How to Prepare for Hurricane Florence with a Chronic Illness

As the Florence moves closer to the Carolinas, many people are scrambling to buy food and water to prepare. But what special precautions need to be taken before the storm for the elderly or those with chronic illness? What steps can you take during and after the storm to minimize exacerbations of symptoms?

eye of the storm image from outer space

Because Florence is projected to be a category 4 hurricane (as of 9/11/18) when it makes landfall, it will be the most powerful hurricane since Hazel in 1954. Even if Florence downgrades before the end of the week, it still has potential to devastate most of the Carolinas.

Most specifically, Florence is projected to “stall” after it makes landfall, meaning it will churn over the affected states for an extended period of time, bringing torrential rain and mass flooding.

Hurricanes are known for their storm surges along the coast, making many people underestimate the effect it can have further inland. But storm surges aside, major hurricanes can cause damage through flooding, wind damage, and tornadoes, which affect power lines and water access.

Hurricanes also damage crops and delay shipments of supplies, meaning that the food, medication, and gas shortages can be felt even after the storm passes.

So what are some steps you can take to mitigate the effects of the upcoming storm on your health?

Take hydration seriously.

The usual recommendation is 2 gallons per person per day, for at least five days. With a chronic illness, you will need more water to be on the safe side. When you are preparing for a storm with mass flooding capabilities, you need to be prepared for the water to become contaminated. Here are some tips for getting more water with the shortages:

  1. Go to the baby section in the grocery store and buy nursery water and Pedialyte.
    Buy water purification tablets or drops from Walmart or REI and use it to purify the water you store in your bathtub.
  2. Buy large metal or plastic bins and fill with water, then use a purification process to clean before drinking.
  3. Some fast food places like Bojangles sell gallon-sized sweet tea. You can pour those out and refill with water. Soda bottles and Tupperware also work well.
  4. You can also drink broth and stores will likely still have bone, chicken, and vegetable broth left.
  5. If all else fails, you can look for canned coconut water at Asian/international food stores.
  6. Review these tips on staying properly hydrated in the summer with a chronic illness.

Take the heat seriously.

Many people can go without air conditioning for weeks without a problem. With a chronic illness, however, a lack of air conditioning can soon become a health emergency. If your body cannot tolerate the forecasted high temperatures for longer than two days without air conditioning, you may need to find an alternative place to stay during the storm. Luckily, for most of the Carolinas, the forecasted high temperatures are in the upper 70s/low 80s. However, the humidity will be high. Here are some tips for staying cool with power outages:

  1. Buy a cooling vest or find the supplies to your current cooling vest. In another article, I wrote about my Polar Products Phase 58 cooling vest. The cooling packs freeze at 58 degrees, so they can be recharged in cold water. If you do not have a cooling vest, prepare by getting lunch box cooling packs and keeping them in the freezer.
  2. Buy battery-powered fans. If your electricity is out, you will need some way to stay cool and battery-powered fans can help you with the high humidity. Make sure to buy enough batteries (24-pack at least) to keep them powered for a few days.
  3. Buy cooling towels. These can be recharged in cool water and help you keep cool indoors.
  4. Once the water comes back on, you can take cold showers and baths to cool off. You can also get a thin sheet wet, wrap it around yourself, then sit in front in a fan to cool off.
  5. Buy instant ice packs. These are like the “icy-hot” packs at the store. You can shake these and they are one-time use cool packs to use in a heat emergency.

Take your medications seriously.

Do you have enough of each of your medications to last two weeks? Are they stored in a water-safe place? With power outages and lack of air conditioning, you will likely face an exacerbation of symptoms. Contact your doctor for medical advice in advance should your symptoms worsen and you cannot access 911.

Take food seriously.

If you have a chronic illness, you likely also have dietary restrictions. Make sure you have enough non-perishable food for a week. Luckily, most people do not have food allergies or restrictions, so the stores will likely have plenty of gluten-free bread, for example.

Stay connected.

With a chronic illness, you will need to make sure you have a way to contact someone for help, should your symptoms worsen. Here are some tips for staying connected:

  1. Buy an external power bank for your phone and Apple Watch. If you have an Apple Watch connected to a data plan, you can call emergency services through your watch.
  2. Download the Zello app for community-based radio services. This app has been used by search and rescue teams during other hurricanes.
  3. Locate your closest hospital in advance.
  4. Write down the contact numbers of family and friends to be able to contact in the event your phone is dead.
  5. Organize your medical records. Have printed copies of your essential medical records and medication list ready in the case of an emergency during a power outage. Make copies of your insurance cards.

Hopefully, Florence will downgrade in the next few days, but these steps can help you prepare for a weather emergency. This list is not meant to replace formal disaster preparedness checklists, but rather to supplement your family’s preparation for a person with a chronic illness.

If you have any other suggestions, please comment below! Stay safe 🙂

2 Comments Add yours

  1. ribbonrx says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! These are fantastic tips! I’ve shared it on my personal Facebook page, my Facebook blog page, and Twitter. Stay safe!


  2. Stay safe and look after yourself. You are in my thoughts.


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