If you had to pack for an emergency evacuation, what would you put in your suitcase?
Nearly 2 million Louisiana residents had to make that decision this past weekend when they were asked to leave home as Gustav barrelled toward them like teenage hot-rodder on an open road. Fortunately, the hurricane slowed down and veered away from still-healing New Orleans. While it did cause some damage, most people will return to all the comforts and contents of their homes.
But no one knew that when it was time to choose what to take on the one-way route out of town. Important papers were surely packed, along with medicine and money and enough clothes to keep a person decent. Perhaps computers with needed files, and old photographs, and precious artwork done by children got loaded into the car before a last look and a quick good by. If I had to choose, I would look for the things that are irreplaceable - old letters from my husband, cards sent by my grandparents, funny notes scribbled by my kids, and video tapes of their early years.
At least with Gustav there was time to think about what to take. When Hurricane Katrina hit almost exactly three years ago, evacuation was a matter of life and death and there was no time for many people to gather belongings. This time, having learned from Katrina's mistakes, city and state officials made it clear everyone should think ahead, pack up and go.
But what about gluten-free food for those who follow the gluten-free diet? Would it merit such valuable cargo space?
Soon after Katrina, we ran a story about emergency preparedness in Gluten-Free Living. The main point was that gluten-free disaster planning is pretty similar to regular disaster preparation. Experts recommend having on hand basic survival items that will last three days, including water, non-perishable food that requires no cooking, a manual can opener, ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, crackers, and protein or fruit bars. For more information go to http://www.americanredcross.org/ or http://www.fema.gov/.
Just make sure all the items you stockpile are gluten free. If you ever have to leave home on short notice, you'll have everything you need to get you through a few days. And you won't have to worry whether there will be any gluten-free food options on the road. Even if you never face a natural disaster, an emergency food supply can come in handy if power in your home and community is out for a few days.
I'm thankful New Orleans was largely spared, mindful some people in Louisiana did suffer damage to their homes and optimistic repairs will be rapid this time.
But hurricane season is just beginning -- Hanna is already lurking near the Bahamas and expected to hit the Southeastern coast by midweek -- so it makes sense to stockpile gluten-free essentials and think about what valuables you would pack if you had to choose.