wOw's Question of the Week



In the event of a surprise storm so big you were ordered to leave your home, what would you and your family take with you?

Jane Wagner: Each other, all the animals, photos (family, not Diane Arbus), other memorabilia that we can grab as we dash out the door. My work, papers, etc., I keep mostly in a white, steel filing cabinet – only the paint will peel (I hope). Lily and I did have a fire in our office, a building dominated by mostly Rap groups (3 Gangsta Rap groups, and one Goth band).

Candice Bergen: Aaarrrgh. I used to live in Malibu in a fire area, and we were always threatened with evacuation when we could see the flames on the mountains nearby. It was a horse area, so people always had their horses loaded in the trailers and the dogs waiting in the SUV. Then in the early morning, the firemen got the blaze under control and we unloaded everything. That was 25 years ago…before Blackberries and iPads and digital photos, which is what I’d take now.

First things I’d take are our dogs, however. Then any artwork I could manage. A few pieces of jewelry. My pills! A few framed photos that matter.

I would want to take my wallet and passport but would probably forget the passport. And a few bottles of water. Depending on the scenario.

Joan Ganz Cooney: I would be optimistic that we’d be back in a few days, so I’d take enough clothes for 3 days, money, purse with wallet and I.D. and emergency numbers, cell phone with charger.  I wouldn’t be thinking about robbery, so I’d probably find a lot of stuff gone if and when we got back in the house or apartment. If we weren’t going someplace with a known supply of  food and water, I’d take a small supply and hope for the best.

I  would be optimistic that we’d be back in a few days so I’d take enough clothes for 3 days, money, purse with wallet and i.d. and emergency numbers, cel phone with charger.  I wouldn’t be thinking about robbery so I’d probably find a lot of stuff gone if and when we got back in the house or apartment.  If we weren’t going some place with a known supply of  food and water, I’d take a small supply and hope for the best.

24 Responses so far.

  1. avatar kermie b says:

    After 9/11, my office building supplied its occupants with emergency kits–flashlight, water packet, aluminum blanket, flares, the works. It got me thinking about the kind of kit I wanted in my home, ready to grab. I bought the same kit we had available at work, and added cash, matches, batteries, and a printout list of things not to forget like food bars, passport, cellphone charger, extra socks, contact lens solution, etc. I am ecstatic I have never had to use the kit.

  2. avatar Joan Larsen says:

    All of you know me so I have to be truthful . . . and I am also fast thinking! I would be yelling to my husband to be sure to grab the cash on hand, the keys to the safe deposit box, the checkbook and that huge box that is packed tidily in the closet containing – you guessed it — my photo albums and memories of our lives. . and then run for it! He is fast, efficient and doesn’t get flustered. OK, I would grab the largest zipped case I could put my hands on fast (and I travel a lot so I have a “corner” on plastic cases with zippers) and clean out MY medicine cabinet — all my cosmetics and all the medicine bottles and push them all in. Maybe it comes from wanting to hand carry the same things for trips, just in case my suitcase has gone forever to Mongolia.

    Oh – it is a terrible storm so it is so easy to grab a jacket and umbrella on the way out.
    As long as we are out, I am not sentimental about my house – not at all.

  3. avatar Grace OMalley says:

    I would take my two Scotties, Jack and Charlie, my purse, my small leather box of jewelry, my laptop, my purse and two framed photos on my bedside table – one of my mother and a baby picture of my husband. Maybe my collection of antique Irish postcards and some artwork. It’s just hard to know. You try so hard not to get attached to things. I just recently lost a small brown coin purse that I bought in Spain in 1984 and I’ve been crying about it for weeks. Even though your mind tells you not to get attached to things, you do. And sometimes, it’s not the thing itself, but how long you have had it and the memories attached. I pray I never have to make a decision like the one you suggest. I remember when my mama was dying, she would ask me “but what will happen to all my stuff?” I know she would have loved having her “stuff” with her through all eternity.

  4. avatar Laurie Deer says:

    I would call my sister immediately to make sure she was okay and develop a plan for our families. If possible, I would head to my cottage with my family in the mountains with tons of supplies.

  5. avatar Mr. Wow says:

    I would take B. And the cats if I could.

    Otherwise, nothing else really matters. Mr. wOw has collected a lot of crap.

    Mr. W.

  6. avatar Lila Kuh says:

    Actually this has happened to me, during floods and mudslides in California. I grabbed the cats and a suitcase and showed up on a friend’s doorstep at about 0200. They’re military too, so all in stride! It’s great to have friends you can run to in need.

  7. avatar lsmyers says:

    Interesting question to think about, family, pets, identification, laptops and if time photos.

  8. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Given that I live in a building that has had 5 fire evacuations in less than 12 months, I have developed an emergency kit to grab each time I have to leave abruptly.

    It has a change of clothes, jewelry, extra make-up, toiletries, my extra laptop, MP3 player, copies of all my ID’s and credit cards, insurance coverage as well as flashlights, bottled water, dust masks, etc. etc.

  9. avatar Donna H says:

    1. Bubba the WonderCat.

    2. My purse, in case I have to prove I’m not a looter & actually live in the “affected area” when I return.

    3. Check my bra to make sure I have what I usually carry/keep in there (Cell phone, MP3 player, lip balm). Otherwise, grab the cell so I can call my kid brother & let him know we’re okay/please come get us.

    4.If there’s time, Moses Laptopowitz. My life is on my computer.

    Nothing else is really important in the “big picture”.

    • avatar kermie says:

      Donna–I love the names you give your cat and your laptop. You made me laugh in an otherwise serious topic.

  10. avatar Lengfaerie says:

    I was evacuated out of our townhome in 1994 during a flood. We weren’t allowed to take anything but our wallets/purses, and went in small, non-motorized boats guided by firefighters. I had sent my then 3-year-old son home with his biological father around midnight, but no one expected us to be trapped by the rising river. By 4 am, we were. It taught me a lot about priorities, listening to people scream about recovering their things when rescuers were trying to get to trapped people. And picking hundreds of fire ants off of an elderly woman who was willing to let the river have her in order to save her husband of over 50 years when the current, moving at over 45 mph, burst through their picture window and he was trying to hold her in place while the firefighters struggled to reach them. Things…

    Living in Houston, the potential for a category 5 hurricane is always present. I doubt that we would be in the mandatory evacuation area, as we are approximately 60 miles from the coast. We rode out both Ike and Rita, though we sent our young son away for both. It was eerie, and very warm, and water was a little short (though we were well stocked), but not like it was for people in Galveston, or Beaumont, or after Katrina, in Gulfport or Sliddel, or, yes, New Orleans (but at least there IS a New Orleans…there really is no Gulfport or Jackson, Mississippi anymore. Just memories).

    However, if the evacuation became mandated, I would make sure my family and my cats were taken first and foremost. We hurricane prepare every year, and have yet to be caught “short” (it baffles me that people who have lived here for years do not stock up on certain essentials before the season commences). I would definitely take ID and credit and ATM cards…but we are careful to get sufficient cash if we think things will get dicey. Our laptops if possible, and R.’s cell phone. Underwear. Our medications (mine is essential to my health). Health insurance cards.

    But the stuff? My good jewelry is relatively safe, but it is also insured, and properly, as are our things and our house. We have been royally screwed by insurance companies twice, so we’ve learned how to read and set up policies regarding hurricane damage from wind, water, standing water, surge water, rising water, leakage, rain, etc.. Photos? My memories are in my head, and if they ever go to hell, what will pictures mean to me anyway? The living cannot be brought back from death by pictures…and things can be replaced. The living never can.

  11. avatar Doris Goembel says:

    We did go through a tornado, and then a decade later, our house burned to the ground while we were on a vacation. I no longer worry about things like photos, grandma’s things, etc. It’s all just ‘stuff”. If I have the chance, I will take the pets with me when I exit. In the case of our 2002 fire, the 2 cats made it out on their own (who knows how?) The outdoor ‘farm dog’ was fine, until the bulldozer clearing the mess ran him over 3 weeks later. Yes, we cried. Our critical papers are in the bank’s vault, and I keep a PC backup disk of data (our financial and personal info + photos, etc.) in another location outside the house. I did this back in 2002, as well, and with the assistance of a couple PC-gurus, was able to regain access to all that critical data from a backup which had been stored in a different building.

    • avatar kermie says:

      Doris–Your house burned down while you were on vacation? That is horrible. I cannot even imagine what that must have been like for you when you got back. You are right, though, it is just “stuff,” what is important are the lives that were saved.

  12. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    I would take my cats and personal ID if I had to leave immediately. Things can be replaced but my cats are my feline children. I wouldn’t go if they had to stay behind.

  13. avatar Deeliteful says:

    I lived on the Gulf coast of Florida and Alabama for more than 15 years. Much of that time I was in mandatory evacuation areas. Kept car gassed and ready to go during hurricane season. Also, kept enough cash on hand to get to safety – sometimes those ATMs don’t work. I took my family, pets, medicines, jewelry and a week’s worth of clothes. Later I included my laptop. As others have mentioned, I had lost most of my material belongings before and things can be replaced. Now, it’s just me and I would probably grab my purse, medicines, laptop and hit the road.

  14. avatar Mary E. Sayler says:

    Earthquakes are all I really know living in California for 71 years. I am not ome to panic in the face of danger. I would put together an emergency kit like I had in CA. Besides some clothes I would also take family pictures (have some dating back to the Civil War), family jewelry, Mom’s art, laptop, the cats and 15 year old dog.

  15. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    I learned early on in Houston to learn the topography. And to ask if something flooded during the previous storm. During Tropical Storm Allison I worried when it began to move back towards us. Realizing we would have at least 20 inches of rain by the time it passed by us that second time. My neighbor laughed when I told him I was going to put everything in the attic and go to a hotel. “Won’t flood here, we are on high ground.” So I thought why not trust the fates if not the neighor which saved me the trouble of trying to get everything up into the attic. And while everything at both ends of the street were under water, there was not even any water in the streets in front our our homes on that one block. High ground indeed. When I’ve leased apartments I’ve always preferred the 2nd floor. Just in case. Be prepared as they say. Pre-prepared is even better I guess.

    I have no idea what I would do in a mandatory evacuation. Call Bekins? If someone banged on my door, I would probably not answer. I absolutely would not leave the cats behind.

    In a fire well I always scope things out so I know what can be tossed out which window and then I would grab the cats, my diamond ring, and the few photos I actually “put on top of the piano.”

    I guess no part of the country is free of “natural disasters” but Houston really has never had to evacuate except during Tropical Storm Allison when they issued evacuation “advisories” for certain areas they absolutely knew would flood. Apart from the “high ground” here and there almost everything was under at least a foot of water. Houston looked like a gigantic lake. Frightening even on “high ground.” I will never forget it. I doubt anyone else will either.

    As for Los Angeles I always thought about “the big one” and never really thought about the fires although I had friends who lived in the fire areas and don’t know how they slept when the Santa Anas arrived each year. It’s beautiful up on the ridges. But not where I’d want to live.
    The canyons are not much better. I stayed with a friend once in Bel-Air and we awoke to a smoke-filled house. A kitchen fire. But I thought about the “big fire” in Bel-Air in the 1960s so I started staying at the Chateau Marmont. In the cottages. I figured earthquake, fire, mudslides, whatever, I could probably get everything down the walkway to the sidewalk on Sunset in two trips. I do think about these things obviously. And probably shouldn’t. And probably shouldn’t share them but I’m sure everyone assumes I’m nuts anyway so why not?

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Baby, we are on some of that fabled “high ground”. Apparently, during Allison, our street was dry. I am reasonably sure that I would not be answering the door should the evac police come a-knocking. We have 13 hairballs…pretty hard to evacuate. And I actually though riding out Ike as a fascinating experience.

      I don’t dwell on these things. I lived in Northern Illinois, and I remember a year when the power went out, and the wind chill made the temperature settle at minus 67 degrees farenheit. Our house had a well with an electric pump, so we had to walk a quarter of a mile down the road to the equestrian complex that had a hand pump, fill five-gallon buckets with water (four of them), pack them with snow onto a kiddie sled, and haul them back home. My eyelashes and eyebrows froze solid, as did any water that splashed onto my clothing. I also had to hand shovel our 125 foot driveway after my dad murdered our little tractor (he tried to push too much snow and it threw a rod), and was too cheap to call a plowing service. This was a mere 38 miles from Chicago’s Loop…not BF Egypt, by the way. And we had tornadoes, too…lots of them. And hotter, more disgustingly humid Augusts than we have down here.

      I’ll take Houston, Tea Party freaks, rodeo, and Rick Perry any old day over that. Hurricanes too. At least I get to stay warm.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        Ike was certainly an odd storm and one that may change how people on the Gulf Coast finally look at hurricanes in general. A Category 2 with Category 4 winds in the northeast sector that they realized only at the last minute. LIke so many other areas along the Gulf Coast we do not have mandatory evacuation. Perhaps at some point we will. We should have had it prior to Katrina. Had Ike hit south of New Orleans instead of south of Houston I suspect Ike would have taken care of the problem of rebuilding New Orleans by completely destroying it.

        The problem with mandatory evacuation is they knock on the door, you answer, you go. No time to grab anything except the children. No pets, no nothing. The advisories do work when people pay attention to them. Most did during Ike. The ones who didn’t will probably serve as a reminder of what can happen when you don’t. Not that many were killed. But not all of them were found. One or two were found miles inland. They don’t know how high the storm surge was. Somewhere between 24 and 36 feet. Not much survives that. They do know that had it hit a little further southwest of Galveston the storm surge would have created a major problem in Clear Lake and the Ship Channel and along Buffalo Bayou. The water doesn’t just come in and recede. The saving grace for us was that it was not a big rain-producer here in Houston. But the winds were another matter. Unlike Rita before it almost all of Houston lost power with Ike because of the wind toppling trees and downing power lines and most went without power for at least a week. I had no power for 11 days. You get used to it. But it’s still not pleasant.

        But you’re right about the ice storms. I would take a hurricane over an ice storm. Both can be deadly. And I’d rather suffer through heat than through bitter cold. And there are, as you point out, places far more humid in August. The decision to have Congress recess in August was probably made on the basis that it allowed everyone to get out of Washington in August.

        Houston isn’t so bad or I wouldn’t have always come back here. And I always did. From everywhere. Los Angeles was a very big part of my life. But not all of it. And somehow I never felt at home. There or anywhere else. Just here.

        • avatar Briana Baran says:

          Curiously, we were only out of power during Ike for about 8 days, when the area immediately surrounding us is usually the first to lose electricity, and the last to have it restored. Ike’s winds were something else. We are surrounded by trees here, and I was astonished that our enormous pines, and venerable, 60′ oak made it through. Far too many people were not as fortunate.

          As for the evacuation of Galveston and the nearby environs, my heart went out to the emergency rescue workers who had to discontinue efforts because to go on would have meant their own lives. Their frustration and anger, especially at those who would not let the incapacitated, or their children leave, was sad to witness. In the aftermath of the storm, the hatred and anger expressed toward the rescue workers by the families of those who refused to leave, and who were either found dead, or who were never found (I watched film of the many volunteers risking snakebite, severe injury and contamination from raw sewage both to themselves and their dogs searching the wreckage for the dead. Who says people don’t care?) was depressing and a commentary on human nature. Those rescue workers had families and lives too…and they were already risking them. They wouldn’t have done anyone any good by ending up dead themselves in fatal helicopter or boat wrecks.

          Ike was bad, but we’ll eventually get one that is worse. I was on the San Jacinto in the townhouses in Forest Cove in 1994 when the river came up and some them collapsed and floated away. Ours took eleven feet of water, but our living space wasn’t affected…although the Federal Building inspector said he wouldn’t let his dog in those buildings. I know what rain and water can do. But I’d still take that over thirty foot snow drifts, no heat, below zero temperatures and gale force winds. Ugh.

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            Reality is no one is really paying attention to the possibilities anywhere in this country as we saw in New Orleans and no area of the country is immune from a possible repeat be it a hurricane, a severe ice storm, a tornado, a forest fire, a spring flood or an earthquake.

            The concern in the Houston area has always been the lack of watershed drainage with regard to the development over the past 50 years. Allison should have been a wake-up call. It wasn’t. A Category 5 hitting Freeport would produce an even higher storm surge into Galveston Bay than Ike did which would effectively block drainage from the watersheds. And if there were 15-20 inches of rain it would be far, far worse than Allison was. And the loss of life probably greater than it was in Katrina. When people here evacuated during Rita not long after Katrina, most were stuck on freeways and highways. And were the proverbial “sitting ducks.”

            Los Angeles eventually will get hit with the “big one” and what worries them is the “big one” won’t be to the northeast of downtown Los Angeles along the San Andreas fault but under downtown Los Angeles along a major fault known as the Whittier fault that runs directly under downtown they discovered about ten years ago. And it is capable of an 8.0 or greater earthquake. The fault runs east-west from just east of downtown to Santa Monica. They are not sure that even the “earthquake-proof” buildings they have built through the years would survive an 8.0 or greater on that fault.

            New York isn’t immune either. There’s a fault line running under Manhattan. That may not be so dormant. We aren’t immune either really. There have been two 5.0 earthquakes south of New Orleans in the past five years. Initially they thought they were related to the oil extraction.
            There is a fault line along the continental shelf that runs from Georgia to Mexico. And it is not dormant. And not a minor fault. They are just now begining to study it. The reality of oil extraction is oil is found along faults. And sometimes the extraction process activates the fault. We think of Houston as the oil capital. Los Angeles has lots of active wells. And not just in the Baldwin HIlls area. Some believe the extraction process may have activated several faults they are now discovering in Southern California. And elsewhere including Oklahoma.

            Everyone probably should invest in a good file cabinet that is at least fire-proof. Or a safe that is everything-proof. And keep the important papers in there. When disaster hits, often you really don’t have time to grab much of anything as you flee. One of the nice things about safety deposit boxes at banks is they are behind water-proof vault doors. That are absolutely everything-proof. The problem with the safe at home is looters. Not too many looters are going to be able to haul off a bank vault in the back of a pick-up.

            This is really a cheerful subject, isn’t it?

  16. avatar J Holmes says:

    Financial records, suitcases packed with items for a week, as many photo items as possible

  17. avatar eleanore wells says:

    I’d grab the world’s cutest dog, my 11-year-old Yorkie, Danny. If my beau stayed over, I’d grab him. Definitely my cell phone and charger/batteries, some 100 calorie pack snacks and my ever-expanding list of upcoming topics for my blog, The Spinsterlicious Life (I can think of and jot down topics to write about while I’m waiting for whatever’s supposed to happen next). I should probably take some lip gloss, toothpaste, and a pair of socks since my feet always seem to be cold. Lastly, a bottle of something bubbly (not a soda) and an opener to kick off the “you can return to your home” celebration. That should about do it!

  18. avatar Simply Me says:


    I think it is wonderful that you listed “Each other” first. How sweet. 🙂

    P.S. Gotta watch out for the Gangstas!