Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Katrina Bag

By Pat Browning

I live in Tornado Alley but it took a hurricane that devastated New Orleans to make me think about what I need to survive. Pack a bag, the local Red Cross representative said. Keep it handy.

That was in 2005. Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans the morning of 29 August 2005, the most destructive hurricane ever to hit the U.S. A month later I dragged a duffle bag into my walk-in closet for safekeeping, per instructions from the Red Cross.

It’s still there. The problem is that it doesn’t hold a single survival item. It bulges with VCR tapes and manuscripts. It’s so heavy if I try to drag it out of the apartment I’ll probably pull my arms out of their sockets. My most precious books are in a separate cardboard box. So much for being prepared in case of a tornado or earthquake.

So what’s in that bag I can’t live without?

*Original manuscript of FULL CIRCLE, my first mystery.
*Original printout of ABSINTHE OF MALICE, the revised, reissued edition of FULL CIRCLE.
*2007 Red Dirt Anthology, with my short memoir, “White Petunias.”
*Copy of manuscript of Richard Barre short story, “Wind on the River,” sent as a Christmas present in 2000, a magnificent story, never published.

*VHS tapes, including:
The Fundamentals of Knife, Hawk and Axe Throwing – an instructional video on how to throw a knife and make it stick anywhere; old episodes of Magnum PI, Simon & Simon; old PBS programs of rock and roll music; Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows, Vol. 1; Roger Miller’s life and music; Grand Ol’ Opry Stars of the Fifties.

*Old movies, including:
Out to Sea, All of Me, Good Will Hunting, The Philadelphia Story; The Winds of War, a gift from Beth Anderson.

It’s all good stuff, but with all the floods, fires, tornadoes and thunder storms going around this year, it’s time to re-think my survival bag.

I found the following article on being prepared while going through old files. I first posted it on my personal blog, Morning’s At Noon, and it's as timely as ever.
Sunday, October 09, 2005

A Red Cross rep who spoke in El Reno recently said: “YOU are your first responder. YOU are going to rescue you.” So pack a bag. The kind of backpack kids haul to school will hold what you need. DO NOT stick it in the back of the closet. Put it by the front door if you can’t think of a handier place.

Tips that could save your life and/or your sanity:

1. Make sure somebody knows where you will go in case of a disaster. If you live in Oklahoma and have a storm cellar, register it in Oklahoma City.

2. Make copies of documents you will need to establish your identity and rebuild your life – birth, marriage and death certificates, wills, healthcare directives. We live in a world of numbers. Copy them from insurance policies, credit cards, driver’s licenses, Social Security, bank accounts, ATM cards, names and phone numbers for your doctors and pharmacy.

3. Send the copies to a friend or relative in another state so you will have them if you need them. Your safe deposit box will be useless if your bank is destroyed. Your home and office files will be useless if a tornado blows them away, or buildings are bulldozed after flood, fire or quake.

4. Stash in a pouch you can wear around your neck if necessary at least three days’ worth of medicines and cash.

5. Into your ever-ready Katrina bag or "tornado bag," put:
*A whistle;
*Flashlight, with extra batteries;
*Plastic rain poncho;
*Pocket-size radio with batteries;
*First aid kit (Band Aids, aspirin or something else for pain);
*A $20 bill;
*Dried food, a liquid meal such as Ensure with pop-top; Power Bars;
*Collapsible water jug, and packaged water;
*An emergence or space blanket that folds to about 6 in. x 6 in.;
*Work gloves;
*Duct tape;
*Drop cloth;
*Nose mask;
*Light sticks;
*Diaper wipes;
*Extra shoes, extra clothes, extra underwear;
*Old eyeglasses, or your extra pair if you have one;

SPECIAL NOTE: Pack something small and irreplaceable. Be it a bit of jewelry or a souvenir key ring or something else that can be tucked into a corner of your bag, it may be the only thing you have left to hold onto, a memory you can cling to. Find a place in the bag for it!

Tornados come in all shapes and sizes, and they come to Oklahoma. Of 18 tornado photos on the National Severe Storms Laboratory page at the NOAA web site, 13 were snapped in Oklahoma and 5 in Texas, mostly in the Panhandle area. Here in Central Oklahoma we take cover and hope for the best when the sirens go off. While any damage means trouble for someone, when a tornado blows a town right off the map it usually happens in western Oklahoma.

Famous last words.
Public domain tornado photo, Mayfield, OK 16 May 1977. National Severe Storms Laboratory photo courtesy of NSSL archive online at the *NOAA tornado photo library.
*National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Alice Duncan said...

Thanks for the tips, Pat. I'm going to send them to my daughter in Kirksville, MO, and will definitely pack my own tornado bag once I move there. Sob! All I need here in Roswell, NM, is lots and lots of hand lotion (because otherwise we mummify due to the lack of water).

Anonymous said...

OOPS! My mistake! Richard Barre's short story "Wind on the River" WAS published. His short story "The Seam" has not been published.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Alice:
Tornado Alley cuts a swath north to south right through the middle of the country. In the 1970s I used to fly into Amarillo, Texas almost every weekend to visit a sister who lived 100 miles due east in Erick, Oklahoma. I could always tell when we hit Amarillo airspace -- it was bump, bump, bump.

Mother Nature is a busy old broad in this neck of the woods! But the people are nice. You should like Missouri.

Thanks for stopping by!
Pat Browning

Holli Castillo said...

I live in New Orleans and evacuated to Houston for Katrina with my mother and my two little girls, then 3 and 6. We took a weekend's worth of clothes. I didn't take any of my insurance documents, my laptop, toys for my kids, etc.. We were certain this was another false alarm, the storm was going to miss us and we'd be driving home Monday.

Luckily, my husband had planned to ride it out at home and when I saw how bad the storm looked I convinced him to gather the things I should have and meet us.

The laptop and the insurance documents proved the most useful, but I ended up having to buy toys and clothes for the kids when we were at the hotel for two weeks.

Pack the Katrina bag. It'll save a lot of stress and money in the long run if you need to use it.

Mark W. Danielson said...

The question of what you would save is always in interesting one for it defines who you are.

I grew up on the Hayward Fault in the Bay Area and apparently lived on the principle that ignorance is bliss. These days, I'm a little better prepared, but not much. Having essentials available is always a good idea. Our next house is being designed with a safe room in the event of a natural disaster.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Good advice for anyone, no matter where we live.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for sharing your experience. I have given it some thought and I could get by with a very small case -- just big enough to hold photocopies of credit cards, ATM card, birth certificate, insurance cards, some e-mail addresses, etc. Also a few CDs of photos I don't want to lose.

It's just another project I don't need, but something I must do. Thanks for the nudge!

Anonymous said...

What a great idea -- a safe room! Since I live in an apartment the best I can do is a big walk-in closet.

Anonymous said...

It's the oddest thing. Our tornados seem to track right down I-40. Newscasters have progress markers down to the street location and minutes and seconds. So far -- knock on wood -- the closest the storm path gets to my street is "the Xerox plant" a few miles over by the freeway. That poor Xerox plant. It's a huge building and I'll bet they have a storm shelter in the basement.

Jaden Terrell said...

I need to do something like this. Only the first things we would have to take would be 3 dogs, a cat, and 2 parrots.