An Island Lady’s Guide to Storm Survival

When you live on an island in the Caribbean, you no longer measure time according to the four seasons. For the most part, island weather stays consistent year-round: temperatures in the low 80s, mostly sunny, with a daily rain shower that lasts no more than twenty minutes. If you wanted to get really picky about it though, you could probably divide your island year into three distinct seasons: Hot, Hotter, and Hurricane Season.

hurricane ready_WWLOR

With nearly two years of island living under my belt, I’ve just experienced my first brush with nasty tropical weather. Tropical Storm Bertha wound up being pretty mild – mostly, a good excuse to hoard cans of Spaghetti-O’s and spend the day on the couch – but getting ready for the impending storm got me thinking about some hurricane essentials often omitted by the more traditional preparation checklists. Here’s your foolproof guide to surviving – and maybe even enjoying! – your tropical storm or hurricane experience on your island.

DO: Enjoy the breeze while you can

Be sure to spend some time on your porch or patio before the storm gets too intense. When else can you enjoy a cup of coffee outdoors without the constant buzz of mosquitoes in your ears?

DO: Stock up on booze

This goes without saying, right? But select your libations wisely! You don’t want to be showing off your margarita-making skills just as the power goes out and your blender grinds to a halt. And no amount of alcohol is going to cover up the taste of spoiled milk or cream, so skip the White Russians. And who wants to end the storm with a dark refrigerator full of skunked beer? Keep it simple, and stick to low-maintenance options like rum and juice or vodka and soda. Don’t forget the ice!

DON’T: Miss the rare opportunity to break out the cold weather clothing

Remember those clothing items you naively brought with you when you moved to the rock? The long-sleeved shirt you packed “in case it gets chilly at night” or the flannel pants you just couldn’t bear to leave behind? They’ve been stowed away at the back of your closet since you got here, gathering dust and making only the occasional appearance for flights back to the mainland. But as the rain squalls begin and the wind starts howling, take advantage of this brief window of opportunity to get cozy in that favorite sweatshirt or pair of sweatpants. (But not both. It’s a hurricane, not a blizzard.)

Caribbean cold for blog_WWLOR

DO: Prepare some non-electronic forms of entertainment

You’ve been searching for just the right Instagram filter for your photos of the ominous clouds, and had grand plans of live-tweeting the hurricane for everyone following along back home. You’ve got a DVR full of Nashville and Grey’s Anatomy just waiting for a rainy day of binge-watching. But be sure you’ve also got some backup entertainment ready for the inevitable power outage, or you’ll be awfully bored silly when all the screens go dark. Think cards, board games, the latest guilty-pleasure vampire novel, etc. (If all else fails, look to your roommate for entertainment. Roaring thunder, flickering candlelight… sounds like a recipe for romance to me!)

DO: Buy yourself a battery-operated fan

As the wind ramps up and you’re forced to close the windows against the blowing rain, it’s going to get very stuffy, very quickly. (This is probably a good time to return the winter clothes to the closet. It was fun while it lasted.)

DO: Make contingency plans for bathroom necessities

For many island homes, a power outage also means a water outage. Brainstorm how you’ll get the toilet flushed and the teeth brushed in the likely event that you lose power. (This is especially true if you hope to pass the time with some hurricane lovin’. Nothing kills the mood faster than saying, Hey hun, where am I supposed to dump this bucket? )

DON’T: Let your guard down after the storm

You’ve made it through your first big island storm – congratulations! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and you’re getting ready to pack away those flashlights and spare batteries until the next storm blows through. Not so fast, island lady. We never lost power during Bertha, but we did experience four days of rolling blackouts immediately afterwards. Keep those candles handy! Better yet, just leave them out year-round – think of them as functional island décor.

*click for image credit

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What are your personal do’s and don’t’s for thriving through a storm on your rock?

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Ginger

About Ginger

Ginger stumbled upon St Thomas mostly by accident a little over a year ago. She didn’t plan to stay too long, but her crippling fear of flying means she’s essentially stranded and likely here for the long haul. (Upon consulting a map, she was startled to find that she was not, in fact, living just off the coast of Florida.) In her pre-island life, Ginger was a Type A, list-loving lady, but island life has changed all that. Her formerly lengthy and detailed grocery lists have been crossed out to read “whatever’s on sale and not past its expiration date”, and she’ll take a $6.99 liter of rum over an $8.99 gallon of milk any day of the week. Ginger moved to her rock with her husband, the Official Spider Slayer of the household. When she’s not changing flat tires and chasing lizards from her kitchen, you can find her in a hammock with a rum punch in hand.

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17 thoughts on “An Island Lady’s Guide to Storm Survival

  1. I have about half dozen of the inexpensive spike style solar garden lights – when the power is out I just bring them in and spread them around the house – they work well and last til morning when I put them out in the sun again.
    Nice oil lamps give a soft light and are my mainstay in outages for me too.
    A small gas grill or burner is priceless if you depend on an electric stove.
    Freezing bottles of water to have on hand will keep a small cooler cold enough to save some foods for a day or 2.

  2. My pre-hurricane prep includes a marathon ironing session so that if the power goes and takes time to be restored I have at least two weeks worth of clothing ironed. I also store water (although that’s a year round thing especially with the current drought in Jamaica). I also go through my bookcase and dust off the old classics as well as others that I have bought and not yet gotten the chance to read. Charge the phones as well and then turn off the ones you don’t need at the time.

  3. I missed a “claim to fame” when a hurricane was headed directly to St. John. (-; I was writing for an online publication about the Caribbean. Little did I know, a major, stateside news network was trying to contact me for on-air coverage/ comments about the weather.They were never able to reach me. It could have been because my internet service operated via my phone line!

  4. Re flushing the toilet if the water goes off: if you happen to be lucky enough to have a pool, dip a pail in and pour the water in the tank. It’s not that convenient, but it’s better than the alternatives.

  5. One of the best I have read. Will be celebrating our 9th year on the rock of Anguilla at the end of the month. We have several solar mosquito repellent lights that help in the aftermath of a storm when all of the breeze has been taken away and the mosquitoes are out in force.

  6. I buy a watermelon. It keeps a long time without refrigeration and makes a tasty treat days into no power. And boiled eggs keep much longer than fresh ones. My freezer has been full of frozen water bottles since the season started to help keep it cold as we do not stock up on meat in this season.

  7. Not counting natural storm damage, our biggest problem (Irene 2011, Sandy 2012) was no electricity for 7-14 days … no water pump. Therefore, it was important for us to have clean buckets and lines to “bucket out” water from our rain-water tank (of course it was full…..7 inches of rain in one day..seriously?). We had drinking water, water for dishes, “showers” (great shampoos on our knees in the shower with our heads in a bucket), cooking water, etc. etc. We made certain we had a plastic mixing bowl that fit in every sink …. water doesn’t seep out of those as it does the drains.

    In advance we filled every left-over container, water bottle, etc. and froze them (oh, and ice cube trays!). They kept the food in the freezer cold, and later, the fridge. We are really careful not keep much seafood around during hurricane season……. just how much fish can you eat when it all thaws at once?

    Oil candles are a staple in our house..the ambiance is lovely….makes up for how foolish we look cooking by head lamp (another essential).

    Not every gas range will light with a match …check it out before you need to know.

    If you think the jungles of the Amazon have a lot of species of insects….you should see what appears after a hurricane….. keep bug spray around.

  8. Good stuff! Just moved here from San Diego last month, and adding a few items to my Kmart list from this discussion. Hope to run into you around the rock!

    -Dave

  9. We are not island residents, but have been through 2 hurricanes while on our yearly trips to St Marten. We pre perked coffee before the lights went out and then heated it up over a candle. Also make sure to have a non electric can opener on hand.

  10. You can buy an inverter for about $50 that will turn a car battery into a charging station. We rarely lose cell reception even when we lose power for days. Having a way to recharge your phone is HUGE as it is often your only way of knowing what is going on during and after a storm.

    And if water has a tendency to come IN your house, putting couches and furniture on top of blocks will often save your furniture!

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