Inez Castor

The latter half of September is a neither-nor sort of time. The cold mornings make it clear that this is not summer, but neither is it winter. I was asked this week what to expect from winter on our beautiful coast.

I wish I knew how to answer. Climate is what we expect and weather is what we get. Since a tsunami dropped my Pontiac through the front window one night when the full moon and the weather man promised a peaceful spring evening, I've had no faith in weather reports.

The simple truth is that we never know when the Earth is going to fall out from under us. The edge of a moving continent tends to be a bit unstable. I just try to be prepared for disasters and take the weather as it comes, but here are some ideas that might help get us through the coming months.

Be prepared

Always carry a raincoat, gloves and a hat or earmuffs in the car. Keep an emergency kit in the trunk, with dry clothes, a first aid kit, flares, a flashlight, a couple gallons of water and a few energy bars, as well as a current Forest Service map of the area. Your usual route home might be blocked by something as simple as a fallen tree, and you may need to improvise and find an alternate route.

At home, have a gallon of water per person, for at least three days. Have emergency lighting, including flashlights. Put batteries on your shopping list. Beside each bed place one of those light sticks that glows brightly when you break it. The little light will shine for hours, and emergency personnel are trained to look for it. Get an extra one so that you can demonstrate it for the children. They need to know how, when and why to use it.

A perfect family emergency kit can be assembled in one or two plastic garbage cans with wheels. They're relatively waterproof, hold a lot and can be moved easily. Include in your kit a tarp, a first aid kit, a change of clothes for each family member, dried or canned food for a week, waterproof matches and some of those little fire-starter blocks. It's a good idea to keep your emergency supplies and your camping gear together in a shed or garage.

Work like a squirrel

I realize that most of us are already working at full capacity in the fuel storing and food preserving mode. As I lug a box of peaches into the house, a squirrel dashes up the nearest redwood. His mouth is so full of nuts he can't squeak, and I'm huffing and puffing like the Little Engine that Could.

Scientists now say that at the DNA level, there's very little difference between species. I've always suspected it, since I can't help observing humans displaying many characteristics of other species. I don't know whether I'm a mutant or a mimic, but this time of year there's virtually no difference between me and the squirrel.

Reach Inez Castor, a long-time Triplicate columnist, at