My Hurricane Irene Experience: The Weather and the Emergency Food

Not worthy of the emergency foods list!

Living in the Mid-Atlantic region, I was among the millions of people in the path of Hurricane Irene this past weekend. This is the first storm that I can recall to hit my area as a hurricane and not a tropical storm, and the first severe weather experience I’ve had as an adult living somewhere other than my parents’ house.

It was really a major test of resolve for my husband and I to try to plan for the many wild card scenarios that were possible with the massive storm system. We started buying supplies on Friday–canned goods, aseptic boxes of milk, crackers, fruit, candles, an emergency weather radio, and a handful of other items. Then it was a matter of monitoring the news nationally, regionally and locally, trying to understand the path of the storm and glean information on whether the creek behind our house could flood, and where our closest emergency shelter was. And, of course, we needed to keep tabs on many friends and family members, to see if they needed help (or could be of help to us, in the event of an evacuation).

When the edge of the hurricane approached and brought with it too many tornado warnings to count, we headed to the basement, which was equipped with food, bedding and games and other diversions. We spent the night there, interrupted so many times by the beeping of NOAA warnings on the radio that we eventually turned it off and tried to grab a few winks of sleep.

In the morning, when the most powerful part of the hurricane touched down in our region, we were blessed that things weren’t bad. Irene had weakened considerably, although it was still a Category 1 hurricane. The rain that started the afternoon before continued, but then I heard the familiar whisper and whir of the sump pump and felt better.

Thankfully there was no damage to our house, aside from a minor leak in one wall. The worst damage on my block was a tree limb that snapped and hung to the ground, without completely breaking off and damaging anything around it. Despite Irene being a huge hurricane, it could’ve been much worse.

I know people have started griping about being inconvenienced by evacuations and closures, but I’d rather be over-prepared and shrug my shoulders at an uneventful hurricane passage than the alternative, being caught unawares and needing to be rescued.

The biggest lesson I learned about surviving a hurricane is to expect the unexpected. But I also learned that non-perishable options aren’t necessarily the most diet-friendly. Many items contain loads of sodium, empty carbs or a fair share of fat.This is what I finally rounded up, to provide the most nutrition in the most convenient packaging possible:

  • Reduced-fat peanut butter (thankfully already in the house)
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Crackers (unsalted saltine-style crackers)
  • Canned vegetables: corn, peas, country cabbage and sweet potatoes (also already in the house)
  • Other canned goods: baked beans, chili and canned pasta (My plan was to eat smaller portions of these items with the vegetables.)
  • Aseptic boxes of 2% milk (Not my usual skim milk, but beggars can’t be choosers!)
  • Cereal (Kashi Go Lean Crunch and Corn Flakes)
  • A 3-lb bag of apples
  • Grapes
  • Bottles of water

Because the hurricane wasn’t severe and our electricity didn’t go out, we didn’t really break into the food, except for some of the water and fruit as late-night snacks. It was nice to know there were options, though. In the future I would also add raw carrots and Fiber One or Kashi granola bars to the mix.

Thankfully we survived our first hurricane as a family with no problems (except the can of Turkey Spam we opened for breakfast. I never had Spam before… Never again! Way too salty.) How did you fare during Irene? If you weren’t in Irene’s path, how have you survived other hurricanes? What advice would you have for preparedness, including food choices?


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