It's only fitting that on the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, there's a storm brewing out in the Caribbean (with another one nipping at Isaac's ankles). It is fiercely debated whether Hurricane Andrew was the worst natural disaster in American history.
At the time, the Category 5 hurricane that barreled right across the state of Florida, was the costliest disaster in history, with about $26.5 billion in damages. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina surpass Andrew with over $100 billion in damages to the residents of Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
Regardless of dollar amounts and statistics, being in the middle of a major hurricane is an experience you don't forget. I know because I experienced both Andrew in Miami and the aftermath of Katrina right outside of New Orleans.
What I can recall during Andrew itself is not much. Once the storm hit
west Kendall, where I was living, things happened fast. The sliding
glass doors to my apartment imploded. The roof peeled off. The
electricity went out and visibility was next to nil, but I remember
seeing first palm trees bending, then breaking... then flying off into
the night. Street lights were torn from their foundations. Cars were
being moved by the wind. The steel security door to my apartment started
caving in and out, like it was breathing. They say tornadoes and
hurricanes sound like freight trains. To me, they sounded like the gates
of hell unleashed, if there is such a thing. Then, suddenly, the
storm was over. The sun came out.
Kendall was a war zone. Everything was destroyed. The
day was spent assessing what was gone. At the time, no one had cell
phones. The first night, we were alone. We heard shots in the distance. The following day saw the National Guard pointing weapons at civilians who waited in the heat for two hours for a jug of water. They were also trying to control the looting, the robbery, the panic that sets in after you learn that everything you had is now gone.
Andrew, I learned my lesson. Every year, I set up a hurricane kit. It's not prepping for a zombie apocalypse or the overthrow of the
government. It's just common sense.
If you want to
prepare for a storm, you should have a gallon of water per person per
day stored away, plain bleach to sanitize tap water, battery-operated
lanterns, a small charcoal grill (never grill indoors), plastic plates
and utensils, baby or pet items, and enough non-perishable food to
last at least 48 hours.
Sure there's the usual peanut butter and cereal bars, but a hurricane kit doesn't
have to be all water-and-sardines. Here are a few items we found at Whole Foods Market that will last without refrigeration and kick up your hurricane kit a notch. Here's hoping we won't need it.
Tuna is a staple, but look for organic, line caught skipjack tuna. We also found these cans of wild caught Alaskan pink salmon. Eat out of the can, or cook some pasta and toss in the fish, some olive oil, and a few capers.
Though it doesn't have the shelf life of canned goods, hard cheeses like aged Gouda, and Pecorino Romano will last for weeks without refrigeration.
Hard Italian salami goes great sliced with cheese. Add red wine and candles. What hurricane?
Speaking of wine..this crate is easier to store than bottles, won't break, and is somewhat more upscale than a cardboard box. One crate (about $49.99) equals four bottles.
No electricity means no Mr. Coffee. Buy a French Press. It makes a better tasting cup than the automatic drip machines, anyway.
Hot sauce jazzes up anything.
Instead of peanut butter, try tahini spread, which can be used with both sweet jams, or by itself.
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Crackers, crackers, and lots of crackers. Always. Use with cheese and meats, spread that tuna on them. They're your versatile port in a storm.
Chocolate gives you a little burst of energy, plus it's a little ray of sunshine on a blustery day.
Soy milk, rice milk, almond milk are all great, bur remember once you open the carton it needs to be kept chilled. Buy these little lunchbox sized cartons instead. Not a good value..until you have to throw away spoiled leftovers.