Post Matthew review

After 17 years in a Hurricane Zone, I thought I had the preparation thing down and for the most part I did. There were a couple of things that I missed but was able to patch.  Here are some thoughts and I hope it helps others. And also my regular reminder that I am not in the Prepper culture, so what it may seem obvious to some was not for me.

Hurricane Panels 1: Prior to Hurricane Wilma, I grouped the panels according to the opening they were supposed to cover, bolted them together and labelled them accordingly. When Wilma was threatening, just knowing which set of panel went were cut down the labor in half. The only mistake I made is I used a Sharpie to label them and after 11 years under the South Florida weather, it faded. I am planning on making nice stencils with the locations and Krylon the crap out of them, both sides. They may look stupid to a passerby, but they ain’t supposed to look pretty, just be efficient.

Hurricane Panels 2: Eleven years ago, I had no problems installing the panels by myself. Nowadays I have a medical issue that did not allow me to do it, so I secured a guy to come put them up and then take them down, grouping them and secure them. He charged $15 per opening which is about the right price from what I investigated. Price will go up on a two-story home which makes sense. Lesson here is, if you can afford it, go for accordion panels or other easy set up. If you can’t and are unable to do put up the panels yourself, get somebody. Pride dies when sustained wind speed pass the 73 mph marker.

Water: I simplified the water issue this year. I bought two cases of bottled water, but both went to the fridge’s freezer and the stand-alone freezer to keep items cold as long as possible. For drinking water, I went with 5 gallon water bottles filled from my home water filter.


My wife, the one with the brains in the family, got a water pump deigned to go with these bottles. The bathroom with the tub filled with water was supposed to be the one to be used for biological necessities. Also a spray bottle of Fabreeze and a small bucket were left inside.

Food: This year we cooked several items in bulk and froze them in smaller containers. Lots of rice and beans because they keep the longest. The usual canned foods were available plus a smoker and a grill beside the portable gas cooker were ready to prepare whatever meat was to defrost.

Time: Other than the shutters, we were done Saturday (or so I thought.) Items bought, food prepared, any meds needed picked up, ammo and guns checked and placed, cars gassed up, 20 gallons of fuel for the generator bought; all that without having to deal with nervous shoppers or irate jackasses or bad traffic. Then on Sunday, I remembered that although we had plenty of flashlights, the main Coleman gas lamp had been thrown away several months ago, dead by natural causes and forgot to replace it. One of the things you learn quick when you lose power in South Florida is that gas or kerosene lamps emit an awful amount of heat which is not what you need when the night temps are in the mid 80s. I went online, did some research and ended up buying a Streamlight The Siege and a 12-pack of ‘D’ batteries:

340 lumens and no perceived heat.

It arrived in time and what could have been an issue, turned out just a fixable nuisance because I gave myself enough time to get everything in order. This is basically a “Do not wait to the last second to get ready” advice. Prep months in advance and do final set up days in advance to cover your butt.

Screw ups: I ain’t perfect, right? So what is in my list for next time? First of all, if something from the kit is thrown away for “x” reason, to get it replaced before the next hurricane event. Don’t rush, take my time and shop smartly.
Next, don’t laugh: a baby camera. Withe the shutters up, I can’t see a damned thing outside and making protected viewing ports in the panels is too much work and expense. Baby camera systems work on batteries and some even have a VOX feature that starts video only when a sound is detected to save battery life. I just need to figure out a water-proof casing for the camera.

UPDATE: I went ahead and did a test of the stencil panel thing.


That is 2 panels. Notice the holes on top of the panels, that is where I thread the bolt to group the panels according to opening. By the way, before using the bolt, grease the heck out of the threads; some of my bolts ended up needing a 6 hour treatment with WD-40 and two required brute force to undo.

OK, done for now and starting to get ready for the next one.

9 Replies to “Post Matthew review”

    1. I was just going to recommend the same. The stuff is awesome, especially when you’re in the access pit under an animal waterer, in a blizzard in Iowa, trying to replace a section of burst pipe. The connection that was treated with anti-seize came right apart, the other side was rusted tight, and was a miserable beeyoch to pull apart in -10°f weather.


  1. I’ve been here for 18 years, but this was my first hurricane where I put shutters up. Prior to that, I lived in places where either the management put them up, or they just didn’t exist and you kind of had to deal with it. Only cut myself once.

    The biggest thing that did bug me out was the lack of vision out the windows. Next time around, I’m probably going to stick GoPros outside and via a wired connection get video inside. I’ll have to play around with some configurations but it shouldn’t be too difficult. Plus it’ll make for some awesome time-lapse opportunities.

    Other than that, my preparations were close to what Miguel did.


  2. Random notes from experience:
    Stencil both sides of the panels, including which end goes up. Paint wears off, fades, gets scraped off.
    A complete set of spare panel bolts; coat lightly with oil and store in a well labeled oil-resistant plastic jar. If the jar is big enough, include a “shorty” ratchet handle and socket.
    Periodic maintenance item: lubricate the threaded panel mounting anchors in the walls. Oil coated rubber rod (think long pencil erasers) “screwed” into the anchors will keep water out, periodic removal and relubricating will still be required. Other option is oil-coated stainless bolts and washers with rubber gaskets in the anchors all the time.
    I used 3/4″ plywood with 2″ X 10″ “peep holes” but the cameras are a great idea. (The peep holes also make it easier to carry the panels).
    You don’t use the stuff very often, even in Florida, but a well labeled box “HURRICANE PREP STUFF” with all the hardware, bolts, brackets, sketches, etc. is valuable.
    Permanent anchors in the LVL header over the garage door(s) and in the garage floor make bracing the garage door(s) a 30 minute job. I use two vertical 2X4s spaced 1.5″ apart with shorter sections of 2X4 to allow a 3rd longer 2X4 between the pair for an angled brace. Always keep one drilled 2×4 as a template (in the years between hurricanes you’ll use the 2X4s for something else, and a sketch of how to assemble the braces helps remembering how you did it before.
    The Seige lantern is awesome (I have several). From time to time Amazon does $10-12 Lightning Deals on off-brand LED lanterns very similar to the Rayovac square base ones (currently $19). Not as bright as The Seige, but light is light. Get several, one in each room isn’t too many.
    Robe hooks in the right place in bathrooms (and other rooms, too) allows hanging a lantern,
    It has to be used outside, but a Zodi water heating camp shower is worth its weight in gold after a couple days of no electricity.
    If shower privacy is an issue, 3/4″ EMT driven into the ground and spring clamps holding green or black 80% sun fabric works well. The anal retentive among us will install 2 ft lengths of 1″ PVC so the EMT is drop-in. Tip: screw-in plugs keeps dirt out, installing at ground level allows mowing right over them. If you put glued-on caps on the bottom drill for drainage.
    Amazon sells Rayovac D cells in boxes of 60 for a good price. Replacing all D cell flashlight batteries annually isn’t too often.
    Put reflective tape on your flashlights and lanterns, makes them easier to find in the dark, especially if you set down a black Maglite outside.
    Maglite D-cell brackets adjacent to exterior doors means a flashlight is always at hand, and pointed up a light in the bracket bounces light off the ceiling for general illumination. The 3 cell LED Maglite D cells are terrific.
    A large capacity UPS (EX: APC 1500) can power a short string of LED Xmas lights or a very low wattage LED bulb for a long time.
    A Cooper Wiring or Pass & Seymour LED night light can be installed in a 2X3 electrical box with a cord and plugged into a UPS – enough light for navigating the house using less than 2 watts (The Cooper ones are adjustable for brightness).
    Amazon sells a wire stand for holding 5 gallon water jugs at a 45 degree angle so they can be used with a “pinch valve” – no pumps or batteries needed. $20 gets you both ( search for: FineDine Chrome 1- 5 Gallon Water Jug Stand and Water Dispenser Valve for 55MM Crown Top Reusable Water Jug).
    Several LED headlamps (and batteries for them) are great. Petzls are excellent but spendy.
    If you store canned food, a 12″L X 9″W X 9″H box is the perfect size for 24 cans (Staples, pack of 25=$18.50, free ship-to-store) (suggestion: 8 of protein, 8 or veggies, 8 of fruit). Label each box to contents andpurchase date.
    Tape a couple of P-38s or P-51s under the lids of your canned food storage boxes. Plastic silverware will fit in the spaces between the cans.
    Make sure your circuit breakers are accurately labeled. Doesn’t hurt to label outlets and switch covers with their circuit breaker number (EX: CB14) in case something has to be powered off in an emergency. 12 point type with a label maker and clear label tape works well and isn’t obtrusive
    A “cheat sheet” with a house diagram and shutoffs (water, gas, electric) is very useful.
    If you need special tools to shut things off (gas, for example) get a couple – one with the “cheat sheet”, a spare prominently kept someplace else (magnetically attached to the circuit breaker panel is good).
    Checklist. Always have a checklist. Review periodically, modify as necessary.


    1. And that is how you do it, people.
      All the panel wingnuts, tools and other small items are in a small toolbox that I keep in the AC closet. Why? Low humidity and other than changing the filter, nobody messes with that place.


  3. Something I’ve found very useful is a box or two of assorted cyalume sticks. Y’know, chemlights? One small chemlight, hanging from a string from a celling fixture, can provide enough light to make a dark room navigable without wasting battery power. You can’t read by it, but you won’t trip over the cat on your way to the bathroom at 3 AM.
    They’re also inexpensive and disposable, so you can do stuff with them you’d never do with a flashlight: Hand ’em out to neighbors or strangers who need a little light, use a couple as warning lights for debris or stranded cars or power lines down in the road, use a handful to make your house easier to find if you have to call emergency services after the streetlights go out (“…Miss, please tell the ambulance crew my house is the one with the glowsticks in the front yard!”)… I’m sure you can think of a bunch more uses.


    1. The only advantage of chemlights nowadays is personal portability. That Streamlight lamp will outlast chem lights. At low setting (33 lumens) it runs for 295 hours. That is 36 8-hour sticks. ($36 worth of sticks according to Amazon. The lamp cost was $34 plus 3 batteries about $0.95 each)

      I have sticks in my car and in my First Responder bag. They do have an important part to play, but for home illumination, the modern lamps are more efficient and re-usable.


  4. If you store your panels in a garage, you can also use zip ties to group them together. Before you put the panels away, spray WD-40 on a rag and wipe them down. If your panels attach using wing nuts, get two wing nut drill bits. One for you and a second one for the neighbor helping you put up your shutters.



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