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Lessons learned from Hurricane Irma: Battery fans, tree trimming and the two sides of human nature

The utopian who dreamed up the concept of four-way stops at broken traffic signals has obviously never met the species of driver known as Jerkus South Floridus.

The sound of chainsaws, leaf blowers and generators early in the morning can be differentiated by savvy storm veterans, yet they share the same overriding traits: loud and annoying.

If we’re going to get hit with a hurricane, the cool aftermath of late October is far preferable to the sweaty summer sauna of early September.

Now that Hurricane Irma has passed and normalcy has returned to much of South Florida, it’s time to take stock. What pre-storm tips worked? What will you do differently next time? With the help of readers who chimed in on social media, here are some lessons that we take from a monstrous storm:

• Ice, water and plywood are all storm essentials, but another should be added to the list: battery-operated fans. Charlie Crist has carried one around with him for years, and now we know why. Maybe Gov. Rick Scott, who protested Crist’s fan at their 2014 governor’s race debate, has been stashing one under his Navy cap all week.

• If you have a generator, give it a test run before each hurricane season to make sure it is in working order. With Wilma in 2005 our last direct hit before Irma, some generator owners were caught unaware when the machines sputtered and failed.

• Whoever added a flashlight to smartphones is a genius.

• The next time FPL shows up at your door and wants to remove or trim trees on your property, allow them. Broken limbs and fallen trees are a big reason behind widespread power outages, and it will always be so when our electric grid is mostly above us. FPL has done better with restoration than it did after Wilma — taking days instead of weeks — but why so many had power knocked out so far from the storm’s core will be the big question for months to come.

• Fallen branches don’t just knock out power. They also damage roofs and dent cars. Please, homeowners, trim trees early in the year and not the day before a storm.

• Flashlights and fans use D batteries, many radios use C batteries, and both were as hard to find last week as B batteries, which don’t exist. Stocking up on storm supplies in the spring is the way to go. “I bought portable fans not realizing they each took eight D batteries,” Jill Margolis wrote on Facebook. “I didn’t have enough.”

• “Buy an inverter for your car,” Alan Brown wrote on Facebook. “You’ll be able to recharge phones, tablets, laptops, etc., all while enjoying the car A/C. Just make sure the car is parked outside.”

• Making extra ice blocks by filling baggies with water and freezing them before the storm should work in theory. The reality can be much messier when flimsy bags burst and leave a flood. We found it’s much better to use plastic soda bottles and juice containers.

• “Stock up on prescription and other drugs,” one reader wrote. “It helps with the anxiety of it all.” The late Nancy Reagan would not approve.

• When a boil-water alert is in effect and you have no way to boil water, you’ll need plain, unscented bleach and an eyedropper to squeeze out the eight drops per gallon to disinfect it. Add those to the list for the next storm.

• Water, ice, flashlights, propane and other supplies are important. But the most crucial item to endure storms isn’t found on any list: patience.

• There’s nothing like a storm to bring neighbors together, and there’s nothing like the day after a storm to spur impromptu block parties where people empty thawing freezers and melting coolers and grill and drink everything in sight. Why can’t every week be like that?

mmayo@southflorida.com, 954-356-4508. Follow my food adventures on Instagram: @mikemayoeats. Sign up for my weekly dining newsletter at SouthFlorida.com/EatBeatMail.

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