This is not a drill: Preparing for Severe Weather
On a dark & stormy night, in a modest little house,
the only one up was the military spouse.
She was restricted to quarters under TC1E,
thanks to a storm called Typhoon Man-Yi.
She watched it all night but no damage was dared,
For not even Man-Yi can beat a spouse well-prepared.
This is not a drill: Preparing for Severe Weather
or “How Kadena AB’s Military Spouses took on Super Typhoon Man-Yi”
The night Man-Yi’s outer arms found the island of Okinawa, none of us slept. The noise of the typhoon was immediate, persistent, loud, roaring, and all-encompassing. The constant gusts sounded like steamrollers slamming into the houses.
By 0230, I was up. I had to check and re-check: Did I do everything on the typhoon preparedness list? Was the patio furniture still secure? Were all of the windows shut, locked, and sealed tightly enough? And what was that banging noise? Oh, just the vent. Nothing I could do about that but would it stay connected or would I end up with a gaping hole in the roof – an open invitation to as much water as Man-Yi wanted to deliver?
I made the rounds again at 0400, even though I knew I’d done everything correctly and completely. The sound of the typhoon raging outside was so powerful… I was nervous and couldn’t lie down. I padded down the hallway, making sure we still had electricity (we did), cable TV for the emergency channel (yep), and the Internet – notorious for its instability even during a lazy summer shower.
The Internet was up and running like a champ so I logged on to four or five of my favorite weather sites and monitored the oncoming behemoth that was Man-Yi.
The width of the storm was equivalent to the distance from Canada all the way down to the California-Mexico border. This was not a drill.
I first heard about it four days earlier, on Monday, July 9th, which was – naturally – the day after I’d dropped my husband off at the airport for a weeklong TDY. An e-mail from our squadron commander’s wife said the storm would probably arrive Friday, July 13th. Typhoon preparedness was already underway across Kadena AB…this one was going to be a doozy. And, by the way, our squadron’s active-duty members were evacuating with the airplanes. So, I wasn’t the only one facing this alone.
Even if a storm might not hit us, the airplanes can’t risk high wind conditions so they leave the island and their crews go with them. As military spouses living on an island, we take it in stride and wait for worst while hoping for the best.
As the week wore on, the typhoon grew nearer and we (the spouses) started calling each other. “Do you need help bringing stuff inside?” “Do you have enough food and supplies?” “Do you need someone to stay with you?”
“Don’t you know we’re in TC-1C? Everything’s closed.” The spouses here know the current weather conditions as well as we know we’ll be left alone to contend with the worst of them. We weren’t born knowing this stuff…we learned it the hard way. Below are some tips from military spouses who’ve “been there”:
When you live in a volatile location with severe weather such as typhoons, hurricanes, and tornadoes, your life could depend on how well you prepare. A preparedness checklist is invaluable during storm season and should be in your welcome packet when you relocate. Ours explains Typhoon (Tropical Cyclone) Conditions. For example, TC-4 means calm. TC-1E means “Emergency” and the air base is in lockdown mode. We are restricted to our quarters until “All Clear” is declared.
Consult your preparedness checklist well ahead of time. If you live on a military installation, these checklists are guides that tell you what to expect from severe weather in your area, what items to keep on hand, and how the installation enforces emergency procedures. Your emergency contact numbers should be written in there and updated often. If you don’t have some sort of severe weather guide or checklist, ask your family support center for one.
Prepare to be prepared. Fill a sturdy, sealable box with the following: bottled water (enough to cook with and drink for several days), flashlights and fresh batteries, a battery-operated radio, extra batteries to accommodate the different sizes of your equipment, candles, matches, canned foods, dry foods, pet foods, toilet paper, female hygiene products (because that never happens at a good time), and all baby needs such as diapers and formula. Buy a portable cook stove and extra propane (or dry charcoal and plenty of lighter fluid). Fill up your bathtubs with water for flushing toilets and other cleaning needs. Make sure to have plenty of towels for unexpected leaks and extra trash bags for waste that you can’t take outside. You may need plastic sheeting to cover windows. Get some duct tape, too. Some spouses throw in new toys for the kids to use as a distraction during the storm.
Don’t wait until the last minute. Bottled water and diapers disappear from the commissary shelves the minute a Tropical Depression is spotted out in the ocean.
Ask for help. Not only do spouses have to maintain the family “typhoon box” or “hurricane kit” but we also have to stow all of the lawn furniture, tie down the trampoline, bring in the toys, and collapse the awnings all by ourselves. After that, you have to count kids and pets. Sometimes it just gets overwhelming. If you need help, call a senior spouse or your unit’s contact person. They’ll send someone to help you.
Spare your friends and neighbors from the dangers of your personal property becoming projectiles – secure your belongings. Sandbags are free at Kadena AB, although you have to fill and tote them yourself. We put them in and on anything that can take flight such as trash bins, trampolines, patio tables, and dog houses; we pile them in front of doors that might leak and anyplace else that could allow water into the house. Find out where to get sandbags in your area and stock up early.
Pay attention to your local news stations for special announcements. The Navy hospital got on the radio Thursday and summoned all mothers-to-be in late-term pregnancies (over 37 weeks) to the clinics to prevent them from going into labor while trapped in their homes.
Typhoon Man-Yi hit us even harder right after I made my last “rounds” through the house. By 0630, the winds were sustaining 144 mph with gusts of 178 mph – my steamrollers. We took another six or seven hours of punishment before that awful howling began to subside.
At about 1800 hours on Friday night, Man-Yi finally began its exit to the north. Even though we were still experiencing the very active tail-end of the storm, Typhoon Condition 1R (Recovery) was declared. Emergency crews were allowed to begin assessing the damage.
We spouses remained restricted to quarters until Saturday morning but our own damage reports were already filtering across the base.
Power was out in some neighborhoods; water was out in others. Patio furniture, thought to be tied down, was gone – lifted from a porch at some point by the winds of Man-Yi and whisked off to an undisclosed location. Somebody’s house was flooded. A barbecue grill was seen traveling across the grounds of a four-plex, propane tank still attached, with the owner running after it during the worst part of the storm. A family on vacation who didn’t have anyone watching their house lost their trampoline and some lawn furniture. A couple of satellite dishes flew away and someone else watched their neighbor’s windows shatter.
Some of those things were preventable, some were not, but we’re learning from our mistakes. The point of preparedness is to make both the duration and the recovery as smooth as possible. Achieving total perfection is impossible for anyone but we now know how to prepare for the worst. We can, and probably will, do it again.
Next time, though, Man-Yi is gonna need a bigger typhoon.