If the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy didn't scare you into putting together a hurricane food kit, maybe nothing will.
Just before Halloween last year, Sandy slammed into the Northeast with catastrophic results. Nearly 300 people were killed and the damage totaled $50 billion over several states. Even in inland areas, people were left without power for days. In New York, 10,000 trees were lost and in New Jersey, another 110,000 damaged or destroyed. Beach businesses in both states are struggling to open for the summer season.
Many people were unprepared for the storm but that's true even in Florida, where hurricanes and tropical storms are regular threats. Perhaps Sandy will change our ways. Hurricane season begins Saturday so it's time to starting collecting food and other supplies for a rainy day, or worse.
Stocking supplies can be expensive. The cost won't change but the sting might be less if you pick up a few things each time you shop. Traditionally, the height of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, is mid August to mid September so it's a good bet that you have some time. Don't put it off too long. These storms sneak up on us.
Store food in something portable, so you can take it if you evacuate. Big-box stores have many types of totes in a variety of prices. Make sure not to overload the tote so much that you can't lift it. A couple of smaller ones might be better than a huge box that fits everything.
If you are able to stay home, you may be dealing with long-term power outages rather than structural damage. This is frustrating when everything seems fine but you have no electricity. But it's even more frustrating to be standing in a long line in blistering humidity waiting for water in the hours after the storm has passed. Don't talk yourself out of a hurricane kit just because you have an evacuation plan. An impending storm may not be severe enough to require evacuation.
For me, a battery-operated fan and lots of batteries are priorities.
Some other things to consider as you collect provisions:
• As a storm approaches, conduct an inventory of your pantry. You may already have foods appropriate for an emergency such as bread, crackers and peanut butter. Eat what you've got in the fridge before it goes bad, then dip into the shelf-stable stuff.
• Fill your coolers and pack the freezer with ice as close as you can before the storm makes landfall. Put drinks in the fridge and move to the cooler when they are cold rather than room temperature to preserve the ice. If the power goes out, you'll have cold drinks, at least for a while.
• Keep in mind whom you will be feeding when making a list of storm-ready food. Do you have young children, or perhaps a newborn? Is someone a vegetarian? Are there dietary concerns that are about more than losing weight? For instance, diabetics and people allergic to wheat will need special considerations since so many shelf-stable foods are carb- and grain-laden. When it comes to emergency food, one size does not fit all.
• When the storm season is over and you've hopefully escaped unscathed, cycle the food into your regular meals or donate it to a food shelter. And finally, don't buy what your family won't touch when the weather is perfect. Spam doesn't taste any better when the wind is blowing 75 miles per hour.
What to stock
Use this checklist to determine what you've got in the pantry. Then take it to the supermarket to finish stocking your hurricane grocery kit.
Canned soups, chili, vegetables, stews: They can be eaten cold but can also be heated in a pot on the grill.
Cereal: Vitamin-fortified cereal can be eaten dry or with boxed or powdered milk.
Beverages: Juice, power drinks and enhanced water offer an alternative to plain water. Shelf-stable milk can be used for cereals or to drink. Buy in small boxes; once opened they must be consumed.
Crackers: For snacking or eating with cheese and cold cuts from the fridge just after the power goes out.
Condiments: Mayonnaise is generally a no-no because of refrigeration issues, but buy the smallest jar you can and make tuna or chicken salad. Look for condiments in individual packets.
Water: One gallon a day per person for drinking, more if using it to reconstitute powdered milk, enough for seven days.
Fresh fruit: When a storm is a couple days away, buy apples and oranges. It is wonderful to have something fresh to eat.
Healthier snacks: Granola bars, Fruit Roll-Ups, dried fruit, nuts and trail mix offer nutrition and have a long shelf life.
Comfort food: For some of us, that means junk food. You know your family's weaknesses. Keep in mind, though, that salty snacks such as chips and pretzels will make you thirsty. Go easy on them.
Alcohol: A glass of wine may calm your nerves, but a bottle does something else altogether. Cloudy judgment might be one of your worst enemies in a storm. Because of this, alcohol sales can be shut down as a storm approaches.
Other foods to consider: Peanut butter, individual applesauce and fruit cups, rice cakes, dehydrated food (from camping stores) and Meals Ready to Eat (from military surplus stores). You'll be able to find vegetarian options, too.
Preserved meats: Beef jerky is high-protein, low-carb and good for diabetics. Canned tuna, chicken, even Spam also provide protein.
Supplies: Garbage bags and ties, paper towels, wipes, fuel (charcoal, lighter fluid, matches) or a full propane tank for the grill, hand sanitizer. Don't forget the manual can opener. And plastic wrap or storage containers.
Tableware: Paper plates, napkins and paper or plastic cups; plastic cutlery; a couple of serving spoons, forks and knives for food preparation and serving.
Food for pets: Food and drink for your pets, and their familiar dishes. Vitamins and medications.
On the Web
For more about hurricane preparedness, go to tampabay.com/hurricane-guide.
Information from Times wires was used in this report. Janet K. Keeler can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8586.