Sherry’s Hurricane Story


By Sherry Churchill

 Hurricane Ivan changed me forever. My husband, Larry, and I lived in Pensacola, Florida in September of 2004. Having retiredOur dream home, before the wrath of hurricane Ivan. in 2002, we built a lovely brick home across the street from Perdido Bay. As a young retiree, I felt the exhilaration of life without clocks or supervisors. I didn’t think much about hurricanes, doomsday, or prepping. My thoughts were about our next travel opportunity.

But then, it happened. The warnings began. Evacuation orders given. Hurricane Ivan was taking an eastern turn and predicted to hit Gulf Shores, Alabama. We were just barely east of there, which meant we would get the worst of the winds. Ivan, in fact, set the world record of 33 six-hour periods with an intensity at or above Category 4 strength.

Returning home after hurricane Ivan.

I had never evacuated before. A northern transplant, hurricanes were something you only saw in the movies. My southern-born husband yawned at Category 1 and 2 hurricanes. However, we were so close to the Gulf, it would be foolish to stay. We finally decided to evacuate to a small, pet-friendly hotel about 30 miles inland. As we reluctantly packed for ourselves and our two cats, my husband soberly made a frightening statement: “Pack as if you are never coming home”.

That night in the hotel was the most frightening of my life.  At 2 a.m., the power 

Avoiding road hazards after hurricane Ivan was difficult.

went out. My husband was pacing as I lay on the bed, listening to the terrifying winds. Suddenly, we heard a cracking sound and the hotel roof caved in from the wind and water. If Larry hadn’t grabbed me by my ankle and pulled me off the bed, I might have been killed as the drywall hit my bed exactly where I had been laying. The bed collapsed and our two cats were under it. I was certain they were dead. Larry handed me his flashlight and lifted the debris and the bed to find both cowering cats, terrified but alive. We spent the next five hours waiting for daylight in the tiny bathroom until we were rescued by hotel staff. We had to climb over debris to make it to the door.

What our homes and those of our neighbors looked like after the hurricane.

Later that day we were allowed to return home, and as we slowly navigated the available roads, the devastation was shocking. Neighbors who had stayed in their homes swore they never would again. The sound of the wind and nearby tornadoes was so terrifying it almost stopped their hearts. The streets flooded, some as high as the street signs, homes were completely destroyed. It looked like a war zone. Thankfully, our 2002 home was built with the new hurricane requirements and we suffered minimal structural damage. Trees were broken in half, littering the landscape everywhere we looked. Our pool water was black, our fence torn down and flooding came right up to the front door. But, thanks to my husband’s placement of sandbags, and the fact that our lot was a little higher than others, it got no further than the porch. Our aftermath was almost miraculous when compared with so many others nearby.

The insulation, soaked with Ivan's wrath, covers everything.

We were so relieved we had just bought a generator. Larry had a couple cans of gas, so we were able to run our refrigerator and freezer, a fan, and we alternated the TV and a lamp. Everything was closed, absolutely everything. I know there was assistance in the area from FEMA and other groups, but we never saw it. The men on our street would take turns driving two hours up into Alabama to get gas for everyone. We were without power for more than two weeks. I never appreciated air conditioning so much in my life as then. The heat was stifling. Had we not been able to run the generator around four hours per day, we would have lost all our food. I had a few canned meats and soups, but most of my food was in the freezer. We cooked on a camp-stove  and basically returned to a primitive lifestyle. It was strange and inconvenient, but also glorious. I was happy to be alive.

Our house was still standing, but other homes were completely demolished. We are now in our sixties – able-bodied as we can be for our age, and we have dramatically beefed up our preps. We live near Tampa in an area that seems to be safer from storms, with some kind of invisible bubble that sends winds and weather north or south of us. High winds still frighten me. 

Now, nearly ten years after Ivan, I am concerned about many things: hurricanes, terrorism, economic collapse, nuclear dangers. As a Christian, I know where I’m ultimately going, which is the most important prep of all. But we now have a safe room, six months of freeze-dried food, water supplies, bug-out bags, all the provisions we can afford on a retiree’s income. Some of my friends call me crazy. However, they also say they’ll come knocking on my door if something happens. I jokingly reply that I will feed the first ten people that show up and, after that, I’m answering the door with my gun. Meanwhile, my prayer is that our preps will grow old with us, unused and still sealed. May God have mercy on us all.

For Sherry’s response to Hurricane Ivan and future hurricanes, see her article at the Florida Preppers’ site.

Hurricane Season and Livestock

Hurricane season and livestock are not a well matched pair.  One of the horrid things we see during hurricanes is the loss of livestock.  There are situations where evacuating livestock is not possible but, given the nature of hurricanes, the well prepared farmer will have a plan to evacuate all the livestock he can.

Others don’t even attempt to evacuate them.  Why?  Mostly because of poor planning. Often people purchase insurance to cover agricultural losses.  Animals are property to be insured.  Another reason is because hurricanes are unpredictable until two days out.  By then, most people have evacuated.  They don’t want to take their livestock because they think the chances of hurricane hitting some where else is greater than the chances of it hitting their home.  Lastly, they often think it won’t be as “bad” as that and the animals will be fine.

The prepper view of livestock should be not so willing to abandon animals when the threat of a storm looms in the future.  The purpose of prepping is to have the preps available when the disaster makes itself at home in your front yard.  Your animals should be enjoying the same level of safety as you.  If they are not, aside from being inhumane, you could lose all the time and money you put into raising them.

Deer are part of some preppers' livestock plan.Chickens for instance, take five or six months to start laying eggs.  If you let them die in a disaster, you will have to wait another six months to have fresh eggs while investing the time and money again.  The same goes for the rest of your livestock whether it be deer, hogs, goats or cattle.

What to do?  Plan well in advance. Get to know people in  areas of the state or country who will be willing to temporarily house your animals for you.  You might have to pay them something, but it should be worth it.  If you are friends with landowners a reciprocal agreement for helping each other out in case of such events would be beneficial to both.  Remember, whoever you have these agreements with, the person needs to be outside the potential disaster area.  If your livestock bug-out place is within the zone, you have gained nothing.  Make sure your animals have all their vaccines and other veterinary attention taken care of before hurricane season.  Healthy animals whether stressful situations better.

Consider how you will transport your animals and when you will begin the process of evacuating your animals.  For hurricanes you can have as long as a week or more to decide what to do.  For instance, if you see there is a possibility of evacuating  your livestock you should take the extra bags of food you will need for at least a week to the livestock bug-out location. It would also be a good time to take your veterinary supplies to the bug-out location.

Sometimes it just isn’t possible to evacuate all your livestock, no matter how much you want to.  If this is the case, there are things you should do long before a hurricane is on the way.  Check the barn and other buildings for loose boards, fence or other things that could become flying debris.  Check the buildings routinely to reduce the amount of effort required later. Have a stockpile of fresh water and food for your animals.  Much livestock is lost because they swallowed saltwater.  Animals inside a barn can be seriously injured or killed if a tornado hits the barn.  Animals should not be locked in the barn during a hurricane and will instinctively look for higher ground.  But if your animals are within range of the storm surge, they may experience a higher death rate.

Caged animals and birds can be moved to the safest location in the garage if they can’t go with you.  Remember to take the same precautions in the garage as for the barn.  Once all animals are tended, be sure to turn off electricity and water before you leave.  For the farmer who names his animals before they go to market or become dinner, leaving them behind in such a situation is heartbreaking.

When returning to your home after the disaster, your livestock will need immediate attention.  Take your veterinary first aid kit, and maybe the vet you partnered with for the zombie apocalypse to assess the welfare of each animal.  Getting animals to safety as quickly as possible will be the first priority.

We all hope we don’t have to endure such an event, but if we do, being prepared for our livestock as well as ourselves will save heartache for all.


What Does Windstorm and Hail Insurance Cover?

If you live in a coastal region, your home is at risk of hurricane damage.  Your home is important to you and likely you have home owner’s insurance.  But is it insured for windstorm and hail?  How about flooding?  It is important to know what your policy covers.

Windstorm insurance does not cover flooding.Homeowners’ insurance may not cover windstorm, hail or flooding.  It is important to know the risks of the area you live.  For instance, when a hurricane comes, if it doesn’t blow a hole in the wall or rip off part of your roof, you may not be covered for water damage.  Hurricanes bring a tidal surge with them which is labeled flooding by the insurance companies.  If you don’t have flood insurance, you might just be trying to figure out how to pay for an uninhabitable home.

If you live in Texas, you may download a sample of the Texas Windstorm and Hail policy.  Variables are deductibles, premiums, and payout.  Read through the policy to determine what other types of insurance you will need.  Remember, when you file a claim, your property will be “depreciated” by the insurance company.  In other words, you will never get enough money to make life normal again.

The amount of coverage you buy is important too.  Insuring for less than 80% the total value of the property will trigger another depreciation clause on the dwelling.  But, as with all insurance policies, they will never pay out more than the total dollar amount for which you paid premiums.

The policy is very clear on which events it will and will not pay claims.  The policy premium must be paid more than 30 days before the storm to be in effect when a hurricane makes landfall in your neck of the woods.  Keep in mind that policies change from year to year, so you need to evaluate your coverage yearly.  If you don’t understand the policy, ask a licensed insurance agent.

Edit:  Changed “. . . does not cover windstorm . . . ” to read “. . . may not cover windstorm . . .”

Edit:  Changed “. . . you are not be covered . . ” to read ” . . .you may not be covered . . .”

How Preppers Prepare for Hurricane Season

Jasmine blossoms signal the start of hurricane season is near.There is a beautiful jasmine bush on the east side of the garage.  It’s the only place it will grow.  The jasmine scent is amazing!  The blooms bring with it the knowledge that hurricane season is just a short six weeks away.  Each year we look around and see what we can do to prepare just a little bit better should the unthinkable happen to our home.

The key to effective evacuation is prior planning.  Unfortunately, to the majority of residents that means boarding up the house and taking off to some hotel for three or more days.  When they come home, if it was a serious hurricane, there is damage and loss of property.  Along with property losses are the pain and tears that come with not finding special items from the home.

Here are some ways to make preparing for hurricane season easy and less stressful:

  • Make a written inventory of non-replaceable items you can’t imagine living without, check them off when packed.
  • Purchase plastic tubs with lids to store items during evacuation.  Practice putting the items in the tubs to be sure you have enough tubs.
  • Make sure your wind storm and flood insurance is paid more than 30 days before storm season
  • Make an evacuation plan.  No, not just jumping in the car and leaving.  A serious plan.  Consider it a bug-out plan.
  • Consider home security while you are away.  There are always looters.
  • If you have livestock or pets, plan and practice how to evacuate them.
  • Plan to make more than one trip to the bug-out location if you have livestock to evacuate.
  • Plan how to evacuate or protect your preps.
  • Time yourself with each evacuation activity practice so you know how much time it will take you to evacuate.
  • Remember to prepare your windmills and solar power equipment for the high winds.
  • If your greenhouses are of the kind that can be disassembled quickly, staking the parts flat on the ground should help them remain still during high winds.
  • Remember, your plants will not whine, cry, complain or ask “are we there yet” when you move them.  But they may cringe when you eat them.
  • Evacuate early.  Don’t wait until the mandatory evacuation date.
  • Don’t be complacent.  Just because your coastal region has not experienced a hurricane in recent history doesn’t mean it’s immune to one.

Most people spend their time during evacuation in a hotel or at family and friends homes. Finding a hotel room during an evacuation can mean driving at least eight hours to find a room. The purchase of an acre of land outside the hurricane zone provides a guaranteed location for evacuation that can also be used to store preps year around.  For the average prepper family with a small operation, these plans are necessary.