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Hurricane Wilma Was a Prepper Learning Experience for Florida Residents

[intro2]On October 24th, 2005, my cousin, Dave, bugged in and rode out Hurricane Wilma.  He told his story to me so that we could use it as a teaching tool to help preppers who are living on the Gulf and Atlantic coastlines.[/intro2]


Hurricane Wilma was the most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Atlantic basin. In the Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico and the United states, Wilma killed 63 people and caused $29 billion dollars in damage. Examples of the way people died included by blown in windows, falling trees, gas explosions, collapsed homes, mudslides, car accidents, drownings, and flying debris.

As Wilma approached Florida, three Florida counties were declared disaster areas. The National Guard, FEMA, and the Red Cross were ready to distribute ice, water, and meals.

After wreaking havoc in the Caribbean as a category 5 hurricane with winds of 185 mph, Wilma approached the southern Florida gulf coast as a weakened category 3 hurricane with winds of 120 miles per hour. Wilma made landfall in the Naples area and, for four and one half hours, traveled across the Everglades toward the Ft. Lauderdale area where Dave lives.

Most hurricanes weaken significantly when over land, but, in Wilma’s case, that did not happen. Wilma weakened a mere 10 mph to a speed of 110 miles per hour, and then grew back in strength back to 120 mph when she reached the Atlantic Ocean. Most people did not seriously consider bugging out because they thought that, in her march over land from the Gulf Coast, Wilma would weaken below the category three level. When that did not happen, they were unpleasantly surprised.

The scariest part of the storm for Dave was when he thought that Wilma’s 120 mph winds were going to break his large bay windows and blow the shards of glass in on him and his family. The bay window was bending perceptively inward. Fortunately, he managed to reinforce the window from inside of his house with a piece of plywood which he braced with a 2×4.

After Wilma blew out to sea, she left southern Florida devastated. About 6,000,000 residents of Florida were without power, which was finally restored after 8-15 days had elapsed. Running water was restored for most within 2 days. Mass evacuations had been ordered, schools had been shut down, sports games, festivals, and concerts had been cancelled or rescheduled, crops had been damaged, and tourism and work schedules had been disrupted.

In addition to his loss of water and power, Dave found, as depicted in his pictures, that he had lost his fence, his canopy, and some of his palm trees. Also, trees and pools of water were blocking many roads. Pools of water can be very dangerous when live, broken power lines are in them.

As a result of this experience, David learned that hurricanes are unpredictable regarding:

  1.  Where they will go.
  2.  The speed and direction of their winds, which are partially dependent upon your location relative to the eyes of the hurricanes.
  3.  How fast they will travel, and thus, how much water and wind damage there will be.
  4.  The extent and direction of their ocean water surge.
  5.  Whether or not they will spawn tornadoes.
  6.  Whether or not they will result social chaos such as the looting that took place in Mexico.

Dave now has galvanized steel hurricane shutters on his windows. He realizes that a hurricane’s winds can be strong enough to push in windows, and the flying debris could smash through unprotected windows.

In case evacuations are ordered, Dave has a bug out bag.  This bag includes a three-day supply of food and water, prescriptions, and important identification documents. He also makes sure that he buys his hurricane supplies and gas before the stores are empty and gas the stations are closed due to mobs of panicked, last-minute shoppers.

His preparations and supplies are very similar to those in an earlier article that I wrote.  There also is an excellent DVD that covers preparation for a hurricane.

For other prepper articles by me, go to my website.

For a realistic scenario of how a hurricane probably would affect the Mid Atlantic states, read C. Watson’s excellent article.


Daniel Vale

Baltimore Prepper Examiner

Daniel Vale has a black belt in Seibu Kan Karate and has taught three credit self-defense courses at three colleges and universities. Over the years, he also has worked as a police officer, case worker, security guard, and state hospital security attendant. He has 21 semester hours and 9 quarter hours of criminal justice related of courses.


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2 Comments on "Hurricane Wilma Was a Prepper Learning Experience for Florida Residents"

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  1. Mike Engel says:

    Having a storm hit make landfall Northwest of you if you live in Florida will bring you the most wind and rains because they rotate counter clockwise and the air coming right off the Gulf is the most water laden. Wilma hit South East of me and the rain bands stopped about 80 miles from here.