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August 25, 2011

Hurricane Lantern
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:01 AM * 132 comments

Six years ago at Making Light, in Katrina: Not your usual weather disaster story, Miss Teresa wrote:

By the way, New York City is also vulnerable to hurricanes. Making Light is in a Zone C evacuation area, which means that in the event of a major hurricane making landfall south of the city, we’ll be flooded. That’s as opposed to the large swathes of the city that are Zone A evacuation areas. Zone C means “get out”; Zone A means “get out or die.”
Projected track of hurricane Irene (2011) Now, on New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) page, we read:
Hurricane Irene Approaches U.S. East Coast
OEM is closely monitoring Hurricane Irene as it approaches the East Coast. While the forecast remains uncertain, there is a possibility New York City may experience hurricane or tropical storm conditions this weekend. OEM urges New Yorkers to find out if they live in a hurricane evacuation zone and take steps to prepare for heavy rain, storm surge, and strong winds.

Now might be a good time to review one’s emergency plans and supplies.

Irene on CNN
Hurricane Evacuation Zone Finder
Real emergency preparedness
Emergency preparedness redux
Tips for an apocalypse

Index to Medical Posts


Comments on Hurricane Lantern:
#1 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 12:37 AM:

Battery operated camping lanterns, acquired and tested.

All the extra batteries in the world, ditto.

Clearance picnic cooler, also acquired.

Bottled water, check.

Currently working on filling the various sport bottles in the house with water and sticking them in the freezer, to be ice packs for the cooler.

Food supplies we can eat without cooking, check. Our stove is electric.

Supermarket sells 20lb bags of ice. Will buy closer to probable need, to avoid pre-emptive melting.

Car chargers for phones and electronics, check.

Plan to leave the electronics plugged in (on a surge suppressor) until peril is highly imminent, so they'll have full charges: check.

There's at least ONE battery-operated radio in the house, plus there are car radios.

Housemate's iPhone can supply emergency Internet.

I think we're good.

#2 ::: meredith ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 12:46 AM:

I was just looking up a friend's address on the NYC OEM site to see if she's in an evacuation zone. The resulting map came up colorless, so I assume that means she's ok (LES of Manhattan). ??

Here in New Haven we're not in an area where we have to worry about flooding, but I am eyeing the trees in our leafy neighborhood warily. At least the Boxing Day Blizzard last year took care of that annoying big dead tree next door (that missed our car by inches when it came down).

I've put fresh batteries in our NOAA weather radio, unearthed the hand-crank radio, and gathered batteries for the flashlights and camping lanterns. We have a gas stove, but need to get some more non-perishable food in the house. I'm sure we'll lose power at some point.

Whee!!! For certain gritted-teeth values of "whee". I remember Gloria, which ended up changing my life in several not-good only-kind-of-indirect ways. I'm hoping Irene is just an annoying windy rainy day.

Stay safe, everybody.

#3 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 12:55 AM:

Ungh. Gloria. "Blown by Gloria, ####ed by Lilco." My college apartment didn't have electricity for a week or so.

OTOH, it was very interesting seeing the eye go over. Clear blue sky with rapidly moving white clouds.

Hey, IRENE! I hear that Texas could really use the moisture and a break from the heat. Any chance you can make a detour?

#4 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 01:34 AM:

I don't remember seeing Gloria's eye pass over. Then again, my mother would have had a conniption if I'd shown interest in going outside, so that was that.

We had a %$#@!ing lot of yard cleanup to do after.

#5 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 02:42 AM:

National Hurricane Center
Notify NYC
NYC OEM on Twitter

It's hard to know what to think. According to this map, we're above the potential flood zone. According to this one, we're in Evacuation Zone C. In any event, we're only in danger of flooding if we get hit at just the right spot by a really big hurricane -- and if that happens, the whole region is going to be a mess.

Where would we hole up? What would we do with Lucius? And how would we get there if the subways are flooding?

I don't envy the neighbors a few doors down for the huge gum tree in front of their house. I hope the badly constructed elevated porch the Azerbaijanis built on the back of their house won't collapse. I hope the guttering on the house on the other side of us doesn't dump all its water into our back yard, because the last time it did that, the basement flooded. And I'm glad I don't own any of the buildings along 4th Ave., because their basements get flooded every time a thunderstorm stalls over this part of the city.

#6 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 02:55 AM:

No zone for us on any of the maps, which is what I expected. Prospect Heights is pretty well-elevated.

I suppose we should make sure of our provisions.

#7 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 03:51 AM:

We seem to be getting remakes of everything.

Conan the Barbarian is quite enough, thank you.

#8 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 07:39 AM:

According to T's whole-island map, I'm in trouble. Welcome to Long Island! First I get an earthquake, now this. I'm on the second floor, and I just recently found my flashlight...but I have an electric stove, no cooler, and hardly any provisions. I think the school has generators, but the road here is full of trees that will probably fall over. I'll just trust to luck, I think, and enjoy the complacency that comes of having lived through a great many hurricanes on the upper Texas coast. (Pre-global-warming, yes, I know they weren't as intense back then.)

#9 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 07:53 AM:

The $25 10-day car kit would probably make a dandy $25 apartment kit.

#10 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 08:18 AM:

TexAnne #8--So, does the school have a plan? One would think it would be a good idea if they did.

#11 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 08:33 AM:

fidelio, 10: It seems to be "go to the big old building with the generator, which just so happens to be right by the harbor." OTOH it has 3 stories, several landlines, and some interior, window-free rooms. Fortunately the first batch of students doesn't arrive until Monday (or later, if the roads are full of trees).

#12 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 08:35 AM:

Texanne -- if you can. check the pharmacies for a cooler on end-of-summer clearance. My supermarket didn't have any summer merchandise left, but the pharmacy had a ton. Even if you only get one big enough for a half gallon of milk, milk and cereal will cover a bunch of meals. Plus peanut butter and your substrate of choice, if you're not allergic. I feel you on the electric stove.

And, if you're a caffeine person, don't forget to get a reasonable supply of caffeine that doesn't require boiling water. I laid in a couple of glass-bottle Mexican Cokes as coffee substitutes, because I know I'll be a lot less functional without access to coffee, and I don't fancy eating the grounds.

That, plus enough light to knit by, ought to carry you through without much hassle.

#13 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 08:39 AM:

Rikibeth: Good idea. I'll see if I can find a pharmacy when I'm out today. I'm also wondering if the blue ice in my freezer will do for a bit. I have cereal, PNB, and bread for daily survival use, and one lonely bottle of Mexican Coke; no idea where to get it here, though I'm sure it exists. I would have been *much* happier with Irene if she'd arrived *two* weeks after I got here, instead of just one. OTOH, not having to worry about students is going to make life easier.

#14 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 09:08 AM:

TexAnne: blue ice is good. That plus even an insulated lunch bag and a container of milk that fits it should be adequate for a couple of days, I suspect.

I know where to find the Mexican Coke in my area, but no clue about its availability in yours. I have noticed that the grocery stores serving neighborhoods with a higher Latin@ population are more likely to have it -- go figure, right? I could also give you my brother's phone number, as he's local to you and might have a line on it. (Not a matchmaking attempt, he's happily married!) The other thing I know about it is that Costco in the Boston area carries it by the case.

All else fails for caffeine, there's No-Doz. *pleh pleh pleh*

#15 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 09:17 AM:

My own non-liquid caffeine source of preference is chocolate covered espresso beans. Yes, they're a bit crunchy (in a "why are there coffee grounds in my chocolate?" sort of way) but I got over that fairly quickly. I keep a box in the back of the fridge for mornings when I'm getting myself out of the house unassisted and not competent to brew coffee until I've -had- coffee.

Also, if you plan on eating canned food, make sure you have a non-electric (manual) can opener.

I will be glad when this storm is past because I've had the earworm "Goodnight Irene" stuck in my head for a week now and am ready to move on.

#16 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 09:21 AM:

Make sure you've got extra cash in small bills. Few things hamper you as badly as not having usable money.

#17 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 09:34 AM:

If you've got an essential ground-level drain that has to stay clear of debris, and you've got a big colander or wire strainer, consider putting the strainer over the drain and wedging it in place with a few bricks. You may still have to go out and clear debris to keep your runoff running off, but it takes more debris to choke a strainer than a drain cover.

#18 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 09:36 AM:

Rikibeth: freezing the milk works too.

#19 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 09:49 AM:

No zone for me; which isn't a shock, as I'm relatively inland (LES). Interestingly, this time next month I'm moving to the Financial District, which is technically in either Zone C or Zone B, but I'm less worried about anything happening in my new place than my old. What I'm most worried about, actually, is that my ceiling still has a hole in it. (I need out of this apartment so much.)

Thankfully, the worst won't start until I'm back home from my trip out of town this weekend. (I say "thankfully" because that way I can change the bucket myself, instead of trusting to my current landlord...who isn't especially trustworthy. Did I mention I need out of this apartment so much?)

#20 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 09:49 AM:

TexAnne: You may be near the harbor, but at least you're not on the Atlantic-facing* south shore, like I am. I wasn't here for Gloria, but this area was completely underwater for that one. The nasty flooding on the North Shore tends to come from nor'easters.

*My job is a quarter mile from the Atlantic; my apartment a little less than a mile. I live on the second floor, but if Irene's really heading this way, I'll be evacuating.

#21 ::: Torrilin ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 09:58 AM:

Since it has been much admired by friends and family who end up borrowing it because they forgot their own...

solar flashlights from Energizer. We have the ones with solar cells and hand cranks. Paired with a hiking style headlamp, you end up with pretty decent lighting options. You can find Energizer branded flashlights in most big box stores, and the Solar line tends to be hiding in with camping gear. At this point, most big box stores also sell cheap headlamps in with their camping gear, so you can get both at once.

I haven't tried the other solar flashlights. I was specifically looking for something suitable for backup use for a very forgetful person. Namely, me. We have 'em at the ratio of one per person. If we had cars, I'd also make sure each car had one.

If I really need a flashlight tho, I prefer the headlamp. Hang it around your neck and you can't lose it or put it down somewhere unfortunate.

For reasons that are mysterious to me, it is difficult to find weather radios that are inexpensive and also rejoice in both solar cells and a hand crank.

#22 ::: -dsr- ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 10:11 AM:

Caffeine addicts: discover the pleasures of cold brewed coffee.

1. Find a stone or glass jar large enough. For me, 1 gallon is about right. Find a second jar that's about 20-25% smaller. You might be fine with a quart jar and a 24 oz jar.

2. In the large jar: for each quart of capacity, add 1 cup of medium grind coffee. Then fill with fresh cold water, close the jar, and shake. Put it in a cool dark place for 12-24 hours.

3. Filter the large jar's delicious cold brewed coffee into the smaller jar. You can use cheesecloth, coffee filters, a sufficiently fine colander... whatever.

4. If you refrigerate leftovers, it can theoretically last for a month or so. I've never had leftovers that long.

Cold brewing coffee transfers approximately all of the caffeine and flavor, but almost no acid. Mediocre coffee beans taste quite nice; good coffee beans make amazing coffee.

Do not use artificially flavored coffee. Really.

#23 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 10:19 AM:

I'd made plans a few weeks ago to catch some theater in NYC this Saturday. I'm thinking now that this may be a bad weekend go to go NYC. (i.e., I'm not sure riding a bus back to Boston between midnight and 4am Sunday morning is really my best move, assuming that buses will even be running.) *sigh*

#24 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 10:30 AM:

Bus between Boston and NYC on Sunday, not your best option. I've been in a Greyhound bus stranded by bad weather, and it wasn't amusing.

#25 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 10:45 AM:

Teresa: I guess as emergency preparedness, freezing the milk is useful, and probably not even yucky with skim milk, but it's been my experience (hi, Pennsic) that 1% and 2% milk separate under this treatment, and become yucky. Pleh pleh pleh. Still, good to remember.

-dsr-: can that cold brewed coffee be made to work with fine grind? My default coffee these days is Bustelo brewed Melitta drip-style.

Also, if the power's out, I can't heat up the coffee with the microwave, and I really like hot coffee better than iced. Hence the emergency Coke supplies.

#26 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 10:46 AM:

Hm. Good point about travel--well, hopefully my Sunday-afternoon train from Springfield will escape the worst.

*shrug* Or it won't. Either way, I'll deal.

#27 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 10:49 AM:

Torrilin, those solar flashlights sound good. What we got was a Coleman mini-quad lantern, which runs off AA batteries, and has belt clips for the individual lamp units. Maybe not as awesome as a headlamp, but still provides hands-free utility. And it was $30 at Target, which was a contributing factor -- REI's website said our local store was out of stock on some of the better, inexpensive options.

#28 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 10:58 AM:

Torrilin #21 - the company founded out of Balyiss' clockwork radio idea has what seems a reasonably cheap radio with wind up and solar panel:

Regarding lights, what you need depends on what you want to use it for, but there's a fantastic variety of LED torches now, ranging from dirt cheap to over priced, with battery lifetimes measurably in days to half an hour. I've gone a little crazy over modern LED lights since I got a 1AA one last year. Still using the same battery, it has travelled in my pockets all over the country, spent 2 months outside in snow and ice when I dropped it, and still works fine. Moreover, most of them use modern electronics to maintain the same brightness throughout the life of the battery, none of this very bright for 2 minutes, dropping over time to dim at one hour. If you aren't using them intensely, the efficiency of the LED really cuts out the need for huge piles of batteries.

Of course the colour rendering isn't so good so I wouldn't use one for artistic purposes, and the cheaper ones don't have any option to zoom/ wide angle because LED's don't do that very well.

#29 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 11:03 AM:

In fact they've got a smaller version at £20:

#30 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 11:14 AM:

Good luck all. I lived on Long Island about 20 miles from the city, and remember Hurricane Edna in the mid-fifties, and Donna in 1960. Donna was a bigger storm but we were flooded out of our neighborhood during Edna and had to evacuate.

Don't forget to make plans for the pets and to stock up on pet food.

#31 ::: -dsr- ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 11:28 AM:

Rikibeth @25:

Yeah, you can use fine grind, but it's more of a pain to filter that way. I would recommend a cheesecloth for that.

I like to make a big batch of cold brew once a week, and drink it the rest of the week. Strength should be about equivalent to espresso, so you may want to dilute it.

#32 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 11:35 AM:

ThinkGeek has a key-chain-sized USB charger, suitable for a good range of small devices, along with the Power Monkey, whch can be charged up in a wall outlet; they also have some small solar panels for similar use. None of those would run really large equipment, but they could well be useful for the small things that can make a big difference. (Shall I tell you what it was like to have to charge the cell phone in the car, after the 1998 Nashville tornado, because all the landline phones in the place were the portable sort--which won't work without electricity, even if the phone lines are intact? Or should I just let that slide and say: two weeks without power--so very much fun!) There are also lots of solar chargers for re-chargeable batteries out there, as well as solar lanterns and such. Given the space that batteries can take up (to say nothing of the weight!) a recharging option not dependent upon your electrical utility or lots of notice that a power outage may be in your future sounds good to me

Last fall while at Tractor Supply, I saw they were selling portable solar panels, aimed at the hunting/camping crowd. They also carry them combined with gate and fencing systems. I can't begin to say how unlikely that would have seemed 10 years ago, just like the little solar garden lights you now see everywhere. If you happen to have those outside, they can be handy to drag inside to use in places like bathrooms--they recharge with fairly low light levels.

#33 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 11:49 AM:

I'm in Hoboken, in the lowest-lying part (the part that was water 150 years ago). This area floods in ordinary heavy rain (we've had cars floating on this very block), and the mayor sent out an email yesterday saying that even areas that don't ordinarily flood will be affected. I live on the 4th floor, but power is definitely an issue (gas stove, but still).

If the storm tracks as currently predicted, we'll be in trouble here on Sunday.

Currently trying to hedge my bet between shelter-in-place and evacuate. I have a big honkin' LED flashlight that's both rechargeable and crankable (though if the charge really goes all the way down the crank doesn't appear to be effective), a solar/crankable radio, and some smaller flashlights.

I've got some icepacks, and I'm going to fill my freezer with as much water as possible, and put as much liquid in my refrigerator as possible. If I evacuate I'll put most of the ice in the refrigerator before I go, to keep as much food as possible during any outage. Of course if I shelter in place I'll move the ice only if an outage occurs.

I'm pretty limited in what I'm eating so far, and so non-perishable needs-no-cooking things are even more limited, but I think I've got a set of things that may work.

Mostly I'm hoping Irene turns away from the coast (either way) before it gets near us. That hope diminishes with each passing day, however.

#34 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 12:05 PM:

Also, I saw someone on LJ in the East Hampton area who was considering sheltering in their basement.

This is a Bad Idea. While it would work just dandy for a tornado, a hurricane is not a tornado, although it may bring tornados with it.

Most of you can already guess why sheltering in the basement during a hurricane visitation is a dangerous idea; for those who aren't shaking your heads and muttering the equivalent of "Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!", hurricanes cause massive flooding. They push large amounts of water up onto the shore when they hit land; the storm surge from Andrew was close to 17 feet; Katrina's was around 28 feet, and on the Mississippi coast (compare to the south coast of Long Island for general topography), flooding reached 6 to 12 miles inland. You don't want to be in the basement for that. Here is a picture which should be worth 1000 of my words. The little house in the picture doesn't have a basement; if it did it would be full of water.

Also, Irene dropped 20 inches of rain in Puerto Rico; this sort of rain in a very short time is likely to give any basement problems, no matter how nice and dry it is the rest of the time. Even if you aren't close to the water but live in a coastal town, there's an excellent chance the water will be close to you during the storm.

Interior rooms without windows (think walk-in closets, bathrooms, even hallways) are good places. Failing those, rooms on the side of the house farthest from where the storm hits will at least give you more structure between you and the storm.

If you hear or read someone mention taking shelter in the basement for a hurricane, don't let it slide. This is a really bad idea. It could be fatally bad. Even away from the coast, the storm is likely to bring more rain at one time than the areas's drainage can handle. Sure, the Weather Channel and other sources talk a lot about the high winds, but the water is more likely to kill you.

#35 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 12:13 PM:

Solar chargers and batteries are great, if you can charge them. Using sunshine. Which may not be available for some hours or even days following a hurricane. All the ones I've seen require direct sunlight and are not so happy with cloudy days. NYC may have better stuff available, though. I would want regular batteries for first use, then solar if the emergency goes on longer than a few days.

If you need to keep an iDevice charged, a cig lighter charger in your car ought to work, providing you have or can find a car after the storm. Failing that, Griffin makes a wall charger with a battery insert. The battery on mine is good for 2/3rds of a totally dead iPod. Is not stellar, but there may be more robust charger-battery packs out there.

Also consider if a UPS would make sense. They're not so bulky as they used to be, and I believe they have normal power outlets. If you do not have to evacuate, they might be suitable for a limited alternate power source even in an apartment.

Regarding milk: UVH (I think, might be UHV?) milk comes in quart cartons and has a shelf life of something around 6 months. You need to chill it after opening, but if you use it up within a few hours, that is not a concern. It is, imo, not horrid, the way concentrated canned milk is horrid. I've had it in coffee and even over cereal, and used it for making up soups and so on when camping and it behaves like regular milk.

#36 ::: Phiala ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 12:39 PM:

I'm traveling today, from nice safe central Pennsylvania (rain predicted) to New Jersey (tropical storm conditions predicted).

I have a few things packed - flashlights, spare water, fully-charged electronics, but most of the storm planning is on someone else's plate. Which makes me a bit nervous, but I don't expect to get terribly serious weather where I'm going to be.

I'm teaching a five-day weaving class, so there's LOTS of yarn packed. And really, what else do I need?

#37 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 12:54 PM:


And for small-quantity milk users there's always the single-serving lunchbox packages of UV-treated milk, juice, etc. I think I've seen soups this way, too. Yes, it's more packaging than I'm happy with under ordinary circumstances, but for various combinations of non-ordinary circumstances (like, say, soft diet + impending weather-emergency?) I think they'd be perfect.

We are not engaging in any unusual preparedness up here yet. Inland + elevation = minimal water threat; we might have falling tree issues but that's a problem that doesn't bear much advance mitigation (other than "guess which side of the house the neighbors' trees might land on and sleep on the other side"). I will probably bring my yard ornaments and lawn furniture inside on Saturday just to avoid having to fish them up out of the pool on Monday.

#38 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 12:54 PM:

Pericat @ 35: I believe that you are referring to "UHT" milk. UHT stands for Ultra-High Temperature, and is a way of pasturizing milk. This is the stuff that comes in boxes like juice boxes, only bigger.

#39 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 01:15 PM:

pericat @35--it doesn't take direct sunlight for all solar devices to function--they'll charge, although more slowly, in cloudy weather. A remarkable amount of light gets through overcast; some people can even sunburn through a light overcast.

Certainly, having charged batteries--regular or rechargeable--on hand for immediate use is important. But those two weeks of keeping the cell phone charged through the car's cigarette lighter, so as to maintain contact with people like the insurance company have left their mark on me. Extra ways to charge things are a good plan.

#40 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 01:16 PM:

Rikibeth @ 25

Bustelo works great for cold-process coffee--it's what I use. I just run it through a tea strainer, then a regular drip coffee filter.

Also, strong cold-process coffee mixed equal parts with sweetened condensed milk is awesome if you like Vietnamese coffee.

#41 ::: meredith ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 01:20 PM:

Now on Connecticut Public Radio: "Worst Case Scenario" disaster preparedness with Colin McEnroe and a panel of local experts. Listen here. It'll re-run at 8pm EST this evening, too. Despite the title, there's a whole lot of useful information getting disseminated here.

Local fire captain just mentioned that all the batteries in the world won't help your flashlights when the bulbs burn out. The typical flashlight bulb is only good for 6-12 hours. Food for thought, and good reason to go LED if you can.

#42 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 02:09 PM:

I found out during Ice Storm '98 that you can boil water in a fondue pot (the kind with either liquid or gel fuel, not a candle, of course). I used mine to make multiple cups of coffee and tea, as well as heat up many many many cans of soup.

I got very tired of soup. I now have other emergency foodstuffs habitually in the house.

Take appropriate care of an open flame indoors, of course.

#43 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 02:10 PM:

My most often-repeated hurricane (or big storm) in NYC tip: Do Not Shelter in the Subways.

This is, shockingly, the answer the vast majority of people give when asked where they would go if there was a big storm.

It is the Wrong Answer.

The subways will _flood_. They have done so in the past, and within the last 15 years the subways in Queens have at least twice flooded to the point where they did not function, though not to the point where anyone drowned.

I'm most concerned about stuff blowing around in my neighborhood; many, many of the local buildings have scaffolding up and construction going on. Many buildings have terraces, on which people keep all kinds of furnishings, including hibachis and planters, or have lovely decorated rooflines.

Last September, between the microburst and the tornado, many people I know lost windows and terrace enclosures to branches and other flying debris. And my building's back garden now has a lovely selection of Adirondack lawn furniture, which I am hoping will be brought inside before Sunday.

Meanwhile, I have purchased a couple of new flashlights and many batteries (can't have too many AA anyway--the Wiimotes eat them on a regular basis) as well as 2 pairs of work gloves (the broken glass coffeetable incident of a couple of months ago brought home to me that I no longer owned work gloves; this has now been rectified, and I bought the teen a pair as well).

Will buy water tonight. Stove is gas. Have tape for windows. Am wondering if I should buy a couple of tarps, just in case.

#44 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 02:19 PM:

Those considering shelter in place should also how they will fare with no air conditioning. Possibly for days.

If you're behind on your laundry, try to catch up now. At least a load of socks and underwear. (This is obviously easier if you don't have to leave your home to do it.) Or if you're out shopping for batteries, toss a six-pack of undies and a bag of socks in your cart. You can always use some new undies or socks, or return them if you don't use them.

If you're wanting some candles (not necessarily recommended, but some people like to have them) and the store is out, go around to the Mexican food section. They might still have some big devotional candles in glass. These last a long time and sport pictures of saints for added protection. (Hey, it can't hurt )

#45 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 02:43 PM:

Or, in some neighborhoods, yarzheit candles, also in glass jars. They'll burn for roughly 24 hours.

#46 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 02:58 PM:

* TexAnne: Around Passover, stores in certain LI neighborhoods stock up on Kosher for Passover Coke. It has sugar instead of corn syrup. Stock up then! It keeps pretty well.

* Sterno and an enamel camping cup (or small pot) can be used to efficiently heat up water to be used with instant coffee, powdered soups, or "cup o noodles" type meals.

You can recover the Sterno can for relighting later.

You could probably rig up a "stove" to hold the mug by punching vent holes in a big can (e.g. Dinty Moore stew). Have some pot holders handy.

* Powdered milk can be reconstituted by the glass or pint. In other words, enough for a glass with dinner or for cereal and coffee in the morning. I forget the ratio, but you can likely find it on the web. (HERE! (1 cup milk is 1 cup water and 1/3 cup milk powder.)

Use a glass jar to mix it. Just be sure to clean it out well before the next batch.

* Wash out a half-gallon plastic milk or OJ container. Cut off the top. Prop a wind-up flashlight inside, shining up on the former bottom. The diffracted light illuminates a room well enough for walking around and finding things purposes.

* Duct tape and cheap plastic tarps or drop cloths for covering busted windows.

#47 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 03:09 PM:

Is it even possible to evacuate either NYC or Long Island? This has been bugging me for years--because by the time one knows something is heading that way, I just don't see any practical way for large numbers of people to leave, even if it's recommended and they want to, with so few ways in and out.

#48 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 03:16 PM:

Janni @47: Practically speaking, no. The problem is that the decision to evacuate has to be made really, really far in advance--like we'd have to be evacuating today, already, for a Sunday storm--and experience tells us that most people will not leave this far ahead of the looming disaster.

If the warning is given later, the limited number of ways on and off LI and Manhattan make evacuation of the total population well-nigh impossible (plus, where would everyone go? I can't see Scarsdale welcoming millions of NYers).

Most NYC evacuation plans consist of "move people away from the low-lying areas." Thankfully, NYC is not flat, though many people seem to think it is, so there are some areas which will be above water even in a really big storm.

That said, I do not believe we have had any evacuation drills of any real value in many, many years, if ever. I suspect most people do not know where they are to evacuate to if they live in an area subject to flooding or storm surge.

NY is particularly badly positioned wrt storm surge. We've lost islands already and there isn't much of a barrier island left between south Brooklyn and the sea.

Most of Brooklyn will be okay, as will most of Queens, though the finger of Flushing Bay that sticks into Flushing Meadows Park will make life interesting for some.

(yes, I'm a weather geek. Plus I edited a book about a giant hurricane smashing into NYC about 4 years ago.)

#49 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 03:20 PM:

Cantor Spox: If There’s Hurricane Damage, Costs Will Have To Be Paid For With Spending Cuts

OK. That's it. I'm officially in favor of a Syfy TV-Movie villain death for Cantor.

Like: Being washed out to sea by a storm, miraculously finding a life raft just as he's becoming too tired to tread water, and then discovering that it is full of poison snakes.

#50 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 03:21 PM:

A note about coolers: If you don't have one, your fridge will do in a pinch. It's an insulated box, just the same as any other cooler.

The big advantage of coolers (and chest freezers, for that matter) is that they open at the top, which means the cold air doesn't spill out the bottom every time you open the door. For this reason, once the power's out, try not to open your fridge. I'm imagining you could rig up something with duct tape and some kind of sheeting, block off the bottom part of the opening and leave only the top open, but I haven't tested it.

Also, obviously, coolers have drains. You'd want to make sure your ice is in something, when you put it in the fridge, so the water is collected as it melts. Otherwise you have a lot of cleanup to do.

#51 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 03:26 PM:

Janni @47: In theory, yes -- because NYC did have evacuation routes (as well as shelters) per Civil Defense directives published in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

In actuality, it would depend on how much time you have to get people out of the city, the less time available the less people make it out of the area. I don't think you can really accomplish a total evacution -- traffic alone seems to make that goal impossible. And that's not mentioning available transportation.

My guess is that the authorities will try to get everyone in Zone A to evacuate. Looking at the forecast, were I in NYC (or anywhere in Irene's path), and had I the wherewithal to do so, I'd be leaving now to beat the rush...

#52 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 03:33 PM:


Wadded beef, corn nog, and creamed eels.

#53 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 03:44 PM:

Long Island hurricane plans call for evacuating the South Shore to north of Sunrise Highway (about a quarter of the way "up" from the shore). Part of the problem is the barrier beach and other islands on the south shore. Some of them are ferry access only, others have just a few bridges connecting them to the main part of Long Island, with the routes across very low-lying areas. I live on one of those low-lying islands; to get the ~50,000 people in southern Nassau County to shelters, evacuation needs to start 18-24 hours before anticipated landfall.

#54 ::: texturedknitter ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 03:55 PM:

dsr @ 22
SamChevre @ 40

Acid-free coffee sounds amazing. If my "cool, dark place" is the refrigerator, is that an acceptable way to brew?

Per the state's request to conserve energy, it's 80F inside my house, and Oh-God-Are-You-Serious outside, so I don't really have any option other than the fridge.

#55 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 04:02 PM:

I'm in a B zone edge bleeding into a C zone. The emergency shelter is a couple of blocks away. My husband is on the west coast. He changed his plans to get back late tomorrow night because of this. At least we're not on the Atlantic side of lower Manhattan. But our building's basement has flooded twice this year already -- never flooded all the years before that we've lived here. Windows ....

El V wants us to leave town, but as he doesn't even get into the airport until 9 PM -- I sort of feel leaving town may not be an option by Saturday.

Between the fire a couple of weeks ago, the earthquake Monday, it being August 25th, the after horrors of whch got all too personal enough -- I'm not in the best of emotional states. Trying to prepare intelligently as much as it is possible to do without knowing what's what.

Love, C.

Love, C.

#56 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 04:11 PM:

Melissa: That makes sense. And I know my family always evacuated LI simply to the north shore, but those were relatively small storms.

Lori: It's the traffic I see as the problem. Even on a good day, it can slow to a standstill at rush hour, and an hour's travel can take three ...

#57 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 04:14 PM:

Mary: Hadn't even thought of those islands--hoping all is well!

#58 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 04:19 PM:

Janni (57): Thanks! I'm keeping a close watch on forecasts and such, as well as making preparations for sheltering in place if that seems prudent.

--Mary Aileen

#59 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 04:21 PM:

Mary Aileen: my brother lives not too far from the Robert Moses Causeway. I expect they're planning to head north a bit, to his MIL's house.

#60 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 04:34 PM:

Where does one generally find storm surge maps? I'm scheduled to fly out of Philly early Saturday-- hopefully while there are still flights going, since the hurricane isn't expected to arrive till evening-- but airport long-term parking lots tend to be near the Delaware River, and not much higher.

This might or might not be an issue if I park by the airport-- I suspect it might be a problem if the hurricane comes straight up Delaware Bay, but quite possibly not otherwise. It'd be nice to know the estimated risks, though.

#61 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 04:49 PM:

Storm surge/hurricane evacuation maps for the Delmar peninsula.

#62 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 04:51 PM:

JMO #60--Jeff Master's latest post at Weather Underground (which is worth reading for plenty of other reasons than the links) has links to this site* as well as their own page for storm-surge maps.

*National Hurricane Center page--your tax dollars, as the folks at the Weather Channel** keep pointing out, at work.

**They get a lot of their raw data from the NWS and other NOAA agencies; without that, good-bye profit margin!

#63 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 04:53 PM:

The National Weather Service has generalized storm surge maps.

I like AccuWeather in general, though I haven't looked for storm surge maps there. is also good.

#64 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 05:15 PM:

Granted, battery-powered lanterns are better than candles. If you wind up using candles anyway, some tips:

Assume that all candles are willfully malign and desire your downfall. Always put them in a proper container. If possible, put the container in another, larger container. Do not use them near flammable objects. Remember that you belong to the class of flammable objects.

Make sure you have matches and you know where they are.

If you're getting sleepy, snuff out the candles and go to bed. Do not risk falling asleep while they're still burning.

All candles are not created equal. Plumbers' candles (if you can get them) are engineered to be long-burning. Pure beeswax candles are excellent: bright, clean, and long-lasting. Ecclesiastical candles, which tend to be 51% beeswax and 49% some other high-grade wax, are nearly as good.

Decorator candles, heavily scented candles, novelty candles, and votive candles in glass containers tend to use cheaper, nastier wax. They smoke. They melt at lower temperatures, so if they're tapers (i.e., long and relatively thin), half the wax runs down the side. If they're squat, they tend to form big pools of melted wax, which are a fire hazard. If they're all you have, use them carefully.

IKEA tea lights are decent, though you'll have to keep replacing them as they burn out.

The big glass votives with colorful saints or spiritual powers on them will last a reasonably long time unless their wicks fail, which happens more often than it should. If you don't keep a supply of candlewick braid on hand, but you do have a taper, push the taper down into the center of the glass container while the votive wax is still soft and warm. If you don't have a taper but you do have 100% cotton thread, and there are no other options, double and redouble the thread until it's thick enough to braid into a candle wick. Soak the braid with hot wax, then let it cool before you use it. (I've never tried linen, ramie, or other plant fibers, but they're probably worth a try.)

Less scent, less pigment = more wax, fewer unwanted combustion products.

Pillar candles are fickle and dangerous. Stand them in a sturdy heatproof container that's sufficiently wide and deep to catch the outflow if the inevitable pool of hot wax melts through the candle wall.

Large glass votive candles should also stand in heatproof containers. They work best when they've got at least a few inches of wax in them. If you must burn one down to nothing, do not under any circumstances leave it unattended, or let it stand on a flammable surface.

Canning jars can be pressed into service as candle holders. Treat them as you would large glass votive candles. A useful trick is to use a little melted wax to make a taper stand upright in the jar, then toss wax scraps from your other candles into the space around the taper as it burns.

If you feel you must hang up your canning jar lamp rather than setting it on a nice flat stable surface, use a hose clamp and some coathanger wire, and make the handle as long as possible. This is not something I'd leave unattended.

If you're using an oil lamp or kerosene lamp, don't top up the reservoir unless you want accidents to be as big as possible.

I once saw a linoleum Chinese takeout place that stayed open for business during a blackout by lighting their kitchen with twists of paper that had a weight of some sort in their base, and stood in recycled tuna or cat food cans filled with oil from the deep-fryer. The effect was impressive -- Mad Max does takeout -- but I emphatically do not recommend trying it yourself.

#66 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 06:11 PM:

On field-expedient cooking: The hobo stove and the buddy burner; or, Scouting Pays Off.

Note: Drinking cold coffee won't kill you. Breathing carbon monoxide will. Use combustion-supported cooking elements only in a well-ventilated area, and be aware of what surface you're on. Concrete is good. An antique varnished wooden table, not so good.

#67 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 06:17 PM:

fidelio @ 32 ...
Shall I tell you what it was like to have to charge the cell phone in the car, after the 1998 Nashville tornado, because all the landline phones in the place were the portable sort--which won't work without electricity, even if the phone lines are intact?

... and this is why I still have a lovely, heavy, rotary dial phone. Not much to go wrong with it, and a fair range of the things that could go wrong, I can fix.

#69 ::: Jenett ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 06:37 PM:

For my comparative prep: I'm a little less recently moved to a new place - Maine - than TxAnne, but have the same issue with not having had all the necessary supplies caught up, and a side order of 'recovering from 2 day stomach bug' that means I wasn't up for doing my pre-storm shopping today. Fortunately, I'm in inland Maine, and not in any likelihood of flooding (near the top of the hill), and live walking distance from downtown so I think most of my plans are of the "if the power goes out".

Other candle tips on proper containers (for lo, I am a Pagan of the sort that takes fire safety seriously...)

Assuming you do not have pets or small children who will go after them, one excellent location for lit candles you need to leave unattended for some reason is either the bathtub or the kitchen sink. Another good solution is an old aquarium with the candle in the middle, and an inch or two of water in the bottom. (Ideally, your candle is shorter than the radius of the tank, but even if it isn't, the candle's likely to snuff against the glass, not burn anything down.)

Failing that, the glass seven-day novena type candles are often handier to use and somewhat safer than non-contained candles, burn for quite a while.

You can often find them at grocery stores with good Hispanic foods sections. (Or at your local religious supply store, though depending on what religion, they may be noticeably marked up in price.)

#70 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 06:58 PM:

@38 UHT! That's it. I always screw that one up. Thanks!

@39 fidelio There are a number of little solar panel chargers on the market at the moment. My experience of the ones I've tried are that they are not yet dependable enough to be a go-to solution in this sort of situation. I haven't been able to afford the better ones, though, so there's that.

On flashlights, the little flashlights you can get in bicycle supply stores, LED bulbs, 3 AAA batteries, last months and months and you can carry them in your pocket.

#71 ::: Robert West ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 07:14 PM:

My husband and I are moving to Manhattan on Wednesday (he got into a doctoral program at Teachers' College). Needless to say, I'm somewhat nervous; the worst of the storm will have passed by then, but it's not clear that (a) airports will have reopened or (b) that the city will have recovered to normal, that quickly.

#72 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 07:17 PM:

The NYC OEM page is timing out.

I think this is a good sign, in that it means lots of folks are checking it out.

#73 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 07:24 PM:

Stefan, #3: Rain we need; hurricane, not so much. We'd welcome a tropical storm, but my memories of Ike (and the tree that came thru our roof) are still fresh enough that I'm glad this one is going elsewhere.

and @49: Is he nuts? (Well, yes, but really.) This time it isn't just a bunch of poor rural folks in Arkansas; this one is hitting some of the Big Money people who can keep him in office... or shove him out of it, if he pisses them off enough.

xeger, #67: And why we still have a hard-connected (i.e. non-portable) landline phone as well as a portable. Although that didn't do us much good after Ike -- our landline phone service was out for weeks, although our cellphone service never failed at all. Go figure.

GoodThoughts being sent for everyone in the path of the storm, that they come thru safely.

#74 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 08:05 PM:

Found my car chargers for my cell phone and my honkin' flashlight. Should have light and communication almost no matter what, or where we are.

#75 ::: little pink beast ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 08:51 PM:

What about Coleman lanterns? I think they're propane or butane fueled - not sure any more, it's been a long time since I've seen one used - but they have the little wire-mesh screen, and glass or something around that, and give a brilliant white light. My dad used to have a couple of them lighting the outbuilding he used as a forge and foundry, before he finally got around to running the electricity out to it. Obviously you'd still want to be careful about enclosed spaces, and carbon monoxide, and compressed flammable gasses, and all, but I'd think they'd be much safer than candles.

#76 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 08:54 PM:

Jim: Thanks for the links. The Delmarva maps seem to go only as far upriver as Chester, PA, but it looks like by that point the main hurricane flood threat is from upstream (by rivers flooding from heavy rain) rather than downstream (by storm surge from Delaware Bay).

Rivers are already pretty high here (this August has had the most rain ever recorded for this month, and that's before this hurricane hits), so I'll see if I can find river flood maps.

#77 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 09:45 PM:

Tomorrow I'll bring the stuff on the terrace inside; I do that for most storms because I haven't wanted to have windows broken by my own chairs. I'll do a little more shopping for food. I recently discovered cold-brewed tea and I could put up another container or two of that. I have batteries and one small bendable light with magnifier. I might try to buy another kind of lamp/light tomorrow. I checked NYC's evacuation zone map yesterday and I live in a non-evacuation area. If the winds get really bad, I can move into the elevator lobby which doesn't have any windows being in the center of the building. I survived going to work and then getting the last train north to Peekskill during Gloria. I think I'll survive.

#78 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 09:46 PM:

Jim @66, I was going to recommend that people who only have electric ranges and stoves look up backpacker and hobo stove designs (and print them out before the power goes off), but then I wondered whether you'd approve. That was cowardly of me.

Robert West @71, New York City exacts from all its citizens at least one logistically horrendous move. Sooner or later, we all do it. I hope this one isn't yours.

Stefan @72, I've just come back from Home Depot. My signs that New Yorkers are taking notice of this storm: the pallets of sandbags in the aisle nearest the registers, and the speed at which the sandbags are disappearing. The entire table full of sump pumps. The tables arrayed along the main aisle that are stacked with a large number of the items listed in Jim's go-bag posts. The families pushing carts full of office-water-cooler-size bottled water, and bags of charcoal.

Word is that many NYC Home Depots have already run out of sump pumps and sandbags, which probably explains why there were so many fast-moving New Yorkers in our local HD.

#79 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 10:07 PM:

Ott-Lite has little battery-powered fold-up LED lights - try your local craft/sewing place. I don't know what they're asking for them, though.

#80 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 10:16 PM:

Hm. Thank you for reminding me, someone upthread; our landlord's out of town in Greece til mid-September, so we're catsitting... But I think I'll put their lawn furniture in their garage.

Otherwise, being in Boston-area, I'm mostly just making sure I know where the flashlights/candles are.

#81 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 10:26 PM:

The candlesticks that I like are the reproductions of Colonial-period ones that the Metropolitan Museum of Art sells. Those things are climax technology for folks who lit rooms with candles, and they have lots of good features (like very heavy (near impossible to tip over) bases and built-in drip trays.

#82 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 10:37 PM:

Over at dKos, millwx (and weatherdude) are following Irene.
millwx's latest report, to 6pm EDT.
weatherdude's latest

#83 ::: mimi ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 10:44 PM:

Jim @81: Huh. I never thought of walking over to Colonial Williamsburg for hurricane supplies!

According to all the storm surge maps, despite its proximity to the coast and location between two rivers, Williamsburg itself sits on high enough ground that it would have to be a Cat 5 before we'd need to worry, though of course that doesn't rule out flash floods. Sounds like we're in for a lot of heavy winds, though. The College of William & Mary has been closed through Monday, and they're evacuating the undergrads in dorms because the electric locks won't work in a power outage. I've got enough water for a week, plus purification tablets, and a couple LED flashlights (including a probably useless blacklight one) and lots of untippable candles. I'll get bored with the food in my pantry, but I won't starve - your preparedness posts have me pretty well stocked!

#84 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 10:53 PM:

Heh. Whenever we've had power outages here (every few summers), we've brought in the propane lantern, and would have brought in the propane stove too if the gas were ever to go out.

Being a camper is useful sometimes.

(The tech of led lanterns is good enough these days though that our Coleman lantern is due to be replaced by one, really.)

#85 ::: mimi ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 11:08 PM:

Forgot to mention: I have, and highly recommend getting, this excellent 2-liter metal thermos that will keep water hot for almost a full day. I usually fill it up with boiling water in severe weather so I don't have to use fuel for morning coffee or oatmeal if I lose power. (It's also come in handy for a full day's supply of hot tea on sick days, or bringing a bottle of wine for a picnic to an area that doesn't allow glass...)

#86 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 11:36 PM:

Colonial Williamsburg has to be on high ground -- it's got all those old buildings. It's the same way you can tell where the high ground is in New Orleans.

#87 ::: mimi ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 12:10 AM:

Well, sure, if by "old" you mean "rebuilt by the Rockefellers in the 1930s and later." The Wren and Brafferton buildings on campus have their original exteriors (mostly; the Wren's burned a few times), but the CW buildings are almost entirely reconstructions.

#88 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 01:13 AM:

Xopher, the idea of you sheltering in place worries me. If your neighborhood regularly floods, I hope you're making your evacuation plans now, because post-surgery is no time to be cut off by rising (and no doubt contaminated) waters.

Yes, it's been a few weeks. And yay for your speedier-than-expected recovery! But it still worries me.

#90 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 08:26 AM:

Jim @89

I see there are the usual sorts of idiots appearing in that comments thread.

#91 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 09:37 AM:

If you don't have strong moderation you don't get a comment thread worth reading.

#92 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 10:00 AM:

I'm planning to ride out the storm at my sister's place in Brooklyn. I'm in a storm-surge area, she isn't. Unfortunately, I have to go to work* tomorrow (unless the boss has a sudden attack of common sense and never opens). However, if (as is likely) the local government calls for an evacuation during the day on Saturday, I'm** closing the library on the spot and telling everyone to get the heck out of Dodge.

*A quarter mile from the Atlantic, on a barrier beach island that takes at least 18 hours to evacuate.
**I'll be the senior person there.

#93 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 10:16 AM:

My brother has decided to (probably) evacuate to my mother's tomorrow morning. I'm hoping that probably turns into definitely. I'd rather everyone feel a little silly after nothing much happens than be, well, dead.

#94 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 10:25 AM:

Re Teresa's #64: The Chinese place probably was using button lamps.

Take a piece of textile made of plant fibers and cut along oval out of it. Take a heatproof disc such as a washer or 50-cent piece (buttons don't actually work unless they're made of something not flammable, which almost all of them are these days) and wrap in in one end of the oval so that the other end sticks up. Tie the wrap around the disc and twist the sticking-out part into a wick. Set in a dish of grease or oil--olive oil works very well--wait till the wick is saturated, and light.

Not safe, but it'll work if you absolutely need light and have nothing else.

If you have wire, wicking (purposed or improvised), oil and a wide-mouthed container of some sort, you can make a lamp that will give less smoke. Twist the wire into spokes that will fit over the mouth of the container, with a bit to hold wicking in the center. Fill the container with oil, stick the wick in the hub of the wire jobbie, and put the wire over the container. Once the wick's saturated, you can light it. This is even less safe than a button lamp because there's a much greater chance that a spill will lead to burning oil all over the place; on the other hand, it smokes way less and the oil will last longer.

#95 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 10:27 AM:

Looking at the storm surge maps for the area were an eye-opener. Cat 1, hitting at high tide (both of which are eminently possible) would put my community under about 8 feet of water. Cat 2 at high tide (less likely but still possible) would be 16 feet of water.

Nope, not sticking around for that.

(Not everyone in my building is planning to evacuate. I think they're nuts.)

#96 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 10:37 AM:

An interactive storm-surge map from the National Hurricane Center.

From the looks of this, for a Cat 2, Making Light gets a 14-foot storm surge. Based on the maps at TopoQuest, I see Making Light at 26 feet above Mean Sea Level.

For this Sunday, lower high water at the Brooklyn Bridge is at 0831 with 5.2 feet and higher high water is 5.7 feet at 2040.

At Gowanus Bay, lower high water is at 0749, 5.5 feet, and higher high water is at 1958, 6.0 feet.

Based on that, with a Cat 2 storm, Making Light should be about six feet above water at higher high water.

#97 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 11:43 AM:

There are old fashioned lanterns that burn liquid paraffin and give good light as well as being comparatively safe. You often find them in craft stores as seasonal decor. Some hang and some are designed to sit on a table. You can also find these in fancy antique stores, but those are likely to have fancy prices too.

If you're near a Greek Orthodox church that has a bookstore you may be able to get "floating wicks." You fill a heavy tumbler halfway with water, float an inch of olive oil on top of the water, place the wick on the oil and light. If the tumbler should get knocked over it goes out.

Another alternative: Olive oil lamps

#98 ::: Edmund Schweppe ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 11:46 AM:

Jim @96, that map is the more-or-less generic one. The NHC has a current, storm-specific map at (with archived data as of 11AM EDT today at

Based on that map, it looks to me like lower Manhattan and New York Harbor have less than a 40% chance of seeing even a two-foot storm surge, and zero chance of an eight-foot or higher surge. (Perth Amboy does show a 10% or less chance at the eight-foot level.)

#99 ::: Springtime for Spacers ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 11:48 AM:

@69 Bathtubs may be flammable, candles would only be safe in ceramic or metal. A friends house burned down after someone had a candlelit bath in a fibreglass tub and left them unattended.

#100 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 12:02 PM:

Edmund Schweppe (98): Based on that map, I'm much less concerned about my apartment. I had been using the map Jim links to at #96 for my ~8 feet above ground level estimate for here. Yours shows a 10%-20% chance of a surge of more than 3 feet above normal high tide, no chance of more than 4 feet. If that's true, we shouldn't have any flooding at all.

But I'm still going to my sister's.

#101 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 01:29 PM:

El V gets home tonight. Early tomorrow before the MTA shuts down we're heading up to Jumel Terrace to weather this with our friends in their brownstone, on the highest of Manhattan Island ground. They run a B&B peripetically in part of their house, and they have a bookstore on the ground floor. There's a backyard with a big ol' Southern style propane barbie. They have a grand piano and wifi (if the service stays in service).

We're bringing all our meat and other supplies, The Guitar, etc., plus lots of cash. They've got everything you could possibly need. Though we are a bit concerned if the power's out for several days about looters and so on, which we're not worried about down here for our place. But that's another reason they like having some of their posse weathering with them.

Funny how having a real plan suddenly makes one less anxious. This is the best plan we could have, other than having boarded our private jet on Wednesday and flown off to our third home in the Rockies.

Love, C.

#102 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 01:39 PM:

For Everyone's Information in NYC -- This just in: The MTA is shutting down all mass transit as of Noon, Tomorrow (Saturday).

Love, C.

#103 ::: Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 01:42 PM:

I live in a rural area in Arizona and I lose power whenever the wind blows too hard, it rains, it's too hot, too cold, or at the whim of the Power Gods. It's generally out for several hours to a day or so when it goes out.

Flashlights, candles, etc., are all nice, but if you really want proper light, the best option is a 12 volt battery (or two) with an inverter to convert 12 volt DC to 120 volt AC.

You can use a regular car battery though there are storage issues with this. A safer alternative are the batteries that are sealed in plastic and used to jump cars -- these are available at most auto parts stores. Some have an integrated inverter with 120 volt outlets, or you'll need to buy an inverter for others.

You can plug a regular lamp (I suggest low watt bulbs) or a floor fan into it, charge cel phones, etc., without the fumes or mess of a generator. Do use it in a ventilated area and beware of leaks.

Also, make sure you have a good pair of sturdy work boots or hiking boots with thick soles and leather uppers. Sneakers are not really sufficient protection for cleaning up storm debris that may contain angry wildlife and plenty of nails.

#104 ::: Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 01:46 PM:

Oh, one more tip -- chemical glow sticks are AWESOME for emergency lighting. They keep for years, are SAFE to use (non-toxic, no fire risk), give off a fair amount of light (enough to safely navigate a room).

If you think you're going to lose water, besides getting bottled water, obtaining a few appropriately sized big buckets and some big bags of kitty litter might not be a bad idea ... keeps the odors down, y'know.

#105 ::: Robert West ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 02:25 PM:

Gothamist tells me that Mayor Bloomberg has ordered a mandatory evacuation of zone A evacuation zones.

see here for details

#106 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 02:33 PM:

Local organizers have decided to delay opening day of the Windsor Fair (Windsor, ME - about 20 miles east of Augusta) from Sunday to Monday due to anticipated impact from Hurricane Irene. It doesn't matter exactly where the storm makes landfall; Sunday up here is going to be wet, windy and miserable and I don't blame them for not wanting to be out setting up tents in it.

#107 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 02:50 PM:

Constance---there is nothing like having a workable plan, and if it's one which will allow you to cope in reasonable comfort with congenial people you can count on (and vice-Versa) for shared moral support that's an outstanding feature.

I hope everyone can find as good a solution for this mess, and I am glad that public officials are taking this thing as seriously as they are. As more than one person has said so far, better to evacuate and not need to, than to stay in place and suffer for it.

#108 ::: Duncan Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 02:52 PM:

Curiously, the Maryland Rennaissance Faire opens this weekend (27 - 28 August), with nary a peep on their website about Irene. Just the usual disclaimer -- open rain or shine, no rain checks.

THe Faire is just to the West of Annapolis.

#109 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 02:54 PM:

Best of luck to all those likely to be affected. It's nice to hear about the preparations - I hope they turn out to be unnecessary.

#110 ::: Mags ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 02:55 PM:

Unfortunately it's too late for the coming hurricane, but I bought a two-pack of these from Woot a while back. They have LED bulbs and are great for power outages because they work both as flashlights and as lamps--you can set them up with the tripod and sort of tilt out the heads of the three individual lights and get a lamp-like effect.

And the writeup is pretty hilarious.

#111 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 03:39 PM:

What Fidelio says in spades. We who can have plans are so fortunate. It's essential to keep in mind that not everybody can have a plan or much of one due to circumstances, some chronic and some unforeseen.

In our place things would have gone down very differently if el V was here instead of on the west coast. He's getting more and more angry with himself for not having canceled that gig at the Getty all together instead of -- his words, "Just coming home sooner than I was scheduled to." As it is, with the subways shutting down at noon tomorrow, he's getting back barely in time. Planning when the two of you are so far apart, and then, like now, out of communication all together, because he's on a plane -- it's hard. For us being together in an emergency is our number one plan.

But I was at the bank -- nobody there. The staff said nobody else had come in to withdraw cash in specifically small denominations except me -- 20's, 10's, 5's and singles -- and not everybody can do that even, just for starters.

The supermarket was insane, but everybody was loading up to party for a few days. Others are going, "This is only for a day, why is everybody so crazy?"

Ok -- that is not to let me think I'm smarter than they are. I just have more experience.

But what breaks my heart are these people who don't have anyone but their dog. A lot of them are older people, not necessarily in good health. They obviously aren't wealthy. I was getting (yet more) batteries for one of the flashlights I'm taking with us just in case. This very small older woman with a cane and her dog was nearly weeping as she asked me where I had bought that flashlight. She didn't have candles or a flashlight. There are no more flashlights to be had down here, I know. When I bought two other the other day at the hardware store the man said that by today they'd all be gone.

I went back to my apartment and gave her the maglights and batteries and all our candles plus a box of matches. And warned her about how not to start a fire with them (my greatest terror, even before flooding, and far more likely event).

I'm one of the very lucky ones.

Love, C.

#112 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 03:51 PM:

Oddly, I've been in a city that was hit by a cat 1 hurricane. Well okay, it was a typhoon -- and I was in Tokyo at the time.

What I noticed was that the day it arrived was hot, humid, bright and windy. We'd seen the weather forecast (for an 8pm arrival, with the eye due to pass over between 10pm and midnight, I think) but as of 1pm it was just a gusty bright day with the odd brief squally rain shower. Things didn't get bad until 6pm, by which time the clouds were spreading across the sky and the rain was becoming constant.

Anyway, my point is: it can take you by surprise, going from bright and breezy to full-on hurricane in less than four hours. And with transport in cities shutting down or going to emergency operations from noon on Saturday, if I was on the spot and not evacuating I'd be aiming to get all necessary supplies stockpiled before 11am, then sit tight.

#113 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 04:01 PM:

Mags, #110: Oh, that's choice! And so true to the style of the original, too.

#114 ::: Steve C ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 04:10 PM:

For those interested, here are a couple of videos I shot when Ike paid a visit to Houston in 2008. First one is before the storm hit, when we were just getting the fresh breezes.

Ike - Before the Storm

And the day after:

Ike - After the Storm

We were lucky. We lost power for eight days, but some were without electricity for weeks. Fortunately a good friend of ours not too far away kept her power so we had a place to sleep and eat.

It was also a good thing that we got a cool front in a couple of days after the storm hit. Even if it was preceded by some more freaking rain.

Good luck to those in Irene's path. Stay safe. Myself, I'm getting leery of storms beginning with I.

#115 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 04:17 PM:

I've started a general Hurricane Irene entry & thread for info, resources, updates, and other useful bits.

Dear Fluorospherians: if the storm is causing you difficulties, let us know. We may be able to help, or know someone who can.

#116 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 04:55 PM:

I remember when Isabelle hit Richmond.

It started early in the with a breeze--not at all hard, but as unvarying as the breeze from a window fan. And it picked up, and picked up, and picked up, until by evening it was a breeze like riding down the highway in the back of a truck. And THEN it came on to storm; until then, it wasn't rainy, wasn't gusty--was just this unvarying wind.

#117 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 06:55 PM:

Steve C, #114: Either you guys were lucky, or that was shot after all the branches were pulled out of the street! There was no driving down ours for about a day, and many of the branches were cut and pulled to the side by neighborhood folks with chainsaws. And then there was the house just down the street that had a 100-foot-tall oak tree come down RIGHT across the center of the main roof beam -- stove it in completely, making our damage look trivial by comparison.

#118 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2011, 12:40 AM:

Mentioned this in the other Hurricane Irene thread [from my shiny new welcome-to-the-17th-century smartphone]: If anyone in the NJ side of the NY suburbs [or can get to the NJ side of the river] wants to get slightly farther away and farther uphill, my email is nebulousFNORDmenace atsign yahFNORDhoo dotsign com . Obviously you can't see the fnords or it doesn't work.
My reversed home phone number is 8081-097-809; before noon tomorrow is probably best.

Odds are it won't be that bad, but odds are that Russian Roulette is safe.

#119 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2011, 01:15 AM:

Constance #111

Everyone can have a plan.

Don't confuse things with planning.

Lack of material may limit your options, but you can still have a plan even if you're standing in the middle of the street, flat broke, wearing nothing but a G-string.

#120 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2011, 01:32 AM:

A recommendation for emergency food - stock up on the boil-in-bag Indian food, usually found at Trader Joes. It's decent, can be eaten cold and is relatively portable.

Stay safe everyone.

#121 ::: dbr ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2011, 06:30 AM:

I have been without power for 10+ days for Katrina, Rita and Gustav in the past few years - its weird to be watching Irene on TV. I am glad everyone is preparing for the worst, but I will be hoping for the best.

From the standpoint of not losing everything in your refrigerator / freezer during a power outage, any spare containers you can fill and freeze or chill helps maintain cool temperatures (anything is better than air). I usually adjust the temperature to the coldest setting before the storm.

For light, the LED lanterns and flashlights are great - we have several, but I have never found one that produces enough light to comfortably read for hours - in my family, we used the clip on book lights a lot after the storms...

#122 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2011, 08:40 AM:

Steve C, I love the before-and-after shots. Mind if I post that as a potential project?

SamChevre, that's a haunting detail: a breeze as steady as an artificial fan that slowly gets stronger.

#123 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2011, 09:39 AM:

Teresa @ 122 -

By all means, use them however you like.

Lee @ 117 - We were indeed lucky on our little street. When we drove around the neighborhood later, we saw a lot more downed trees.

#124 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2011, 02:32 PM:

This thread and Miss Teresa's Hurricane Irene info and updates have been linked from Fred Clark's Slacktivist and the Slacktiverse.

If you're visiting from there, welcome!

Do you write poetry?

#125 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2011, 03:09 PM:

Jim, I gotta ask: what's your plan for standing in the middle of the street, flat broke, wearing nothing but a G-string?

And what are you doing wearing a G-string in the first place?

#126 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2011, 03:29 PM:

Glenn, my plan would depend on my objective.

As to why I'm wearing the G-string, I know you were drunk, man, but I didn't think you'd forget everything.

#127 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2011, 09:58 PM:

I'm here on the Left Coast, and I spent a long weekend camping, so I realize I'm late for this discussion, because you either bought stuff before the weather got there or didn't. (My mom lost power overnight in Delaware, and travel was pretty much restricted, but didn't have any problems.)

Earthquake supplies tend to be similar to camping supplies, and Y2K was an excuse to buy more of them. The choice for cooking was either a backpacking-sized compressed-gas stove, a medium two-burner for the car trunk, or a barbecue grill for the porch. I went with the medium one, in dual-fuel so I could use propane for camping or gasoline for major disasters, since there's usually enough gasoline around to save a gallon for the stove. (I've only used the propane, and never fired up the gasoline Coleman lantern.)

I don't have any of it around, but there's an evil substance called "instant coffee" that sounds better than No-Doz, and tea bags can steep in cold water if you give them time. I had some chocolate espresso beans that I brought to Reno for Worldcon, but they melted in my car, so instead of becoming a party donation I've been gradually chipping bits off of them.

Stefan Jones@49, obviously Cantor must be talking about diverting money from the Defense Department's budget to use for defending the country from natural disasters, right?

The only plans I've seen for evacuating New York City were back in the 1980s - in case of nuclear war, most people from the city were supposed to head to various parts of New Jersey, upstate, or Long Island, on freeways that can only marginally handle beach traffic on a 90-degree day.

#129 ::: Xopher HalfTongue sees headlight spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2011, 08:18 PM:

Go away, spammer.

#130 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2012, 06:54 PM:

East From Washington to NYC at Risk From Hurricane Sandy

Folks in Vermont aren't looking forward to this....

Meanwhile, if Hurricane Sandy (or even Tropical Storm Sandy) hits NYC at a spring tide, things could get interesting. NYC's geography makes it particularly vulnerable to storm surge.

#131 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2012, 08:17 PM:

Jim Macdonald (130): And it's not just the hurricane/tropical storm. Sandy is poised to link up with a nor'easter, fed by arctic air coming down from the north. Some articles are calling it a Frankenstorm.

#132 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2012, 12:53 PM:

The hurricane season isn't over until the end of November. And this coming June hurricane season will be back.

Right now, and in the coming weeks, would be a good time to restock and re-stow your hurricane kits and evacuation bags. Or, if you don't have 'em, make 'em. For next time....

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