By sunrise on Wednesday morning, Jess and Steve were both at the breakfast table going over their stockpile inventory and their bug out planning once more. Steve was watching video of the devastation the Hurricane had brought to the Caribbean already.
Jess would take the list she’d created while doing the inventory the day before and head to the local small grocery store just down the street to purchase whatever she could before any evacuation order might be ordered and things would get even crazier.
After breakfast, Jess headed out to make a last trip to the store to get needed items that were still available. Steve reminded her to grab several extra bottles of bleach while at the store. They both knew that if they stayed put, the bleach would be invaluable for purifying water in the time following the hurricane when public utilities could be inoperable.
It would also be a vital resource during the cleanup process once any flood waters receded.As she left, Steve handed her one of the handheld radios for backup communication.
While Jess was at the store, Steve called the kids into the living room. “You guys are getting a day off from school today.” Steve waited for the cheers to die down from Jeff and Sammy. “Okay guys we’re going to review safety procedures so you know what to do if the bad weather gets to our area.”
“Is it going to be bad, dad?” Sammy was sitting cross-legged on the couch next to Delia.
“It’s hard to know with a hurricane, Sammy. But the weathermen are predicting a category 4 hurricane which can be very strong winds. We weren’t here for Hurricane Matthew but this area experienced a lot of damage then and it had downgraded to a Category 3.
With a Cat 4 Hurricane, the winds can be over 150 miles per hour and it can do a lot more damage. Right now we’re watching where the storm moves so we can decide whether to stay here or head on up to the cabin in Georgia for awhile. With Hurricanes, it’s hard because their path can change. We should know pretty soon what the best thing to do is going to be.” Sammy nodded.
“What about Wheeter?” Delia piped up from next to Sammy. “We have to make sure he’s safe from the big winds too!
“Miss Tucker will make sure Wheeter is safe Delia, don’t worry.” Steve leaned over and ruffled his youngest daughter’s hair affectionately.
“So has the storm hit Florida yet, dad?” Jeff asked.
“No, not yet. Actually Jeff that’s what we’re waiting to hear about. When the storm hits Florida and we see how much damage is done, we’ll have a better idea of what we should do.” Jeff nodded.
“I heard the news guy last night say Florida might be in a state of emergency.” Jeff said with concern.
“Yes, and if that happens today, we will need to head to the cabin in Georgia for awhile.” Steve said trying to project more calm in his voice than he felt.
“Yay! I like the cabin.” Delia announced.
“I like the cabin too, Delia. We may get to go visit for a little while until this storm passes.” Steve told her.
“Okay, let’s talk about safety. The danger with hurricanes is strong winds and water. So if we hunker down here, it will be important that you don’t try to go outside once the storm starts.
The winds outside will be very strong and even though we have put a lot of our outside stuff in the garage, there could be other stuff out there flying around, including some broken glass or sharp objects that could hurt you. We will all stay together inside the house, most of the time in our safe area.” Jeff nodded and Sammy made a face.
“How long will we have to stay in there dad?” Sammy asked. “That space is so small.”
“I know Sammy but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Did you and Jeff move some of your games in there so you can play while we wait it out?” Sammy nodded.
“Okay then you’ll have those at least. Try not to worry. We are well prepared and it will be fine. So once the storm starts, you don’t go outside, not for anything, understand?” The kids agreed. “One of the other dangers in a hurricane, especially for us because we are on the coast here, is storm surge.”
“What’s that, daddy?” Delia asked curiously. She was watching him closely.
“Storm surge is something that can happen during a hurricane. The strong winds push and pull the water and it can cause flooding. That’s why we all have life jackets and when the storm comes, we will put them on, just in case. The ones we use when we go out on a boat, remember?” Delia nodded.
Steven continued to talk casually with the kids, answering their questions and going over additional safety procedures so they would know what to do if they got separated from the group, how to stay safe, and how to signal for help.
The kids grabbed their bug out bags and he went over the items inside with them to make sure everything was in working order. Much of it was review for the older kids, although some of the information specific to hurricanes was new.
He could hear the weather reports occasionally from the NOAA radio in the kitchen and was still waiting to hear how Florida would be impacted.
“I think that’s about it guys. Any other questions?” the kids glanced at each other but were silent. “Why don’t you guys each grab a plastic tub from near the garage door and put special things from your room into it. Put the lid on and then put it on top of your bed.
If we have to leave, we’ll either take it with us or we will duct tape the lids and store them to keep them safe.” The kids nodded and hurried off to grab tubs and get started.
Steve moved to the kitchen and was pouring coffee just as Jess came back through the door from the store. “Wanna give me a hand with this stuff?” she asked.
“Not really but I will.” Steve grinned at her and then ducked as she swung at him. “I’m teasing, come on.” Jess followed him into the garage and together they unloaded the supplies she’d been able to get and set them out on the kitchen table. The NOAA alert came on as they brought the last of the bags into the kitchen.
“As of a few moments ago, the Governor of Florida has declared a State of Emergency for Florida. The Governors of Georgia and South Carolina are also urging residents to prepare and are strongly suggesting evacuation for the coastal areas.
The storm is still a Category 4 and is expected to make landfall in Florida early Thursday morning. Winds in excess of 180 miles per hour were reported in some areas of the Caribbean and reports of damage are catastrophic..” Steve glanced at Jess.
“It’s time to go.” Steve declared. Jess nodded in agreement. Now that they knew they were bugging out, it was time to start loading the Durango. Jess headed upstairs to tell the kids and Steve grabbed a plastic tub and loaded the supplies Jess had purchased into it so it could go into the Durango as well.
“Hey kids, we are heading to the cabin instead of staying here. Take your tub with your special things out to Dad in the garage. Sammy, please help Delia with her tub. Jeff, find the cat and put him in the carrier and take it to the garage. After you do that, all of you come meet me in the safe room so you can help get the tubs we need from there to the garage.”
“Yay, we’re going to the cabin!” Jess smiled at Delia’s innocent excitement and winked at her older kids to let them know not to worry her.
“Yep, we’re going to the cabin for a few days. It’ll be fun.” Jess replied. Jeff grabbed his tub and headed off to find the cat and Sammy and Delia started pulling their tubs down the hall.
In the safe room, Jess took a moment to glance around. The edges of the room were lined with their tubs of supplies which thankfully were color coded.
She knew which tubs to grab without having to look inside each one because they used green tubs to indicate “Go”, red tubs were for “Stop or Stay”, and one yellow tub was for “caution or look” which meant she needed to check it. The supplies that would come in handy at the cabin were all in green tubs.
First, she checked the yellow tub for any supplies that hadn’t been sorted into green or red tubs yet, it was empty because she had sorted those few things the day before. She started lining the green tubs up by the door just as Sammy and Delia came into the room.
“I’m glad we don’t have to stay here in the safe room for days, mom. The cabin will be so much better.” Sammy said as she started pulling one of the green tubs out of the room.
“Yep, we will be fine.” Jess grabbed a green tub. “Delia can you pull that smaller green one?” Delia nodded. As they came down the hall, Jeff was coming towards them.
“Found that cat, he’s with Dad.” Jeff said proudly.
“Great Jeff. Grab that last green tub from the safe room and bring it to the garage.” Jeff nodded to his mom and went into the room.
Jess arrived in the garage to find Steve arranging the tubs into the back of the Durango. The kids “special” items went in first and they were near enough to the back seat that the kids could turn around on the ride and get into them if need be.
The cat in his carrier was in the middle of the backseat where the kids could tend to him during the drive. Jess handed Steve her tub and walked back to the garage door to get the small green tub from Delia who had just arrived. She handed it to Steve and he slid it in on top of another tub.
“Sammy and Jeff are bringing the last of the green tubs. I’ll make a last pass through the house and have the kids get their BOBs. Can you shut off the utilities or should I do that? Jess asked.
“Nope, I got it. Once I have the last green tub from Jeff, we should be all loaded back here. “Oh, have the kids bring their life jackets just in case.” Steve said.
“They can put them by their feet for now. We don’t know what we’ll run into on the roads but we should be getting out ahead of the flooding.” Jess nodded. Just then Sammy came through the door pulling her tub, followed by Jeff who was carrying the last green one.
“Kids go get your life jackets, just in case.” Jess called over her shoulder as she headed inside. Jess used the empty yellow tub from the safe room to make one last pass through the house.
As she went from room to room, she checked for any items that they might need at the cabin or which were sentimental and could be damaged by flooding. She found Jeff’s yearbook on the floor in his room and Sammy’s baseball team photo from her nightstand and added those to the bin as well as some extra flashlights and batteries from the kitchen junk drawer.
As she headed back to the garage she passed Steve on his way to turn off the electric at the panel in the bedroom. “We about ready?” she asked.
“I think so.” Steve said. “You guys get in the car. Go ahead and back out of the garage and run through the checklist. I’m going to shut off the electric and then go turn the gas off at the meter and then the water off at the street. Oh, have Jeff pull up the solar walkway lights and put them in the yellow tub. Those may come in handy at the cabin.” Steve added.
“Okay, meet you in the driveway.” Jess headed to the garage to get the kids settled into the car and back it out. Before backing out of the garage, Jess picked up the clipboard that Steve had already put on the dashboard. She asked Jeff to get out and go get the solar lights while she ran through the checklist.
Steve had checked off items as he loaded them into the car, so once she checked off the things she had done, she could see neither of them had grabbed their own BOBs from the kitchen pantry. “Sit tight kids I’ve got to go back inside.” Jess ran inside and grabbed her BOB and Steve’s from the kitchen pantry.
Already back in his seat after getting the lights, Jeff shook his head and chuckled from the back seat as he saw Jess put the BOBs into the Durango.
“Really Mom? The two biggest preppers almost forgot their own BOBs?” Jess grinned at him and shut the back of the Durango.
As she backed the car from the garage, Jess saw Steve coming from the side of the house after shutting off the gas meter and closing up the door and window shutters. He headed for the street and she backed down to the end of the drive, got out and back in on the passenger’s side to wait for him.
“We all set?” Steve asked a few moments later as he got behind the wheel of the Durango and closed his door.
“Yep I believe so.” Jess replied. Steve glanced at his watch. It had been exactly 42 minutes since the State of Emergency announcement.
“Not bad time. We should be ahead of most people.” Steve said.
“Yeah, but you guys almost forgot your own BOBs!” Jeff piped up from the back seat.
Steve glanced at Jess. “really?” he asked in disbelief. Jess nodded.
“Yes, but thanks to our checklist, I got them.” Jess grinned and she and Steve gave each other an exaggerated high-five. Jeff rolled his eyes and Delia giggled.
“What’s so funny?” Sammy pulled a headphone from one ear and looked from Delia to her mom and dad. “What’d I miss?” Sammy asked.
“Nothing Sammy, it’s all good now.” Jess replied. “Let’s get rolling.” Steve nodded. He handed Jess the paper map with the different bug out routes marked with different colored highlighter. “Let’s start out on green and see how far we get. I think we’re far enough ahead of traffic” Steve said. Jess nodded.
Their bug out routes were color coded in a similar way to the tubs, green symbolized go and stood for their first choice route. The yellow and orange routes were the second and third choices.
The red route was the last resort because it would be the most difficult to maneuver. That route included using small side streets and a power line easement to get them out of town and would only be used if they hadn’t gotten out ahead of traffic and other routes were blocked.
“Here we come cabin!’ Delia cheered as the car backed out onto the road. Steve and Jess shared a glance. They both knew getting to the cabin this time wasn’t going to be a picnic and they would be lucky to get far enough ahead of the masses of desperate people who would begin to evacuate over the next 6 to 24 hours.
Steve reached over and squeezed Jess’ hand as he turned the corner out of their development and onto the main road. There was, it appeared, very little traffic in sight. Time would tell if they had bugged out in time to get ahead of the crowds.
(Continue reading chapter 3 here)