In the Midst of the Storm – My Personal Preparedness Experience in Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas and Louisiana coasts and caused widespread death, destruction, and damage.  Although Houston didn’t get the direct hit from the hurricane, we were on the dirty side of the storm.  With two high-pressure systems keeping the storm in place, Houston and the surrounding areas received three-fourths of a normal year’s worth of rain in two days!

This article is to share my personal preparedness experience and observations during the storm.  Being from the area, this is not my first hurricane.  But I’ve never seen this much destruction and devastation before. I’ve also never been in a situation where my house almost flooded.  Again, this is my experience and I hope to help someone in the future who might be preparing for a storm.

What Worked – The Intangibles

Planning – You can’t discount this piece of preparedness!  Since this wasn’t our first hurricane, we knew what to expect with the stores running out of supplies, the wind, rain and potential loss of power.

Because my family prepares, we had everything we would need.  As the storm looked like it would hit the coast, we did go to the store and picked up a few cases of water for convenience, bread, milk, fruit and other items we would want if we were to be locked down in the house for a few days.  This was early on in the track of the storm.  Like usual, stores started running out of supplies the closer the hurricane was to landfall.

During the last big rainfall, my son’s vehicle did get some water in it.  This time around, we pulled up our vehicles as close to the house as possible.  We squeezed three vehicles on a two car driveway with my son’s vehicle a little on the yard.  I was worried that the ground would get so soaked and his tires would sink into the grass, but it didn’t happen.  Luckily, my neighbor allowed us to park our fourth vehicle in her driveway.  If we wouldn’t have done that, we would have had a flooded out vehicle!

A Cool Head – Before I get into some of the items that worked for us, I need to talk about the importance of having a cool head and not panicking.

The stress of seeing the water get higher and higher is not something I can put into words.  We used the fire hydrant across the street as a gauge to tell if the water was getting higher or receding.  It was slow and steady, but the water kept rising.

One thing to remember is that although Houston has experience with hurricanes, we have never experienced this level of flooding.  Our neighborhood had never experienced this level of flooding either.  Seeing pictures on the news and then on social media let us all know how wide spread this was.  In the past, one part of the city was usually inundated with water, but this event was city-wide!

The need for a cool head really came into focus when I received a call from my elderly neighbor.  I could hear the panic in her voice.  She called to tell me that a boat was on the way to pick her up and that I should be ready to evacuate.  My neighbor didn’t know where they were taking her. She didn’t know when exactly they were coming, but she was leaving!

I shared the information with my wife but told her that I wouldn’t be leaving. I wanted to stay behind and mitigate any water getting in the house as much as I could.  My wife agreed and we stayed.

I wish I would have taken a picture.  We were in our garage watching the water when the boat pulled up on her yard, all the way to her front door.  It was a crazy scene.  We later found out that the boat took her to a local grocery store parking lot and the National Guard took her to a local church.  There, evacuees spent the night on a pew.  I’m glad I didn’t leave!

What Worked – The Gear

Outlite A100 FlashlightI can’t say enough about this flashlight.  It runs on a 18650 Lithium-ion Battery or 3 AAA batteries.  I use the 18650 battery and I’m very pleased with this little torch.  After our lights went out, we used this flashlight to shine on the hydrant across the street to check the level of the water.  When we needed to go into a room, it would easily stand up on its end and light up the entire room.

The batteries are purchased separately from the flashlight above.  I purchased this setup that comes with the battery and a fast charger.  Outlite 2PCS 18650 3600mAh 3.7V Protected Rechargeable Lithium Battery with Fast Li-ion Battery Charger.

Early on in the storm…

Farberware Classic Stainless Steel Yosemite 8-Cup Coffee Percolator – After we lost power, I took out the old style percolator to make our morning coffee.  I fired up the burner on my outdoor grill (to not warm up the house) and set the percolator on it.  The percolator worked perfectly and made an excellent cup of coffee.  The only downside to the coffee maker is how black the bottom side was charred.  I should have known better and used the little trick I learned in Boy Scouts, put a thin layer of dish soap on the bottom side.

The percolator is stainless steel and did clean up alright.  Next time, I’ll use some soap though.

750w Inverter – After the rain slowed, I busted out a no name inverter that I purchased pre-Prepper Website.  I connected the inverter to my truck battery, started the truck, ran an extension chord and plugged up my refrigerator.  Although the inverter is a cheap, no name brand, it worked well and we were able to keep the refrigerator and freezer cold and didn’t lose anything.

When you consider an inverter to run something like your refrigerator, you need a powerful enough inverter to start the compressor in your refrigerator.  After the initial surge, the wattage levels off and you can plug more items into an electrical strip.

I suggest that every Prepper have an inverter to run electrical items when the power is out, or even when you’re camping.  Vehicles hold many gallons of gas.  I ran my truck for 1 1/2 hours and didn’t really see my gas gauge go down.  If you don’t have an inverter, you might consider this one that is rated well on Amazon – Cobra CPI 880 800 Watt 12 Volt DC to 120 Volt AC Power Inverter with 5 Volt USB output.

Ambient Weather WR-111B Radio – Until we lost power, we watched the local news and kept up with what was going on through social media.  Even after we lost power, I would use the hotspot on my phone to get online and see what was going on around Houston.  But after that first evening, there was some talk that we could be without power for an extended period of time.  And not knowing how long we would be surrounded by water, I decided to save my various battery banks and solar chargers in case I needed them down the road.

But I still wanted to know what was going on.  So I pulled out the Ambient Weather radio and tuned it into the local news.  It is true that communication is a big deal in an emergency.  You want all the information you can get to make informed decisions.

This little radio does a lot for such a small package.  I was glad I had it.

Kogalla Solar Storage Bank – I did a review on the Kogalla back in March.  It just works as a solar battery bank.  You can check out my review for more information about this solar bank charger.

What Worked – Other Considerations

When we lost power, we used what little day light we had left to cook dinner and eat a good meal before we settled in for the evening.  I used the burner on the grill to heat up pulled pork and we all ate sandwiches.

When it started getting dark, I let everyone know that I would be stationing the flashlights on the fireplace mantle.  I wanted there to be a central location to keep all of our lights so they wouldn’t get misplaced in the dark.

I also left a candle going in the living room (where we slept) so that we would have light in case anyone needed to get up in the middle of the night.  The candle was the type in a big glass jar, so it had little chance of tipping over, plus I have older kids.  You still need to proceed with caution when using candles, regardless of their type.  We really didn’t get any sleep though. We were up every hour checking the level of the water!

What I Wished I Had

Rain Boots – I’ve been wanting to purchase rain boots for every member of the family.  I just haven’t done it yet!  My son does have a pair that my father-in-law purchased for him when they go hunting, so I used those to walk out in the water to check the water level around the house.  This is a purchase that I would like to make for everyone soon.

You DON’T want to be walking around in flood waters!  More on that below.

Sandbags – At one point, I thought I would want some sandbags for the garage door and front door.  Of course, this would have only helped to a certain point.  Since I’ve never had to fill sandbags or used them before, I have no clue on what I would do afterward.  Do you just store them in your backyard or do you go get rid of the sand somewhere?

My Other Observations After Getting Out

We experienced gas shortages for a few days, but this was mostly hype.  It settled down after a few days. And at this point, there are already refineries coming back online.

Grocery stores opened up with shortened hours.  Some grocery stores around town had long lines and only allowed a few shoppers in at a time since they had limited staff.  I didn’t encounter this around my area, although we were hit hard.  I was able to always walk right into the grocery store.

The only items that I wasn’t able to find easily were eggs.  Friends at church said this wasn’t an issue for them, but for some reason, the grocery stores around us couldn’t get enough.  I also noticed that the chip aisle was always empty.  More than likely, people wanted things they could easily snack on.

I didn’t do too much driving around, but when I did, I noticed that fast food restaurants had long lines at all hours of the day.  This might be due to people not wanting to cook and wanting something different from what they had stored for the storm.

Warnings!

I don’t understand why people don’t realize that flood waters can hold some nasty things!  Many times, you will have raw sewage mixed with who knows what in the water!  But even with the warnings that newscasters were giving, I still witnessed kids AND adults walking in waist deep water when they didn’t need to.  Many of these people were wearing shorts and flip flops.  One young teenager passed my house, walking in waist deep water, without a shirt, without shoes and only wearing blue jeans.  This wasn’t safe!

It’s one thing when you have to wade through water to evacuate, it is another thing when you willingly go into the water.  If you have cuts or worse, you puncture your foot with debris in the water, you can get really sick!  It’s just not smart!  Prepare to have the proper clothing and shoes!

Lastly, just because the water has receded in some parts, doesn’t mean the city is in the clear.  Things are starting to get back to some sort of normal, but the ramifications of this hurricane will be felt for a long time.  It is estimated that only 20% of those who flooded have flood insurance.  Some of these people are living paycheck to paycheck.  They lost time at work and maybe even their vehicles.  They can barely afford to make a living much less pay to repair their homes and buy new or used vehicles.

I also worry for those who don’t remediate their homes correctly and wind up living with mold.  And although I haven’t personally heard of any looting (there are a ton of stories on social media, I don’t know how true though), I believe that as people start feeling the financial crunch, that we will see crime increase.

All that saying that there might be more to add to my experiences and observations with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in a future article.  For those interested, I have been discussing some of my observations on the podcast.

This event was a natural disaster.  We have seen a lot of good and some bad. Luckily, the city and surrounding areas have had a ton of love and support from all over the United States.  It was individuals that got busy and helped.  Many people would still be left stranded and even died if we would have had to only rely on the government.  It gets you thinking though, what would it look like if an event effected the whole nation at one time?  Take responsibility for yourself and your family.  Stay prepped and aware!

Peace,
Todd

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Todd Sepulveda

I'm the owner/editor of Prepper Website, a DAILY preparedness aggregator that links to the best preparedness articles on the internet. I'm also a public school administrator and a pastor. My personal blog is Ed That Matters, where I write about preparedness and from time to time, education. Connect with me on one of my social media outlets below.

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12 thoughts on “In the Midst of the Storm – My Personal Preparedness Experience in Hurricane Harvey

  1. Gaye Levy

    When I moved from Washington, I gave away my small inverter from Harbor Freight. How stupid was that? Thanks for reminding us that we should never give away our preps unless it is to help someone in need.

    Great article, Todd. Thanks for sharing it with the world.

  2. bill

    I lost my home and two cars to Harvey. In addition I lost all my preps that I had been working on for 5 years. So, preps are only good for an economic disaster, not for fire or flood in which case you lose everything. Having been through a SHTF flood I now find myself soured on the idea of prepping. I mean, what is the use of all that work just to have it wiped out?

    1. Todd Sepulveda Post author

      Bill,

      I’m so sorry that you lost everything. I can’t even imagine what you’re going through. I know you are soured on prepping. Many of us reading your comment wouldn’t blame you. This was a 1000 year event. It was so insane. Place flooded here in Houston that have never seen flooding.

      I hope that you can eventually see the benefit to prepping again. This world is crazy and it can throw all kinds of things at you.

      Peace,
      Todd

  3. RayK

    Todd

    I’ve been looking for a high output LED flashlight that can remain in one mode (or only has one mode). The one you referenced, can it be turned off and on and remain in high output, or do you have to cycle through the modes to get back to what you want??

    Good article. Glad you and yours are OK.

    Ray
    Buffalo, KY

    1. Todd Sepulveda Post author

      Ray,

      This Outlite will stay in one mode when you click it once. If you tap on the on and off button or click the on and off button multiple times to turn it on, it will cycle through the modes.

      I hope that helps.

      Peace,
      Todd

  4. Todd

    Thankful you were prepared for the event. Appreciate you sharing the firsthand account and what you learned. Very helpful.

    And you’re on point concerning flood waters. Nasty stuff!

  5. fifth_disciple

    I noticed you were offline for a day. I’m sure you lost your local internet. Did you lose cell service and cellular internet as well?

    1. Todd Sepulveda Post author

      We lost the internet when we lost power. However, we never lost cell service, including the internet on our phones. I have a ton of battery chargers, but I wasn’t sure how long the power was going to be out. We were told it could be days. It turned out to only be 24 hours.

      Peace,
      Todd

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