Are you hurricane-ready? These apps and gadgets might help

It’s scary simple: Prepping a go bag with supplies in case of a hurricane

FEMA public service announcement for emergency preparation.
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FEMA public service announcement for emergency preparation.

In 2017, Hurricane Irma left many Florida residents powerless for days on end, with a lot of time to fathom how unprepared they were for a serious storm.

Hurricane Michael is now headed toward North Florida, where it is expected to make landfall as a Category 3 hurricane. As of Monday, Oct. 8, 35 Florida counties are included in a state of emergency declaration issued by Gov. Scott, including Manatee, Bradford, Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Alachua, Union and Baker counties.

It is never too early to plan, prepare and to stock hurricane kits.

Here are a few low-tech and high-tech solutions to some of the problems that accompany hurricanes.


A portable solar generator with panel from Genex Solutions.

Solar-powered generator

Solar-powered generators are quickly becoming a trustworthy addition to the hurricane preparation arsenal. The best part: they are almost noiseless and come without the health hazards of traditional gas-powered generators. Of course, they are dependent on sunlight, so you may want to keep a gas-powered generator on hand for backup.

There are a lot of solar generator options out there, and the price range is dramatic. Just make sure that whatever you buy meets your power requirements, whether you need to keep a refrigerator online or just plug in a fan and charge some phones.

Solar generators are pricier than traditional gas-power generators, but they should save you money over time. And to reiterate: they are noiseless! Try to convince the neighbors to get one too and avoid turning the neighborhood into a mechanized mosquito opera.

Cost: $120-$2100. An 1800-watt portable solar power generator with panel from Genex Solutions costs about $,1100 from Home Depot. Some solar generators require separate purchase of panels.

Solar phone charger
Solar-powered, waterproof phone charger with flashlight and compass by Soluser.

Solar-powered charger

On a smaller scale, you can harness solar power to charge phones and tablets with a solar charger. A charger and power bank by Soluser sells for about $22 on online. It can fast-charge two devices simultaneously, has a built in flashlight and compass and it’s waterproof.


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The Solvinden solar powered table lamp from Ikea. Ikea.

Solar lighting

Solar lighting is another good option for the dark days after the storm passes. This spiffy looking light from Ikea takes 9 to 12 hours to fully charge in the sunlight and provides 12 hours of bright light in return. It is waterproof, and the handle makes it easy to carry from room to room or when venturing out at night to take out the trash or walk the dog. Get it for about $17.


Emergency lights

Emergency lights stay on when the the power turns off, relying on built-in battery power. Most have an average life of about three hours without power, so you will want to save these only for important uses. A 20-watt bulb from has an internal rechargeable battery and comes with a remote with on/off switch and dimming options.

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Battery operated string lights are a available online and at many home decor retailers.

Battery-powered string lights

This one may seem unconventional, but string lights are nice because they distribute light more evenly than a light with a single bulb. Most of them come on flexible wire that will wrap around just about anything, making them great for any room in the house or apartment. They can also add some festive spirit to an otherwise dark and soggy occasion. A set from Target is $19, waterproof and has about a 50-hour run time on three AA batteries. Stock up on rechargeable batteries to make them a little more economical.

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The 115-hour candle runs on liquid paraffin.

115-hour candle

This is just what it sounds like: a candle that miraculously lasts for 115 hours. It costs about $9 from Emergency Essentials, but it often goes on sale. The candle is smokeless, odorless, produces a stable flame and doesn’t leave a waxy mess.


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The Kello emergency radio receives weather alerts and has a built-in flashlight, smart phone charger and alarm clock.

A good radio

Radios aren’t just radios anymore. They can do all kinds of other nifty things, too. This one from Kello receives AM/FM and NOAA Weather Radio transmissions and has a built in flashlight, alarm clock function and USB port for charging electronics. It can run on regular power, battery power or elbow grease with a hand-crank. It goes for around $40 online.

water resistant backpack
A water resitant backpack by Doffey sells on Amazon for about $16.

Water resistant backpack

Before a hurricane, it is a good idea to prepare a backpack with emergency essentials for each member of your household. Truly waterproof bags are very expensive so water resistant is the next best option. If you can’t get water resistant, then secure electronics and other items in plastic baggies. Items to consider for your backpack: identification, water bottles, snacks, a cell phone, an extra emergency cell phone, a poncho, walkie talkies, a flashlight, a whistle, a knife and a compact sleeping bag.

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If you are looking to get fancy with two way radios, the Motorola T600 H20 is one way to go. They have a range of up to 35 miles, are waterproof, have water activated LED lights and built-in NOAA weather radio. REI.

Two-way radios

Long range two-way radios are not a bad idea in case your group winds up splitting up for any reason. You can stay simple or pay more for extra features. Simple long-range radios start around $25. The Motorola T600 H20 is a more sophisticated option that sells for around $120 a pair on



The FEMA app includes weather alerts, preparation tips, disaster resource information and allows users to upload photos to help rescue workers. FEMA

Download on Google Play or the App Store. Free.


MyRadar Weather App
The MyRadar weather app provides high-definition radar, NOAA weather alerts and a hurricane tacker. MyRadar.

Download on Google Play or the App Store. Free.


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Life360 is a family locator app that allows users to keep track of and communicate with registered family members. Life360.

Download on Google Play or the App Store. Free.

Gas Buddy

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The GasBuddy app is intended to help users find the best gas prices in town, but during fuel shortages it also works as a tool to see who still has gas. The app can be helpful whether stocking up on generator fuel or determining if it's a good time to leave town.

Download on Google Play or the App Store. Free.


The Sortly app allows users to create a detailed home inventory with photos. This is great for insurance purposes during hurricane season. Sortly.

Download on Google Play or the App Store. Free.

Creature Comforts

A rechargeable three speed mini-fan by Opolar runs for 3 to 13 hours depending on the speed setting.

Rechargeable fan

Pair a few of these little fans with a solar battery charger to keep things cooler once the AC shuts off. A rechargeable min-fan by Opolar sells for about $19 online.

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A pack of three moisture wicking towels costs about $14 on Amazon.

Moisture wicking cloth

This is potentially the most important item on the list, as it will significantly cool down beer when all the ice runs out. Simply soak a cloth, wrap up the beer and leave it in a shady spot for awhile, re-soaking if needed. Thanks, thermodynamics! You can also slap them across your head or neck to make it through hot nights. A set of three costs about $14 on online.

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A manual coffee grinder like this one from Bed, Bath and Beyond comes in handy when electricity is out.

Manual coffee grinder

Day one without power: your precious Starbucks can’t save you now. What’s a coffee junkie to do? Make some good coffee the old-fashioned way, that’s what. It takes about two minutes to grind enough coffee beans for four cups of coffee. If you take your coffee hot, pair this purchase with a camping stove or a portable electric stove. If you like it cold, just add the grounds to water, let steep for a couple of hours, and then strain through a fine mesh or cheesecloth. If you run out of cold water, it doesn’t taste terrible lukewarm either. A manual coffee grinder from Bed, Bath and Beyond costs about $12.

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An ultra-light and compact sleeping bag from Camtoa is more appropriate for Florida's climate than conventional sleeping bags should you have to camp out on the floor. It's also water-resistant.

Sleeping bag

If you wind up having to camp out at a friend’s house or a shelter, a light and compact sleeping bag, like the envelope sleeping bag by Camtoa, will come in handy. It goes for around $30.

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This hands-free book light by Ledgle takes about 3 hours to charge and lasts up to 16 hours on the lowest brightness setting.

Book light

There’s no better time to get to work on that stack of books that’s been piling up than while waiting a couple days for the power to come back on. A hands-free book light sold by Ledgle would come in handy while trying to complete all kinds of tasks in the dark. It costs about $14 online.