For the people of North Carolina and South Carolina, Hurricane Florence was an epic disaster. But for those who were feverishly preparing in nearby states because they were warned to expect torrential rains and high winds in the days following landfall, they were shocked – and some expressed feeling silly – when the much-touted weather event did not occur. It’s a strange feeling when you prepare for a disaster and nothing happens.
Here in southern Virginia, I feel like we dodged a bullet. The week before Florence made landfall, the forecast was for a potential four feet of rain and a terrible flood was imminent. Then afterward, we ended up with a grand total of only 6 inches of rain as the outer bands of Florence barely brushed us. There was nowhere near the kind of rain for which we were preparing. In the hills and valleys here, flash flooding is the norm. I figured we’d be safe up here on the hill where we live but I also thought we’d be stranded for a couple of days due to flooding at the bottom of the hill. Instead, life has gone on without so much as a hiccup.
I expected to wake up to wind pummeling my house and torrential rains turning our street into a river. Instead, I looked outside in the morning and saw a beautiful day.
When I look at the photos of devastation from the Carolinas, I feel guilty about my relief. I wished fervently there was something I could legitimately do to help.
It got me to thinking. I imagine there are all sorts of events that people think will happen for which they busily prepare and then nothing occurs. When those events we’re warned about don’t occur, how does it affect future preparedness efforts? Some people think preppers are crazy anyway and this, to the naysayers, just “proves” it.
There are always last minute things to do, regardless of how prepared you are.
For example, I spent all of last week hauling things up from our basement. Our basement gets damp in a normal rainstorm and with the rain that we were expecting, I was concerned that it would be ankle deep and destroy the things we store down there. (Stuff like extra furniture, holiday decorations, items we don’t have room for in our small house.) All the stuff was already on pallets downstairs, but I just didn’t trust that it would be high enough if it really cut loose and poured here.
We had plenty of supplies, but I picked up a few “hurricane snacks” – foods we don’t usually keep around like cookies, chips, and that type of thing. I grabbed some magazines and a couple of new books for us. I got yarn to start working on Christmas presents. I got extra water for some older neighbors that I didn’t feel would be well prepared. (And my neighbor who is the grumpiest old man I ever met laughed hysterically when he saw my trunk full of water jugs. Yes, I resisted the urge to kick his cane out from under him.)
Then we secured the things outside like lawn furniture and bicycles. We brought in our bird feeders and windchimes and decorative yard items.
I think very few people would be perfectly ready for a hurricane without lifting a finger and that doesn’t mean you’re unprepared. I’m certain that we had far less to do and buy than most of the folks around here as evidenced by the bare shelves in the photos I took for this article.
For our particular threat, the waiting was the hardest part. Initially, the storm was supposed to hit us last Wednesday night. After Florence stalled off the coast, it was pushed back to Thursday. I didn’t let my daughter go to college that day because of my concerns about driving through flooded roads.
Then Thursday came and went with hardly a raindrop. On the weekend, we didn’t venture too far from home, just in case the rains started up. At this point, the predictions had been pushed back to Sunday. Then on Sunday, when there was nothing, the local news warned us to batten down the hatches on Monday. Schools all over 3 counties were closed.
And still nothing.
All that waiting can be pretty stressful. It kind of reminded me of how we felt when we were on the verge of being evacuated due to a massive wildfire in California. Sticking around the house and forcing your teens to abandon their social lives for the weekend is also not the most fun. I wonder, will that affect her desire to prepare in the future when she’s out on her own? She’s pretty sensible, so probably not. But what about other young people?
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare for future events.
I overheard a lot of folks saying, “This is ridiculous. I spent money I don’t have getting ready and nothing happened. I’m not even going to worry about it the next time there’s a warning.”
That’s an incredibly dangerous way to look at it, particularly if you live in an area prone to disasters. Just because the meteorologists were off this time, it doesn’t mean they’ll be wrong next time. And think how ridiculous you’d feel if you were caught unprepared when you know better.
Use your common sense and maintain a borderline of preparedness at all times. If you’re doing it right, nothing you purchase for an event like a pending storm is a thing that will go to waste.
Back to what if feels like when the disaster doesn’t happen
There’s a range of emotions when you prep for a disaster and it doesn’t happen.
- “Thank goodness.”
- “I feel terrible for being relieved when the other area was so hard hit.”
- “Dang, I wasted time and money.”
- “I did all that work for nothing.”
- “Bummer! I wanted to use my preps!”
- “How embarrassing! I was urging my neighbors to pick up supplies and now they’re laughing at me.”
Good, bad, or ugly, you feel how you feel. I’m not writing this to be judgmental nor to belittle the catastrophes that have struck in other places. It’s just a topic I thought was worth a discussion.
Have you ever prepared for a disaster that never happened? How did you feel?
I wondered if it was just me, so I asked my friends over in Prep Club whether they’d ever prepared for an event that didn’t happen. Here’s what they had to say.
- Sandy Yes, a snowstorm. And, as much as I like snow it was a bummer that it completely didn’t happen. But the worst part was you start questioning what you just ‘knew’ was going to happen – like you start doubting your gut. Least I did. And then you realize you have to question the source which, for some, is even harder to reconcile.
- Evah Living in Tornado Alley, where when it snows it freezes solid into ice, there’s always something to prepare for that might not even happen.
- Judith Living in tornado alley, yes I have prepared many, many times and nothing happened. It used to make me Ill. Then I survived an F4 and I learned being prepared and nothing happens is a glorious thing. I prepare and hope it was all for nothing. I don’t really put much thought into what others think of my prepping. I’m the one they would come to if in need. There were 53 people killed in my city that day. I use to always run outside to look. That day we had our grandkids so we took shelter.
- Nichole In hurricane-land there are no basements to flood. We just pick up or tie down anything outside that could become a missile and make sure we have batteries, water, food, the basics. Usually move the plywood out to board up but our family waits until the very last minute to board up, I have a hard time when the boards are on.
- Cab Not nearly as dramatic, but I am in California. I check the roof and gutters for leaves and pine needles. And rake up anymore that are on the ground. Don’t have things that blow around in high winds to tie down. Tend to keep up with the dead dying and diseased vegetation. I know, bored now.
That IS my prep for wildland fires. I left out the mowing and weed whacking in the spring. Which maintains my existing clearance. (Standby. I’m falling asleep again). Which includes mowing the neighbors’ clearances. I’ve got a total of 7, 2 1/2 gallon pressurized water extinguishers most sitting at doorways. They’ve clocked winds at our house at 70mph during a couple of Santa Ana’s so no patio furniture. Check the propane tank for the standby generator. So, kind of in a state of perpetual “prepped for a fire”.
- John I live in the low country of SC. We do this fairly often. Some years we get nothing some years we get hit. Some years we have to prepare for several storms. Most of the time we are just thankful for not having been hit.
But my strategy has changed slightly. We are now more in a constant state of prepared. I have adjusted thing around my house and my lifestyle to suit that need.
Throughout the year we are always doing some little part of the whole strategy. When a storm is on the horizon, it doesn’t take much to get ready. Batten down the hatches, top off the tanks and put a surge of fresh food away. And we are done. Half a days work. Then when nothing happens we can just relax for a week or so and count our blessings
- Janet Every hurricane season and I continue to prepare every hurricane season. Got hit by Charlie when it made that last minute turn.
- Angela The wonderful blizzards/ice storms we get in the Midwest. My teen son works 15miles away. So we prepare his car for an overnight in a ditch. Call friends in town make sure he can stay there for a day or 2. And nothing happens- I feel it makes me appear as some type of a helicopter crazy mom as I make phone calls again to thank friends and ask if they will take him in next time. They joke with me about being too prepared. I always bring up Murphy’s Law- if I was not prepared and had my ducks in a row we would have got hit by a 5-day blizzard.
- Derek We had everything packed and ready to go due to a wildfire over the ridge. Thankfully the wind shifted and we were spared, but I have to say, it was a very good learning experience and it helped us improve our evacuation plan.
- Vicki Our first foray into prepping was Y2K. Nothing happened, but being kind of ready helped calm the nerves. Since then, we have added more preps and skills. Even though its impossible to be totally ready for everything, knowing that we have the ability to sustain ourselves for many months in most disasters has really given us peace of mind.
- Sheila We thankfully don’t get the severest forms of weather here, usually hurricane remnants, a major snowstorm every now and then. In 30 years here we’ve only had two small tornadoes relatively close with minor land damage and a couple rumbles from deep, distant, minor earthquakes.
The thing that caught us off guard was the last presidential election. We are a midpoint between NYC and Philly and were warned of a large rally and protest with a potential for a massive crowd because of the ease of access from the major highway and local airport. Totally believable due to the climate at the time. We made a couple larger winter purchases early so we wouldn’t have to be out and about at that time. Chirp chirp chirp chirp chirp……nothing, absolutely nothing happened locally. Were we prepared? Yes. Did anything go to waste? No. But I did feel a little miffed for listening to the “experts” about impending mass chaos….
- Sue Living in coastal New England, I always prep before forecasted hurricanes or blizzards. Often nothing much happens. And those who are complacent laugh at those who prepped and criticize the meteorologists. Then something like last March happens with 95+mph winds and torrential rain. It was a nor’easter on steroids. Few prepped beforehand and laughed at those who did. We lost power for days and many many roads were impassable. Everything was closed. I, OTOH, managed quite nicely thanks to my preps. I kept thinking, Who’s laughing now? Weather is unpredictable. I’d much rather be prepared and nothing happens than be panicking because I did not.
- Karen The meteorologist that wrote this says we need to change reporting on storms because of that very kind of comment.
- Mary Jo Been there having lived on the coast in Florida -Siesta Key (Hurricanes ) and North Texas the worse IMHO with category 3-4 and 5 tornadoes on a regular basis. I am glad you prepped and even happier you are safe. One second too late is too late.
- Stephanie Hurricane Irma downgraded to a Catagory 2 when she blew over us then intensified to a Catagory 3 north of us. We still had no power for days but, minimal damage. I truly felt Blessed. Not the least bit upset I spent every extra penny I had on preparing. It’s better to have what you could possibly need than to need it and not have it.Self-doubt can be your greatest enemy. Lock that b*tch up and tell her to shut up. Her opinion isn’t needed.
- Melissa We didn’t get the original forecast here for Florence. I’m thankful. Anything I bought will be used and I had some days to relax at home.
- Cathy Prepped hard for y2k. I have to say I was slightly disappointed. Just a little. My daughter and husband both lost their jobs within a month of each other through no fault of their own. This was about 3 months after y2k. We were able to give them everything we had stored.
- Kathleen Tsunami warnings – we always prepped, never happened. The last storm on the way to Maui, my friends prepped, right to filling up the water bob in the tub..fizzled out.Dare I mention Y2K?
- Caroline Hurricane Florence. I still have buckets of water littering my kitchen and bathrooms. I am waiting until the remnant bands finish crossing over us today before I take them out. While I have the “standard” preps set up, there are still a lot of things to do in order to prepare our newly purchased homestead for hurricanes, n’oreasters, and winter snow/ice storms. I’m working on my to-do list now with items such as a backup pump for our electric well, gutter replacements, and 100-year-old tin roof repairs.
We had tornado warnings and flash flood warnings, but nothing has happened. Our property has not been flooded or damaged. We have been extremely fortunate and I’m very grateful. I’ve been through many hurricanes and this is the least impacted I’ve been.
We are still waiting for friends and family further south to be able to assess their damage. Some are stranded in their homes due to roads and yards flooding. Some had to evacuate prior to the storm and it’s highly possible their homes were inundated with flood waters. Once the rivers crest, then recede, they’ll be able to return to see what can be salvaged. One county that has not received much news coverage is Jones County. (It is a largely agricultural county with a low population). It experienced devastating floods from Floyd and Matthew and, it appears Florence has done the same.
- Erin I am numb from working the radio 24 hours, not eating, trucking and staging supplies, and trying to convince people how lucky they are and just how bad it is in places like Lumberton and New Bern, NC. Fine, don’t want that 2 cases of water you bought, I’ll get it to someone who needs it…but you are going to have to listen to me tell you why you are lucky and what you need to be doing NOW for next time.
- Carmen Y2K was what got me started. It made me realize how vulnerable we are, PERIOD. I prep for any emergency that has the possibility of us losing electricity. We are so dependent on it and I’m looking at being able to live without it whether it be a blizzard, hurricane or whatever.
- Donna Yep! Me too! Had ice chests ready with ice, the bathtub filled up, cleaned the garage, filled the car with gas, got cash, and non-perishables, prepped for no power for days,, the schools were closed down here for a week! I’m thankful…but it is very strange…almost a PTSD thing/feeling.
- Mimi For every time we’ve prepped and the reality wasn’t as bad as was predicted, we’ve been slapped upside of the head with unexpected, no warning events, like health crises (either ours or a close friend), unexpected expenses, family drama, move-in visitors, etc. I don’t care WHO calls us Cray Cray! I’ll take being prepped any day!
- Laura I prepped pretty hard for Y2K. Nothing happened other than my family laughed at me. However, I lived off my preps for a very long time. Since I prepped items that I already used, I wasn’t really out anything. Longest lasting item was toilet tissue… lasted 18 months.
- Becky I’m always disappointed when the weatherman says severe storms and gets my hope up…..then it’s just a light rain. I want the thrill, the excitement!!’
- Angela Better to have and not need, than to need and not have, right? That’s how I look at it. It’s annoying when the predictions don’t pan out, but I always feel good knowing that if it HAD happened, we would have been ready.
- Kayla Sometimes I feel like they create a mass hysteria to boost the economy with all the panic buys. Could be just me though.
- Jennifer It’s much better to prepare for something that does not happen than to be unprepared for something that DOES happen!
The general consensus
All in all, most preppers are happy to have dodged the bullet when a predicted event fizzled out. They’re glad they prepped for it. As we like to say in this world, “better have and not need than need and not have.” Although I’m sure that one neighbor is still laughing at me. I’m glad I could bring some joy to his crotchety life.
Be thankful if you got lucky during a catastrophic event. Help the people who were devastated by it if you can. And remember that one day, your luck could run out, so keep prepping! Don’t let it destroy your mojo because, in this world, it seems like there’s always another disaster right around the corner.
What about you? Have you ever prepared for an event then waited for its arrival, only to have absolutely nothing happen? How did you feel about this? Did it diminish your desire to prep or change how you prepped? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.