Hurricanes: the lack of common sense is mind-boggling

I continue to be dumbfounded by the almost unbelievable lack of common sense being displayed by so many as they prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Irma in Florida.  There are endless complaints about stores running out of essential supplies, fistfights over sheets of plywood to board up homes, and long lines of cars as drivers try to fill their fuel tanks before evacuating the area.  Here’s just one report, to illustrate the scale of the latter problem.

Year in, year out, we read warnings from FEMA and other authorities that we should have at least a minimal supply of emergency foods in our homes.  Year in, year out, we see others going through all these problems as they’re threatened by storms or other natural disasters.  Year in, year out, we hear experts advise us on what to do to prepare for emergencies . . . yet none of it seems to sink into the heads of so many people.  The panic buying and lack of preparedness never improves.

I’m at a loss to explain it.  If anyone can, I’d love for you to tell us in a comment to this post!  There’s no rhyme or reason or rationality to it.  The gasoline shortage, in particular, boggles my mind.  If you know you may have to evacuate, particularly when a mandatory evacuation order is issued, why not keep a tankful or two of gas in reserve, in safe storage at or near your home?  It’s the most logical precaution in the world, particularly when you know from past experience that gasoline shortages always occur when an emergency like this arises . . . but none of the drivers shown in that video clip above appears to have thought about that.  Why not?  Don’t ask me!



  1. I don't live in a hurricane prone area, basically being located smack dab in the middle of the country.

    I typically keep no less than twenty-five gallons of fuel on hand. I rotate it by feeding the mower and occasionally the two cars. We keep the cars above half a tank at all time. With the fuel deserve, we can pack up the kids and both cars with necessary supplies and important items and travel at least two states away, pretty much in any direction. We have food and water and meds in the house to last for at least two or three months, maybe longer, without rationing.

    People need to be ready.

  2. Yes, you'd think after even one hurricane season people would know the basics. You asked why people don't act — some thoughts about that:

    Some people I know have said they don't want to commit precious space to emergency items, or don't want the clutter it could cause. Plus I suspect it reminds them of danger. People don't like thinking about unpleasantness. For some, the cost is an issue, at least as they see it (not considering the cost of not doing it).

    Storing a tankful of gas is not so easy, depending on where you live. A couple of 5-gallon cans would be a good start, and they're relatively easy to manage. In addition to other preparations, I keep at least one 3/4-full can of diesel in my truck all the time — I can't easily lift a full one, certainly not well enough to pour it in the tank.

    Instead of the big scary "PREPAREDNESS" project, people need to learn a few painless things to do — buying a few items at a time, cleaning out part of a storage closet,etc.

  3. No one wants to think about a disruption to their carefully-ordered lives. Bad things only happen to other people, right? Getting & staying prepared would be an acknowledgement that something bad might happen to them … and we can't have that.

  4. I can explain it in a few words. People as a whole do not make good decisions, ergo: poverty, preparedness, and teenage pregnancy etc.

  5. I'm in the Orlando area, squarely in the middle of the track.
    I think it's a matter of someone can tell you X but it doesn't sink in unless you experience it yourself.

    I was here back in 2004, when we had 3 or 4 of these go right over us (Charley, Frances, Jeanne and maybe another one) in about a 6 week period. I did have to go get a few things at the store before the last one, and it was surreally empty in the store by then- there was no panic buying anymore because everyone in the area already had their essentials from when the other storms passed through.

    We (central Florida) are back on the first part of the learning curve again, hence the sold-out gas stations and stores. It did feel good that we (family) didn't have to go panic buy anything, as just the ordinary prepared-minded lifestyle already made sure we had the essentials covered.

  6. first off, common sense is the most uncommon commodity on this planet.
    possibly whoever called it common was being sarcastic.

    we now store gas but sometimes, especially for apartment dwellers, there is no safe place to keep it.
    also $$$ are a real problem for more of us than is commonly realized. we ourselves live paycheck to paycheck. it is a necessity with medical costs and the price of groceries so high the past few years.
    we don't have our own property either so that can put a crimp in one's plans. think of how many americans are renters.

    i am buying the 2 gallon gas cans because i cannot lift the 5 gallon anymore.
    i only put 2 or 3 gallons in the 5 gallon so i can lift it.

    people have 'human nature' which can often mean 'stupid'.
    we drifted along never thinking that the stores might not have full shelves or that we might not have fuel enough or the roads might be closed by a disaster or change in politics.
    most of us do.

    i think it is called normalcy bias.

    the chances of hurricane or tornado are small.
    the chances of being eaten by a tiger on main street are miniscule but once is enough.

    just human nature. no other answer.

    love your web site, brm.
    i hate recaptcha, eyesight not so good anymore. hard to do it right.

  7. I think you are out of line. Expecting people to maintain a gallon of gas is in some cases impossible. A renter downtown may only have on street parking. Keeping gasoline for over a few months is only possible in the best of conditions, even then requires additives. You might think they could keep their tanks more than half full, but they may have issues with thieves.
    Gas does go bad, so its a routine to maintain it but where does a young person learn that care, or care to spill gas on themselves.

  8. I live in an apartment, so no gas storage. I try to keep more than half a tank of gas in the truck. I live check to check, but I put a little by as I can.

    Being poor means you pray as much as you plan.

  9. I'm sitting under the ceiling fan drying off after finishing the installation of hurricane shutters around my modest home just north of Fort Lauderdale.
    Earlier, the lines around the gas stations that were open were immense, no water at any store. Lotsa folks wandering around with scared eyes wondering what to do, what to do???
    Genny is ready, and plenty of ammo on hand. God's will be done.

  10. Hunkering down for the incoming hurricane.
    They decide to "ride out the storm".
    "Yeah, we're ready for Irma. Bring it on, baby!
    Beer's in the fridge, hotdogs are in the freezer, and the grille's in the living room ready to FIRE UP!
    We're gonna PAR-AR-AR-R-R-TE-E-E-E-E-E!!!! WOO-OO-OOO-OOO-OOO, BOY!!!!!"

  11. Everyone has given very good commentary; all I can add is:
    1) "Not gonna happen to me"
    2) selfishness
    3) derp, derp, derp


  12. I agree with many above comments in that storing things like fuel and cash can be impossible for some. That said, the utter lack of common sense astounds me. Mom's cousin lives in Florida. Her family and friends have been on her for DAYS to evacuate, but she won't do it. And she keeps making up dumb-ass excuses.

    "Oh I don't think it'll hit us." The storm is BIGGER than the state of Florida! It couldn't miss her if it tried!

    "Oh I don't like hotels." Fair enough, which is why family members are fighting over who will take you in (yeah, my family's weird like that).

    "Oh I don't want to impose on anyone." Seriously?! We're INVITING YOU OVER!!!! That's not an imposition!

    "Well, okay, I've packed up my suitcase, but I'm going to stay home tonight and sleep on it. If I think I need to leave, I'll leave in the morning." Yeah, too late, cupcake. The highways are now gridlocked from they Keys to North Carolina.

    "Oh I can always fly out." The airports are all closed. Now you're stuck, and you've completely screwed yourself and your husband. Don't come crying to us when you two get killed.

    My parents are retiring to Florida in a few years. They generally have far more common sense than the aforementioned looney-toon. I just hope they maintain it after they move down there.

  13. I believe that, for the most part, we all live too far away from the requirements of life and that has made us soft. Most people don't realize that without the underpinnings of civilization life isn't as simple as heading down to the store to pickup whatever may be needed at any time. They have also lost sight of the fact that you are ultimately responsible for yourself and your loved ones, not someone in your state capital or Washington. This may be the reason why soda size and who can use what bathroom are even talked about rather than scoffed at.

  14. I lived in S FL for 40 years. One of the problems is the new arrival who is clueless. The state has a large turnover of residents. Every time I started to board the windows someone would ask, "Whatcha doin'?"

  15. Have you seen the traffic in Los Angeles? There's only a few roads out of this basin and way too many people living here. The further away from those exit points, the worse it will be in the event of something like a hurricane, never mind actual problems that come up every year (fires/earthquakes). I'd love to have some preparations, but to the aforementioned too many people, I don't have nearly enough space to keep it all.

  16. Ok, wasn't gonna comment, but I see some despair and defeatism here that I can address.

    First, storing gas. Even in an apartment, don't you have an additional storage space? Every apt I've lived in had a space by the parking area or in the laundry room. If not, don't you have a balcony? Even 5 gallons will get you an extra 100 miles in most cars. WRT gas going bad, this is less of a problem with vehicles than with small engines, but you can add Sta-bil or one of the other preservatives and it will store for a year or more. Or buy 'race gas' that doesn't have alcohol added, it will store better than regular. If you buy metal cans you won't have an issue with the can venting or smelling bad, and if you are only buying one or two the cost is not so bad.

    WRT not having room to store prepping supplies. If your pantry and kitchen cabinets are full, then I believe you. If you are already using the spaces under your bed, then I believe you. If you have already filled the space at the back of every closet, then I believe you. BUT, I don't think you have. Do you have clothes you don't wear? Hobbies you no longer do? Sports equipment you no longer use? Magazines, books, TEXTBOOKS you haven't looked at in years? Get rid of them and make room.

    Also, do you have a storage unit? Small ones are not as expensive as starving to death…

    WRT not having the money. Do you smoke? Drink alcohol? Eat in restaurants most days? Do you buy coffee or lunch out most days? Have cable or satellite tv? Buy bottled water? When was the last time you shopped around for car insurance? Called the cable company for a discount? Got any internet subscriptions that just autobill? Are you getting eaten alive by finance and interest charges? There are LOTS of ways to stretch a dollar, and to save money. The internet is full of good advice. Yes some of these things will come with a bit of pain, or require some extra work, but vs listening to your kids crying because they are hungry–they're CHEAP.

    The other key is steady progress and incrementalism. The easiest way to build your stores it to simply buy one or two more of the things you normally buy each time you shop. I started that way and it works.

    Sales, coupons, alternate cheaper brands, scratch and dents, all help to save money while stocking up. And once again, the internet is your friend.

    Rice, flour, salt, sugar, veg oil – these things are incredibly cheap and can save your life. Canned food is very cheap. You don't need a bunker full of freeze-dried food. As far as cooking it, a table top butane burner and a couple of bottles of fuel will fit under a counter and cost about $35 at wal*mart.

    So there is NO REAL REASON not to prep. There are a lot of excuses. There are a lot of reasons and rationalizations why not to. There is a lot of whining about it. But in the past 16 years I've personally overcome all those reasons/excuses. It doesn't have to be hard, expensive, time consuming, or take over your life.

    You DO have to get off the couch and DO IT.


  17. Here's your explanation in full:

    What do I win?

    Those people on the left of that diagram?
    That would be the 14% moderately stupid, and the 2% severely stupid.
    Which comes to 2,889,176 moderately stupid Floridians, and 412,739 Floridians who are severely stupid, all of whom are woefully mentally challenged.

    At a certain point, natural disasters tend to thin the left edge of that bell curve, but we cheat Darwin out of far too much of his due, year in and year out.

    Working in an ER, I'm as guilty of that as anyone.
    But in my own defense, the stories I get out of it are hilarious.

  18. Well, as someone who has lived in Florida since 73, let me put my two cents worth in.

    First, a lot of the population in Florida has never been through a hurricane, tropical storm, or a tornado cluster (yes, we get those things down here also.) They come from places like the snow belt, the tornado belt, the earthquake belt, where there is no real preparation for major events (from what I've seen on the tv.) And a lot of young people who are from Florida who were kids when the 2004 storm cluster came through are now adults, and they also have never experienced these issues. So, lack of experience does a lot. Yes, you have 4-5 days to get out of the way, but as we just discovered, at 4 days before landfall all the hotels/motels going up to Georgia were already booked. And by 3 days before, the 3 turning into 2 major highways (turnpike, I-75 merge together, and I-95) were parking lots. So much for evacuating.

    Second, well, a lot of folks in Florida are not rich, and live paycheck to paycheck. Yes, we all make foolish choices (booze, cable tv, cigs, more guns than we ever need, drugs, crappy cars, etc.) but also many jobs here are marginal. Not a lot of free cash. I am in that situation, having to eat a lot of my carefully hoarded food to survive in the last three years.

    And, well, Third. Have you noticed the locations where stupidity runs highest? Hint. Look at a 2016 presidential voting chart of Florida to see the cities where the bat-shit crazy is the greatest. Miami and the surrounding areas, the keys, all are huge Democratic strongholds. Debbie W. Shultz is from the Miami area. These cities have spent more money on 'the feelz', catering to the gays, the trans, the blue-hairs and not focusing on storm preparations as well as they should (see New Orleans and Houston as examples of demo-run cities that screwed the pooch on storm prep. Hell, toss in NYC and Long Island for their lack of prep for a storm like Sandy, even though those places have had severe storms before..)

    Yes, lots of people messed up. Lots of people were caught un-prepared, or not caring. The state really isn't set up to handle mass evacuation. And the Dems run the big cities, where the problems mostly are.

    Those that survive will be better next time.

  19. I have go bags. I have about 2 months worth of dehydrated food. We are at the top of a gravity fed well. I have charcoal and propane. I have a lot of woods nearby in a pinch. I'm in the process of moving the dehydrated food into 5 gallon "homer" buckets which are mostly air and water tight, along with some canned meat and other similar supplies. The biggest expense was the dehydrated food which you can buy a chunk at a time at a LOT of places on line. You can store a couple weeks worth of dehydrated food in 1 5G bucket. Heck, if you cannot afford any better put beans and rice in it. Throw in some cheap oxygen getters and it will keep for years. You can stack 4 of these buckets easly in a small closet. I'm probably going to stick excess stocks of ammo in one because I ran out of ammo buckets when I was stocking up for the Clinton presidency (thanks be to God she did not win!).

    You can do this in a thrifty manner. Peter has some other suggestions.

  20. When I lived in a flood zone I made simple preparations to deal with the issue. You had plenty of time as this wasn't a place that flash flooded. You knew days in advance that the water was coming up. I simply moved stuff in the yard to the higher level and positioned the boat to go in and out.

    If you live in the state of Florida, (aka a lovely beach surrounding a swamp occasionally ventilated by hurricanes) why would you not a already have plywood or storm shutters for your windows? It isn't like a tornado where the chance of being actually hit by one is vanishingly small even in tornado alley. Florida, and many other coastal areas, will get hit by strong hurricanes. It happens pretty regularly. Hurricanes are a known quantity, they are quite large and their effects on various geographic areas are known. You have days if not weeks warning that they're coming. How can one not be prepared?

  21. I think the lack of preparedness boils down to the "just in time" mentality and lack of discipline that many folks in this country have. No one has really had to sacrificed in this country in a 2-3 generations. Truly had to sacrifice…not do I buy the x-box or play station gaming console.

    I have learned that if it is something you really want, you figure out a way to get it. Obviously, for most folks, having extra supplies around is not important.

    Having grown up on top of a ridge, where, during the winter, we did not go anyplace until after the plow came over the hill, and as the power could go out anytime for nobody knew how long, you kept extra stuff around.

    I think folks are paying more attention to this storm after seeing what happened in Houston. Maybe. Maybe more folks will learn from this storm and keep more stuff around on a routine basis.


  22. There's little excuse for not maintaining a "buffer" for unexpected situations; when you go to a grocery store, pick up 5-10 extra cans of what you like each time, some powdered milk, an extra package of toilet paper, etc. and if it's on sale, get a few more. In 6 months you'll have a quite adequate pantry and sufficient reserves of other goods to buffer small to moderate shortages.

    As for Florida, Florida has two seasons: hurricane season and not-hurricane season. Each is 6 months long; hurricane season begins June 1 and runs to November 30. Every calendar I've ever owned has had all 12 months on it, and has begun with January, so a little observation should provide plenty of warning that June is coming.

    As hurricane season approaches, one changes one's behavior: the consumables one has used start getting replaced at a faster rate, insurance policies get checked, home repairs and maintenance get accelerated, the car gas tank gets refilled at 1/3 down instead of half-empty, etc.

    I, like Thomas above, went through the 2004 Central Florida Hurricane Festival, and I found it barely a bother. When Charley knocked out our power for 5 1/2 days it wasn't much more than an indoor campout (I had a small generator that kept the fridge running and, being small, didn't require constant gas-hunting trips to keep it fed). The difference is we had planned over the years for such an occurrence and were prepared for it.

    I recognize that some living conditions – apartments, condos, etc. – may not permit vast levels of preparation, but there is always some prepping that can be accommodated. If you don't want to prepare at all, fine, that's your choice as a moderately-free citizen; I'll be more than glad to offer advice, my time, and my sweat to help you prepare, all you have to do is ask. If, however, you completely defer prepping, when the SHTF don't ring my doorbell expecting me to bail your ass out, and when Mother Nature does kill you, please be considerate enough to fall over dead someplace where I don't have to keep stepping over your rotting carcass.

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