Surviving a Super-Typhoon

As part of my somewhat colorful past, I have the dubious distinction to have lived through at least 2 dozen typhoons. Sounds impossible, right? Well, when you spend more than a decade in the area of Micronesia, typhoons happen. A lot.

These massive storms, called hurricanes everywhere else but in the Pacific, rip through the islands, bringing devastation and, sometimes, irreversible damage. In my part of the world, they happened so frequently, we became a little too nonchalant at times.

When news of an oncoming typhoon hit the airwaves, we only had a few preps to put in place. Because of frequent power outages, as well as earthquakes, having a few shelves of canned goods wasn’t prepping. It was just a way of life. Nobody used electricity to cook, ever. Instead, we all used propane stoves on a daily basis, and a lot of families used hibachis, barbecue pits (55 gallon metal drums cut in half), or grills.

So, when a storm was approaching, we had the food we needed, as well as a way to heat the food and purify water, if necessary. When I was a lot younger, buying bottled water wasn’t a thing, so we filled up all our bathtubs with water. Consequently, we didn’t bathe much in the storm’s aftermath!

We were on an island, so when the power went out, there just wasn’t anything much blacker than being in the middle of the Pacific, without even a single lightbulb. Most families used kerosene lanterns, which I highly recommend you stock up on, candles (although my parents worried about dripping wax and unprotected flames), and we only used battery-powered lights for real emergencies. A couple of gallons of kerosene lasts for weeks, but batteries can run out quickly if you’re relying on them to power your light sources.

I can’t over-emphasize the importance of having forms of entertainment, like board games, to keep everyone occupied. My sister would read books, but reading books by kerosene lantern wasn’t my idea of fun. Who needs that kind of eye-strain?

Washing clothes was about ten times more difficult than you can imagine, unless you’ve done it yourself without any form of power. My mom did it but sometimes she would conscript me into service. I would have to wring clothes by hand, very difficult!, and then hang them up to dry. In our humid climate, it took a very long time for them to thoroughly dry. On one island, the washaterias would have their own generators, so we would wash our clothes there and then bring them home to dry on clotheslines.

We were fortunate to live right near the grid the hospital was tied to, so we usually got our power and water before most other people.

During the days following a typhoon, school would be out, and this could last from a few days to several weeks. If the running water was affected, there was no school until it was restored. My mom was a schoolteacher, so she would invent school assignments for us to do. I guess nowadays with homeschooling being so popular, it’s a lot easier to find textbooks and school supplies of all kinds.

Everybody on the islands owned at least one machete, and this was the primary tool for clean up following a typhoon. Those machetes were everything from military surplus to cane machetes. These islands didn’t have huge trees, so the clean up involved mostly cutting up branches and clearing debris. No one waited for the government to come and clean up. They did it themselves, including the clearing of roads.

I guess there are a lot of prepping lessons here that go beyond surviving a super-typhoon.

  1. Spam is your friend. I love Spam to this day.
  2. Canned goods may not be the most healthy food, but they’re a survival/emergency necessity. Eating Dinty Moore stew from the can isn’t all that bad.
  3. Water, water, water. Living without running water is far more difficult than doing without electricity.
  4. Additional water sources can be priceless. We regularly took our baths in the ocean.
  5. Don’t rely on batteries in a long-term survival scenario. Take a look at other sources of light that rely on different fuels.
  6. Nowadays, I’d stock up on solar powered lights, in particular.
  7. Plan to deal with insects, maybe more than you’ve ever encountered. Mosquitoes became a big issue in the days and weeks following a typhoon. We stocked up on mosquito coils.
  8. Adjust your mindset that you’ll eat and drink food and water at room temperature, or warmer.

Living through and then surviving the aftermath of a super-typhoon is much like any TEOTWAWKI event. Our lives just stopped for days or weeks, while we dealt with this new reality. I expect a future worst case scenario will be very similar.


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