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Lessons for Hurricane Preparedness as Taught By Example in Raleigh, North Carolina

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Lessons for Hurricane Preparedness as Taught by Example in Raleigh, North Carolina


If you are new to Raleigh (and everyone who lives in Raleigh was new to it at some point; the idea that anyone was actually born here is an urban legend), then there is a good chance that you are not familiar with hurricanes and do not know how to deal with them. Fortunately, you have the wisdom of your fellow Raleighites to fall back on. This article attempts to distill all this wisdom into one brief article so that you can handle hurricanes with all the experience of a seasoned pro. Even if you think you understand hurricanes because you come from another part of the country that gets them, you should still read this article. As you are about to find out, hurricanes in Raleigh are different. Just ask the people who live here.

I. Strength

Before you can prepare for a hurricane, you have to know what the hurricane is actually going to be like once it passes over you. Raleigh is slightly more than one hundred miles from the nearest coastline. Since hurricanes generally weaken over land, you should be prepared for the hurricane to be three times stronger when it passes over Raleigh than it was when it reached the coast. If a storm was a category one hurricane in Wilmington, it will almost certainly be category five once it reaches here.

II. Windows

Everyone who lives on the coast boards up their windows as soon as word of a hurricane gets out. They do this so that the windows won't be broken by flying telephone poles, which would lead to glass all over your living room, rain water all over your living room, and (most importantly) telephone poles all over your living room. After all, if the telephone pole is in your living room, BellSouth might use that as an excuse to charge you for use of long distance services.

Since hurricanes will be infinitely stronger when they reach Raleigh (see Section I), you must take the appropriate measures with your windows, which is to say that you should do absolutely nothing. After all, it's the salt air that makes the wind on the coast so dangerous. Don't believe me? Try this experiment: Stand in front of the most powerful fan you can find while your best friend (or spouse, or anyone else who cares about you but also enjoys making you suffer) pours salt in front of the blades. Doesn't that hurt? And your fan isn't propelling the air at anywhere near the 156 miles per hour that winds in a category five hurricane (see Section I) blow at. So as you can see, salt makes wind mean. There's no salt in the wind in Raleigh, so don't worry about boarding up your windows. Besides, you won't have time for that, because you must immediately run out and get...

III. Supplies

Go to the grocery store. Go now. Drop everything you are doing, hop in your car, and drive like a maniac because you must get there this instant. If you wait so long as thirty seconds, you will be sunk. There will be no milk left, and no bread left except for the weird stuff like potato bread, which even a starving Irishman in a famine would turn his nose up at. Your chances of getting bottled water will be slightly better, oddly enough. There will also be no dearth of things to put on the bread.

The reason for getting these foods is so that you will be prepared in case the power goes out for days and you can't get out of your house. It may seem strange to you that everyone gets milk, one of the most likely-to-spoil substances known to man, when they're worried about the power going out. The logic here is that you can put the milk outside and it will stay cold enough that it won't spoil. And why won't it spoil outside? Because, the thinking goes, it's going to be below freezing out there. In Raleigh, the foods that get bought up prior to a hurricane are the exact same foods that get bought up when the weatherman predicts snow. This is why you'll be able to get bottled water — who needs water when it snows? What you need is milk for the hot chocolate. This all may seem odd to a newcomer, but don't fight it. Go with the flow. One of the great post-Hurricane traditions in Raleigh is cleaning out the refrigerator after the power comes back on in order to get rid of all the spoiled milk. Everyone does this at the same time, so it's a great way to get to know your neighbors. Besides, if you tell people that this makes no sense, you will only anger the locals and cause them to yell "We don't care how you do things up north!" at you. The fact that the people yelling this at you grew up in New Jersey won't make any difference. Nor will the fact that you are from Alabama.

You should also consider putting nets up around your house in case someone actually goes so far as to leave his or her milk on the back porch so that it will stay cold. If they do, the extremely powerful winds (see Section I) will pick up the milk and blow it into your house. The wind may not have any salt in it (see Section II), but you don't want to take any chances. Having rain soak your carpet is one thing, but if spoiled milk gets all over your carpet, you'll never get the smell out.

IV. Flooding

If you watch television during or soon after a hurricane, you will inevitably see dramatic footage of flooding at Crabtree Valley Mall. If you are new to town, this may seem like a major event. It isn't. Crabtree Valley Mall floods every six months, maybe more. Hell, if a pigeon flying overhead pisses in the wrong spot, Crabtree Valley Mall is going to flood. So it goes without saying that it will flood when a powerful hurricane (see Section I) blows through. This is what happens when you build a mall in the single lowest point in the entire city. The only good thing about this is that the mall is so low that they don't have to worry about wind damage, not that anyone worries about wind damage here anyway (see Section II).

Incidentally, the buildings across the street from Crabtree Valley Mall will not flood. That should give you an idea of how precise the developers were in putting Crabtree Valley in the lowest spot possible. There are some grocery stores not too terribly far from this mall, and they are a perfectly good place to purchase milk (see Section III). You can also purchase gas (see Section V) at the gas station across the street.

V. Gasoline

Experts say that you should keep at least a quarter tank of gas in your car at all times. Experts in other cities, that is. In Raleigh, under normal circumstances you should make it a point to keep less than a quarter tank of gas in your car. That way, when a hurricane approaches, you can wait until the eye makes landfall, then rush out and fill your tank immediately. This is important for two reasons. First, the extra weight will offset the increased winds (see Section I) and make it easier to drive. (For further stability, buy some bread and milk (see Section III) while you're at the convenience store, and keep them in your trunk for ballast.) Second, if you buy gas any earlier, the gas stations won't have time to jack the price up a quarter a gallon, and if they don't jack the price up they might not have enough money to repair their untaped windows (see Section II) if a flying milk bottle (see Section III) crashes through it. If that happens, the gas station might go broke (see Chapter 13), which would make the petroleum mafia (see Vito the Pump, but you didn't hear that from me) very, very angry, and you might wind up wearing concrete shoes on the bottom floor of Crabtree Valley Mall (see Section IV).


By keeping these five simple tips in mind, you will be able to stay safe in Raleigh during the worst that Mother Nature has to offer. The methods may seem inscrutable (and I certainly wouldn't recommend scruting them), but they are time-tested. They may not work everywhere, but they do work here. Therefore, even if you come from Wilmington or Charleston or Savannah or Pensacola and are used to handling the matter differently, please adjust to our methods. And do not, under any circumstances, tell us how people in those cities handle the matter. After all, we don't care how you did it up north.

This page Copyright ©2008 Scott D. Rhodes. All rights reserved