How much rainfall is bad - Hurricane Florence edition
September 13, 2018 10:58 PM   Subscribe

Obviously, I am not going to take your advice instead of that of my local government officials. With that read: We live 150 miles inland, in the track of Florence. Rainfall estimates are 10+ inches. Our house sits high on a knoll. I honestly can't imagine flood waters here. We do have max flood insurance, which I bought on a whim after watching Houston last year - I kicked myself after doing it, because this is not a flood plain and we are on high ground. So very thankful now. Deciding whether to stay tomorrow or go. Anyone have been there-done that type stories to share? We have bottled water to last probably five days, and water purification tablets for the lake nearby.

We also have a septic system. The leach field is on high ground, and the tank is in the low ground where water will pool, if it pools.
posted by heigh-hothederryo to Grab Bag (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
hurricane irene did a lot of damage in mountainous VT.
posted by brujita at 11:04 PM on September 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

The winds shouldn't be too bad by the time they get here - 25 mph maybe. I'm worried about the rain, even high on our little hill.

My partner wants to ride it out and leave if the power goes out. I counter that if the power goes out, it may be hard to leave - downed trees and flooded roads and whatnot.

Again, just looking for advice - we will obey all relevant authorities in our area.
posted by heigh-hothederryo at 11:09 PM on September 13, 2018

I would definitely recommend not leaving while the storm is active. 10+ inches of rain in a relatively short amount of time probably won't endanger your house if it's on high ground, but it is prime flash flood conditions and that can make a road very dangerous very quickly. I would either leave now or plan to hunker down until everything blows over.
posted by Basil Stag Hare at 12:34 AM on September 14, 2018 [14 favorites]

So even if your high, you may lose important infrastructure like roads washing out. You may not be able to flush your toliets or worse it could back up into your house. Fast moving waters can cause mudslides, and eat away hilly areas pretty quickly. Do you have a boat? (Seriously, I would be leaving unless I had a boat). Tap water systems can be contaminated and dam infrastructure can fail (so can local levees) . The recovery time depends on water receeding, and due to storm surge is likely to take longer than normal. The water has no where to go.

From Louisiana, lived through Katrina (evacuated), have family in Houston. I take flood waters seriously and evacuate. Water is dangerious. (Also, there are contaminates and electrocution hazards in floodvwaters).

But, at this point depending on local conditions it may be too late.
posted by AlexiaSky at 12:44 AM on September 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

If you leave, though, you will probably contend with extremely dangerous flash floods on the roads. You really don’t want to get stuck or overwhelmed while trying to evacuate.

Have local officials called for evacuations? If they haven’t I would stay put.
posted by lydhre at 3:20 AM on September 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

If it were me, on high ground as you described, I would get a bottle of wine and open it while sheltering in place. To me, your risk is not flooding, although it will be VERY VERY wet even on high ground, but it is loss of power, damage to infrastructure (hard to get to hospital if road is washed out) and ability to contact emergency providers or outside world bc of downed cell towers or downed utility poles/wires.
posted by AugustWest at 4:26 AM on September 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm in Raleigh, also on high ground. I'm staying here. I think the next few days are going to be more of an inconvenience to most of us inland than anything else.
posted by something something at 4:36 AM on September 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

We have a similar situation and left because getting stranded with kids is no fun and we had a place to go. If the power goes out, I would expect it may take weeks to come back on and if you live in a remote area, you will be low priority for getting power back.

So if it's not too late to leave now, you might consider it, knowing that you could be away for at least a week since roads are likely to be impassible. But if there are floodwaters, obviously better to stay put.
posted by luckdragon at 4:50 AM on September 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

My folks got stuck in the interminable traffic jams from Houston trying to leave town for Rita. Now they shelter in place unless authorities say otherwise. (They evacuated for Harvey; they were ordered to because their levee was in danger of over-topping, but only had to go to a friends' house one neighborhood over.) I would recommend doing whatever local authorities say to do. I'm of the belief that you should keep the roads as clear as possible for those who absolutely have to evacuate either due to evac orders or other medical/etc circumstances.
posted by misskaz at 6:22 AM on September 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

I'd suggest storing all the potable water you can, and not relying on purification from a lake. What will be in that lake in the aftermath of all that rain? Runoff, sewage, debris and other stuff that would make me want to avoid it. Getting water from a muddy, turbulant lake would be my last desperation move.

Can you fill your tub? Use water for flushing. Fill any bottles/buckets you might have, and cover open buckets to keep dust, dirt, insects out. Stuff the fridge with ziplocks of water you've frozen as long as you have power. It will help keep your fridge cold longer if the power goes out, and if you're there for days, you can then drink the clean water.

I agree that once the rain comes, the roads will quickly become impassible and dangerous. However, if it's safe to leave now, I'd do it. It could be weeks before the power is back. Good luck.
posted by citygirl at 7:22 AM on September 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

It's not going to start getting bad here until tomorrow night.

Partner feels strongly about hunkering down. I don't see a downside to leaving - for all the reasons that have been pointed out - the house will probably be fine, but power and infrastructure will not be. If the house becomes compromised - even if we leave before it happens - our insurance company will reimburse us for lodging and food elsewhere.
posted by heigh-hothederryo at 7:26 AM on September 14, 2018

I don't think there's a serious risk to life or limb in your situation. It's a question of how much you would be inconvenienced by the potential of an extended power outage (not just for you but for the places of business you normally rely on), and some damage to the local road infrastructure that may complicate getting around. I'd lay in more tap water in whatever clean containers you can scrounge (including filling the bathtub to flush the toilet) before turning to purified lake water, though. 10" of rain is a big rain event, but it's not catastrophic, and 25 mph winds is just a blustery day. Yes, there will be trees down and power out in places but it's not a situation that calls for evacuating, IMHO. And I do think there's something to be said for not consuming "evacuation resources" like roadways and gasoline that other people truly need.
posted by drlith at 7:29 AM on September 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

Clean your tub well and save that water for emergency drinking water. Use the emergency twin bucket system instead of the septic toilet.
posted by aniola at 7:44 AM on September 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

Drlith, I agree. I perhaps buried the lede: we do have several children.
posted by heigh-hothederryo at 7:57 AM on September 14, 2018

Stay put unless told to evacuate, but prepare for at least five days without electricity or water. (Really, this is something you should have supplies for in any case.) Lots of water, food that doesn't need cooking or plans for cooking without electricity, backup toileting plans, standard first aid supplies, etc.

Waiting until the power is out to leave seems like the worst possible choice to me. Get out ahead of the storm or ride it out; don't leave in the midst of it.
posted by metasarah at 8:11 AM on September 14, 2018

How much rain have you had in the last couple weeks? In the DC area we've had a lot of soaking rain recently, leading to two causes for concern: (1) the ground is already soaked, so additional rain is basically guaranteed to cause flooding at lower elevations; (2) because the ground is so wet, trees are more likely to fall in strong winds. If you're on higher ground the first item probably isn't too much of a risk for you, but if you're in a more rural area with narrow roads and lots of trees, the risk would be that fallen trees would take out power lines or block the road up your hill (or both).

Friends with a place out in the hills have had to rely more than once on neighbors with chainsaws to clear their roads and driveway. This is enough of a thing out there that the people with chainsaws already look out for their neighbors and clear the main roads before the DOT or local emergency responders can even get there. In that way my friends haven't stayed isolated for long due to fallen trees, but they've had some pretty long power outages. How much would a long power outage affect you?
posted by fedward at 8:16 AM on September 14, 2018

I grew up in a hurricane-prone area and for what it's worth, I loved hurricane power outages as a kid, to the point that I would be vaguely disappointed if a hurricane came through but didn't knock out the power. It was like camping! Indoors! With candles! Everyone played cards and crowded around the radio for storm updates! Sort of the Gulf Coast equivalent of a snow day.

Granted, this was pre-smartphone, but if one of your worries is how your kids will handle a power outage, they might just surprise you.
posted by Basil Stag Hare at 8:41 AM on September 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I perhaps buried the lede: we do have several children.

In this case if authorities say to leave, then leave. While chances are things will be just fine, you do not want to be in an area with hurricane conditions IF a kid suddenly gets sick. Of course it will never happen to you, but emergency appendicitis and allergic reactions and all sorts of, "We need to get this kid to a hospital NOW," happen to other people.

With kids, it isn't about you and your ability to survive; you need to make responsible decisions on behalf of your kids who are trusting you to take care of them.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 10:02 AM on September 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

My experience with Matthew is that the hurricane itself wasn't that bad; it was the flooding several days afterward that was so horrible. We lost power for five days, and had one blissful day where everything was OK before the floodwater started coming and we lost sewer for a week or two. So just be prepared, the hurricane itself is sometimes only Phase One of a two-phase situation.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:05 AM on September 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would double check with the insurance company regarding them covering food and lodging.

See if the local grocery/home center will sell you empty five gallon water bottles. They usually have bunches around.
posted by Marky at 10:08 AM on September 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

To answer some questions without veering into chat:
- We have chainsaws! And a tractor!
- We homeschool, and are used to lots of together time, as well as enjoying adventures.
- Our insurance will pay for food or lodging at the point of loss (e.g., we leave today, we shoulder all expenses until the septic backs up tomorrow night, making the house unliveable).
-If we stay, I'm going out now to buy buckets to implement Aniola's suggested twin bucket system.

I have a call into our septic company to find out if they will be alerted if the septic system floods. And if we can call them to learn that before we return.
posted by heigh-hothederryo at 10:35 AM on September 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Twinbuckets rules! Everybody go read twinbuckets.
posted by Don Pepino at 10:44 AM on September 14, 2018 [5 favorites]

You should be able to get used 5-gallon buckets for free at delis and restaurants, especially if you call ahead, unless there's a run on them. They still work fine, they just might smell like pickles or pickled ginger or whatever.
posted by aniola at 11:11 AM on September 14, 2018

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