By Les Carmona
Lots and lots of information exist on hurricane preparedness. Here’s what you need to know when one gets here.
Water – there will be lots of it – in the air and on the ground. As the storm approaches from the south, the winds will hurl the rain against any upright structures. Water will come into the house. Flooding into your home seldom occurs but your dwelling is not watertight. Don’t worry, unless you have floor coverings. You can open windows on the opposite side of your living space.
Arroyos will fill to the edges and sometimes beyond. Do not try to cross an arroyo. Not on foot or in a vehicle, terrestrial or aquatic.
When the storm eye reaches you, go outside and look around if you like. Stay out of running water. The winds will soon blow in the opposite direction from before. Close the open windows and open the ones on the other side of the house.
After the storm, there will be standing water for several days. You will most likely get stuck in mud or have your vehicle flood if you attempt to go anywhere. Stay home. Everyone else is at home, so stores, banks, schools, bars, etc are most likely closed, Stay home.
Disease – There are no storm drains in La Paz and sanitary sewers fill with runoff water, backing up into the streets. This water contains fecal matter. It will eventually run off to the bay, contaminating the water for a few days. As the groundwater dries, bacteria become airborne and stomach flu is common. Think about wearing a mask and avoid food stalls.
Electricity and communications – It is not a question of if the power goes out but when. The authorities will shut down the power grid to avoid electrocutions and transformer failures. After pole and line damage is repaired, the power will begin to come back on and may take several days, depending on how rural your situation. Without electricity, refrigerators and water pumps will not work, so have shelf stable food on hand, as well as a goodly supply of purified water. Unplug or turn off breakers to your refrigerator, air conditioner and water pump. Sometimes the power comes on and due to damaged power lines; you may not have the proper voltage. Low voltage can do severe damage.
Telephone service most likely will be down and cellular service may be interrupted. VHF radio on a 12-volt power system might be the only means of communication. Channel 22 is the hailing frequency for La Paz; Radio stations have generators and will continue to broadcast news and information in Spanish.
Wind borne debris – As a personal observation, although arroyos have been cleared of excess debris, yearly maintenance of palm trees generally has not been performed so we can expect plenty of vegetation debris. Palm leaves, coconuts and seedpods as well as tree branches can do extensive damage as they fall or blow about. Glass may shatter in window frames. “Taping” the windows with box tape will help non-tempered plate glass from shattering.
Good luck, and remember the La Paz mantra: we need the rain.
Contributing writer Les Carmona bakes artisan breads and pastries for his shop Pan D’Les bakery while assimilating to the pace of La Paz. The bakery is on Madero Street between Constitucion and 5 de Mayo, two short blocks from the Malecon.