So a hurricane has hit your town or a major flooding event. Your family survived the disaster and it’s time to go back into your community and rebuild your lives. Here’s some of the realities that we didn’t expect about our lives after Hurricane Katrina.
- EVERYTHING takes longer, and I do mean everything. Why? Because everyone else in the community needs the same things, too. You may have been to the propane place a hundred times, and never waited for more than 10 minutes, BUT when everyone else in your community also needs propane for their FEMA trailer, the line is going to be long.
As you stand in those ridiculously long lines, you will swap horror stories. “I got 1 ft of water.” “My roof was completely ripped off.” You will be reminded that everyone has it better and worse than you.
- Unexpected problems will arise. If the flooding is more than about 18”, it will get in your outlets and damage your electrical system. It will also damage the motor in your washing machine. “No problem,” you think, “I’ll just go to the laundromat.” Except the one down the street got flooded, too. You drive across town to another laundromat. On the front door, there’s a big sign. “No flood clothes”. They are concerned about the mud and mold damaging their machines.
IF they do accept flood clothes, be prepared to wait a REALLY long time because see #1. “No problem,” you think, “I’m a prepper. I”ll just do it by hand.” Except, you have spent all your time and energy gutting your house, scrubbing mud and mold off what you could save, and driving around to find a laundromat that will take them. Believe me when I say this won’t be appealing.
- Waiting in lines will be an excellent source of communication about resources. It is how you will find out what is open and what is not, which grocery stores have been restocked. Be prepared to swap tales and chat. This is where you will glean some of your best information.
- Flood water isn’t just water. It is water, mud, car fluids (think about all the cars stewing in the flood), mystery chemicals from people’s garages, and worse mystery chemicals from businesses like pest control and contractors. IF the water does not drain right away, but instead sits in your house for days, there are things in your home that you will not be able to save that you expect to save. Pots, pans, and dishes can’t be just washed off. The stuff in the water will permanently etch and damage their surfaces. As an aside, my husband was working in a used video game store after Katrina. The water may damage the machines, but the games themselves MIGHT be okay with a rinse off, IF they didn’t sit in the nasty water for weeks.
- Expect months of things not being readily available. The more commonly used the item is the easier it will be to replace. My oldest son had just crossed into the “young men’s” shoe sizes. It started to get a little chilly in late October. He was wearing sandals when we evacuated in August. I drove all around town trying to find him a pair of slip on or velcro tennis shoes. No one had them in his size. “No problem,” I think, “I’ll order them online.” By this point, it’s the beginning of November. Shipping is 5-7 days. Not a big deal, the mail, FedEx and UPS were running again. I would check the tracking.
My package would make it an hour or two away from me, then I would see a message, “Delay due to disaster zone” My package would then turn around and head north. I would call FedEx and plead for my delivery to be delivered. It would get an hour or two away and the cycle would repeat. We didn’t get those shoes until the beginning of December, by which point we had already experienced our first freeze. ( I put my son in 2 pairs of socks with his sandals. Not pretty or stylish, but his toes were warm enough.)
- Forget about restocking things at thrift stores. They got flooded, too. When they restock from out of town, everyone else will be there too.
- Ever dreamed about when you retire that you and your spouse will hit the open road in an RV? Yeah, the reality of being forced to live in one is much different. First, if it’s a FEMA trailer, you don’t get to pick it. You don’t get to choose the decor or style that would make the most sense for your family. You get what they give you. Second, you will be storing precious mementos and remnants of your old life for “When we get our house back….” Third, even the items that you replace won’t necessarily be designed for the trailer, because you will be planning for “When we get our house back….”
- As businesses begin to reopen, you will have to return to work. No extra days off to deal with your home because the business needs to be cleaned. There will be less time and more work. Any and all conveniences will be appreciated. Be prepared to eat lots of MRE’s, TV dinners, etc… Remember, the fast food place down the street got flooded, too. Everyone will be in the same boat. Everything takes longer, but everyone wants businesses to stay open longer, which in turn means, that you will have less time to do the things that you need to do.
- The hardest thing for most of us will be saying “YES” to help. People from all over will want to help. They will reach out to your church, school, homeschool group, etc…. They will want to help. The self-sufficient person that you are will look around and think. “I don’t need donations. I have insurance,” “I have savings,” “I have family,” OR “Others have it so much worse than me.”
Learn to say “yes, thank you so much” You see, this person found YOU. They didn’t find that other person that you know needs more help than you. They want to help. When you say yes, you not only let them help but you are given choices. You can use the donation yourself. Believe me, in a flood you will be “nickel and dimed” to death. There are so many hidden expenses.
Maybe you could replace your towels yourself, but since towels were given to you, you can afford to replace an extra pair of shoes. OR you can give it to the person that you know needs the help more than you. You can never repay the person who helps you. The $10 that is given when you really need it isn’t just $10, it’s $10 plus hope and the ability to go on. Thank people who help you profusely, but pay it forward later, when to someone else it is $10 plus hope.
- Government programs and big charities are very much fill in the blank organizations. You need food. You get standard issue food boxes. If you have food allergies or picky eaters, tough. The saying, “Beggars can’t be choosy” takes on new meaning. We began to refer to FEMA as “Fix Everything my A$$”. You are told to take the help you get and be grateful.
But when you need shoes, and all they have are pants, how grateful can you be? The number one lesson is to be prepared for anything and everything that you can be. Nothing will turn out how you expect it to in a disaster situation.
In a flooding disaster, the first inch of water is the most devastating. The water ruins floors and everything that touches the water.
Be prepared, as well as you can, but expect to find that you weren’t as prepared as you thought.