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Please stay safe, Eastern North American hordelings

I’ve been a lot quieter here the last week or so than I’ve wanted to be, mainly due to a low-grade ick of some sort that’s been making me not much good for anything after 4 pm for the last two weeks. The old immune system seems to be kicking in, though, and forecast is good for the weekend at which point my poking at wasp nests and mispronouncing shibboleths will pick up speed again.

Speaking of forecasts, those of you who are among the 67 million people staring down the barrel of Hurricane Sandy may well want to take note of the calm, measured language meteorologists are using to describe what the first few days of next week may be like between Virginia and Maine:

A very prominent and respected National Weather Service meteorologist wrote on Facebook last night, “I’ve never seen anything like this and I’m at a loss for expletives to describe what this storm could do.”

Weather blogger Mike Smith has a pretty authoritative rundown of likely effects of Hurricane Sandy, and if you’re in harm’s way you’ll want to read his post. Just for the sake of preparedness, his recommendations for weathering the storm:

  • Get prescriptions refilled now, especially if your doctor must approve the refill.
  • Vote. If the stronger models are correct, power could still be out in some places on election day. Regardless, that is one less thing you will need to do. The election will not (and shouldn’t) be postponed.
  • If you can get an electrician to install a generator, get it done. Do not try to install a generator yourself.
  • If you don’t have a generator, get a power inverter or two. Radio Shack and similar stores sell them. They are a “poor man’s generator” and will keep your cell phone, laptop, and similar charged.
  • Keep your car’s gas tank full.
  • If you have a wood-burning fireplace and you know your chimney is clear, get wood. Keep some indoors to keep it dry during the storm. You may need it to heat your home.
  • If you live in a 100-year flood plain (you can check at city hall or your library) or on the coast figure out your evacuation strategy now. Make your list of things you will take with you.
  • Fill a few gas cans (the type you would use for your mower) to have extra in the event of power failures.
  • Purchase extra staples. Without power, stores will be closed.
  • Purchase booster batteries for your cell phone and other essential equipment. If you need insulin or other medicine that must be kept chilled make plans now.
  • Consider what you would do if you were without electricity for a month. If you have an invalid living with you who requires electricity, there will be areas that will be without for weeks. Be proactive.
  • If you live in a heavily wooded area, does someone in your vicinity have a gasoline-powered chain saw? Does it have fuel and a reasonably good chain/blade? Test it, now.
  • Get to an ATM. Without power, credit card readers and ATMs will not be working. In a disaster, cash is king.
  • And, if you are planning to travel by air to or through airports between Richmond-Boston Monday through Wednesday, forget it.

With any luck, this will all be way overblown — if you will pardon the expression. Then again, I recall the last time I saw meteorologists start losing their cool and saying things that were so incredibly frightening they couldn’t possibly have been real, as in this National Weather Service forecast from some years back:

DEVASTATING DAMAGE EXPECTED

MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS…PERHAPS LONGER. AT LEAST ONE HALF OF WELL CONSTRUCTED HOMES WILL HAVE ROOF AND WALL FAILURE. ALL GABLED ROOFS WILL FAIL…LEAVING THOSE HOMES SEVERELY DAMAGED OR DESTROYED.

THE MAJORITY OF INDUSTRIAL BUILDINGS WILL BECOME NON FUNCTIONAL. PARTIAL TO COMPLETE WALL AND ROOF FAILURE IS EXPECTED. ALL WOOD FRAMED LOW RISING APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL BE DESTROYED. CONCRETE BLOCK LOW RISE APARTMENTS WILL SUSTAIN MAJOR DAMAGE…INCLUDING SOME WALL AND ROOF FAILURE.

HIGH RISE OFFICE AND APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL SWAY DANGEROUSLY… A FEW TO THE POINT OF TOTAL COLLAPSE. ALL WINDOWS WILL BLOW OUT.

AIRBORNE DEBRIS WILL BE WIDESPREAD…AND MAY INCLUDE HEAVY ITEMS SUCH AS HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES AND EVEN LIGHT VEHICLES. SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES AND LIGHT TRUCKS WILL BE MOVED. THE BLOWN DEBRIS WILL CREATE ADDITIONAL DESTRUCTION. PERSONS…PETS…AND LIVESTOCK EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH IF STRUCK.

POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS…AS MOST POWER POLES WILL BE DOWN AND TRANSFORMERS DESTROYED. WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS.

THE VAST MAJORITY OF NATIVE TREES WILL BE SNAPPED OR UPROOTED. ONLY THE HEARTIEST WILL REMAIN STANDING…BUT BE TOTALLY DEFOLIATED. FEW CROPS WILL REMAIN. LIVESTOCK LEFT EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL BE KILLED.

That warning was issued the day before Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the Gulf Coast in 2005. Of course much of the actual suffering and death from Katrina resulted from engineering incompetence rather than directly from the force of the storm. Let’s just all be grateful that there are no badly engineered public works anywhere on the Eastern Seaboard, amirite?

Be careful and safe the next few days, friends.

Comments

  1. Ichthyic says

    yeesh.

    this sounds bad.

    Clown prediction:

    The storm is severe enough to prevent much of the NE from voting.

    …Mittens wins.

    in which case, the storm would have indeed caused a tremendous amount of damage :(

  2. dianne says

    I’m right in the middle of the predicted hit range. Stocked up on batteries, water, and essentials and not in an area prone to flooding. I’m now mostly worried about some of my more fragile patients. What if they have an emergency and the roads are out so they can’t get to the ER? What about the ones with meds requiring refrigeration or They might be better off just hitting the ER now or at least Sunday…

  3. Ichthyic says

    …I mean, just wildly speculating here, and before I do know that my primary concerns are for friends and loved ones in the NE to STAY SAFE, but…

    Say it really does happen that way. The storm indeed has enough impact that a significant number of NE voters are unable to turn out to Vote.

    The NE is a very big Blue Block. It really could in fact, influence the outcome of the elections.

    Say Mittens first act in office is to decide to invade Iran…

    Please people, don’t wait, go out and vote NOW.

  4. dianne says

    Naivish question, but wouldn’t the election be rescheduled? There was a primary election on 9/11/01 in NYC. It wasn’t called on early returns only.

  5. Ogvorbis: broken and cynical says

    Looks like the storm is going to be a little south of me. Which is not good news considering where the strongest rain bands usually are. Additionally, it looks like there may be a major storm surge up the Delaware River in which case parts of Philadelphia are going to be soggy toast.

    The good news is we will have a week (or so) between the storm and election day so, hopefully, things will be back up and running in most places. Especially the urban areas.

    This kind of storm track (Dianne in 1955 (no, not you, dianne)) has a tendency to produce storms which stall out. Scary amounts of rain.

  6. Ichthyic says

    Naivish question, but wouldn’t the election be rescheduled?

    not likely.

    it’s a national election, and I can’t recall anything like that in my time in the States.

    I really, really would not count on it.

  7. csue says

    In our neck of Maryland, early voting starts tomorrow. I’m hitting the polls no later than Sunday! (And starting to make ice tonight.)

    Meanwhile, DC just declared a pre-emptive state of emergency for the storm. :/

  8. neuroturtle says

    Maryland has declared a state of emergency too.
    Baltimore here; gonna go out and vote as soon as I can. This state is solid blue… and also like 80% coastline. =/ Even our coast has a coast.

  9. dianne says

    it looks like there may be a major storm surge up the Delaware River in which case parts of Philadelphia are going to be soggy toast.

    Are there any models on what parts of Philadelphia are likely to be under water? I live in center city Philly, near the highest point between the Skuykill and the Delaware, but it’s still not exactly high…Is it time to run now while we still can?

  10. Beatrice, anti-imperialist anti-racist Islamophobiaphobic leftist says

    Dianne and anyone else in the area, stay safe. *hugs*

  11. Ichthyic says

    http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/local&id=8861859

    “Do not wait until Monday to try to figure out what to do,” Nutter said Friday. “If you live in a flood-prone area, make plans to stay with family or friends. We’re calling on you to be out by 2:00 p.m. Sunday.”

    The Philadelphia region can expect rainfall to begin on Sunday, October 28th, with the heaviest periods of rain and wind beginning Monday, October 29th and last into Tuesday, October 30th. The impact of the storm may be comparable to what the region experienced during Hurricane Irene in August 2011. Localized flash flooding is likely to occur on all rivers, streams and creeks. With the current forecast, sustained winds may reach 50  60 mph with gusts reaching 70+, which may cause widespread tree damage and power outages.

    Philadelphia has many flood prone areas, including but not limited to:
    -Eastwick and areas of Cobbs Creek
    -Main Street Manayunk
    -Delaware Avenue
    -Kelly, MLK and Lincoln Drives
    -River Road
    -The areas surrounding Pennypack Creek, and others including like Poquessing, Tacony, Frankford, and Wissahickon Creeks.

    The City has not announced plans to open shelter operations yet. There will be more information provided on this matter on Saturday, Oct. 27th. If the City opens shelters, 2 likely locations will be:
    -Roxborough High School, 6498 Ridge Avenue
    -West Philadelphia High School, 4901 Chestnut Street

    so, I would check with the City management office on Saturday to see if they expect flooding in your area.

  12. Ichthyic says

    on the lighter side of things…

    Philly’s mayor’s last name is… Nutter?

    Mayor Nutter…

  13. Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach says

    Best wishes to everyone affected. Please stay safe. I’d offer up some spare room to evacuees, but I doubt anyone’s running all the way to Alberta to avoid this one.

  14. Ichthyic says

    Oh, great. I’m supposed to fly through Charlotte on Sunday.

    ouch.

    still, that’s just the early edge… could be you’ll get out before it gets heavy.

    If it were me though, I’d be looking at an alternate route?

  15. lb says

    Oh, great. I’m supposed to fly through Charlotte on Sunday.

    You’ll probably be okay but if the weather is very bad, they’ll divert you or close the airports.

    I’m smack in the middle of VA and we tend to just lose our power for 14 days or so. :-/ Wish us luck! Or the non-superstitious equivalent.

  16. Kevin Schelley says

    I’m in Vermont, and we’re still recovering from Irene. I hope we don’t get hit hard again.

  17. mikel says

    While I see how this could affect the popular vote, I don’t see how it could affect the Electoral College vote. Even if blue state New York’s voter turnout is cut in half by the storm, as long as Obama gets a majority or even a plurality of the votes that are cast there he still gets all of New York’s Electoral votes. The only way it could tip a state from one candidate to another would be if it somehow depressed the turnout of voters of one party more than the other in that state.

  18. indicus says

    Maybe we should all just get together and try to pray it away. I’ll bring the sacrificial heifer.

  19. Ichthyic says

    The only way it could tip a state from one candidate to another would be if it somehow depressed the turnout of voters of one party more than the other in that state.

    makes sense.

    I see no reason to even take THAT chance though.

  20. anteprepro says

    The only way it could tip a state from one candidate to another would be if it somehow depressed the turnout of voters of one party more than the other in that state.

    That’s what I was thinking to and I felt relief. Then I saw you bring it up and suddenly the thought popped into my head: That could actually happen. If urban areas were disproportionately affected relative to rural regions.

  21. Rich Woods says

    I’m in the UK. We just get rain.

    I should like to qualify that in transatlantic terms, but really, we just get rain.

    It doesn’t even affect any voting: the same bunch of bastards always get in.

  22. Matt Penfold says

    It doesn’t even affect any voting: the same bunch of bastards always get in.

    We need outbreaks of foot and mouth to postpone elections in the UK.

  23. Erp says

    @25 in some of the states the turnout decrease could negatively affect the Democrats because the coastal urban regions tend to be more Democratic then the interior regions (think New York City versus upstate New York or Boston versus western Massachusetts or Philadelphia and western Pennsylvania).

  24. What a Maroon, el papa ateo says

    I could see the storm affecting results here in VA–looks like those of us in the people’s republic of NoVa are going to be hard hit. Probably doesn’t matter much for the presidential election, but we could end up with a rethug Senator. I’m more worried about PA, if Philly is hard hit.

    OTOH, if people are stuck at home for two weeks, maybe they’ll want to get out to vote.

  25. anteprepro says

    Has anyone heard yet which particular sin brought on the latest wrath of gawd?

    I heard that Little Jimmy from upstate New York didn’t eat all of his vegetables. Oh, so many unrelated people in roughly adjacent geographic areas will pay for that crime!

  26. triskelethecat says

    New Jersey here – and of course, I moved from farther inland and up a fracking steep hill to sea level 6 weeks ago…AND I was planning on going to DC to see Mattir, the Spawn, and several others of the Horde before going to western Maryland for a Girl’s Night with my younger child. The hotel is reassuring me that there will be no problems with our night there. We’ll have to see…

  27. mikel says

    Has anyone heard yet which particular sin brought on the latest wrath of gawd?

    Well the state of Washington is looking likely to vote in gay marriage and legal pot and you know bad God’s aim is.

  28. gworroll says

    Hurricane Gloria hit Connecticut when I was 8. It was a minor hurricane by the time it reached us.

    We had no power for 8 days. And it looks fairly likely that Sandy will be substantially worse.

    On the other hand, after Irene and the freak October storms last year, Connecticut might be reasonably well prepared, as well as you can be for something like this. The people in charge now were pretty much all around for those storms, so they’ve got an idea what is coming, what worked and what didn’t work last time from personal experience. So that’s good.

    Don’t forget to clean up your yard. Bring potential flying debris in, if you don’t have the space to take it in, tie it down.

    Some people look at removing trees and large branches in advance of a storm. If you don’t know how to do this properly(it can be more complicated than it looks, especially when close to a structure you care about), call a professional or leave it alone and hope for the best. Trees large enough to cause serious damage to a house are large enough to kill you if they fall in an unexpected way. Professional lumberjacks get seriously injured and killed doing this, and few people know more about safely felling a tree than they do. Tree or branch removal might be worth considering, but do it safely or not at all.

  29. says

    If you check out the famous blue raincoat purple map, you’ll see that the more liberal parts of the northeast tend toward a relatively narrow band between the coast and the Appalachians. Those areas are more likely to have damage from this storm than more conservative interior districts.

    But even within the big liberal cities there are issues that could affect the elections. How do potential voters with limited mobility skew politically: older folks, disabled folks, people who can’t easily take several hours to get to the polls with mass transit down? Which neighborhoods get their power turned back on first? Which neighborhoods’ schools and churches and community centers — potential polling places — can afford generators?

    People that can weather disasters and go on more or less as normal tend to be those who went into the disaster more affluent. Massive disruption on Election day will tend to favor those affluent people.

  30. markr1957 (Patent Pending) says

    If you’re in the hit zone do gas up all vehicles and get to the ATM! If you’re without power as long as we were after Katrina and Gustav and again this year after Isaac gas stations will be closed and so will the banks’ ATMs, plus most stores will only be able to take cash if they’re even open. Even with anti-gouging laws we saw gas prices increase. The other major problem for us was lack of ice, but this time of year up north that probably isn’t a problem. Camping gas cookers are useful, and it’s a good idea to stock up on canned food (but make sure you have a hand-operated can-opener).

    Really though, if you don’t have to be there please leave! Hurricanes are fucking scary things to try and stay home for – we stayed for one Cat. 1 hurricane, but we didn’t sleep at all when it hit during the night because it sounded like the roof was about to come off all night long! After that we both agreed we’d evacuate for anything more than a weak to middling storm it is just not worth the stress!

  31. thunk, Blob Alert! says

    Thanks, PZ, for getting the word out.

    When I first saw some people discussing the potential for this event happening, I was justifiably skeptical. But then, as the model consensus converged on this event happening, I thought “Oh shit”.

    Everyone, stay safe out there! This is an event of unparalleled magnitude.

  32. thewhollynone says

    From the Mississippi Gulf Coast, still recuperating from Katrina, to all friends on the East Coast: please take this seriously and get prepared, and then just hope that the hype is worse than the bite.

  33. iceclimbr says

    Upper Bucks County, PA… staring down the barrel. I always enjoy these events, not only for the excellent kayaking, but also because my kids can’t watch TV or play Xbox…forced reading. Stay safe everyone!

  34. mildlymagnificent says

    Please, please, please take all your outdoor furniture, hanging baskets and the like inside the house or your neighbour’s shed or somewhere secure. Tie down structural or natural items that might whip into other things and damage them.

    With winds this bad, it probably wouldn’t be you or your house that would be damaged by your flying outdoor chair, it’ll be someone in the next street or across the road that would suffer.

  35. Usernames are smart says

    How many of these things (more, stronger storms) are we going to have to go through before we finally admit that climatologists knew what the hell they were talking about, and take this whole “catostrophic climate change” thing seriously?

    Everyone be safe: people and pets are much more important than things.

  36. anteprepro says

    How many of these things (more, stronger storms) are we going to have to go through before we finally admit that climatologists knew what the hell they were talking about, and take this whole “catostrophic climate change” thing seriously?

    Trying to sell us some of your windmills, hippie? Ain’t no such thing as climate change. Scientists are lying about it to get some sweet, sweet grant money to roll around in, while oil companies and politicians calling out those LIES are doing it out of the kindness of their black golden hearts, and get absolutely nothing out of it whatsoever. Storms are just storms, happen randomly, ain’t no trends and ain’t related to warming anyway, and it is probably just the sun and things will get better before you know it and did you know that scientists back in the 70′s said the Earth was cooling and the glaciers aren’t melting THAT much and who cares about fucking polar bears anyway and ALL OF THESE REGULATIONS ARE KILLING INDUSTRY, WON’T SOMEBODY THINK ABOUT THE PROFITS!?

  37. says

    Chris:

    But even within the big liberal cities there are issues that could affect the elections. How do potential voters with limited mobility skew politically: older folks, disabled folks, people who can’t easily take several hours to get to the polls with mass transit down?

    There’s a potential flipside to that: In (liberal leaning) urban centers, people are more likely to live within walking distance¹ of their polling places than the (probably more conservative, on average) dwellers of the sprawling ‘burbs. When my area was hit first by Irene and then by the October blizzard last year, I believe mobility was more severely limited for suburban and rural drivers than for urban walkers.

    And BTW, the good news is that we had a devastating storm, one that knocked out power for more than 90% of the state, on 29 October, and yet election day (CT has municipal elections in odd-numbered years) went off pretty much without a hitch. Keep the (totally secular) faith!

    ___
    ¹ Remember that one of the reasons voter ID laws constitute voter suppression is that so many urbanites don’t drive, and thus don’t possess driver’s licenses.

  38. A. R says

    I feel incredibly guilty. The worst we can expect out of this where I live is a 50% chance of rain.

  39. says

    If the power is out, the voting machines might not be working.

    You can do worse than to have oil lamps on hand.

    Sandwich makings and salads made from canned veg. may be in your near future.

    Think about cooking meats that you have in the freezer, Then you can refreeze them and bring them out to eat. If the power goes out, they’ll still last several days.

    Stay safe, people!

  40. says

    There’s a potential flipside to that: In (liberal leaning) urban centers, people are more likely to live within walking distance¹ of their polling places than the (probably more conservative, on average) dwellers of the sprawling ‘burbs. When my area was hit first by Irene and then by the October blizzard last year, I believe mobility was more severely limited for suburban and rural drivers than for urban walkers.

    Very good point.

  41. says

    Don’t forget food for pets.

    We’ll just get a lot of rain but we have had some heavy windstorms and I’m always glad I took a few branches out of the tree in my front yard.

    Seconding the notion to batten everything down.

    If you have a gas stove, you can light it with a match and heat the house and cook!

  42. Mattir says

    Good thing I’m long in post-apocalyptic survival skills, such as making my own yarn, knitting my own sweaters, splitting firewood, heating my house mostly with wood, and identifying edible wild plants. Seriously, though, we’re fairly well prepared, own a generator, and live on top of a hill. I did decide to cancel the Cub Scout camping trip for tomorrow night, after the Washington Post’s weather bloggers said the wind would start picking up tomorrow night, and the National Weather Service said we’d be getting between 3/4 and 1-1/2 inches of rain between Saturday noon and Sunday noon. That did not sound like any sort of situation in which DaughterSpawn and I should be attempting to teach 10 year old boys how to put up tents and make campfires…

  43. FossilFishy (Νεοπτόλεμος's spellchecker) says

    If you’re capable of leaving please go, go now. I had a near miss with a deadly bushfire and have rode out two flooding events, and though none of those directly harmed anyone or anything I care about I have not come out unscathed. These acts of nature, vast, inhuman and unstoppable can have lasting physiological effects.

    Watching the waters rise, creeping meter by meter towards your home, as you frantically pile rugs atop furniture atop furniture, knowing that should it not peak soon you’re likely to lose everything is a dread that gets inside you. Every spring I watch the forecasts obsessively. On every rainy day until the snowpack is gone that dread gnaws at me and I get short with those I love.

    Watching the sky light up from horizon to horizon just over the ridge as your family sleeps in the room upstairs, knowing that one wind change is all that stands between everything you love and the inferno is an event that never leaves you fully. A week of sunny summer weather and I’m watching the skies and the weather radar, hoping for rain while dreading thunderstorms with a gut churning tension.

    Perhaps I’m of a weak psychological temperament, a case could be made for such. But if you can leave, I’d suggest doing so. Riding out the tempest is not worth the years of gnawing dread that can come from hearing the wind claw at your roof and batter your walls with a force beyond human reckoning. Knowing intellectually that we are frail and fragile in the face of natural onslaught is enough, learning to feel the visceral truth of that fact is a pain to be avoided if at all possible.

    Be well, be safe, be smart my virtual friends, I will be thinking of you.

  44. thunk, Blob Alert! says

    You can do worse than to have oil lamps on hand.

    But do note that candles are a potential fire hazard.

    When I talked to may parents about how they had an open candle on the floor during a blackout, and its potential dangers, the candle promptly fell over.

    Luckily, the fall extinguished it, and the floor was concrete.

  45. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I just bought a cheap Coleman LED (4 AA battery) lantern at Megalomart for ~$5 for the Redhead in case we have high winds/tornados that knock out our power again. The last time the power went out we went a week before power was restored, as by triage we were a few households on a short feed. But the generator kept the fridge and freezer going.

  46. mildlymagnificent says

    Oh my. I thought that sea surface temperature map was bad enough, but the map and the reports here make it really, really clear. You guys have a hurricane that will, if it goes as expected, weaken at its centre but provide a much, much wider band of high winds and heavy rain than a ‘conventional’ hurricane would have done.

    http://climatecrocks.com/2012/10/26/teachable-moments-get-used-to-em/

    Get out now if you possibly can – but please don’t leave loose items outside that could cause harm to others who can’t or don’t. And for goodness sake, if you leave it too late, go to a shelter – don’t try to outrun it. That’s how people die in fires and floods and storms.

  47. Esteleth, Elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo says

    I live far enough inland that the worst I’m likely to see is rain*. The weather report for the next 10 days is rain.

    * Barring unforeseen circumstances like Sandy deciding to jump into the Great Lakes, that is. In that case, I’m 10 miles inland, but rather up in elevation. Nearish (2 blocks) the river.

  48. FossilFishy (Νεοπτόλεμος's spellchecker) says

    Another thing to consider:

    When making assessments of personal risk we are just as subject to the cognitive biases as at any other time. I’m not sure it’s proper name but a friend of mine calls the relevant bias the turkey fallacy.

    For 999 days of a turkey’s life it’s fed and cared for. On the 1000 day, just before Thanksgiving, it awakes expecting to be fed and cared for despite having a 100% chance of being killed that day.

    We intuitively base our risk assessment on our personal experience and if you’ve never been harmed by a hurricane your brain is telling you that you’re going to be fine regardless of actual risk. A sample size of one is way too small, listen to the experts and believe them, prepare now, and if you’re going to go, leave early.

  49. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Just hearing reports of possible flooding in low lying areas makes me happy I’m 80+ feet above Lake Michigan level on the moraine, where the tidal surge should be very low.

    *scans Doppler radar for possible tornadoes*

  50. viajera says

    As someone who was in New Orleans at the time of Katrina (I evacuated) and recently rode out Isaac and the subsequent 6 days without power, I heartily second all the advice above! Stock up on gas, cash, bottled water, and non-perishable food – NOW. It will sell out days ahead of time. If you can’t get a generator or an inverter, keep your phone turned off as soon as the power goes off to conserve battery life. Only turn it back on to use it. Fill your fridge/freezer with ice (bought, or freeze large bottles / jugs of water) to keep perishable food cold for a few days afterwards. If there is a large tree over your house – particularly if you have a lot of windows in that area – go somewhere else, or at least stay in a different part of the house. Board the windows, if you can, or at least stay away from them during the height of the storm. Do all your laundry now. Basically, be prepared to be stuck in your house/apartment unable to do much of anything involving electricity or travel for a week or more.

    Stay safe, everyone!

  51. thunk, Blob Alert! says

    Chris:

    And if the snow projections are correct, that may end up being 85 + feet!

    I’m sad to say the Lake Michigan is nowhere near West Virginia.

  52. lorn says

    Hints that sometimes help:

    Cell phone towers don’t always stay up longer than land-line telephones. Even when they stay up they can be swamped by cell phone users all calling at once. If you have an active land-line make sure you have a hard-line, non-remote handset, unit to plug into it. A radio linked telephone handsets won’t work if the base station doesn’t have A/C power. Keep an old land-line phone around.

    A spare chain, or three, and a few single-unit bottles of two-cycle oil are almost a valuable as a reliable chainsaw. Gloves and goggles are vital. Have a spare set or two handy.

    Machetes and axes are safer if they are sharp, and you are both experienced and rested.

    Keep a serious first-aide kit handy. Broken sheets of glass, chainsaws and axes can cause bleeding that you can’t staunch with a band-aide. Be prepared. Your kit should have Ace bandages, large gauze pads, a couple of rolls of athletic tape (better than the little adhesive tape rolls) and materials for tourniquets inside in addition to the usual band-aides. A roll, or three, of quality duct tape has many emergency uses. In a pinch you can use them to create a splint and temporarily close a gaping wound.

    It is often faster to back up a truck and drag a fallen tree out of the way than chainsawing out a path. Tow straps, chains, and strong vehicle with a “granny” low make it easy. But being easy you have to be doubly safe.

    Candles and ‘oil’ lamps are good if you keep an eye on them but they are also potential fire hazards. A house fire would be the ‘cherry on top’ after a storm cuts the power and lands a tree on your home. Chem-lights are handy and safe for kids to use or in case there is a possibility of a gas leak or spilled fuel.

    A simple single-burner propane stove and spare propane bottles, typically sold in a big-box store camping section is handy for heating soup, making light meals, tea, cocoa and coffee. While your in the camping section get an old-style stove-top percolator coffee pot. Coffee is vital to adult survival during a disaster. Have a can of decent coffee handy. Decaffeinated need not apply.

    All the nifty little devices like radios and flashlights are useless if you don’t have batteries. Alkaline batteries are okay but don’t store them in the device (they might leak and destroy the device) and toss out any unused ones after a couple of years. For seldom used devices, like the flashlight you keep in the car, you do have a flashlight in the glove box, spend the extra money to get lithium cells. They are lighter, stronger, work in the cold, never leak, and they don’t lose charge over time. Most are reported to be still acceptable after ten years of storage. Their one weakness is that they cost two to three times what good alkaline cells cost.

    Take your important papers with you and keep them in a watertight container. You want deeds, titles, prescriptions for any prescription drugs you need, and the policy number for all the insurance you carry.

    Cheap polyester fleece is great for emergencies as doesn’t get damp and clammy like cotton. You can get it dry enough to wear after being soaked by shaking the water out and moths and other bugs won’t eat it so you can stuff a few fleece hoodies into a sack, stuff them under your car seat with confidence they will still be there and warm when/if you need them.

    Keep a few pairs of cheap fleece sweatpants and tee shirts handy for the ladies and gentlemen who get stuck in short skirts and flouncy tops. For extra points have a pair or two of practical shoes/boots and thick socks handy to make up size differences. In the middle of a storm and ankle deep in mud is a hell of a place to be wearing high-heels or flimsy shoes.

    A cheap coated nylon rain-suit over poly fleece is good expendable emergency wear for rolling in the mud changing a tire or thrashing your way through brush. Odds are that if you don’t need it someone near you might.

    Hypothermia is a real hazard if you are exhausted and wet. Learn how to make a ‘people warmer’. A barely head-sized hole centered in the bottom of a large trash bag. The bag goes over the victim’s head and surrounds their body and legs draw up. A lit candle stub is placed between their legs under the bag to provide heat. It is safer than it sounds, I’ve used it dozens of times on myself and other campers and never had anyone get burned, but, as with any open flame, use common sense and reasonable precautions.

    Pencils, paper, cards, a combination chess/checkers set, and other games give you something to do while waiting. Lacking other options I’ve used pencil and paper to play chess. Simple games and snacks and warm drinks keep antsy children calm and quiet.

    If at all possible try to get a few hours sleep before and after any disaster. Too many people spend the last 24 hours preparing and enter the actual event sleep deprived. Well rested people are calmer and make better decisions. Delegate and divide up duties so everyone gets some rest.

  53. Oenotrian says

    Speaking of pets, find out now what arrangements you’ll have to make for them if you’re required to evacuate. Many shelters won’t allow pets.

    Also, something that doesn’t seem significant when you’re preparing: coffee. If you can’t get through the morning without a cup, then make sure to include it and a means of preparing it in your emergency supply kit.

  54. Patricia, OM says

    I made this offer in the lounge, and I’ll make it here – any Pharyngula Ilk stranded in Portland, Oregon that thinks you will be there for days, I invite you to my house. You’ll have to sleep on a love seat, but I promise a roof, meals and sangria.

    It will take me more than an hour to get to the Portland airport to pick you up, and it will be more than an hour to get back to the airport.

    I’m NOT a pretty housekeeper.
    But you’ll be safe.

  55. mildlymagnificent says

    They may be sold out already, but those “mechanical” torches you swing around a few times to charge up are handy. That’s what we keep in the car. Might give a kid a useful assigned task to give the torches a bit of a whirl. Most importantly, it’s not scary when they start to dim and flicker the way it is when a battery runs out.

    Candles? Get a big bag of candle-lights used for foodwarmers or aromatherapy oil burners. They can’t actually fall over unless you knock them, and for safety and better lighting it’s easy to float more than one in a glass bowl half filled with water. Almost romantic unless all the kids are terrified. If the bowl is knocked, the water slops over the flames and automatically out.

  56. pembroke529 says

    PZ, as I’m sure you know, you’re just exercising your immune system. Something we all do daily with mixed results.

  57. FossilFishy (Νεοπτόλεμος's spellchecker) says

    That’s a good idea mildlymagnificent. They’re called tea-lights in the parts of the world that I’ve lived.

  58. says

    I’ve used those tea-lights when the power went out in the middle of a Canadian winter, and stayed out for days. A half dozen of them can take the chill off a small closed area, like a bathroom.

    They won’t boil water, but for almost hot instant coffee, or canned soup, they’ll do.

    In the absence of proper preparation, therefore no camp stove, a large soup can half full of sand, with a grid over the top (cookie cooling grid, for example) and a hole cut out at one side of the bottom, will house a tiny fire, using bits of wood or paper, or even old bacon fat. (Do this in a safe place, like in the kitchen sink, or outside, just in case of accidents.) It will cook a simple meal, given attention and time.

  59. mildlymagnificent says

    You’re right – they are called tea lights here as well. I just had the picture in my mind of my daughter’s garden with a few bowls of water in various spots and 3-4 tea lights in each. Great for candlelight outside with no flicker from wind. I tend to think of them as ‘coloured glass bowl’ lights.

  60. says

    Please, everybody, take care
    Don’t be smarter, be smart, listen to the experts.
    You may not understand why they want to do something NOW, but just be a sheeple and do it!
    And please vote as soon and if you can.
    Really, this world’s future might depend on it.

  61. DLC says

    Bah! light a big fire, right in your living room!
    throw plenty of gasoline on it, and add in some plastic sheeting! that stuff burns great!
    keep a hatchet handy to open up cans of spam with. ther’ll be plenty of water in the storm drains and sewers, so don’t worry about water!
    Don’t worry about food, you can just run down to McD’s when you get hungry!

    Oh, and equally important, Vote for Romney/Ryan 2012!

    [/blazinglystupid]

  62. says

    @lorn 72:

    Keep an old land-line phone around.

    Excellent advice — emphasis on the “old.”

    Many people I know have entirely abandoned land lines in favor of cell phones. (“Why pay 2 phone bills?”) And I get that. But when the cell towers went down on 9/11, and then cells and cordless phones were quickly depleted during the NYC blackout, an old AT&T “princess” phone and a live land line made it possible for us to keep in touch with family and friends. Since then I’ve always kept a land line and the cheapest call plan; I keep the ringer off and only seldom use it for calls. Hell, I couldn’t even tell you the phone number. Consider it insurance: it could prove to be a lifeline, for yourself or someone else.

    Also invaluable: a solar/hand-crank radio. Most of them are also flashlights, and some of them come with USB and/or cell phone adapters so you can also use them to charge your cell phone or other small devices.

  63. Ava, Oporornis maledetta says

    Thanks for your concern and all the tips, PZ. I was expecting a mob scene at the grocery store due to people stocking up for the storm, but it didn’t happen–not yet.

    I will be at the polling place on Tuesday in MA come hell or high water!

  64. Matt G says

    Maybe this is god’s way of telling Americans to TAKE CLIMATE CHANGE SERIOUSLY!! Are you listening, Republicans?

  65. frankathon says

    “On Friday, forecasters in Canada are warning that the so-called ‘Frankenstorm’ will be so huge its reach will be felt from southern Ontario and Quebec to the Maritimes.”

    That’s hardcore! I live in Southern Quebec, that’s about 1400 miles from the sea shore. We never get extream weather. Last time was in 1999 when we got the ice storm, which was really just rain then -40C weather, froze everything in place and the wind destroyed power lines. We were out of power for 3 hours…

  66. frankathon says

    Oups correction. Just looked up where the storm is supposed to hit and it looks like I’m acctually only 450 miles away from that shore. Still, it’s pretty far.

  67. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Hi Horde,

    I’m going to be in Massachusetts this weekend, probably to return early Sunday afternoon to Vermont. If anyone needs to evacuate their house I have a spare bedroom, cats, and oil lamps. It’s unlikely anything beyond a brief power outage will happen here in Northern Vermont. Should you need a place to stay, email me at spokesgay at teh Google mailz.

  68. Ava, Oporornis maledetta says

    I still have a land l ine, costs only $10 a month to keep it, and times like this are the reason why. Sure communication withouth battery rundown, loss of signal, etc. (Plus I need to fax things now and then.) Funny how, when we get something new and shiny, what we had just before that worked perfectly now looks like crap. That’s what happened to the land line phone. (Yes, I have a cell phone too.)

    My land line phone has never: been dropped into the toilet, lost, run over, needed charging, had a bad/no signal, been useless in a power outage (tho phone lines can go down), been chewed up by a pet, or been butt-dialed. If you still have yours, keept it!

  69. unbound says

    With current projections, the probabilities for my family having a direct hit are pretty low now, but there is every sign that we are going to get a drenching rain for about 2 full days which means the flooding will be pretty bad.

    Unfortunately, my landline (and many in this area) is Verizon FiOS which means, if I lose power, that I will only have about 8 to 10 hours of phone service left (I do have one old phone I keep around for such cases) before the installed battery will run out of power.

    The only fortunate thing is that my area has had very reliable power for everything else that has hit us (there was a hurricane years ago that hit us more directly).

    Voting could be a big issue in Virginia as a large Democratic demographic (Hampton Roads area – several million voters overall) will likely lose power since the entire area is only a few feet above sea level in general. Hopefully they can get power back before the elections (which is actually likely since they deal with these issues every few years already).

  70. dianne says

    Given God’s poor aim, I’d say he’s probably annoyed at someone in Iowa or maybe Montana.

  71. Trebuchet says

    @90, unbound:

    Unfortunately, my landline (and many in this area) is Verizon FiOS which means, if I lose power, that I will only have about 8 to 10 hours of phone service left (I do have one old phone I keep around for such cases) before the installed battery will run out of power.

    That’s a really good point: A VOIP phone connection is NOT the same as a traditional landline, which gets all its power from the central office. That’s one reason we haven’t switched over.

    Best wishes to all in the NE from here on the other coast.

  72. says

    According to NOAH there’s less than 10% chance of us seeing actual hurricane-force winds. And we’re at least 20 feet above sea level so I guess we’re pretty safe.

    The supermarket was already out of bottled water yesterday, so people were stocking up on Pepsi products, which were on sale.

  73. tbp1 says

    The airlines are graciously waiving the usual exorbitant fees tom change flights, so after a mere half an hour on hold, I cut short my stay and am leaving NYC. Really disappointing, I haven’t been here in a couple years and had great plans for the next few days.

  74. says

    Talking about water: Outdoor shops usually sell water treatment tablets. They won’t help you when all there is is the water in your basement, but they could help you when water’s back but not safe and you are prone to stomach problems

  75. tbp1 says

    I suppose I should mention that the annoyance I expressed above (#95) is just that, annoyance. I quite realize that many people may suffer a good deal more than the inconvenience of a trip cut a few days short. In reading my comment again it looks a bit flippant, even callous. We all end to see things through the lens of how they affect us personally.

  76. says

    Please be safe, dear friends. There is lots of great advice in the comments above me, so please read it and be prepared. Stay warm and dry, make sure you have plenty of food and water, and if you can go somewhere else, go.

    I live in central NC, which shouldn’t get more than heavy rain, so if any of you are planning to flee that far south (or if you get stuck at the Raleigh or Charlotte airports and need someone to pick you up) you are more than welcome to stay with me. I have plenty of room, food, and booze, and would be more than happy to have you. I also know some people in Richmond who are willing to put people up for a few days, especially if you live on the coast. If you need anything, please contact me at readingwhilefemale at google mail.

    And, of course, please vote early if you can.

  77. silomowbray says

    FossilFishy #63

    When making assessments of personal risk we are just as subject to the cognitive biases as at any other time. I’m not sure it’s proper name but a friend of mine calls the relevant bias the turkey fallacy.

    I think you’re talking about the Availability Heuristic and you make a good point. This bias is why, for example, there’s a huge spike in the sales of earthquake insurance policies right after an earthquake (when it typically makes the least sense to buy) and as time goes on the number of policies drop off (when they frankly should be increasing).

    Speaking as someone located far from this danger, I wish complete safety to everyone in harm’s way on the other side of the continent.

  78. says

    PZ, as I’m sure you know, you’re just exercising your immune system.

    Thanks for your concern and all the tips, PZ.

    Given that people haven’t yet gotten used to me being here and various things I write getting are attributed to my colleague, it’s clear I need to post something that will result in spurious PZ quotes floating around the net in perpetuity. Perhaps something along the lines of “25 reasons kitties are AW3S0M3.”

  79. says

    SQB,
    We’ve arrived home from the hospital and Mr Darkheart just ran out to buy the last of the necessary supplies (canned goods, coffee, and beer. Everything else is covered). IIRC, the storm isn’t supposed to hit this neck of the woods until late Monday (not that I’ve really been paying that much atttention to the weather this past week) and should my neighborhood be evacuated like it was for Irene, we’ve got a bag packed for DarkInfant* and we’ll head to my parent’s house.

    *Basically, all of the stuff the hospital gave us: basic infant clothes, wipes, the rough equivalent of two packs of diapers, etc.

  80. Ichthyic says

    Given that people haven’t yet gotten used to me being here and various things I write getting are attributed to my colleague, it’s clear I need to post something that will result in spurious PZ quotes floating around the net in perpetuity.

    Chris, hasn’t PZ told you yet that you really are just a cosmetically modified clone?

    He warned us he would be triggering you to post here months ago.

    ;)

  81. MetzO'Magic says

    Mattir said:

    … and the National Weather Service said we’d be getting between 3/4 and 1-1/2 inches of rain between Saturday noon and Sunday noon. That did not sound like any sort of situation in which DaughterSpawn and I should be attempting to teach 10 year old boys how to put up tents and make campfires …

    I am that situation, personified. I was a boy scout in the late 60′s, and one time we arrived at a jamboree in the middle of the night when it was pissing rain (somewhere in NJ). Pitched our tent anyway, only to wake up the next morning floating on our air matresses in 3 in. of water. Funny after the fact, but kinda miserable at the time.

  82. birgerjohansson says

    Will the wind cause any “seiche” in the Great Lakes? It is a phenomenon like water in a bathtub splashing over on one side, and then on the other.
    Not catastrophic, but may deposit your boat well inside the coast/lakeside.

  83. says

    Audley, figure 8 – 12 diapers per day (IIRC).

    I use fat candles and tealights and everything has a secure candlestick or saucer.

    Unbound, can you take the battery out of the phone handle and just put it in when you want to make a call?

  84. says

    I’m in Richmond, VA. We’re on the edge of the affected area, and likely to get heavy rain and see at least short-term power outages. I’ve got a flashlight that runs on the batteries for my cordless power tools, so I’ve got that mostly covered. I don’t think I’m in a flood zone, but I’ve got an upstairs if it comes to that.

    If anyone feels like they need to evacuate and doesn’t have money for a hotel I have room, a spare bed, and a couple of inflatable mattresses.

  85. says

    Consider what you would do if you were without electricity for a month.

    Because for all its industrial might, the United States can’t afford to start ripping out power poles and putting the power lines underground where they can’t be touched by such mundane things as wind and trees.

    ‘Cause, ya know, debt, deficits, inflation, and all that. Now shut up and die.

  86. carlie says

    Audley, you didn’t name your daughter Sandy, now did you?

    With “Stormageddon” as the nickname. :)

  87. tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach says

    I was about to make a snide comment about how I’d hate to live on the east coast because of the appalling weather all the time and how us left-coasters only have to worry about the very occasional quake when… You guessed it, quaaaaaaaaaaaaake! A 7.7 a bit north of my place. Happy happy, joy joy. No reports of damage or death yet.

  88. says

    Remember that you can catch rain water and once the initial dust is out of the air and washed off the roofs, even, it’s pretty clean. Caught straight into clean containers it should be fine to drink as long as it’s above ground-splash.

    Off a roof it wouldn’t take much to purify. In the 40s, rain water was diverted from the drinking-water tank only until the roofs were clean, then the rest of it was captured.

    If you do have a wood-stove you can boil water any time and then set in bottles to cool for drinking.

  89. says

    Just checked the weather– my county appears to be in for roughly 1 inch of rain and 30-40 mph winds between early Mondy morning and Tuesday evening. So, not fun (considering my neighborhood floods when someone flushes a toilet), but not Irene level of scary.

    *whew*

  90. dianne says

    According to various weather services, it’s raining heavily here right now. According to the window, it’s cloudy but not raining. Huh?

  91. thunk, Blob Alert! says

    Dianne: Look at the weather radar. The various weather services are averaging this over all day, so a break in precip will be missed.

  92. says

    It looks like they are evacuating all of Zone A in NYC due to expected flooding. The MTA will also shut down at 7:00 tonight, and school is cancelled on Monday. They are predicting storm surges of 6 – 11 feet, which is more than happened with Irene. I don’t know if any of you live or work in that area, but as multitudinous as the horde is, I’d bet that at least one of us does. If you do, please follow instructions and evacuate. Again, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

    Here’s a link to the announcement:
    http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20121028/new-york-city/mandatory-evacuation-ordered-for-low-lying-areas-of-city

    And to a map of the zones:
    http://gis.nyc.gov/oem/he/map.htm?lon=-73.98997735643091&lat=40.70208465544367

    Stay safe, friends.

  93. Ogvorbis: broken and cynical says

    Damn storm is going to take about 30 hours to travers Pennsylvania from south to north. And during almost that entire time, NEPA is going to be under the gun for 40+ knot winds and heavy rain. The winds aren’t that bad until you realize we could be looking at 40 knot winds for 24 to 30 hours. Which is scary. Well, not scary but definately worrisome.

  94. says

    Florida native here.

    Now living in the Boston suburbs, just finished my pre-hurricane prep work (cat food and sand, check; people food, check; gas in the vehicle, check; extra batteries and propane, check; meds, check; visit to the bookstore, check…).

    We always had a gas grill, and always got in a few extra propane tanks when a storm was coming. If you have a grill with a burner, you’re golden, though if you have a percolator (like for camping) you can easily make coffee on the grill itself.

    Anyway, my favourite tip for handling a long-term power outage is this: wait until the storm passes (obviously), and grill food as it defrosts. Put leftovers on ice in the freezer. Meat easily keeps for another few days, even if it’s hot.

    Oh, and I do have some pre-cooked items to eat when the power first goes out. (We will be having sammiches with pre-cooked bacon, and some nice potato salad.) Leave the canned foods for last.

    I also make tons of ice and pack the freezer tight. Packing the freezer and not opening it really does keep things frozen. I once went without power for three days in summer in FL, and the ice cream didn’t melt. And it was 90F outside; it felt hotter inside.

    Be careful, everyone!

  95. says

    @blogofmyself: I’m in Zone B, a block from Zone A in the West Village. I was just running errands in the neighborhood and noticed a sizeable police presence on the streets, so I think they mean business and intend to enforce the evacuations. Also, for New Yorkers there’s another helpful tip I learned last year preparing for Irene: the supermarkets may be (a) out of water and (b) mobbed, but the health food store right across the street is well stocked and relatively devoid of people. And they deliver.

    Iris haz water, organic instant coffee, + fresh bread, veggies and fruit.

  96. cazfans says

    People need to remember that when cell phone towers go down and your cell phone keeps looking for them and not finding them it uses up battery pretty quickly. Best to have and agreed times to power up and check. Of course if the towers remain up & working this won’t be such a problem.

  97. says

    Feeling a little guilty about the beautiful weather on the west coast. It is a little after noon here now so I suspect things are beginning to get harry there. Stay safe north east peoples.

  98. rq says

    I hope everybody stays safe. I hope the predicted damage isn’t nearly as severe. I hope all the warnings and preparations end up being in vain. I hope everything ends well, the storm passes with a minimum of damage, and that everybody stays safe!
    Yeah, I repeat myself. But it sure sounds like one heck of a storm. One of the few times I’m really glad I am where I am – weather like this rarely passes our way!

  99. dianne says

    @127: Given the sheer range of potential disasters that strike the west coast periodically…enjoy it guilt free while you can!

  100. says

    birgerjohansson @106

    Will the wind cause any “seiche” in the Great Lakes? It is a phenomenon like water in a bathtub splashing over on one side, and then on the other.

    I’m not aware of any seiche, but sustained wind the length of Lake Erie or Ontario can produce waves 3m (10′) high.

    The Lakes are large enough to have tides of about 15 – 20 cm (6 – 8″).

    It’s raining here. I meant to stow a few things outside while it was dry. I’d best get to them before it gets any worse.

  101. says

    Well, you knew it was just a matter of time:


    In an “urgent call to prayer,” founder of Defend and Proclaim the Faith Ministries and amateur “end times” bible analyst John McTernan has proclaimed that “God is systematically destroying America” for our misdeeds. He’d like you to look at the record. “Just last August, Hurricane Isaac hit New Orleans seven years later, on the exact day of Hurricane Katrina,” he writes ungrammatically. “Both hit during the week of the homosexual event called Southern Decadence in New Orleans!” Strangely, both also hit at the height of hurricane season. COINCIDENCE?

    McTernan goes on to explain that “Obama is 100 percent behind the Muslim Brotherhood which has vowed to destroy Israel and take Jerusalem.” But — and here’s the shocking twist — “Both candidates are pro-homosexual and are behind the homosexual agenda.” Clearly a vote for either Obama or Romney is a vote for a FRANKENGAYSTORM….

    http://www.salon.com/2012/10/29/pastor_blame_gays_for_hurricane_sandy/