Though we’re on a first-name basis with hurricanes, the behemoth storms aren’t comic book villains seeking world domination. They’re not rubbing their hands together in a secret lair, laughing maniacally and targeting certain cities for annihilation. But they ARE to be taken seriously.
Fortunately, plenty of people in our island chain have real-world experience with forecasts, watches, warnings, storm shutters, preparations, evacuations and the aftermath.
We asked a few of those locals for some storm-related tips, tricks, gadgets and essentials.
Mail carrier for USPS, Marathon
John made the decision to ride out Hurricane Irma in his second-floor condo, sleeping in his tub while wearing a life jacket and helmet with a kayak at the ready. For those who choose to “ride it out,” he stressed the importance of having a team of friends or family at the ready to help each other and address urgent needs both before and after the storm. In the potential absence of cell service, having a backup method of communication is key, as well as supplies to be self-sufficient.
“We used walkie talkies,” he said. “That was huge, having a communication system. Make sure you also have at least two weeks’ worth of water, food, and other stuff you’ll need. Don’t forget water to wash clothes, and things like a way to manage the waste coming out of your body. Don’t make it a problem for someone else.”
Key West Weekly editor
LuminAID Solar Lantern
Key West Weekly editor Mandy Miles discovered these inflatable, collapsible, solar-powered, LED lights about a year before Hurricane Irma hit. So by the time the storm came in 2017, she had a whole drawer of the lights — and had given them as gifts to several friends and relatives.
There are several brands and varieties, but they’re all pretty similar. They’re made of sturdy vinyl and collapse like a beach ball when not in use. When needed, just blow them up into a lightweight square and turn on the light. Float it in the pool, hang it from a hook or set a few all over the house when the power goes out. The latest versions even come with phone chargers.
CAPT. STAN MILES
Fishing captain in Key West
Tire-inflator adapter for scuba tanks
Hurricane Irma’s destruction had to land somewhere, and when it did, thousands of roofing nails and other sharp objects landed in driveways and roadways, flattening countless tires.
Just a month before the storm, Capt. Stan Miles had ordered a tire-inflator adapter that attaches to the top of a scuba tank. In the days following Hurricane Irma, Miles didn’t leave home without an air tank and his adaptor, which he used on two of his own tires, one of his wife’s and the tires of about seven other friends and neighbors. (In addition to the tire-inflator adaptor, he threw a couple tire plug kits into his trusty Ford F150 and got plenty of folks back on the road. “That adapter was the best 12 bucks I ever spent,” Miles said. (Another pro tip? Fill buckets of water from the backyard pool and pour them into the toilet to flush the toilet if the water goes out, which happened during Hurricane Irma.)
MORE HELPFUL HURRICANE ITEMS…
ARLO GO WIRELESS SECURITY CAMERA
Did the storm knock out your power? Do you want to keep the security camera rolling on your property or home in the time you have without Wi-Fi? With Arlo Go’s wireless security camera, hook it up to your cellular plan to keep an eye on your property. Get access to live video and two-way audio. And notifications immediately appear on your phone. It’s great not only for homes but also boats.
While we’re all jealous of our friends with the giant generator system that snaps on in a second and powers the whole house (A/C included), it’s not a feasible (or affordable) option for everyone. But there are budget-friendly portable generators that will power your fridge/freezer (which means ice for drinks), some big box fans, phone chargers and radios. Just remember, always read the instructions, invest in some heavy-duty, weather-proof extension cords and don’t be stupid. Generators — and the carbon monoxide they produce — belong OUTSIDE. (Note: Generators are often cheaper and easier to find BEFORE a storm is headed our way.)
WATERPROOF RUBBER BOOTS
Anyone who waded through flooded streets following Hurricane Ian, Irma or Wilma in the Florida Keys knows that waterproof, rubber rain boots (the taller, the better) are storm essentials.
Whether you go for the white, shrimper boots, or fancy pink ones, you’ll be glad you have them as the water rises. (Pro tip: Wear them with socks for easier removal.)
While many people have made the switch to satellite radio and streaming services, there’s no substitute during a storm for a regular FM radio to hear local news, advisories and weather reports. Make sure you have plenty of C or D batteries, whatever the old-school boombox requires.
PORTABLE POWER BANKS TO CHARGE USB DEVICES
Charge these babies up before the storm, so all phones are charged ready when the power goes out. Solar versions are also available so you can recharge them if the sun returns before the electricity.