KN, p. 278 “Hurricane Season Opened June 1st”

Hurricane Michael, 2018

Hurricanes do BILLIONS of dollars in property and business damage every year. Wind and rain slam the coastal regions of the planet with a ferocity that man-made structures can’t survive. 


A hurricane is a tropical storm with winds above 74 miles per hour. Called typhoons and cyclones in other regions of the world, there’s no doubt that the challenge of living through ‘the big one’ should scare us all into taking precautions. And with good reason.


Even at level 1, the least powerful of hurricane categories, winds of up to 95mph can knock people off their feet, disintegrate roofs, and send debris flying through the air. Remember Katrina and the personal and economic devastation it inflicted in 2005? That was an over two hundred mile wide, level 5 storm, with shrieking winds up to 175mph, the most costly hurricane the U.S. has experienced. And it’s not even the largest hurricane on record. Windows blown out, buildings collapsed, vast low-lying areas underwater for weeks, many uninhabitable neighborhoods in the aftermath – that is the norm for such an enormous weather event.


Government agencies can help with re-establishing communications, getting water and clothing to the victims, and assisting with rescue efforts, but this can take weeks if roads are impassable or if manpower is limited. Enter volunteer groups – essential to any recovery and rebuilding process. Unfortunately, it can take months – sometimes years – before decent housing can be built for everyone who needs it. Even if homeowners can foot the bills for repairs, a shortage of skilled construction people and supply chain issues with construction materials themselves, puts a huge hold on any recovery efforts.


A friend of ours lived on other people’s couches for three years after Superstorm Sandy while battling insurance companies and waiting for builders to arrive.

The debris at the curb is a partial pile of former studs, cabinets, and flooring removed from inside the shell that remained standing. A six foot wall of sea water had surged down the street from the beach 1/4 mile away and poured through every access point in every house in its path.

The boardwalk that had been on that beach? Torn up by the force of the wind and water thrashing it, sand dunes fill the place where boards used to be.


More than one storm has left thousands of people homeless. Masses of people trudge toward refugee tent cities, in search of a safe place to sleep and eat. Power is gone after the big storms. Forget about food and fresh water. Superstorm Sandy occurred in late October when the temperature drops to forty degrees at night in the northeastern USA. There was no heat/power for weeks in some neighborhoods while power companies tried to get the grid back online. Many people had to rely on the kindness of complete strangers for bare necessities.

For the vacation destinations that depend almost exclusively on tourist dollars to support existing roads and housing, and count on food crops to feed the residents, storms can create a level of chaos and devastation that is difficult to come back from. After two major hurricanes within three years, an acquaintance abandoned his house in the Caribbean and left, never to return. Government officials told him the infrastructure in his section would take years to restore.


How can you prepare for hurricanes?
Hurricanes are not just a coastal problem. Pouring rain, high winds, and tornadoes occur hundreds of miles inland from where a hurricane or tropical storm makes landfall. My Carolina cousin’s house is over 200 miles from the coast, but during Michael lost the roof and more. Plus, all the grass and topsoil surrounding the house washed away in the torrents of water flooding the streets. Gardens, trees, shrubs, flowers? Mostly gone, as also happened to farmers providing food for the area. Michael was a mere Class 2 hurricane when it reached that section of the State.


Make a Plan
Make sure everyone in your household knows and understands your hurricane plan, including work, child care, pets, food, water, evacuation, and changes to the daily routine.


Are you in an Evacuation Zone?

You may have to evacuate quickly if you live in an evacuation zone. Learn your evacuation routes and practice with your family and pets well before an actual storm hits. Investigate where you will stay if you can’t return home for a week or more. Follow the instructions from local emergency managers. They don’t make recommendations lightly.


Review Important Documents
Make sure your insurance policies and personal documents (such as ID) are current. Put copies in a safe deposit box at the bank or other secure location. A friend who lost everything in a fire had no backup documents. It took over six months to prove she was who she said she was in order to file claims, because there were thousands in the same situation and the system was overloaded.


Get your home ready
Clean the gutters, stow the outside furniture, hang hurricane shutters if you have them, or board up the windows.


Get your tech ready
Keep your cell phone charged when you know a hurricane is on its way. Consider buying backup charging devices for your electronics – you may need to use your laptop while the storm is passing, if wi-fi is working.


Help your neighbors
Help senior adults, or anyone else who may need assistance to get ready for the storm.


Have enough supplies for your household, including food, water, medication, disinfectants, masks, pet supplies, etc. in your go bag or car trunk. After a hurricane, you may not have access to these supplies for days or even weeks.


Experience has shown that since we cannot change nature, the best plan is to get out of the way until storms move on or dissolve. If we evacuate before they hit, at least lives can be saved, if not property.


Whatever the type, natural disasters are overwhelming to the communities struck by them. Contact your church to see if it is doing a clothing/food/water collection and donate whatever you can. Ask if the church is sending a reconstruction team to one of the affected towns. Contact your local branch of Habitat for Humanity and ask what you can do to help as a part of their Disaster Relief Program.

For more information about preparedness in your region, check out your town’s website or call the city manager’s office to see if pamphlets or a what-to-do list are available. If that doesn’t exist, follow the local TV station’s coverage of approaching storms. If it’s a big one coming, there are usually shelters set up ahead of time and locations are mentioned on the air.

Stay safe and help keep the body count down. You can’t outrace these monster storms.


KN, p. 278 “Hurricane Season Opened June 1st” Read More »

KN, p. 273 “On the Road: Traveling During the Pandemic”

A family member needed lots of help after surgery and since we had a couple of weeks of Covid down time, we volunteered to pitch in. The tricky part was that she lived in western Pennsylvania, and a last minute obligation meant that we had to stay overnight on the drive out there.


Overnight. On the road. During the Pandemic, when some restaurants would be closed and protocols would be different from previous trips for every single public rest stop.


We couldn’t merely toss clothes in the suitcases and hop in the car; we had to plan for all kinds of contingencies. Normally, we carry a handy AAA travel guide for the States in which we will travel. It lists hotels and restaurants by town, so when we’re ready to stop, we call from the road to make reservations for dining or hotels. This time, we had to call before we left the house since Sheila needs a walk-in shower and a place with an elevator. No tubs or stairs for us right now, and those requirements limited our hotel choices.


We discovered from the phone calls that breakfast was going to be problematic at the hotels. Breakfast buffets were a no-no. We could pick up go-bags at the front desk that contained a bagel and boiled eggs which was good for some happy travelers, but not for us. We elected to eat at a Denny’s we knew to be near our chosen hotel, in order to get hot food.


Restaurants all along the route required masks. Once we entered, we saw that every table had more space than usual between it and the next, and sometimes, empty tables had signs that said: ‘not available.’ In one place, the manager placed empty mop buckets on the ‘forbidden’ spots. Yup, a definite deterrent. We did need to use our surface wipes on the restaurant tables in two of the places, since the waitstaff missed quite a bit. BUT, the extra space was in some ways relaxing – less noise and no crowds are a plus.


The take-out places had decals on the floor that marked where you could stand to give your order and pick up your food. Not everyone followed the rules, but most complied.


The highway rest stops were cleaner and more organized than we had ever seen them. Areas in front of map displays were cordoned off and ‘no browsing’ was enforced. We told the staff members which maps we needed and they handed them to us. The vending machine operation seemed to be the same as always.


The hotels had contactless check-ins and checkouts, but a surprising touch at one was the seal on some doors to the rooms. The seals meant that the room had been sanitized after the last guest. The seal was broken only by using the key to gain access. Another plus? The hotel lobbies and rooms were cleaner than we’d ever seen them before. Not a smudge, dust bunny, or stray fingerprint anywhere. The hotel pools were open, but could only be used if reserved ahead of time; one family/group at a time.


These were our essential travel supplies that before the Pandemic would have been unnecessary:


  • Handi-wipes
  • Masks
  • Medical gloves
  • Surface wipes


We have returned, with mission accomplished, and have been tested as Covid-free, but we didn’t take sanitation for granted anywhere.


For other “On-the-Road” travel tips, check out:


Stay safe out there and have a great time!



KN, p. 273 “On the Road: Traveling During the Pandemic” Read More »

KN, p. 178 “Is the builder dead yet?”


“What? Is somebody trying to kill the builder?” you ask.

They’ might be thinking about it. As in, more than one person is annoyed.


Here’s what is happening. When we moved in, the neighborhood was full of wooded lots. Even the properties with houses already there, had plenty of trees at the edges, along the fences, or next to the houses. Some were mature trees that had been left on the otherwise cleared lots before construction had begun. Property owners added flowering trees as time passed. Wildlife flourishes in this residential neighborhood of 1/4 and 1/3 acre lots. We’re not out in the country, but these are not zero-lot homes either.


Phases 1 and 2 of the larger housing development have long been completed. Phase 3 was finished three years ago, the original trees are beautiful, and the owners are adding new fruit/flowering trees each year.


Enter Phase 4. The original developer had a few lots left and found a builder to buy them. That builder wanted the lots cleared before finalizing the deal. That’s when we, the neighbors, discovered that some of the grassy/lightly-wooded areas between existing homes were actually unsold lots.



ALL of the trees from those lots are being cleared, lots of red dirt remains, and now mudslides into neighboring backyards are expected with the next heavy rain.


The developer in charge of the work told me on the phone that the lots are not wide enough to have left the trees in place. The one in the photos is 60 feet wide. Years ago, I lived in a house surrounded by maples and evergreens. That lot was 50×100. IMO, this guy simply did not want to take the time to leave a couple of trees to shade the house and protect the wildlife on the lot.


The neighbors to the left and right of the bulldozer photo were concerned enough to have the City Inspector come out to assess the situation. Note the dirt to the left appears to be in a pile that crosses the property line and would be the most likely to slide into the neighbor’s yard in the rain.



The builder’s solution was to place sand barrier ‘fencing’ on the property line. The bulldozer operator moved the dirt up against it.


Other lots have similar problems with soil grading and tree removal.


Heated conversations have been held. The neighborhood grapevine is operating at peak efficiency. Town council meetings are scheduled on the topic.


In case you doubt that neighbors and builders would actually get angry over something like this, read on.


Existing homeowners in Colorado were upset with new builders in the neighborhood who appeared to be putting in homes that did not conform to the look of the development, thereby lowering everyone’s property values. Building was delayed while plans were reviewed. Board members who were in charge of approving the designs (but didn’t) were removed from their positions and new people replaced them.


When developers with big money at stake and disgruntled homeowners with possible deflated property values are at odds, tempers can flare, injunctions can occur, and nothing good happens. If the builder complies with city ordinances, there is little recourse for the neighbors who don’t care for the look of the newer houses, or how the new homes will affect them.


City codes exist for a reason. Check yours out. You might be surprised at what is NOT included in some communities, such as: building setbacks, curbing pets, rules about garbage, home swimming pool regulations, livestock allowed in the city limits, etc.


We haven’t seen any bodies in the remaining woods yet, but it is still early in the process. Kidding. Tempers are high, but so far, everybody is at the yelling stage. Let’s hope that reason prevails and the builder corrects the problems he has created, and doesn’t produce any new ones.


2020 Update:

The two houses built on the properties in the photos have flooding issues. One has a perpetual pond in the backyard from the water cascading down the slope, requiring special drains to keep the water away from the house. The builder was within city code requirements and took no responsibility for the flooding caused by his bulldozing method. Buyer beware.


*Photos by Patti Phillips










KN, p. 178 “Is the builder dead yet?” Read More »

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