Two different worlds + Possible Storm of Century: A look into hurricane preparedness

“We’re not trying to hype it,” National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Kocin tells Bloomberg News. “What we’re seeing in some of our models is a storm at an intensity that we have not seen in this part of the country in the past century.”

Hmm. Time to stock up. This, I was surprised to see when I first moved from the Caribbean to the US, is done in an extremely logical and organized way here. Supplies look like this:

Figure 1.
           

On the other hand (would be fair to say, in another world), my fellow islanders (more specifically, Dominicans) would gather essentials such as these:

Figure 2.

         

Irresponsible, you say? Shaking your collective heads, New Englanders? I can explain.

In your average Caribbean island dwelling, the following supplies are ALWAYS available (not only for natural disasters, but as daily life staples):

–          Water – There is not a faucet in the entire country one would trust to drink from. Thus, innumerable containers with water “for drinking and cooking” are handy in every room. As for water for cleaning, bathing, washing – well, that is where Ms. Sandy comes in handy: Every caldero and bucket is sitting outside catching rain water.

–          Batteries, flashlights, gas lamps – Power outages are a fact of life. Not a day goes by that there isn’t one.

–          Food – Non perishable items, such as the plantain tree in the backyard or the freely-roaming chickens are available year-round. Also, there is no money to buy what people don’t already have.

Radios are always around, not to listen to the National Weather Service or Emergency Management authorities (who, come to think of it, may have gathered the exact same supplies shown in Figure 2), but to listen to music or radio soap operas.

Hurricanes are thought of as excuses for being off work and school. The whole vecindario gets together (please refer to dominoes and cards) and alcohol replaces milk. As the storm brings tons of water and strong winds, people (having consumed by the 3rd hour approximately 7 bottles of rum) are grateful for a respite from the heat. A communal sancocho (thick Dominican soup) is underway. The comadres gossip, the compadres drink even more and gamble, and the occasional fight is stopped by the neighborhood abuela (who is usually a small old lady  — don’t be fooled, everyone is scared to death of her, and with reason — who everyone calls “Mama” or just “La Doña”, and who achieves this by separating the fighting parties and smacking each one in the head).

Having grown up in this environment, I find it difficult to get alarmed when there is a hurricane alert. Why, I have survived approximately 37 major storms by now, with a lot less resources and inadequate emergency supplies (please refer again to Figure 2). My husband, on the other hand, looks at me with alarm and barely refrains from shaking me to drive some sort of reason into my carefree island head. Me? I say bring it on, Sandy. I’m ready.

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3 thoughts on “Two different worlds + Possible Storm of Century: A look into hurricane preparedness

  1. As a native New Englander who has just arrived home from work and on the way witnessed an accident in a WAITING LINE at a gas station and watched four alleged adults fight over the last package of batteries at a Walgreens, I must say: I’m embarrassed to be a New Englander. I predict widespread cannibalism within 15 minutes of Sandy’s first breeze here.

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