Skip to content

Natural Disasters and the Solo Life

August 26, 2011

Earthquakes are not my thing.

I understand that a 5.8 earthquake is nothing compared with what the West Coast experiences regularly, but a 5.8 in Richmond, Va. is a big a deal to me.

And by big deal, I mean scary as crap.

I’m sitting in my office Tuesday afternoon, minding my own business. I’m procrastinating starting my next project and dreaming of the weekend. I’m wearing my trusty pair of slippers because my high heels are killing me. (Yes, I often wear slippers at work. That’s a whole other topic for another day.)

Suddenly, I hear crazy loud noises that sound like they are coming from the ceiling.

My office is located on the third floor of an old warehouse building, and every time the wind blows, it makes an incredible amount of noise. Immediately, I think it must be a tornado. But then, I look outside my window and see that it is completely calm outside.

And my desk is shaking. As are the walls.

What the hell?

“Earthquake!!” my mind screams.

I immediately start wracking my brain for the proper earthquake protocol. Get in the center of the building away from windows. No, that’s a tornado. Immediately get to higher ground. Damn it, that’s a flood. Get some fire arms and go to Wal-Mart. No, that’s a zombie attack. WHAT THE HELL DO YOU DO DURING AN EARTHQUAKE??

I decide I should get under the doorway. I seem to remember that from somewhere.

I stand under my doorway for a moment, feeling quite smart at my decision, and then look up.

The doorway isn’t even attached to the ceiling! This isn’t a real doorway at all!


This is a crappy cell phone shot of my nonexistent doorway

I notice all my coworkers heading to the stairway, so instead of going to the stairway right next to my office, I follow the crowd and take the stairway everyone else is taking, the one across the office.

I’m such a sheep. A sheep, rushing out of a building during an earthquake in slippers.

By the time I make it to the stairs and out of the building, it is all over.

Three things occurred to me during this event:

  1. I have no idea what to do in an earthquake.
  2. I’m not the quickest thinker when it comes to natural disasters.
  3. Slippers aren’t the best footwear for a natural disaster.

Luckily, the earthquake wasn’t anything terrible. As I posted on Facebook, the extent of my earthquake damage was this drawer was open that previously wasn’t. I know, tragic. Email me at if you’d like to contribute to the relief fund.

open drawer

This is my earthquake damage. This drawer was NOT open before the earthquake, people!

Now, we have Hurricane Irene coming our way. It occurs to me that this is my first hurricane without my ex fiancé. I’ve had enough firsts without him that I’m not all pensive, thinking, “I wish I could have experienced Irene with him.” This is a much more practical matter.

You see, my ex is really good with natural disasters.

He has canned food, four-wheel vehicles and flashlights galore. He has hunted since he was a child, so not only is he a good marksman, we had plenty of guns around in case there was a zombie attack. And, he has a strong sense of adventure (or recklessness), so he was known to venture out into an ice storm to pick me up.

Needless to say, I didn’t have to do much to prepare for a disaster. My ex had it covered.

Well, I live alone now. And I’m ridiculously unprepared.

I’m committed to weathering this storm by myself. I’ve started my Irene shopping list/to do list:


  • Water
  • Flashlight
  • Batteries
  • Wine
  • Canned goods
  • Granola bars (not those high in fiber, can’t have a tummy ache during a hurricane)
  • Trashy magazines
  • Ice cream
  • Generator so that if the power goes out, my ice cream won’t melt
  • Lottery ticket to win the lottery so I can afford said generator
  • Did I mention wine?


  • Check on my mom’s dogs, as she and my step dad are away on a cruise (Worst. Timed. Cruise. Ever. considering it was to the Bahamas right in the middle of Irene)
  • Fill the bathtub with water (to help flush the toilet if the water goes out)
  • Pluck my eyebrows (no one wants to be hairy during a natural disaster)
  • Remove the chairs from my tiny porch
  • Throw away all those dead plants on my porch so they don’t get picked up by the wind
  • Get gas for my car
  • Test Chef by asking him to come weather the storm with me/take care of me, cause him all kinds of undo stress considering how he will get to my house in the storm (30 minutes away), only to yell, “Syke!” at the last minute
  • Survive my very first hurricane solo!

What else should be on my list? Any tips you can share?

East Coasters: I’d also love to hear your earthquake stories! Where were you during the Great Earthquake of 2011?

Copyright 2011. Simply Solo blog by Catherine Gryp. All Rights Reserved.

44 Comments leave one →
  1. August 26, 2011 12:26 pm

    Wine should be first on the list 😉

  2. August 26, 2011 12:32 pm

    A battery opperated radio is a good thing to have incase your power goes out, and you haven’t won the lottery. Also some coolers filled with ice inase the power goes out for a few days and you want to try to save your refridgerated goods (or your ice cream).
    Good luck weathering the storm! I’m sure you’ll do great!

    • August 27, 2011 12:42 am

      Thanks undertheabaya,
      Hmmm a battery operated radio might be something I need to request for Christmas. I’m a little too late on the hurricane planning at this point. The store didn’t even have flashlights! Okay, to be fair, they had two flashlights left that I couldn’t figure out what kind of batteries ithey took so I gave up. Hopefully I won’t be missing those flashlights this weekend 🙂

  3. August 26, 2011 12:39 pm

    Just like you, I have no idea what to do in an earthquake. Except get away from things that might fall on my head. But up here in NYC, I didn’t even feel anything. My co-workers that sit near the windows felt it, and told us about it (I was in the middle of a meeting and the only thing in my head was: “when will this conversation end??”) and after we found out about it, we went downstairs (along with the rest of the building) and high-tailed it to the park (where nothing is overhead but blue sky.) And then we went drinking – yes, in the afternoon. Something’s gotta settle our “shaky” nerves! 😉

    This hurricane is coming at such a bad time – my boyfriend is supposed to be moving in with me this weekend!

    But you’ve got a great list of things to have on hand! Flashlight, batteries, water and most definitely like 3 or 4 bottles of wine. (Why not?!) I’m also stocking up on peanut butter, cheese and crackers too. I’m praying NYC doesn’t get hit very hard. Good luck in Richmond!!

    • August 27, 2011 12:40 am

      I’m sorry about moving weekend! That really sucks. Hoping the weather is beautiful for your rescheduled moving date 🙂
      I wish I could have gone out for drinks after the earthquake! Within 40 minutes, I was in a meeting like nothing happened. It was soooo weird! I couldn’t get the experience out of my mind!

      Good luck to you guys in NY – the way the media is talking, I feel like it may be rough for you guys. But they might just be trying to get ratings 🙂

  4. August 26, 2011 12:52 pm

    Don’t you just love when Mother Nature mocks you thusly? 😉

    Seriously: Right after my ex left me, an earthquake “swarm” began in my city — epicenter, 1 mile from my home. It got so bad, I could literally hear the quakes right before they struck. Nice.

    At least “The Universe” or whatever it is has a sense of humor, though. Not only was I treading unstable ground in my life, but the earth seemed to be emulating (or reflecting — or exacerbating) my shaky existence. Or at least so I surmised…

    But it all made me stronger. And this, Catherine, will make you stronger — well, this and a few bottles of wine and a Maglite. 😉

    Best of luck to you in weathering this storm. I’m sending good vibes your way!

    • August 27, 2011 12:38 am

      Thanks, Mikalee!
      An earthquake swarm? Between your earthquake swarm and Mark’s dust devil, I’m learning so many weather terms I could be a meteorologist 🙂 In case anyone else is wondering:

      Thanks for sharing your story – I just got home from all my errands and getting the house ready, and frankly, I feel pretty independent! Funny thing is, now Chef has tomorrow off (I didnt know he was) so I won’t be alone after all. BUT – I did all the planning/prepping alone! Anyone need a bottle of water? CAUSE I HAVE SOME! 🙂

  5. August 26, 2011 4:46 pm

    “Only one bottle of wine?” was my first thought as I was reading through your list! Glad you’re okay and the only damage was to an open drawer… We had earthquakes in southern Colorado at about the same time, but I think most people were like “we get earthquakes in Colorado?”

    • August 27, 2011 12:35 am

      Exactly! The earthquake itself was scary, yes, but now I’m like, do I need to add earthquakes to my list of worries? I already got enough, people! I like the East Coast for its lack of earthquakes! 🙂
      And yes – I bought two bottles of wine. Yum.

  6. August 26, 2011 5:13 pm

    As a Floridian who has weathered many a hurricane, your list is superb! We had power out for 2 weeks during my Senior year of high school because we got hit by 3 hurricanes right in a row. A tree even fell on my car! It was scary! Make sure you have a car charger for your cell phone in case your power is out for a day or 2! Good luck!

    • August 27, 2011 12:33 am

      Thanks for the tips! Glad my list stood up to a Floridian 🙂 Sound like an awful experience! I remember in elementary school power being off for a week during an ice storm. That was pretty miserable too!

  7. August 26, 2011 7:46 pm

    I agree with the others. You’re going to need more wine. I have never been through a hurricane, but every winter Seattle gets crazy wind/rain storms and we lose power for several days. Along with the canned goods, make sure you have a can opener. You’d be surprised how many people fail to think of that step!

    Now earthquakes are something I know about. I don’t know that following the rest of the sheep down the stairwell was the best idea, especially if it was on an exterior wall, which are more prone to collapse in an earthquake. Check out FEMA’s tips on what to do in an earthquake. Although at the rate that your area experiences earthquakes, you probably won’t have to worry about it again.

    • August 27, 2011 12:16 am

      Damn it, why didn’t I read your comment before going to the store. The can opener thing coulod present a problem… haha

      I can’t imagine losing power for days each year! Too stressful for me. As far as the earthquake, you are right, it was an exterior wall. The whole building just feels super scary – it’s just so old I feel like it probably wouldn’t take much. I will have to check out FEMa’s tips…thanks. And here’s hoping you are right and I never experience another earthquake!

  8. August 26, 2011 8:01 pm

    “Get some fire arms and go to Wal-Mart. No, that’s a zombie attack.” You caught me off guard with that one. I haven’t laughed out loud so hard in ages. 🙂

    I’m sort of a pro at natural disasters, having lived through hurricanes, earthquakes, funnel clouds, blizzards, and one very brief but wicked dust devil. The truth is, beyond the obvious safeguards there isn’t a whole heck of a lot you can do except drink wine and eat ice cream. Sounds like you’ve got both of those covered.

    • August 27, 2011 12:13 am

      Haha, Mark, do you know you just made my YEAR? You make me laugh out loud almost every single week. The fact that I made you laugh once has given me a stupid amount of pleasure 🙂

      Jesus, you have been through a lot of natural disasters. A dust devil??? I had to Google that. For anyone else curious:
      I had no idea those even existed!!

      Don’t you worry — ice cream and wine covered. Also got some chips/dip. It’s a party! 🙂

  9. August 26, 2011 9:00 pm

    I like your list, both for its practicality and its humor 🙂 I had to run out for a few things such as candles when I realized my ex took ’em all… they were outrageous at Martin’s but I found them much cheaper at Walgreens.

    Yeah, I’m here in Richmond and the earthquake was certainly freaky though like you there wasn’t really any damages for me at work or home. We evacuated the office building, stood outside and enjoyed the lovely afternoon for about 10 minutes, then went back inside.

    I’ve got my son this weekend so we’ll be hunkering down for the storm, playing the Wii (provided the power holds) and watching movies.

    Once he falls out I’ll probably break out the wine 🙂

    • August 27, 2011 12:11 am

      Ben, it’s so great to meet another Richmond blogger! It doesn’t happen all that often for me! Welcome 🙂

      We did the same evacuation, stand outside (as though 10 minutes proves the building is secure?) and I was in a meeting by 2:30. It was surreal. When I was walking down the stairs and out the building in my slippers, I just remember thinking, “If the building collapses or we can’t go back inside, I’m in slippers in front of strangers the rest of today. Awesome.”

      I’m ready for my wine – bought TWO bottles – but my rules say no hurricane goodies until the hurricane actually starts 🙂 It’s gotta rain for me to cork a bottle…

      • August 27, 2011 9:50 pm

        Hahaha! Glad you got back inside quickly and didn’t have to explain your slippers to people over and over and over the rest of the afternoon 😉

        Hope you’re doing well with the hurricane, my kids stayed with their Mom today because she’s got a backup generator and lives on a hill… I lost power for several hours this morning, but as the hurricane approached the power came back on (…huh? okay, I’ll take it). Things seem okay here so far, power’s still on (knock on wood), the Riesling is still chill– though I have room temp Chianti as backup 😉

        • August 30, 2011 10:05 pm

          Thanks, as you know by now, I did A-OK. Glad to hear it wasn’t terrible for you either!

  10. August 26, 2011 10:22 pm

    I live on the west coast, I have my earthquake kit ready, but the reality of it is, if there is a big shaker, the damn that holds the river in, is gonna give way and I may as well bend over and kiss it goodbye…maybe I should look into buying a boat…

    • August 27, 2011 12:07 am

      A boat might be a good purchase. Normally, I’d say you could move away from the West Coast to escape the earthquakes, but maybe that’s not the case anymore haha!

  11. mom permalink
    August 27, 2011 1:32 am

    Best place be cruise siip…lov you were about to Start rocking …time for bed

  12. Lost in France permalink
    August 27, 2011 3:08 am

    More to the point over your non existent door way, is a massive steel beam. If that had come down?

    Anyway your hurricane list is pretty good. We went through a few when we lived in Florida. A camping stove to heat up tins of Spaghetti O’s.

    flooding is something else to consider. If any part of your accommodation is low lying. You can get an lot of rain with a hurricane.

    • August 30, 2011 10:06 pm

      Lost in France,
      I DIDN’T EVEN NOTICE THAT STEEL BEAM. My goodness. Even scarier. Good thing I learned my lesson this time.
      A camping stove is a really good idea – especially since I can’t have a grill in my apartment. That’s on my list of things I need! Thanks! Good call on the flooding…you are so helpful! 🙂 Thanks!

  13. August 27, 2011 1:11 pm

    Hi Catherine,

    Mark Petruska sent me your way. He and I have been friends for several years. Totally funny post here!!! Started my day off with a good laugh. Being from CA, we’re pretty used to earthquakes. Congrats on surviving your first.

    Where can I contribute to the relief fund?

    • August 30, 2011 10:09 pm

      Hello Heidi! Welcome! I’ll have to hug Mark (if I ever meet him) for sending you my way. I bet you are an old hand at the earthquakes! Man, these things are scary. I feel paranoid all the time now that it’s going to happy again. I don’t know how you deal with that!

      Just email me at to contribute. I’m also running a special right now where whatever you send me, I will send you double back, because I have some money in a foreign account, but the problem is I need money to get it out of the account. There are millions of dollars in there 🙂 hehe

  14. August 27, 2011 3:49 pm

    Natural Disasters really do bring out dependency and loneliness issues, don’t they. I feel the same- having someone around who would be prepared would make all of this so much easier. I’m crashing at a friend’s house, because I don’t want to be alone in my 34-story building full of windows. It’ll be a weekend of wine, reading, and social media updating. =) stay safe, enjoy, and blog!

    • August 30, 2011 10:11 pm

      Freaking natural distasters and holidays. They really can make a girl lonely. And feel like she can’t do anything on her own. I hope you had an OK weekend and have power 🙂
      What I will tell you is that it felt good to buy all these things myself. To realize I can prepare just as much as I can expect someone else to prepare. I feel a little better now.

  15. August 28, 2011 12:59 am

    Okay, this is going to sound AWFUL… HORRID even… But I kinda enjoy natural disasters… OF COURSE, I would never want anything bad to happen to anyone– obviously these things are super dangerous– I’m not a sicko. But I really love the way that community is developed out of them. People talking to neighbors they’ve never met suddenly, helping each other out, etc.

    With that said… I was ENTIRELY happy to leave California without having to experience ‘The Big One’… but it wasn’t until I moved to Chicago that I remembered I was in tornado country. Every time I hear the words ‘severe thunderstorm,’ my palms get sweaty & I clutch the keys to the basement for dear life!!! 😉

    I’m glad you won’t be alone, Miss!!! And you know… If I learned anything from Angela & Tony on ‘Who’s the Boss’, waiting out a storm can be awfully romantic. Wink, wink… Hahaha! 😉

    • August 30, 2011 10:17 pm

      It was really fun weathering the storm with Chef. Maybe there were a few romantic moments, but for the most part, it was more just fun bonding time. It was kinda cool.

      I don’t think you sound awful… you sound like me! LOL. I kind of like the excuse not to go do anything or be productive that a storm provides. You just sit inside watching movies all day and never changing out of your pajamas… so fun! I also like the dramatic news coverage and the heroic stories you hear, and how people bond over this common experience. Even complaining to each other about the common experience is wonderful, it really does feel like a community. I just wish no one got hurt or lost their property 🙂

  16. 2newbeginnings permalink
    August 28, 2011 9:30 pm

    Got one to add to your list…..get gas before the natural disaster comes. Gas stations lose their power too! I have learned that lesson this time around.

    • August 30, 2011 10:13 pm

      I actually had that one on my list! Semeone else reminded me how important it is. It seems like everyone scrambled to get gas during/after the storm and were in really long lines. Thanks for reading – always like hearing from you 🙂

  17. August 29, 2011 8:40 am

    I hope you survived the hurricane! I think you got the essentials: wine and ice cream.

    • August 29, 2011 11:34 am

      I did, thank you! The wine turned into a hangover, but I survived 🙂

  18. August 30, 2011 3:12 pm

    I would like to contribute to your storm fund, maybe some tootsie rolls or a cell phone battery of sorts. ❤ from me LOL seriously I dont know how much more you guys on the East Coast can go through.
    I will see if I can find a list from when I went to elementary school in California, (born and raised by the way) we had real doorways that all 40 of us would try to cram under, we also had huge steel type desks that we would lay down underneath..always fun

    Ashley 😉

    • August 30, 2011 9:34 pm

      Ha, please do share your list with me. I need a lesson!! Yeah, we’ve been through a lot on the East Coast this past week – I think we need a little break.

  19. August 31, 2011 9:23 am

    Similair experience with the earthquake here in Annapolis Maryland. I froze in stunned shock. Did absolutely nothing, but sit there with my mouth hanging open.

    • September 1, 2011 10:07 pm

      It’s SO hard to know what to do if you haven’t felt it before! Glad it wasn’t worse. Now we know for the future 🙂

  20. August 31, 2011 1:29 pm

    I’m not so much focusing on the open drawer in your picture, but what looks like two really small, wrapped up, bodies under your desk. Kind of sketchy to me.

    I remember my first earthquake in LA…and being pissed that I didn’t even feel it. So completely different attitude from me regarding my “disaster”.

    But I’m also the guy who tried to convince his boss (at my retail high school job) to let me and a co-worker go chase a tornado.

    • September 1, 2011 10:07 pm

      LOL, I don’t see the bodies? This was just a file cabinet. There’s a toy plush dog under it. Don’t ask how that thing got in my office. Did you also notice the sushi stapler on top?? haha

      You had what I learned is called “tremor envy.” This is the feeling the people had who didn’t experience the earthquake and were bummed out/jealous. There’s a term for everything 🙂 I am kinda happy I felt it… and surived… cause now I know what to expect should it ever happen again!

      Now tornado chasing…that’s just craziness. No way could I do that!


  1. I Won’t Cop an Attitude Over Your Magnitude « Mark My Words…
  2. Hurricane Handbook « Simply Solo: Single girl starting over – follow the journey

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: