Remembering Hugo, Awaiting Irma

By: Chaunte McClure

Today reminds me of that warm, late summer afternoon in September 1989 when the threat of Hurricane Hugo had South Carolina residents on alert. I was in the eighth grade and vaguely recall standing in the courtyard in front of our high school as the light breeze brushed our faces and mangled our hair as my friends and I talked about little of nothing.

Fast forward 24, or maybe 48, hours and my family awoke to a quiet house with no electricity or running water. That was the state of our community for a few days. Bottled water was not a household grocery item in those days when scrunchies and leg warmers were accessories.

With Irma on the horizon, grocery stores are trying to keep up with the demand for bottled water. I’ve heard story after story and I’ve seen photo after photo of empty shelves where 24-packs of water are usually stocked. I’m sure my grandparents filled empty milk jugs with water in preparation for Hugo. When that stock nearly ran out, we journeyed to Mr. Howard’s house to refill our containers. Mr. Howard still had an old hand water pump. Though weathered from years of outdoor exposure, that rusty pump poured some of the coolest, best tasting water. I doubt anyone in my hometown still has one except for use as antique décor in their flower garden. Before Irma makes landfall in Florida and maybe Georgia and South Carolina, I’m sure many people will probably reminisce about that throwback water source.

I was in my garage Saturday and discovered three bottles of the water left from the 1,000-year flood experience of 2015 when we were without water for about three days. I’ll use those first (not for drinking), should circumstances warrant it. Unlike in 2015, this time, I’ll remember to fill the bathtubs with water in case we lose power.

I’ve seen a couple other good tips on preparing for a storm on Facebook the past couple of nights, neither of which I’ve heard of before. One of my friends shared a post from delish.com with a tip on determining if the food in your freezer completely thawed during a power outage while you were away. Here’s the tip: “You put a cup of water in your freezer. Freeze it solid and then put a quarter on top of it and leave it in your freezer. That way when you come back after you’ve been evacuated you can tell if your food went completely bad and just refroze or if it stayed Frozen while you were gone. If the quarter has fallen to the bottom of the cup that means all the food defrosted and you should throw it out. But if the quarter is either on the top or in the middle of the cup then your food may still be ok.”  – Sheila Pulanco Russell

Another Facebook tip that has gone viral from a Facebook user is on substitutes for sandbags. Edward Sweat says, “Plastic bags [garbage bags] 1/3 filled with water make good substitutes for sandbags at doorways.” And in the event water enters your house, he advises using paint cans or five-gallon buckets to support and elevate your furniture.

At this hour, the path of the storm is still unclear, but the best advice I have for you is to be safe and be prepared when and if Irma arrives.

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