Warehouse Creek Hurricane Hints
There are as many hints for hurricane boat & dock prep as there are for curing the common cold. However, this message is just to pass along some surprising lessons we’ve learned on this creek from hurricanes, frequent strong winds, and surprising high tides. Warehouse Creek may seem like a quiet protected “hurricane hole”, and hurricanes are rare. However. my front yard is the point where the creek does its turn. I used to have a heavy-duty wind gauge. Almost every week would register winds of 40-50 mph whipping across that point from up the creek or in from the entrance. Most of those weeks were unremarkable “pleasant weather”. The gauge finally gave out. The point is don’t get lulled into thinking we just have wafting breezes. This e-mail may seem like overload of caution, but better to be knowledgeable in advance.
>> If a hurricane eye enters the Bay itself (not passing by out in the ocean…and/or when we are on the west side of the eye of a storm, prepare for much higher levels of water because the wind blocks water from leaving the Bay and/or the spin blows water back up it into the flooding rivers & creeks. Major rain East of us (such as up rivers & such) also may generate major run-off into the bay a day or two later (such as Agnes in 1972, when water was so high in DC that I was landing rescued people and floating right up for them to step off onto the porch of the Kennedy Center). High water doesn’t just happen with howling storms. When Isabel raised the water level about 6′ above normal in this creek in 2003 (up to my neck on my dock), it was a totally calm moonlit night and no predictions or warnings. So, the lesson is to think ahead carefully about what an extra 3-6′ of water would do to your dock or waterfront…or if you have a kayak, paddleboard or some such near the shore. Also, if you have a dock house with supplies, think & prepare how that would fare if water rose 5-6′.
>> ELECTRICITY: If you have any outside electricity that might get submerged (obviously, such as on a dock), turn that circuit(s) off at the main breaker box. That minimizes the chance you will have a “shocking experience” yourself, lessen the damage to anything plugged into that circuit, and lessen the chance of shorting & fire. A fix-it solution: If sockets and electrical items such as your electric lift motors get submerged, try some first aid. First, flush it with fresh water to get the salt & dirt. If you have a handy battery blower, give it a quick blow-out too. Then spray WD-40 generously into the electrical area. (WD was an accidental invention, so WD was the 40th experiment, and stands for Water Dispersal .) Use more than a spritz! Really blast it! Have a couple of cans on hand. I even (to my amazement) saved the big electric motors on my boat lift, which had been submerged. For electrical circuit boards, I was advised (and successfully followed) to use rubbing alcohol instead of the oily film of WD 40 or other products. When you flip the main breaker to turn on the electrical circuit, it would be nice to have someone at the switch and you at the dock or wherever so you can instantly spot any problems. It is best to have shut off/unplugged everything first, and then plug them in one at a time to see if they work. That way you spot any sparks or problems. (I have zero advice about high tech things such as phones & computers.)
>> Boat damage in Isabel came in all sorts of ways none of us (or insurers at the time) imagined. For example:
> LIFTS: Owners of boats on lifts felt smug, prepared & literally “above” trouble & risk. However, boats on lifts ended up with a higher percentage of problems. Mainly, boats would float off (since most boats on lifts aren’t tied). Some had open rain drain plugs….which let the boat sink after floating off. The Isabel water level spiked high, and then dropped in just a few hours in our creek. So, some boats floated only halfway forward or backward off the lift. That left them in an expensive awkward vertical pose nose down or stern down into the water, often stuck into the mud. . Solution: Tie lines from the boat to as many as possible fairly-distant points in each direction (called a spiderweb). In my case, ZAZU floated about 3′ above her high lift cradle, but came right back to the same spot because the spiderweb held her place in all directions. Also important, is to have your lines tied high enough (and distance helps) so that if the boat rises, the lines do not pull it down or out of position. Similarly, some lift owners simply have a simple safety line from the boat to the dock on one side. Whoops! Some boats were pulled onto their side as the water rose (often letting water inside) because the short line on one side held just that side down.
> WIND: The morning after Isabel, exploring South River damage, we saw a hefty speed boat that had been ripped from its mooring, and apparently gone airborne and landed upside down half way up a hillside. (That was at the mouth of the river, but teaches a sobering lesson.) To avoid the above problem, some of the standard advice had been to tie-down your boat to a lift, or whatever. However, that tying down means that as the water rises, your exhaust (and thus water getting into your inboard engine) or your outboard may be held down underwater ($$$). Obviously it can also literally hold the boat down (sink it). When the water goes down, there is not only the damage to the boat, but the weight of the boat full of water may well exceed the capacity of your lift (more $$$)
> OTHER: Obviously, all the longstanding advice still applies. Use double lines, and be sure they are protected from chafing & breaking. Also, lots of bumpers & padding to protect your boat from getting banged against docks & pilings. (Boats always seem to come out on the bad end of those situations $$$.) Don’t just have one dangling bumper per potential rub spot. The boat is going to be gyrating , and also rising & falling, so it won’t always contact where the bumper is. Remove anything that catches wind, such as dinghys etc. + canvas, paddles, etc. etc.
> OTHER STUFF ALREADY OUT OF THE WATER: If you have a rowboat, canoe, paddleboards, kayaks, etc anywhere on your dock or yard, remember that their light weight makes them easy kites.
This is article is geared to hurricanes, but as evidenced by my wind gauge earlier, we routinely get hefty winds in sections of the creek and from various angles. Many come on beautiful days & nights, and often don’t get announced with fanfare on the news in advance. Unfortunately, all of the items can be $$$$, so be prepared. Good luck. As I said at the start, there are as many remedies as there are for the common cold. Share your techniques and any lessons learned with the neighborhood.