As tropical storms Marco and Laura twist through the Gulf of Mexico, Houstonians are preparing for landfall, like we’ve done so often before. But this time it’s different. For one, the Bayou City is already hurting from the coronavirus pandemic and the collateral economic damage it has wreaked on the oil and gas industry. And although the general population is already hunkered down because of social distancing, many of our community support systems are already beyond taxed—to say nothing of our mental and emotional state (cue intermittent sobbing).
 
Still, inclement weather brings Houstonians together more than even an Astros World Series win. Those who were here for tropical storms Allison and Imelda or hurricanes Rita and Harvey can attest to the strength and selflessness of our community. If you doubt the kindness of Texans, you’ve never experienced the aftermath of a hurricane.

Here are our veteran hurricane preparedness pro tips to get you through the oncoming storm, whether it's the one this week or the one around the corner (hurricane season runs through November, for all you newbies out there). And stay up to date on Marco and Laura storm coverage here.

Gas up, y'all

Fill up your car's gas tank in the days ahead, as well as that external tank, if you have one (gas is always handy, and you can be a lifesaver in a pinch for your fellow Houstonians). Fuel will likely be in short supply in the wake of a storm, and no one wants to be sweating in the Houston heat while waiting in line at the gas pump. 

Charge your external power sources

Remember those charging banks you got as convention swag or from last holiday season's terrible white elephant gift exchange? Charge them up. (Seriously, go plug them in. We'll wait) If we lose power, you'll be glad you had those dorky little bricks so you're able to keep up to date on news and weather.

Bottled water never goes out of style

Go ahead and pick up a case or two of bottled water. Even if Laura or Marco turn into duds, you can hold onto that packaged water for another time. Plus, you'll really be happy you have a few cold bottles if you have to clear tree limbs and other debris after the storm leaves town. It’s still summertime after all. 

Stock up on adult beverages, too

Not only do Houstonians love having hurricane parties—which during the time of Covid might be on Zoom—we also love imbibing during storms. Hit up your local liquor store and grab a few bottles. By now you have no doubt become an expert home mixologist, and who knows, maybe you can finally share a red Solo cup with that quiet neighbor you haven’t met yet (make sure you both mask up). And have a few extra sodas and fizzy waters ready for the sober folk. Speaking of ...

Meet your neighbors

If you haven’t already met your neighbors during the pandemic, right now is a good time to say hello and check in. Having a support system surrounding you can and will come in handy if things take a turn for the worse. Have a few extra lawn chairs ready for some much-needed bull sessions.

Bags, bags, bags

Use sturdy zip-lock bags to protect your electronics and other pertinent items. They're versatile, inexpensive, shareable, and can save the life of your smartphone (plus important documents). 

Put a steak in it

Throw some meaty sustenance in your fridge or freezer because if we have a power outage or a lull in the ability to venture out into the wilds of retail, you will be glad you splurged on those steaks or chicken. We're talking about adventures in grilling, of course! Plant-based peeps, you do you. Just be prepared to explain what the heck Beyond Meat is to your carnivorous neighbors. 

Don’t sacrifice your car to the weather gods

If at all possible, park your vehicle on higher ground. Those of you who spent days and weeks after Harvey in economy rental cars or taking musty Uber rides know all too well how stressful it is to lose a vehicle in high water.

Limit your intake of disaster porn

With all apologies to our friends on the local news trudging through flood waters in waders in search of an Emmy-winning rescue tale, limit your TV news intake before and after a major weather event. Every area’s experience is different, and even during Harvey some areas were untouched while others were decimated. Don’t let a panicky report turn you into a frazzled wreck for no reason.

If you must leave, do it soon

If you and your family do plan to evacuate (even if you live in Katy), do it sooner rather than later. Those of you who tried to make an exit ahead of Hurricane Rita in 2005 learned a very sweaty and stressful lesson on our cramped and miserable freeways.

Be kind

It sounds simple enough but an extra helping of kindness and grace goes a long way in the wake of a disaster. Although we’re all masked up, an encouraging word or gesture can mean the world to someone. Send a thumbs up, hold up a sign, or even just smile with your eyes—you should've had enough practice at this point. Remember: You can be kind any day, at any time; You don’t need a worrisome weather event or global pandemic to be sweet to your fellow HOUmans.

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