY WHERE YOU ARE! The second half of the storm will be along shortly. Stay up to date about where the storm is and when it is expected to be over with a battery-operated radio.
It should also be noted that there is a chance that nothing happens at all. I’ve seen storms look like they’re going to barrel straight into North Carolina and disappear overnight as if they never existed. The storm could turn at any moment and go straight out to sea. But, you should always be prepared for the worst. Katrina was the worst hurricane we’ve had in a very, very long time and the catastrophe was heightened by the people’s refusal to listen. They thought the storm would turn, they thought it would die down, it would all be okay. And it wasn’t.
Please keep yourselves (and your pets) safe and be sure to check on your neighbors, friends, and relatives. By law, all pets are allowed to accompany you into emergency shelters. Don’t let people tell you otherwise. Make a plan now so that if the time comes to evacuate, you already know what to do. Phone lines will be flooded with people asking questions. Save yourself the trouble and figure out where to go now. Also, did you know that failure to comply with a mandatory evacuation is a misdemeanor? It is actually punishable with jail time up to 90 days!
Be careful, be safe. Keep your pets and loved ones near you. And remember to stay inside and stay calm. We’ll all be alright.
See you on the other side!
Also - this is all I can think about when people talk about Hurricane Sandy: