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Finished the hurricane prep? Here’s a “forgot this for Irma” checklist

By Linda Grist Cunningham, editor and proprietor

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.


As if we weren’t bollixed enough. A hurricane trolling the Keys? Really? We knew it was going to happen. It’s hurricane season. Mother Nature doesn’t care one whit if we’re stressed with Covid-19 and what appear to be Revelations’ end-times plagues.

Here we sit, out in the middle of the big blue ocean, tied precariously to the mainland with three umbilical cords for electricity, water and internet, refreshing constantly Mike’s Weather Page and the Key West National Weather Service to see how close and how big is this next pox upon our lives. All things being equal, tropical storm Isaias (ees-ah-EE-ahs) will be named and upon us shortly.

Chances are decent that this weekend’s “weather event” will be more tropical storm than hurricane, but ‘lest one forget, tropical storm winds 39-60 mph can blow over trees, lift the loose bits on your roof, send coconuts spiraling through your windows, tear down power lines and generally make for a quite miserable couple of days, particularly if there’s a lot of rain.

There’s but one thing to do: Drag out the tattered and torn hurricane prep lists and get cracking. (Actually, you should have done this a week ago, but, hey, I understand.) The best list for emergency prep comes from (and you may not believe this) the feds. Head to 

Ranger Ed and I split up the hurricane prep lists: He does the heavy lifting things like shutters and elevating inside stuff at least three feet off the floor. I do the toilet paper and food checklists and the important paperwork. I swear a lot when I do the paperwork. Important docs are downloaded from the web to an external portable drive; others I have to scan and upload to the same drive. Takes forever, but guarantees that I have an electronic copy of such things as insurance papers, emergency contact info, accounts, medical records for us and the Cat 5s, prescriptions and the list goes on. I don’t bother with paper copies of most things because these days, they’re sitting somewhere in the cloud. As long as I have them on my thumb drive or have access to the web, I can get what I need.

We learned a lot back in 2017 when Ranger Ed and the Cat 5s stayed on island during Hurricane Irma. (I’d been off-island visiting my mom and couldn’t get back before the storm.) We’ve kept a list of “things we forgot for Irma” that completes our prep checklist:

French press: Sure, there are other ways to get a caffeine fix in a hurricane, but, gaad, I hate instant coffee. And you can’t boil water hot enough on some camp stove to make a decent pop. So, get a French press. Nothing fancy, but it’ll brew a decent couple of cups.

Camp stove: Speaking of camp stoves, get one. Your electric stove top isn’t going to work — and neither is your propane one assuming you did the right thing and unhooked it before the big blow. Your propane grill will come in handy for the bigger cooking, but a camp stove can keep you going for the smaller stuff.

Pruning saw: You don’t need a chain saw, especially if you’ve never used one before. Learning to manage that beast after a hurricane is asking for trouble. Instead, invest in a decent pruning saw. It’ll do a decent job cleaning up most of the limbs and brush we have across the island. Leave the chain saw stuff to experts. Your human limbs will be grateful.

Solar charger: Get a good one; the kind with three panels about the size of a large tablet. These things are lifesavers for keeping everything battery-powered charged and they work quickly. Phones, cameras, radios, anything that comes with a USB connection.

Solar fan: They’re a bit pricey and performance could be dicey depending on the sun, but, I’ve added one of these to my hurricane wish list. We don’t have a generator so we can’t run things like a window air conditioner. A solar fan at $250 could be a good investment.

Know where the landlines are: If you don’t have one, make nice with a neighbor who does. I haven’t re-installed our landline; but I do know which neighbors have one.

Heavy plastic bags for your toilet: Fit them over the rim below the seat. Do your duties. Wrap, tie and toss in the garbage. Even if you have running water, do not flush the toilet. Ever. Not ever. Until the city says you can, which might be days. Why? Because, yeah, it’ll look like everything flushed just splendidly. But, nah. Instead it all eventually backs up into your house and your neighbors.

I’m still waiting for someone to invent hurricane ice.



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