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My Hurricane Supply List


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Those of you who were hanging around HAIF back in September 2008 during Hurricane Ike may remember some of my posts during my 17 days without electricity. I was accused of actually enjoying playing urban survivalist, and frankly, I did. Listening to people brag before the storm hit about how LITTLE they could tolerate, and that they would leave town rather than endure a bit of inconvenience annoyed me. I was determined to survive the worst that an electric-less Houston could throw at me. And, I enjoyed it!

Admittedly, I was unprepared for a 17 day power outage, though I coped. After Ike, I started lokking at ways to make post-hurricane survival in Houston pleasant. I established criteria for what constitutes pleasant. Then, I began trying to achieve pleasantness on a budget. I have found some neat tricks and toys, and decided to share them here. I also figure that others will have some good suggestions. That is what this thread is for.

First, peruse the many hurricane preparedness lists that are out there to see what you may need. Here are several...





After digging through several preparedness lists, you will come up with what you think is important. I took it further, preparing for a couple of weeks without electricity. The first thing to consider is that your refrigerator, and more importantly, your freezer, will not keep things cold longer than 1 to 2 days. So, prior to the hurricane, I eat my frozen food, and purchase canned food and non-perishables. Soup and Chef Boyardee are good. They'll last forever. Tuna Helper is also good. Sandwiches are only good as long as your meats and cheeses are cold. Cokes, water, tea and coffee are all good. I buy a few packages of water flavoring to liven up my water.

To keep my sandwich meat cold longer, I invested in some coolers and cold packs. Don't get too large a cooler, as it takes to much ice to cool it down. I have a half dozen ice packs that I bought at Academy. This way, you don't end up with a cooler full of water ruining your food.


For coffee, I bought a French Press. I got the 8 cup version, so I only have to make coffee once.


This assumes that you have a gas stove and the gas is still on. If not, invest in a grill. Get one that you will also use for cooking out. Prior to a storm, make sure that you have enough fuel. Mine is propane, and has a side burner, similar to this one. That way, I can grill or boil water or heat soup or beans.


For drinking water, you can buy cases of Dasani, or do what I did. I bought a couple of plastics water cans. I figure 3 gallons of water cost the same as one 6 gallon jug, and I can reuse the jug. Plus, I don't want to give my dogs Dasani. I just don't. Most experts recommend 1 gallon per person per day for drinking and food prep. I figured 12 gallons should do me, so I bought two jugs.


That's it for basic food and drink. I'll get a bit more exotic in the next post. Feel free to add your suggestions.

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In this post, I'll talk a bit about non-food items. One of the first is lighting. For outdoors, I have a camp lantern. It runs on portable propane bottles. It flat cannot be beat. The portable bottles can also run a camp stove, if you decide to go that route instead of a full grill. This is the one I have...


The propane bottles cost a couple of bucks each and last 8 hours. I have about a 6-pack.

For walking around light, I have several battery lights. I have one that runs on the big square battery, and one that runs on C cells. But, I already had those. Now, I am moving toward LEDs. I bought this cool flashlight that runs on a couple of AA batteries and is very bright. It isn't the best or brightest, just effective.


For indoor light, I wanted a rechargeable, since I didn't want to buy a million batteries. Once again, I went with Coleman. They will be available at the new Heights Walmart.

LED is definitely the way to go. This one will last 60 hours on low light, and 25 on high. Unfortunately, the one I bought is CFL, which is decent, but not as good as LED.


It runs on either 4 D cells, or this nifty rechargeable battery pack that I bought. I plan to buy one or two more. They recharge in your car's cig lighter.


I also bought a good sleeping bag, in case I have to abandon the house. I may get a cot to go with it. Also, a battery operated fan would be useful.

The two main takeaways from the lighting section are 1) go LED whenever possible, and 2) go rechargeable. Your car will almost always have enough juice to charge a battery. Obviously, have a car charger for your cell phone, too. If you have an iPad or a tablet, the same rule applies. I now have CLEAR internet, and my Acer Iconia tablet has a USB port, so I can post to HAIF much easier than during Ike.

A Radio is critically important. There are so many choices, but if you can, get one that matches other battery sources. Moving batteries from one item to another is a lifesaver at times. There are also several crank radios, like this one...


That just may be the coolest radio ever. It has a crank, solar panel, LED light, AM/FM/NOAA weather, and a cell phone charging jack. With this thing and a smartphone, you could probably survive anything. The 21st century Swiss Army knife.

With streaming video, TVs are somewhat less important. However, with capped data plans looming, and the power draw of streaming video, a small TV may well be worth it. And, who knows if your cell tower will still be operating. I believe in dual function, but also in not having all eggs in one basket. So, a TV would be good. I really missed not watching all of the destruction and reporters blowing in the wind back in 2008.

After Ike, portable TVs using the new broadcasting format were hard to come by and expensive. That is no longer the case. There are many portables under $100. Here is one example...


And, of course, it is rechargeable.

That's it for electronics. You may have noticed that I have not discussed the elephant in the room. That comes next.

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Another good option for cooking is a portable, single-burner, butane stove, like this one....


You can find these at most asian grocery stores. Typically they run $20 or so and come with a plastic carry case. They run on cans of butane about the size of a spray paint can and burn clean enough for indoor use. We've got a couple that we bought for cooking at the table and they also worked very well when we were remodeling our kitchen and had no other means for cooking.

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For water, a company called Katadyn makes some good purification products including these tablets...


They also make this personal water purifier


It's designed for backcountry travel so you can drink from pretty much any puddle or stream. Not sure how well it works on chemical contaminates, so I wouldn't use it on the ship channel, but would probably work fine for rain water caught in pots or puddles around the house.

Of course, you could just boil the water and add a little unscented bleach. I keep an extra jug around during hurricane season for that reason alone.

Another thing to consider is water for flushing your toilet. It doesn't have to be potable, but it should be clean. We've got a pool in our backyard so in an emergency I'd just haul water from there and dump it in the toilet tank to flush. Barring that, you'd need some sort of portable toilet or go old-school and dig a latrine in the backyard. I hear it's good for the garden. :o

Edited by august948
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I agree on the LED flashlights. I've got the Maglite LED 3 D-cell flashlight and it rocks...


I use it out in the country and it can illuminate a fairly wide area at a pretty fair distance. An added bonus for the 3 D cell and 4 D cell maglites is that they make a pretty hefty club in case something goes bump in the night. I bought a 3-pack of LED tactical lights that run on 3 AAA batteries at Costco last year. Keep them in the truck and elsewhere and they illuminate almost as well as the maglite, but are only about 5 inches long.

Tac lights are cool since they're small and very bright but watch that you don't buy one that uses cr123 batteries. My first set of tac lights used those and had krypton bulbs. They were bright but would only last an hour or two of continuous use. Pluse the cr123 batteries are expensive and I've never seen a rechargable one.

Edited by august948
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Also make sure you keep plenty of your preferred baby prevention means on hand. My wife's ob/gyn told her there was a significant uptick of births about 9 months after Ike hit (a house lit by candles with no tv and no internet creates a conducive environment). :P

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Good points on the water. While natural gas rarely goes out during a storm, water plants lose power, or get contaminated by flood waters, so purification efforts may be needed. I usually fill a bathtub for non-potable use.

I really like the butane burner for indoor use. I may look into one of those.

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OK, we talked about food and water and lighting and electronics. But, this is Houston. The critical necessity for living in Houston without electricity in the summer is air conditioning. Ike blew through in mid-September, followed by a cool front. Even then, occasionally I had to load up the dog and drive around the neighborhood just to get a little cool AC blowing on me. Prolonged living in Houston without electricity necessitates finding a way to provide AC. That means either providing lots of backup power through a generator, or finding low power means to provide cool air. In our humid climate, this is not an easy task.

The gold standard in generating is a whole house generator. To run every appliance in the house, including central air, oven, and dryer, probably takes most people 17kw to 20kw worth of generator. They are expensive to buy, expensive to install, and expensive to operate. But, to those who can afford it, more power to ya (see what I did there?). There are obvious alternatives to a whole house genset. Hang wet clothes to dry instead of using the dryer. Use a grill instead of the oven. And, only condition one or two rooms instead of the whole house. This will quickly drop the size of the generator to a reasonable level. A portable generator in the 6kw to 8kw range can run lights, refrigerator, TV, computer, and a 5,000 Btu air conditioner capable of cooling a150 square foot area.

The big problem with generators is fuel. A whole house generator usually runs on natural gas. This is perfect. It is readily available, in abundant supply, and not dangerous if hooked up properly. Most portable generators run on gasoline. These are terrible. It take 15-20 gallons per day to run a portable genset continuously, so adequate gas storage is problematic and dangerous. And, id power is out to the gas stations, you cannot refill the tanks. Diesel is safer and runs longer, but there is little use for diesel when the power is back on. LP gas is good and safe to store, but a portable genset uses about 1.6 pounds per hour. Those little tanks you use in your gas grill are 20 pounds, so you'll need a bunch of them for a prolonged power outage.

Here is a nice all-encompassing site to look at all types of generators...


Note on that site that there are some tri-fuel portable gensets. These burn gasoline, LP gas or natural gas. But, they are expensive. Still, if you install a quick disconnect valve to your natural gas line, this could be a workable solution. And, since the genset is portable, there are other things you can use it for.

Keep in mind that a portable generator can only run a few large appliances. A 5.5kw generator may produce 22 amps. An 8kw generator may produce 33 amps of power. A large refrigerator pulls about 10-12 amps, and a 9,000 Btu portable AC unit like the one below pulls 10 amps. The great thing about portable AC versus window units is they can move from room to room easily, with only an exhaust hose going to the window.


Where I am really trying to get to is an inexpensive way to provide cool air that doesn't require an internal combustion engine. Frankly, this is a tough task. Because Houston is so humid, swamp coolers are of limited effectiveness. We need to pull moisture out of our air, not add to it. That takes a lot of energy. Even a small Energy Star rated window unit like this 6000 Btu unit, uses 5.3 amps of electricity.


And, we still need to cool some food. A refrigerated cooler like this could fill that need. It can run off your car battery.


So, to run an efficient room AC, a refrigerated ice chest, a few lights, an LCD TV, and a computer might only need 6.5 amps of 120 volt electricity. That translate to approximately 800 to 850 watts of power. If we were to go solar to meet this need, we'd need 10 85 watt panels, plus an inverter, plus batteries to store the electricity. It would cost thousands of dollars and look something like this...


That would be ideal, except that it cost nearly what a whole house generator does. The nice thing about solar is that it doesn't require a fuel other than the sun.

So, that is where I have stopped. I am still looking into solar panels, as they have plummeted in price. However, the bigger issue is efficient cooling. I am open to suggestions on that.

Thanks for indulging my little obsession. Feel free to chime in.

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This may not be possible or practical in the city, but out in the country it's common to have a permanant propane tank installed next to your house. They come in different sizes, but the one at the old farmhouse I'm restoring is about 6 feet long and about 3 or 4 feet tall. If you have room and there's no permitting hassle from the city, you could have one of those installed in combination with a whole house generator. That said, they're ugly and they need to sit somewhere on the front or side of the house that can be accessible to the propane truck that fills them.


Personally, I like the solar idea. If you've got the money and sufficient sunshine on your house or yard, it might be worth getting a full solar system so you're covered in an emergency plus it'd reduce or eliminate your electic bills each month. I'd be worried about how well the solar panels would stand up to hurricane force winds, though.

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Solar, if looked at as an emergency energy source that also lowers current electricity bills, becomes much more economically attractive. By itself, it still does not compete with my 9 cent per kwH electricity from the grid. However, if I put in a $10,000 solar array instead of a $5,000 generator, I really only spent an additional $5,000 for the solar power I use during non-emergency times. So, that, combined with the lower prices, has me looking at solar again. But, solar arrays are the last thing you install. First, comes all of the non-sexy solutions, such as replacing light bulbs with LEDs, better insulation to lower heating and cooling costs, and more efficient appliances. I am slowly replacing 60 and 75 watt bulbs with 12 to 14 watt LEDs. My 38 inch LCD TV uses 97 watts of electricity. My 23 inch uses about 65 watts. My laptop charger and cellphone charger use little power. So, as little as 150 watts could power my TV, some lights, computer, phone and clock radio. An RV solar sytem could run all of that, like these.


Then the only things left to worry about are the fridge and some AC. Of course, over time, I could add to the system, and eventually run even those two big power items.

As for wind forces, like anything else, technology improves over time. There are many wind rated panels and fasteners available these days. Houston rarely gets winds over 100 mph, so that might be a ceiling. I wouldn't do solar south of I-10 myself. And portable arrays solve that problem.

Edited by RedScare
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I got a flyer in the mail from these folks a couple of days ago...


They sell what they call solar air conditioners, but they look to me more like solar panel assisted a/c's. It comes with a dedicated solar panel to help reduce the electricity consumption of the unit.

Other than that, you could identify a small room that is easily shut off from the rest of the house and insulate the heck out of it. Buy a small dorm-style fridge and a portable a/c unit and make that room your home while the power is out and you're running on a generator.

Another tip, when buying fans always get ones with metal blades. For whatever reason, metal blade fans seem to push air better than plastic blade fans. Could be due to flexing of the material and subsequent inefficiency.

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For the little stuff (cell phone, laptop, ipod, etc) you can get various portable solar panel/battery combinations at REI or Academy that you can set out on a table in your yard or in a window and soak up enough sun to keep them charged. Bonus is they are usually designed for backpackers so you can fold them up and take them with you to the beach, etc.

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excellent topic.

foods, don't forget breakfast/cereal bar type things, they pack a lot of power in very small space.

nuts, dried fruits, all are excellent choices as well (especially to snack on). myself I can eat pistachios for days, pistachios aren't a cheap option, but man they go good with beer. and lets face it, hurricanes just aren't any fun without beer.

another good food option is oatmeal. doesn't taste great, but it's filling, stores well and is cooked with water. spaghetti, rice, etc. all good options, if you have the water on hand. if you have the cash to buy them, MREs can be had and store well, and don't taste terrible, they are very quick to prepare, and pack enough calories for one meal to give you enough for an entire day.

if you don't have an outside propane grill, get one, even if you have a gas stove in the house, it will heat up the house even more, and without AC, you don't want to introduce even more heat. cook outside on the grill.

remember fluid is probably more important than anything else, don't bother getting pallets of water bottles, go for gallon containers, or if you can find the 5 gallon collapsible containers for camping, they're great and store easily. you can fill up on plenty of water from the tap to last through a water outage (water is usually only going to be out for a few days at most), and they store easily. Another tip, grow mint, it's excessively cheaper than getting flavor packets, and some mint in water can really make it tasty! lemon peel is a great flavor enhancer too.

vegetable gardens (and citrus trees) are great for fresh fruits and vegetables at any time, but if you have one, and the fruits survive the hurricane (wind and hail damage is a concern), fresh vegetables to go with your oatmeal, well, it will taste even better!

as mentioned above, beer is an important component of any hurricane survival, finding a good German beer that tastes better than coors light when it isn't a degree above freezing are good options, since the fridge is not going to be working. Surprisingly, Shiner Light Blonde tastes very similar to a lot of good Bavarian pils, and drinks very smooth when not cold, and it's cheaper than Stiegl, or other options.

note that everything above doesn't require cooling, so no need for ice, or a cooler. but the beer needs to be kept somewhere, so get some of those freezer packs, fill the cooler with beer, water ice and the freezer packs, this will keep the beer frigid for at least a week, and will keep it cool for even longer.

being hot all day long will leave you feeling hot and sweaty, and nasty disgusting. you will want to clean yourself, and you'll want to clean without using a lot of water. the two towel method works just perfect. a damp towel to scrub off the sweat, and another dry towel to dry off works great and doesn't use all your water. as gross as it sounds, a lot of people who cycle and don't have a shower at work follow this practice so they aren't all sweaty and nasty at the office.

hand sanitizer should be at hand (see I can pun too!) to keep your hands and face clean.

get a bicycle to travel around when you get cabin fever, gasoline will be impossible to get. it's also possible a friend that isn't too far away has power and you can go over there to enjoy the AC for a few hours.

with LED lighting, it's easy to light things up in the evening for playing a rousing game of stratego, or lord of the rings risk (perhaps transformers risk) with neighbors on the porch.

generally, if you spend time looking for what you would want to use for a backpacking trip into the woods for a week, this will get you prepared for what you'll want to do.

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I will tell you what I bought...The way I see it is that you only need to be comfortable at night....during the day you can swim, drive to a mall or restaurant, or somewhere with power...without spending any money. I bought an 11.5KW bobcat 250 EFI Welder/Generator combo. 22 hp. When only partially loaded it is relatively efficient....14 hours on a 12 gallon tank. Its use is for the necessary items only and only at night...I abandon my house after the storm and relocate to the garage apartment...its much smaller (488sqft), though fully appointed and is quite comfortable for a few people. I will kick it up the generator about an hour before bed time, and plug the AC set to 50 into it...When the generator is on, so is the deep freeze, and the other two refrigerators....after about an hour the freezers and refrigerators will cycle off and I unplug them and turn the generator down to just the needed power level (because its a welder it has knobs for this)....it will come down to a much slower speed just for the AC because it has electric fuel injection.

As to fuel, between my wife and I, and her parents who come to our house in storms since they live in Galveston, our cars are completely full....that will give us about 70 gallons of unleaded for the generator. My truck runs on diesel and I keep it full as well. I also have a 250 gallon fuel trailer that is normally on the ranch (that is evacuated in a storm) that comes home with me. We use my truck for driving, and if needed siphon fuel from the cars for the generator....I also have 5, 5gallon fuel cans of unleaded that I fill at the start of hurricane season and then put in my wife's car at the end of the season when nothing happened.

I probably end up running the ac for about 5 hours total, and once we cool the apartment down and the fridges/freezers, there is no more in/out for the night....we stay inside. Items we use frequently like water, soda, beer, etc...go in the coolers which we use ice packs in. I cycle the ice packs out of the deep freeze once a day...the deep freeze holds -10F and after about 9 hours without power and without opening the door, it will still be about 25F....by night it reaches 30 and I plug it in, swap ice packs and refill the coolers for the next day.

I think we can last about a month in this fashion if we had too....I had to have the genset for the freezer...I have 700+lbs of beef in it.

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oh yeah, on the cooler front, I disagree with the multiple small coolers, vs one large one.

from a physics standpoint, one large volume has less surface area than multiple small volumes, and heat transfer is going to occur slower on the large volume.

filling the cooler with water and freezer packs will keep the things inside cooler longer for far longer than freezer packs sitting in the open air (even inside the confined space of a cooler).

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Where are you getting the LED bulbs? I've relplaced every bulb I can with CFL's but I'd like to start experimenting with LED's, especially since some of the LED flashlights I have purchased can put out a fair amount of light.

Right now, I find that Home Depot has as good a price on the bulbs I want as anyone. My favorite by far is the Phillips 12 watt (60 watt equivalent). Its color is 2700 degrees Kelvin, almost identical to soft white incandescent bulbs. Price is $24.97.



It is lovably goofy looking, but it gives off a spectacular light, better than any other I've bought. Home Depot's EcoSmart brand is also decent. It runs at 3000 K, so is slightly whiter light. For the price, I'll pay an extra buck for the Phillips.


I first replaced 4 canlight floods in my kitchen. Went from 300 watts to 56. Then, I replaced a 300 watt outdoor floodlight with an LED floodlight. Dropped from 300 watts to 31. The light is so good, I am replacing them in the house now. I've replaced 5, dropping from about 250 watts combined to 68 watts. A couple of the bulbs replaced were CFLs. I didn't save much energy, but they look much better. The CFLs are going to my outdoor lights until they burn out.

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On the question of beer, I agree that hurricanes are better with beer, but with the shortage of cooling I'd forgo my usual spaten or paulaner in favor of shiner bock. I've noticed that it still tastes good even at room temp. Better than that, though, would be to stock up some stuff that doesn't need cooling like whisky or red wine.

As for hand sanitizers, I prefer to use anti-septic wipes instead since hand sanitizers tend to create mud if you've got any dirt on your hands. Baby wipes work pretty well in a pinch, too.

Have a siphon stored away in case you need to get gas out of one of your vehicles. I've got a couple of simple gravity feed ones that I bought at wallmart for 2 or 3 dollars.

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Speaking of low power air conditioners, check out this 1,000 Btu "personal air conditioner".


Only draws 2 amps and 250 watts of electricity. Claims to cool up to 100 square feet. In a pinch, throw down a sleeping bag in your bathroom, and one solar panel could run this thing.

And, how about a 19 cubic foot fridge that uses less than a half kwH per day!


Too bad it cost $2200, though you'd save more than that in solar panels.

Edited by RedScare
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In the days leading up to, I threw EVERY bottle of water I had in the freezer, then turn them into ice, shifted them into the fridge, reloaded more water bottles on top and continued the cycle until my fridge/freezer were full.

When the power went out, my fridge was cool for almost a week.

The food inside was either cooked or consumed within a matter of days using a cooker outside. burgers/meats were consumed within a day of the storm, sandwiches 4 days after the storm. I had cool/cold water for a little over a week. Ice wasn't a big deal to come by after the first week.

Fuel was more challenging for the car, but I learned that you were better off getting it at night when the lines were shorter, and in some cases, nonexistent.

Overall, being without power for 21 days wasn't really that big of an issue, aside from missing TV and wondering what the coverage was like (even when I went to NYC a week after the storm, I didn't see any real coverage up there). To this day, I don't know how much or how little coverage got compared to New Orleans.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Since there are now 3 storms in the Atlantic, and TS Ernesto has a chance of heading our way, I thought I'd bump this thread. Better to buy your batteries this weekend than next. And, Kroger has ravioli for a buck a can. Can't go wrong with Chef Boyardee.

For those who dig this sort of thing, here's the Weather Underground link.


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Since there are now 3 storms in the Atlantic, and TS Ernesto has a chance of heading our way, I thought I'd bump this thread. Better to buy your batteries this weekend than next. And, Kroger has ravioli for a buck a can. Can't go wrong with Chef Boyardee.

I saw Hill Country Fare brand canned ravioli for $0.80 each at the Montrose Heeb. And Wolf brand turkey chili was $1.48.

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