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Hurricane Irma left many Florida residents without power for days on end, with a lot of time to fathom how unprepared they were for a real storm.
There is still time to plan for this year. The state of Florida is even offering a sales tax free holiday June 1-7 on storm supplies, including online purchases. Qualifying items include batteries, flashlights, coolers, radios, tarps and portable generators; see the full list on the Florida Department of Revenue’s website.
Here are a few low-tech and high-tech solutions to some of the problems that accompany hurricanes.
Solar-powered generators are quickly becoming a trustworthy addition to the hurricane preparation arsenal. The best part: they are almost noiseless and come without the health hazards of traditional gas-powered generators. Of course, they are dependent on sunlight, so you may want to keep a gas-powered generator on hand for backup.
There are a lot of solar generator options out there, and the price range is dramatic. Just make sure that whatever you buy meets your power requirements, whether you need to keep a refrigerator online or just plug in a fan and charge some phones.
Solar generators are pricier than traditional gas-power generators, but they should save you money over time. And to reiterate: they are noiseless! Try to convince the neighbors to get one too and avoid turning the neighborhood into a mechanized mosquito opera.
Cost: $120-$2100. An 1800-watt portable solar power generator with panel from Genex Solutions costs about $,1100 from Home Depot. Some solar generators require separate purchase of panels.
On a smaller scale, you can harness solar power to charge phones and tablets with a solar charger. A charger and power bank by Soluser sells for about $22 on online. It can fast-charge two devices simultaneously, has a built in flashlight and compass and it’s waterproof.
Solar lighting is another good option for the dark days after the storm passes. This spiffy looking light from Ikea takes 9 to 12 hours to fully charge in the sunlight and provides 12 hours of bright light in return. It is waterproof, and the handle makes it easy to carry from room to room or when venturing out at night to take out the trash or walk the dog. Get it for about $17.
Emergency lights stay on when the the power turns off, relying on built-in battery power. Most have an average life of about three hours without power, so you will want to save these only for important uses. A 20-watt bulb from superbrightleds.com has an internal rechargeable battery and comes with a remote with on/off switch and dimming options.
Battery-powered string lights
This one may seem unconventional, but string lights are nice because they distribute light more evenly than a light with a single bulb. Most of them come on flexible wire that will wrap around just about anything, making them great for any room in the house or apartment. They can also add some festive spirit to an otherwise dark and soggy occasion. A set from Target is $19, waterproof and has about a 50-hour run time on three AA batteries. Stock up on rechargeable batteries to make them a little more economical.
This is just what it sounds like: a candle that miraculously lasts for 115 hours. It costs about $9 from Emergency Essentials, but it often goes on sale. The candle is smokeless, odorless, produces a stable flame and doesn’t leave a waxy mess.
A good radio
Radios aren’t just radios anymore. They can do all kinds of other nifty things, too. This one from Kello receives AM/FM and NOAA Weather Radio transmissions and has a built in flashlight, alarm clock function and USB port for charging electronics. It can run on regular power, battery power or elbow grease with a hand-crank. It goes for around $40 online.
Water resistant backpack
Before a hurricane, it is a good idea to prepare a backpack with emergency essentials for each member of your household. Truly waterproof bags are very expensive so water resistant is the next best option. If you can’t get water resistant, then secure electronics and other items in plastic baggies. Items to consider for your backpack: identification, water bottles, snacks, a cell phone, an extra emergency cell phone, a poncho, walkie talkies, a flashlight, a whistle, a knife and a compact sleeping bag.
Long range two-way radios are not a bad idea in case your group winds up splitting up for any reason. You can stay simple or pay more for extra features. Simple long-range radios start around $25. The Motorola T600 H20 is a more sophisticated option that sells for around $120 a pair on rei.com.
Pair a few of these little fans with a solar battery charger to keep things cooler once the AC shuts off. A rechargeable min-fan by Opolar sells for about $19 online.
Moisture wicking cloth
This is potentially the most important item on the list, as it will significantly cool down beer when all the ice runs out. Simply soak a cloth, wrap up the beer and leave it in a shady spot for awhile, re-soaking if needed. Thanks, thermodynamics! You can also slap them across your head or neck to make it through hot nights. A set of three costs about $14 on online.
Manual coffee grinder
Day one without power: your precious Starbucks can’t save you now. What’s a coffee junkie to do? Make some good coffee the old-fashioned way, that’s what. It takes about two minutes to grind enough coffee beans for four cups of coffee. If you take your coffee hot, pair this purchase with a camping stove or a portable electric stove. If you like it cold, just add the grounds to water, let steep for a couple of hours, and then strain through a fine mesh or cheesecloth. If you run out of cold water, it doesn’t taste terrible lukewarm either. A manual coffee grinder from Bed, Bath and Beyond costs about $12.
If you wind up having to camp out at a friend’s house or a shelter, a light and compact sleeping bag, like the envelope sleeping bag by Camtoa, will come in handy. It goes for around $30.
There’s no better time to get to work on that stack of books that’s been piling up than while waiting a couple days for the power to come back on. A hands-free book light sold by Ledgle would come in handy while trying to complete all kinds of tasks in the dark. It costs about $14 online.