Disaster preparedness advice from a former castaway
Don’t you hate it when the infamous Creek Sixth Sense proves factual? On September 1, 2017 I got this “bad feeling” about Tropical Storm Irma that had just formed off the Cape Verde Islands. I wrote an article, Where Hurricanes Strike the Atlantic Coast. Now our worst nightmares are coming true.
The current projected path of Hurricane Irma includes the regions, where most members of the People of One Fire live. Hurricane Jose’ seems to be also headed toward the Atlantic Coast. We won’t know for sure about either storm for a couple more days, but it is good time to get prepared.
If you are caught up in the hurricane or resulting floods and have an emergency question about first aid or post-storm survival, please text message me at PeopleOfOneFire@aol.com. Your regular internet service and electricity probably will not be working. I will also eventually be in the vestiges of the storm, but will probably still have internet service, since both my internet and electric power lines are underground. If I don’t have the answer immediately, I can look it up and get back to you. My power didn’t go off last March when the tornado took off the roof on this cabin!
In the mean time, here are some things that you can get at Walmart or a similar store today, which will assist you in the after storm survival:
(1) First aid kit and several days of non-perishable food, plus bottled water, if it is still on the shelves.
(2) An inexpensive inflatable raft or canoe . . . if you can afford it. A $30-$50 raft would have prevented most of the drowning deaths in New Orleans and Houston.
(3) Two or more large RubberMaid plastic storage containers with lids for storing water from your tap before the storm and catching rain water later.
One of the most astonishing things I observed in New Orleans after Katrina was that nobody except me thought of catching the rainwater from Katrina or later thunderstorms for drinking water. I observed thousands of people waiting in lines during a thunderstorm for US Army trucks to bring them their rations of drinking water. No one in the long lines made an effort to catch and store the rainwater. The same thing happened recently in Houston.
(4) One or more winding, self-generating flash lights. Flashlight batteries don’t last long these days and are easily shorted out in floods.
(5) LED electric lanterns with solar panels. These are surprisingly inexpensive at Walmart.
(6) Several large bottles of hydrogen peroxide. During the 20 years I lived on remote mountain farms, I saved many an animal’s life by boiling out the infection with hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide will prevent gangrene or flesh-eating bacteria from getting established until you can get the wounded person to a hospital.
(7) A propane camping stove or burner for boiling water and cooking food. Buy as many gas canisters as you can afford. Immediately before the storm hits, the store shelves will be empty.
(8) Hunting knife and hatchet. These are handy for making tools from saplings.
(9) Sleeping bags and waterproof containers for storing the sleeping bags. I talked with several people in the suburbs of New Orleans, who forgot to put their camping equipment and sleeping bags in waterproof containers, so this survival equipment was useless after their houses were flooded or roofs blown off.
(10) Solar or wind up chargers for you cellular phone. You will have no communication with the world, when your current batteries run out of power.
Learning survival the hard way
The US Navy gave me a survival course in NROTC, but it became useful long before anticipated. In late August before my Fifth (Thesis) year at Georgia Tech, two fraternity brothers and I hatched a scheme to spend a long weekend on uninhabited Cumberland Island with three nursing students from Brunswick and Darien, GA. The island was then owned by the state and I was an intern in the governor’s office. Governor Carter asked me to study the resources on the island and I intended to make the job assignment a party.
We planned to sail over to the island from St. Marys and set up camp. The gals were to come separately the next day in motor boat so their parents wouldn’t know they were on an “extended” date. Unfortunately, it was the highest tide of the year that night and by 2 AM our campsite was under two feet of water. The salt water shorted out our marine radio and AM-FM radio so we didn’t know that a hurricane had done a U-turn and was headed our way. The girls never showed up because of the hurricane warning. There was no such thing as cellular phones back then.
Thinking that we had been stood up, we elected to stay on the island all weekend, so I could write my report to the governor on what I had seen. Late in the afternoon of the third day, the hurricane struck. Its winds wrecked the mast and sail of our sailboat. That night a tornado struck the campsite, scattering our tents, equipment and food containers across the tidal marshes. We rolled ourselves up in our sleeping bags, but were all knocked out. We woke up the next morning, bruised but not seriously hurt . . . but also from 50 to 100 feet where I tents had stood.
For the next 11 days, we lived like Stone Age hunters. We made wooden spears and moved to the southern tip of the island where there were tidal pools, which trapped fish and crabs. We also learned how to balance our diet with sea oats, wild grapes, Yucca roots and prickly pear leaves. Eventually, we got so good at being savages that we caught a baby wild pig in a trap, but no one had the heart to kill it.
On the eleventh day of being castaways, a fishing boat came close enough to shore for us to wave them down. The fishermen graciously turned around and took us to the docks at St. Marys. A small crowd was cheering us at the docks when we landed. It seems that after the storm, local fishermen had found the shredded remnants of our tents and inflatable rafts in the Cumberland River on the west side of the island. Everyone assumed that we had been tossed into the river by the tornado or waterspout . . . whatever its was. So, Department of Natural Resources rangers had been looking for our bodies. Actually, we woke up very close to the water’s edge so that could have happened. We saw the small DNR plane flying back and forth along the west side of the island, but couldn’t get its attention from our primitive camp, consisting of three wickiups, made out of palmetto fronds on the southeast tip of the island.
As “Little Big Man” would have said in the movie of the same name . . . That ended the castaway period in my life.
Now you know why spending the better part of 2010 in a tent in the Southern Appalachians was like a picnic! LOL
I have written a book about our experiences on Cumberland Island. It is a glimpse of the Georgia Coast before it was changed by progress. In St. Marys, the Gullah People still spoke Gullah back then. The electronic version is $12.50 and can be downloaded directly from the publisher. If interested, its URL is:
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