Riding out a hurricane comes with a big bill, too ... Here's how I'm getting ready for Isaac
I’m spending a bundle as Hurricane Isaac roars toward my New Orleans' home.
It’s quite eerie that this soon-to-be hurricane is projected to arrive on Aug. 29, the same day that Hurricane Katrina struck with such devastating consequences seven years ago.
Fortunately, Isaac is nowhere near that strong but everyone on the Gulf Coast is still preparing.
Some in low-lying waterfront areas are evacuating but the majority of us, my family included, are just going to hunker down and ride it out.
I’ve already written about how expensive an evacuation can be but staying home isn’t cheap either.
I was born and raised in New Orleans, so I’ve gone through hurricane drills many times.
The biggest issue is that you need lots of supplies to deal not just with the storm but its aftermath that can include damage and loss of power.
Everyone hits the stores when a storm approaches. Things started to get busy this weekend but it’s getting more chaotic today.
Gas stations are running out of gas and have lines around the block. ATMs are running out of cash. Groceries are running out of food. Hardware stores are running out of wood, rope and batteries.
This is nothing new – it happens just about anywhere anytime a storm approaches a community.
Our neighborhood fared well in Katrina. I say “well” being relative to the devastation the rest of the city saw. We had no power for about three weeks and we had trees and debris all over but we didn’t have 15 foot floodwaters, mass devastation or looting.
I’m not concerned about major catastrophe but I do want to be prepared for minor damage and possibly going without power for a week.
To do that you need tools and supplies, all of which can add up quickly.
Because everything can sell out, lines are long and time is running short, you’re not going to think about price or smart shopping.
Going to the grocery or hardware store before a hurricane is like shopping on Black Friday, only much worse. Everyone is pissed off and anxious and they’re grabbing everything they can.
You buy what you can at any price and you figure it’s better to have things you don’t need than to not have things you do need.
Stores could be shut down for days, if not weeks, after the storm passes.
You’ll buy dozens of batteries, extra flashlights, candles, maybe even another ice chest. You might even pick up a small $300 generator on the spot.
And you need food, preferably non-perishable things like pastas, rice and canned goods. Then water, lot’s of it, since the water system could be contaminated for a while after the storm.
If you drink, you’re going to buy alcohol. Beer can sell out quickly before and after a hurricane. If you find yourself without power for a week afterwards, there won’t be much entertainment.
Drinking beer and playing cards by candlelight is what a lot of people do after a storm.
If you have doubt about whether you need something, you buy it anyway. Because at a time like this, it’s best to just get what you need and think about finances later.
The only good thing is that with the exception of batteries, food and water, you can reuse many of these items. You don’t need to buy a new ice chest, chainsaw or generator every year. You can also reuse the wood to board up your windows.
But if you just moved to the coast and are new to the hurricane experience, the one-time expense can add up to a big chunk of change.
If you’re starting from scratch, you could easily spend well over $1,500 in supplies, materials and tools to board up your house, get a small generator, flashlights, gas, food, water and all the other stuff.
Even if with those items, you could still spend a couple hundred dollars gassing up your vehicles and stockpiling food, batteries and water every time a storm approaches.
It’s not too bad if you’ve got a good emergency fund to deal with expenses like this.
But if you’re cash strapped and living paycheck-to-paycheck, a busy hurricane season can wreak havoc on your wallet.
Aside from being prepared to go without power, you also need to be ready to do some work around your house once the storm has passed.
You might have tree limbs on your house, a downed fence, a broken window or even a leak in your roof.
It’s not the end of the world but there are things you have to deal with. And you’re going to need some tools to deal with it all. Things like a chainsaw, skill saw, hammer, nails and tarps.
Utility workers will usually clear trees from the streets but anything that happens on your property is pretty much your responsibility.
Stores will eventually reopen but it could be a few days, if not more.
And it may be a while before ATMs and credit card processing capabilities are back online. So, you need cash. Lots of it.
How much probably depends on the size of your family and your needs? I like to have at least $300 cash on hand in the wake of a storm.
I remember after Katrina, I blew through a few hundred dollars within a week or two. I can’t even tell you what I spent it on, all I know is that it disappeared quickly.
I bought gas, food, water, and supplies wherever I could get it, regardless of the price. It’s just the reality of what you have to do.
It’s just hard to be cost conscious during a hurricane.
When you’re preparing to ride out a storm, you pull out your wallet, buy what you need and think about it later.