“This [Hurricane Irma] could easily be the most costly storm in U.S. history, which is saying a lot considering what just happened two weeks ago.”
-Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami, alluding to the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.
Everywhere you look, it seems, people are talking about the disruptive power of Hurricane Irma and its apparently inevitable landfall on Florida this weekend. Miami/Dade County officials have already issued a mandatory evacuation order. Hospitals in the area are closed and moving patients North. Hurricane Irma is such an immense storm that it can easily swallow the entire state of Florida and most of Georgia and South Carolina at the same time. This is not a laughing matter and even though I’m about to take a slightly more humorous approach to the topic, let’s make no mistake in stating just how serious and deadly hurricane conditions of this magnitude are.
I saw a comparison earlier today that I think fits well. Most everyone in the US is familiar with the devastating power of tornadoes. We’ve seen them ripping places apart all our lives and they occur multiple times a year. The thing about tornadoes, though, is that they are generally short-lived. From the moment it hits until it is gone is generally a matter of a few minutes, sometimes seconds. So, as deadly as they can be, they do their thing and move on.
Hurricanes are just as deadly, with the winds of a Cat 5 storm about the same as an F3 tornado. The big difference is that the hurricane takes its sweet time about moving. Irma has been especially slow, averaging around 5-7 miles per hour. And they’re huge. So, if you can, imagine a giant tornado coming and just staying for several hours. That’s what a hurricane is like.
For dudes in South Florida, and there are a lot of them, evacuating isn’t easy, or possible. Let’s start with the fact that there are only a couple of major highways out of there and they’ve both been packed since the first reliable forecasts for landfall were made on Monday. People who have experience with these things didn’t hesitate to start moving, making it difficult for people who couldn’t afford to be off work for a couple of weeks effectively trapped by the traffic. Adding to the problem is that airlines are apparently gouging potential Irma victims by raising the prices on airfare out of Miami. Not cool, man. Very uncool.
Inevitably, a lot of dudes are just stuck, whether by choice or circumstance. They get to ride out the storm and hope they survive. Sure, being further North and away from the coasts helps some as flooding is less of an issue in those areas, but it still doesn’t remove the risk from prolonged high winds. What are these dudes supposed to do, and perhaps just as importantly, how does one ride this thing out while remaining chill and abiding?
The Old Man is here to help. Not that I’ve ever taken the advice myself, because the last Florida hurricane I experienced many years ago wasn’t nearly as strong and, being the young, impetuous person that I was, I simply hung out at a bar until officials opened the roads. I drove really, really slowly back home. In hindsight, though, that was a really stupid move and I’m fortunate to be sitting here to tell you about it. Please do as I say, not as I do.
What should one do, then, to not merely survive a hurricane such as Irma, but to stay chill and abide in the midst of the chaos? I consulted my friend, the Old Farmer’s Almanac and came up with some ideas that are probably not terribly dangerous.
1.Don’t panic! I know, the “fight or flight” instinct is natural and in many cases works to one’s advantage. Not so, though, when there’s no safe way to leave. Fighting a hurricane is never a good idea, either. The best thing one can do is be chill and try to keep their wits about them. Panicking only raises your blood pressure and increases the likelihood of you having a medical emergency at the precise time that no one is available to come help you. The Buddha said:
“The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed. “
2.Make a plan specific to where you are. Not every plan is a good one and not every suggestion you hear in the media is going to work for you. Look around and see what the danger points are and create a plan based on what it will take to keep you and anyone with you safe even if there is total destruction all around you, and let’s be honest, the further South one is the more likely a catastrophic scenario is in your future. Consider things like dramatically trimming trees and brush on the property. Remove and store loose guttering; if it’s not loose, make sure it’s clean. There should be nothing on your lawn that is not 100% secured to the ground. Again, heed the words of the Buddha:
“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.“
3.Don’t forget the food, man. By this point, almost every store is already out of bread, milk, and bottled water. Forget that. You didn’t want to sustain on that in the first place. There are plenty of other things that won’t spoil easily and don’t require heating. Namely, anything in a can. Sure, it would taste better warmed up, but if it’s canned it has already been cooked. Stock up on whatever’s left and then secure that shit to a wall. Don’t put it in cupboards and damn sure don’t leave it sitting around on a table or in a bag. You don’t want those cans becoming airborne because at that point they might as well be missiles. Those things will kill you! As for the food in your fridge already, turn the fridge down to its lowest setting and then secure the door shut. You don’t want the door coming open during the storm and you have to assume that power is going to be out. So, get everything as cold as possible and leave it alone until you need it. If possible, put things in plastic containers that are less likely to break. This includes alcohol. Wine bottles are deadly, man. Go for the box.
The Tao Te Ching actually has some wisdom that applies surprisingly well to this situation:
Seal the openings, shut the doors, dull the sharpness, untie the knots, dim the light, become one with the dust. This is called the profound union.
Well, you might need to be careful about which knots you untie. A little bit of logic here, man.
4.Take the cash, dude. When this is all over, there are going to be things you’ll need to buy, but dammit, the ATMs are all down and no one’s credit card machine will work. Cash is king, man. So, get yourself to thy banking establishment and take as much cash as you think is safe. Remember, automatic deductions are still likely to come out, even if local branches of the bank are not open. That stuff is run on secure servers offsite and safe. Leave enough to keep the bills paid, but cash out the rest. You’re likely to need it in the aftermath. That being said, however, remember the advice of Lao Tzu:
He who holds on to the Way seeks no excess. Since he lacks excess, he can grow old in no need to be renewed.
5.Mind the last minute details. There comes a time when you’ve done all the planning you can. You’ve got everything as ready as it can possibly get. There are just a few last-minute things to do before you shut yourself inside. The Almanac makes these final suggestions:
- Stay indoors and away from windows and glass doors.
- Close all interior doors—secure and brace external doors.
- Keep curtains and blinds closed. Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm—winds will pick up again.
- Take refuge in a small interior room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level.
- Lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object.
There’s no need to hit the deck until you know that the storm is there, man. And don’t worry, you’ll know when that is. Hurricanes don’t sneak up on you the way a tornado sometimes does. You’ll hear this thing well before it gets to you. That’s your warning sign that it’s time to strap in and hang on. You’re gonna make it, dude. The ride may get rough for a while, but you’ve got this. Oh, one last thing: using a Sharpie or other permanent marker, write your name and social security number on your arm. You will make it through, but your wallet and ID may not. Post hurricane, this counts.
6.Meditate and stay in the moment. What else would you do when the storm is raging around you? Stay chill. Meditate. Others will follow your example and stay chill as well. If you have small children, hold them close and help them. Teach them a simple chant or song that they can repeat until the storm is over. Keep them close to your chest so that they can feel your heart beat. Breathe. This can be a very frightening moment. Don’t deny the fear. Accept it and let it give you the strength to overcome fear. Michael Ende, the author of The Neverending Story, makes an observation that fits well for this moment:
“You must let what happens happen. Everything must be equal in your eyes, good and evil, beautiful and ugly, foolish and wise.”
Few of us are actually faced with moments like this that hold the potential to be so incredibly brutal. There are inevitably some who try to party through the ordeal and many of those, unfortunately, are among those who do not survive. When forced to withstand circumstances such as these, we must realize that not only do we not have control over what happens now, we have never had any control outside ourselves. Ever. Hurricanes are an entity unto themselves and for those who have no choice but to endure Irma’s wrath, the best one can do in those most fierce of moments is be chill. Be calm. Dude out.
Ming-Dao Deng, the author of Everyday Tao: Living with Balance and Harmony, would have us learn two very important lessons here:
“Those who don’t know how to suffer are the worst off. There are times when the only correct thing we can do is to bear out troubles until a better day.”
And then, again:
“Grappling with fate is like meeting an expert wrestler: to escape, you have to accept the fall when you are thrown. The only thing that counts is whether you get back up.”
There are still days yet before Hurricane Irma actually hits Florida. Many different things may happen between now and then. As we spoke of on Sunday, worrying about the future does not bring us any relief from whatever disaster may fall. Hurricanes have an unpredictable way of suddenly changing course. We cannot be certain of an outcome over which we have no control. At our best, we prepare and do our best to abide.
I have given you what I can. Abide in peace, dudes, and when you are able to do so please leave a comment below so we can rejoice in your safety.
-The Old Man