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I wanted to make a vodka watermelon. Some people call it infuse a watermelon. Some people charge a watermelon. Whatever you it call it, it is the same thing. A 21 years and older watermelon filled with booze with a 50-50 chance of either coming out perfect or not infusing at all. I’m not trying to scare you out of a spiked vodka watermelon recipe. I’m letting you know up front, if your vodka watermelon didn’t work, keep reading this post to learn how to fix a drunken watermelon that won't absorb vodka on the first go round. How to Soak a Drunken Watermelon With Vodka   Pin this recipe for your next party!

Tornado, Hurricane, and Severe Storm Preparedness Plan on the Cheap

As Midwesterners my husband I never really thought about making special preparations for severe and tornado weather season (generally spring and fall. Although tornadoes can form year round whenever warm and cold air collide) beyond the school tornado drills we grew up with and lighting a few candles if the electricity blinked out for an hour or so. We knew as long as we didn’t open the refrigerator or freezer to keep the cold inside while the power was out (the CDC says you have four hours without power before you have to throw out the food) it’s all good.

Besides, my husband and I joked, if went went all Doomsday Prepper that stuff would be scattered to the four winds if a tornado hit the house and so why bother?

You can probably guess what happened next.

On a gorgeous summer’s day, the clear blue sky went dark like turning off a light switch. The rain can down fast and furious with 75+ mile an hour winds. The crazy, unexpected, snuck up on everyone including the weather experts, storm was a derecho – the weather equivalent of smashing a water balloon on a sidewalk as hard as you can.

Most of the city didn’t have electricity for a week afterward. We didn’t have storm damage but we didn’t have a way to cook or keep food from spoiling either. I guess we do need a tornado prep plan after all.

How to prepare for a severe storm blackout
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How to Make an Easy Hurricane, Tornado, and Severe Weather Preparedness Plan

What my husband and I learned from that experience, was that weather related emergency plans should be made up of two parts:

  1.  What to do during the storm. Where is your home’s designated safe space? Where should you go if you have to leave your home for a designated safe space? 
  2. What to have on hand for after the storm. How to do what you need to do during the day without utilities and/or city services. Not to mention, have ideas for something to do while you wait for a return to services. It was a very, very boring wait.

Please remember to include your pets in your plan!

How to Shelter in Place During a Hurricane, Tornado, or Severe Storm Warning

The first part of our emergency prep plan cost nothing at all. It was a simple dinner conversation to discuss where we’d shelter when the tornado sirens go off. A basement is your safest bet. If you do not have a basement, choose an interior room without windows, a closet, or a bathroom on the lowest level of your home and cover yourself with a mattress or blanket to protect you from flying debris. Do not stay in your home if it is a mobile home, find a designated severe weather shelter.

Keeping a weather radio (I have a weather radio similar to this one  that can be charged by hand if need be) in that area is a good idea – which I normally use as just a radio. It will allow you to get local weather information without draining your phone battery. Although having a solar cell phone charger to top things off when the power is out (or when camping) is something I will never live without again! You can learn more about the so epic I love it Big Blue Solar Battery Charger here that is worth every penny and then some. (Disclosure: I am including affiliate links for your convenience.)

What to Take With You to an Emergency Storm, Tornado, or Hurricane Shelter

According to the American Red Cross, they do not allow pets into their shelters, only service dogs. Since that is not an option for us, we made a plan with family and friends (and have a place for them if they need it) and a list of hotels that allow dogs (some hotels may wave their No Pets policy in an emergency but it is best to check to make sure.)

A surprising thing I learned about emergency shelters is that they pretty much only provide a dry space to ride out the storm or aftermath and nothing else. You may not have access to a kitchen to cook meals (that you have to bring,) or a private shower. The Red Cross has information on what you should and should not take with you to their emergency shelters which is good place to start even though other organizations running storm shelters may have different or lack of amenities.

If you have the time to pack before or after the severe weather hits and you need to leave your home:

  1.  Bring a change of clothes, sleepwear, basic toiletries, medications, etc – the same type of stuff you’d take with you for an overnight (or longer) trip. 
  2.  Bedding, pillows, sleeping bag, and consider a sleeping pad, cot, or a self inflating air mattress like this one . Most emergency shelters do not provide cots. 
  3. Food for several meals that does not need heating or refrigeration and water to drink. A few comfort food snacks might be a nice idea. Most emergency shelter do not provide meals.
  4. Something to do – books, cards or board games, phone (backup batteries and chargers,) etc. A surge protector power strip is a good idea if you have room for it. Outlets may be a premium and you’ll be a hero if you share! 
  5. A copy of important papers such as insurance policies, driver’s license, and telephone numbers if you need to file claims or coordinate services after the storm.

How to Prepare for a Blackout without Going Broke

The second part of our tornado prepper plan was what we should keep on hand to prep for what happens after the storm – Namely cleaning up storm damage if needed and what to do if your electricity, water, or natural gas service is down while you are home.

This is the step where Doomsday Prepper culture goes nuts with recommending a ton of expensive things and hoards of food for every imaginable scenario (if that’s your thing – have at.) This is not that kind of plan. I don’t consider myself a prepper and frankly in the two multi day storm related blackouts we had (one in winter and one summer) most of those items weren’t necessary at all.

I want to be prepared enough to stay warm and dry, keep a chunk of whatever fresh/frozen food in the house from spoiling, see in the dark, and make coffee – otherwise it will be Doomsday.

In fact, all of the “special prepper gear” on this list is our regular tent camping gear. The only key prepping ingredient is to learn from our first storm mistake of not replacing the consumable items (propane, a heat and eat meal or two in the pantry, etc) during the off season.

Sad dog picture
In other words, don’t plan to break in my house and steal a house full of preps. The only thing I buy in bulk is dog food. You don’t want to make my dog sad, do you?

Our Very Basic Extended Blackout and Severe Storm Preparedness Plan

Storm damage cleanup and repair – If you already have gardening gloves and tools you’re set for most outside cleanup. A few tarps and bungee cords may be a good idea to have if you need to cover something that is damaged. You can buy waterproof tarps here  and a useful for all occasions bungee cord set here  – seriously we bungee everything for everything!

Light – I make sure I have candles and matches on hand because I had more candle nubs than candles during our blackout. Clearly this was a sign that I need to indulge my candle habit more often!

It was also the motivation to make melting old candle nubs into new candles a priority (truthfully, it’s more of way to enjoy the scented candles longer, but any port in a storm.) I keep tabbed candle wicks that I buy here on hand. I try to do the last burn of a candle when I have time to pour the already melted wax into a new jar and add a wick to make a new candle. (Not only am I a lazy chef but I am also a lazy candle maker.) 

How to make easy energency prep candles
You can also do this with layering wax melt wax that lost their scent until it fills the candle jar. It may not be as pretty, but it works when you need it to!

A camping lantern, flashlights, or a headlamp is handy especially if you don’t want to use an open flame around kids or pets. Last summer I upgraded to this camping lantern that uses replaceable and rechargeable batteries because our old lantern with a built in battery won’t hold a charge anymore (this is typical for rechargeable batteries after ten years or so.) The old lantern works if you plug it in which we still use for other things, just not for blackouts and primitive camping.

The one thing we did do right was our habit of keeping all of our spare rechargeable batteries charged. I use this multi size rechargeable battery charger  which is helpful (and cheaper than buying disposables) whether you need them for a remote or a blackout.

Food will still be good in a refrigerator without power for four hours. After that, consider saving what you can in a cooler with ice if available, or outside if it is cold enough during the winter. Whenever I use our cooler I pop one of these freezer and refrigerator thermometers into the cooler from the fridge to easily keep an eye on food safety.


how to personalize a cooler
You can read my How to Decorate a Cooler with Mod Podge tutorial on my DIY blog Condo Blues here

 You may also consider firing up an outdoor grill (I like this portable grill ) and/or camping stove (we have this kind of camping stove ) to cook and eat it immediately. If you are a coffee drinker I recommend this Coleman Camping Coffee Maker that works on any camping stove just like a counter top coffee maker. It makes a darn fine cup of coffee! The key is to make sure you have fuel on hand which we of course didn’t at the time and was one of the things that immediately sold out at the store.


During our blackout many people had an impromptu block parties because everyone decided to grill the food food melting in their freezers instead of throwing it out.

As for what type of food to keep and cook, that is entirely up to you. My food allergy means I can’t eat most prepared and canned food so of course we didn’t have even the stuff I can eat in the pantry during our storm blackout either. We were fortunate to live near restaurants that either had power or giant generators but the lines were long and it got old real quick.

Now I try to keep a few things in the pantry like a couple of cans of our favorite local chili (I usually make it from scratch,) or stuffed grape leaves (who says you have to suffer during an emergency?) Nothing too crazy or obscene amounts. Just things we normally like to eat on occasion that don’t require storing in a cooler or refrigerator for power outages or comfort food emergencies. If your home’s water relies on an electric pump, you may consider storing water too. The CDC suggests storing 1 – 2 gallons of water per person and pet per day.

The only other thing left to do is find a way to fill the time while you are waiting for your utilities to come back on. It’s a very good time to catch up on your reading!

Looking for more storm, tornado, or hurricane preparedness ideas? Check out the following options – and more! - below!

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Thanks so much for this post! Such important and useful information to have. I grew up in Ohio but strangely enough, I did not see a tornado until I moved to Colorado several years ago. They are very rare here but they do happen. I never thought about finding hotels that would take our 3 dogs until now. Very much appreciated!
Richella Parham said…
This is such a helpful post. The weather trends I've been seeing lately make me think that we all need to be thinking about storm preparedness. Thank you for sharing some practical ideas.

And thanks for joining the Grace at Home party at Imparting Grace! I'm featuring you this week.