The MilSpouse’s Guide to Catastrophic Weather

The United States has experienced a series of severe weather events in recent months. These occurrences have put many military families to the test on their preparedness in the face of extreme weather. Are you prepared to face a hurricane? Earthquake? Tornado? Flood?

My Experience

I had my first experience evacuating due to a major weather storm with Hurricane Harvey that came barreling into the Gulf of Mexico, and headed directly towards our military base. The category five hurricane caused a mandatory evacuation of all non-essential personnel from the area two days prior to when the storm was scheduled to strike. This meant all families living on base, and those living in certain flood warning areas had to evacuate to within 300 miles of the safe zone. Since we do not live on base, or in one of the mandatory evacuation zones, our evacuation was voluntary. We had intentions of bunkering down and weathering out the storm, but when our home lost power within minutes of the rain starting, and then facing days before it was restored we decided to evacuate.

So for the next four days my husband and I, and our three cats, lived out of a hotel room watching too much tv and waiting for the ok to return to our home. This was a little stressful since my work expected me to return by a certain date, and we were concerned we wouldn’t have permission from the military yet. We were also uncertain what we would be coming home to. There was no way to know how much damage our home may have sustained during the hurricane.

We were extremely lucky by all accounts. We had permission to return to base the day before I had to return to work, and our home had sustained minimal damage. Our greatest hardship would be having to throw out all of our refrigerated and frozen food since the power had been out for multiple days.

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Lessons from Evacuating

  • When moving to a location known for extreme weather occurrences, familiarize yourself with what to expect and how to be prepared.
  • If you are faced with an evacuation due to weather, the military will reimburse your sponsor a per diem amount once all of the proper paperwork is filed. The service member should receive a brief on how to file this paperwork and what is required. Be sure to save all receipts from food, gas, and lodging expenses to support your claim.
  • Be sure to have a plan for emergency weather conditions. Do not rely on having the option to evacuate to safety. Be sure you have plenty of nonperishable foods, water, and batteries in your home so your family can be prepared. Click here for a great resource from The Weather Channel on putting together your emergency preparedness kit.
  • Follow all expectations of your spouse’s command during the storm. This may mean updating your location online. This may also mean “checking in” with the proper chain of command daily. Wait for permission to return home. This means your contact information needs to be current to ensure proper communication can be sent and received.

There may come a time during your spouse’s service that you are faced with a weather emergency. As military families we are trained to overcome these challenges, and with the proper precautions and education, you will come out on the other side even stronger.

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