I never panic when these storms come. We live right near the water, but we are 75 feet above sea level, and set back 120 yards or so from the high tide line. My neighborhood often loses power, so we are well prepped. We take these things in stride.

Long before the weekend, we had all the usual precautions set: We have lots of dry food and bottled water stored, plenty of batteries, paper goods, and an emergency hand crank radio with cell phone charger built in at the ready. SOP.

When we know the storm is coming, we tank up the cars, get cash from ATM, take in the outdoor furniture cushions, flip over the tables, buy extra propane for grill, lock the grill wheels, remove the dangling/light stuff, put the garbage cans in the garage. We fill freezer bags with water, they go in the freezer (they will keep food cold for a few days if we loser power). Charge up everything that can be charged.

You know, the usual suburban prep stuff.

I always wonder how the people freaking out last minute forgot the “advance” part of advance planning. Last night, the gas stations and supermarkets were mobbed.

This is so similar to investing: People never seem to think about the future before the storm, instead flipping out during or afterwards. Here’s some free advice: The time to read the card in the seartback in front of you is when you are before takeoff and on the tarmac — not when the oxygen masks drop after the plane dives 5,000 feet.

This morning, I took the AWD wagon out to top it off at 8am (you cant pump gas if electricity goes out). There is a light drizzle, 10-20 mph winds. Roads were mostly empty, gas stations had plenty of gas, supermarket deserted.

It was kinda creepy.

I got a touch of the paranoia. So on the off chance that we would be without power for a week, I bought yet more emergency rations: Dried fruit, powerbars, bottled water, canned tuna, crackers, etc. Gas stations had plenty of fuel,  Supermarkets shelves were well stocked.


PS:   All you fiat money folks — the little green pieces of paper in my wallet bought me food, gas, water, supplies and medicine. Since you think they have no value, please contact me and I give them a good home.

Be back soon . . .

Category: Markets, Psychology

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

28 Responses to “Hunkered Down & Waiting . . .”

  1. Born Again says:

    In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the entire city of Houston decided to evacuate as Hurricane Rita approached. I remember watching on television as freeways became parking lots. My father and I spent the day before Rita made landfall taking down my father’s dog-ear picket fence, nailing the boards together and using the final masterpiece to board-up the windows. I remember thinking to myself “this is either a great example of human ingenuity or a sign that mankind is doomed”.

    As I rode through the neighborhood on my bicycle I had the feeling that I was in a post-apocalyptic setting. The streets were empty and the silence was scary. Eventually a few people made the return from their exodus on the bottlnecked freeways; figuring it was better to stay home through a hurricane than parked on the freeway.

    The day after Rita it had to be 100 degrees outside. As my father and I rebuilt the fence, enjoying the cheapest imported beer we could find, I couldn’t help wonder if the hysteria of the evacuation was a microcosm of some sort.

  2. theexpertisin says:

    You neglected to list one important item that we on the southeast coast know is a must have:

    Making sure your liquor cabinet is stocked.

  3. gloeschi says:

    “All you fiat folks…” I know you were just teasing. But I’d like to sell you some air. So you can hand me back those green pieces of paper/cotton mix. What? Don’t want to buy air from me? Because it’s abundantly available? Ah, stuff only has a value if it is of a certain scarcity. The Fed is doing the best to reduce scarcity of fiat money. At least air has a certain ‘utility’ value. Well, maybe you could start a fire with dollar bills.

  4. Thx, Barry…good info.
    I also heard that it’s a good idea to fill your bathtub up with water and have a good supply of water purification tablets on hand.

  5. Thx, Barry…good info.
    I also heard that it’s a good idea to fill your bathtub up with water and have a good supply of water purification tablets on hand.

  6. Stay safe and good luck to all!

  7. sakhalinsk says:

    It’s a pretty strange feeling, being over here in the UK & reading the various blogs & news reports. There’s plenty of breathless hype, but it’s very hard to get real facts and understand how strong (or not) Sandy is likely to be… much of the reportage seems to be recounting the human reaction to the impending storm, not the technical facts or predictions.

    In a way, it’s an interesting study into human psychology.

    Sure, it’s (areally) pretty big, and that’s scary enough, but is it really that strong & dramatic regarding windspeed (touching wood as I type)? It’s bizarrely difficult to find out. Clicking through the news websites gets you nowhere, other than some pictures of a flooded street or something. The NHC has some facts of course (and Google’s crisis map is pretty good), but as far as I can tell, it’s most likely a Cat 1 Hurricane (70% Chance; 21% change of a Cat 2), dropping to a depression tomorrow. It has a mean low of 946mb, and is obviously wide spread, but 90mph winds aren’t terrible. I guess the real danger is the 6ft storm surge and potential rain…

    It’s just so strange that hard facts are so hard to come by, but countless, numerous wordage regarding the panic is everywhere… I guess that’s just the way we are.

  8. gordo365 says:

    Arrgh – you people obsessed with paper/fiat etc.

    Look – it represents a promise to pay. Just like if I say “Hey – if you give me some of your strawberries in July when they are ripe – I’ll give you some of my apples in September when they are ripe. Note that is how societies worked for 1000s of years.

    So yes – basically – the paper has same value as air – as in spoken word promise.

  9. constantnormal says:

    … this should provide a spike to the retail sector … and if a lotta cars get trashed, there may be some money going to the manufacturing sector as well …

    It’s an ill Frankenstorm that blows no good.

    Buying into an economy that is rebuilding in the wake of a significant disaster (tsunami, earthquake, fire, flood, storm, etc …) strikes be as an opportunity for investors, as demand is invariably pulled forward …

    BR, are you sure that you have enough iPads? Prolly not too late for a last-minute trip to the Apple store (or Target/Best Buy/etc) …

    Y’know, the batteries on notebooks run out pretty quickly, but a series of fully charged tablets could carry you quite a ways …

  10. MorticiaA says:

    Stay safe. I agree with theexpertisin – we on the Gulf Coast know vodka is a requirement of a well-stocked hurricane kit.

    Born Again: I remember Rita like it was yesterday. We stayed it out in our Houston home. We lost power for four days and it was bad hot, and the streets of our neighborhood were ghostly quiet, but I’d do it all over again to avoid the traffic jam that killed more people than the actual storm did.

    The only fear are of the gorgeous oak trees that aren’t so gorgeous when they’re on your roof.

  11. wally says:

    Good luck, BR.
    I hope things go as expected, no surprises.

  12. WallaWalla says:


    Wunderground.com is a good place for more technical information about the storm. There’s a very knowledgeable group of posters talking about what’s actually going on. This storm is weird object many levels and that makes predictions very difficult. More than a six ft surge predicted in nyc. Try it 11.5.

  13. martin66 says:

    If only market crashes were as forecastable as major storms … Speaking as a resident of earthquake country, we get a more apropos market lesson. I doubt more than 10% of our duly-warned populace in CA has even the barest of recommended preparations: emergency water, rations, extra clothes, walking shoes and a flashlight at residences, workplaces and the trunk of every car. And only 12% have earthquake insurance.

  14. Joe Friday says:


    Ah, stuff only has a value if it is of a certain scarcity.

    That’s a silly concept.

    Then you must believe that buggy whips are extremely valuable.

    The Fed is doing the best to reduce scarcity of fiat money.

    All the monies the Fed has created out of thin air will eventually be destroyed, and it doesn’t add a penny to our federal debt, so why the hell would it impact the currency ?

  15. [...] Good advice from Barry Ritholz, investor, and resident in Hurricane Sandy’s path. Of course, we would be so lucky to have a market forecast as clear as the storm tracking predictions Sandy at NOAA.  Major market movements are more like earthquakes: We may know they are in our future, but the timing, direction and magnitude are unknown. Which makes planning a little more challenging, and costly. And that is why for unpredictable catastrophes, earthquakes and market crashes, people generally succumb to various “cognitive biases” as described by behavioral finance and are inadequately prepared when the eventual does occur. « Back Posted by martinw Share var addthis_config = {"data_track_clickback":true}; Return to main page [...]

  16. Slash says:

    Well, don’t panic, that’s not helpful, but here are some already kinda scary pics from someone up there:


  17. ndmaster says:

    No portable generator? That’s a must, especially if your power is out for a while.

  18. 4whatitsworth says:

    Fill up your bath tubs with water no power no water in the long run. You are going to need a flush here and there.

    Downtown Manhattan with five foot sea walls and a possible 11 foot storm surge is not going to be pretty.

  19. louis says:

    But housing is never suppose to go down more than 5% in any one year?? My models were flawless. I’m Smart.


    Fredo will be played by the underwater homeower.

    Why on earth is their not a redundant trading site in Kansas or Iowa? Enjoy your snow days off BR.

  20. Joe says:

    I fear nothing, but there are a lot of things I have a healthy respect for. (Long story…) Part of no fear/respect is appropriate decisions driven by intellect rather than emotion. What Barry has described is an appropriate and reasonable response. I’d add a hand gun, but that’s me. The extremes of no disaster prep and the opposite are each really pretty silly. In the late 70′s I was working at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington with a lot of construction boomers (three discrete nuclear power plants being built within eyesight of each other) with a healthy proportion of tax protesters and gold and guns guys among them. There had been an excellent and popular science fiction natural disaster/end of civilization as we know it novel published in ’77 called Lucifer’s Hammer (Larry Niven) and I met a man whose friends loved and identified with the book, apssed it around, and had decided that they wanted to be prepared for that kind of thing and were building a redoubt matching the one in the book. I wonder if they are still up in the mountains with a lot of really old canned goods/freeze dried food, space sticks and Tang, guns and gold coins, still waiting for the comet and the wave of big city refugees….

    Incidentally, the previous Summer, we’d had a notable earthquake back home inna Bay Area and no one in Washington State could believe I’d want to go back home to such a dangerous place. Four months after I’d left, Mount St Helens blew up. Earthquakes, volcanos, and hurricanes, etc, they happen and sometimes you get more notice than other times. Stay adequately prepared in the appropriate time frames…


    BR: The problem with a hand gun is the overwhelming temptation to use it

  21. socaljoe says:

    Sure, the little green paper in your wallet has value… about 5-10% of what it had since you were born.

    Be safe and good luck riding this one out.

  22. i-power says:

    There is only ONE item of critical consequence during there maga-storms. CONDOMS! Without them, it may cost you a fortune.

  23. ES says:

    Another Houstonian here. The worst thing is not the storm or the rain but losing power and internet for several weeks. You can use generator for the power but it cannot run central A/C and you can do nothing about the internet. The next 2-3 weeks afer the hurricane are miserable.
    It sounds like in this case the major threat is flooding. Flooding in freezing temperatures is no fun.

  24. willid3 says:

    good luck. only thing i had that was similar was a tornado. that was about a mile wide. and it left behind what looked a war zone

    but with a tornado you don’t (or didn’t) much more more than 10-20 minutes warning. so no going and buying stuff

  25. 10x25mm says:

    May I suggest a chainsaw with an 18 inch minimum bar length? You may have to cut your way through deadfall, particularly if you have to get someone to medical care. Speaking of which, a really good first aid kit with Israeli combat dressings, Vitamin K treated gauze (e.g. ‘Quikclot’), and SAM splints can save lives when it is not possible to get to an emergency room quickly. The U.S. GI first aid kits are top notch and can be had from a variety of sources, but here is my choice:


    Know how to treat shock, it kills more people than trauma or wounds in these situations.

  26. algernon32 says:

    2 weeks without power during hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne in 2004.

    A chainsaw with two stroke gas-oil mix for clearing streets for the first responders is a good idea.
    Know how to adjust the chain tension or you may need 10x25mm’s first aid kit.
    In Florida, during summer, some elderly forgot to open windows after the power was out…mild shock and habituation to air conditioning. Keep them hydrated.
    Cell phones had no service within 36 hours due to the backup generators at the cell towers running out of fuel.
    Five-gallon buckets for filling the toilet tanks with non-potable water were handy.
    If hot water for showers and refrigeration for cold beer are secured, everything else is gravy.

  27. QuasiYoda says:

    Barry Love your Site and I’ve always enjoyed your intelligence when compared to Financial TV.

    In this posting you spend most of the time noting all the practical methods and timing you’ve used to be ahead of the game in preparation for “Sandy”. Ironically, you finish by ridiculing those who are taking parallel measures with regards to a longer term, slower moving storm on the monetary horizon. You really should not allow your political dogma to override your practical good sense as it serves you no good purpose.

  28. I am pointing out the folks who FAIL to take similar long term planning for investing.

    You will never graduate to a full Yoda if you keep making simple reading comprehension errors — Thats such a “quasi yoda” mistake . . .