My natural disaster, what worked,what didn't
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  1. #1
    Registered User fixer's Avatar
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    Lightbulb My natural disaster, what worked,what didn't

    Well, it appears to be over. We were without power for three and a half days. I am completely surprised power was restored as quickly as it was. My parents are still waiting. I took them for a ride today so they could see the damage since they had not left home since the storm. Dw fixed them a good meal that was much appreciated. The big concern now is our dog Roman, my avatar. This morning at 1:30 he woke us up whining. He was uncomfortable and out of sorts. We stayed up with him until he settled down. This morning he started having neurological problems. He could not walk and did not appear to be able to see. We somehow loaded all one hundred and seventy pounds of him and got him to the vet. The vet recommended to watch him for seventy- two hours and give him steroids and supportive care. We visited him late tonight and he appeared to be doing better. When he woke us up, he could not control his bodily functions. It was awful to be shivering in a dark house trying to clean him up with no hot water. We are hoping for the best.

    Now, I would like to discuss what worked and what didn't. I hope this thread serves as a valuable learning tool with everyone recounting their experiences. I am old-fashioned, I think you can talk about it all you want but doing it is how you learn.

    What worked:
    -Using paper plates: We have disposable plates, bowls and cutlery left over from our kitchen remodel. With no hot water, it was nice to only have pots and pans to worry about cleaning.

    -Crank radio: This was a tough call since the crank handle broke after two days of use. The concept was good. Not having to use the available batteries for the radio was good. I crave information so it was on quite a bit.

    -preparation: We ran and emptied the dishwasher beforehand. We also did the laundry we needed. Our food supply was good along with meds and pet food.

    What didn't work:
    -Lighting: We did not have enough area lights to allow us to not have to set in the dark each night. This has a profound psychological affect. I came to dread the evenings. We would go to bed ridiculously early. Breaking our routine made everything harder.

    -Hot water: We had no hot water. We could heat water on the stove to wash dishes with, but we could not shower or even wash our hands with hot water. Another psychological blow to our morale.

    -cell phones: We had no signal for the first two days. After that, it was sporadic at best.

    I am sure I will think of other things as time goes on. Please feel free to post how you would handle things because I want to learn from this experience. Finally, I was amazed at how small your world gets in this situation. I follow the national news and here I am connected to people world-wide. During this, all I worried about was my wife, parents and neighbors. I found myself really not caring about much else. I know some of you will say we were not out of power for very long. While true, it was hard with my elderly parents. I saw my father for the first time not be able to care for my mother. This broke his heart. Then our dog still worries us a great deal. These things would be hard under ideal conditions, with dealing with the cold and no power it was very troubling and took a lot out of you.

  2. #2
    Registered User Contrary Housewife's Avatar
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    I hope your dog recovers. It is heartbreaking to have a sick pet and not know how to help him, or if you even can.

    We had a similar power outage from an ice storm several years ago. We were fortunate enough to have gas hot water, so we could warm up from that and stay clean. Power was out 4.5 days. Listening to the trees coming down in the night was the worst.

    Our stove was electric, though so it could not be used and I had to use a small camp stove with a sterno can. It worked, but it takes forever to heat up and you really cannot cook on it like you can on a real stove. Mostly we had quick meals, like canned soup that could be heated in a short period of time. I learned that sterno cans don't last very long. I have since bought a lot more of them and some liquid fuel that caterers use in outdoor kitchens to heat things.

    We had ok lighting. I have a couple small oil lamps and a lot of candles, so could see pretty well. We still went to bed early because there was nothing to do, and it was warmer under the covers.

    Being winter the house took about a day to get cold, and two days to get really cold. By night 4 I couldn't stand it. It took us 2 hours but we found a warm hotel room and went there. We have no fireplace, so there was no safe way to have heat.

    I have a pair of transistor radios that use 9v batteries. We had one on a lot and the batteries held strong. We weren't getting a lot of news that way, though. It was nice to have the contact with the outside world, but there was very little about the emergency situation. I guess no news is good news....
    Stop trying to organize all of your family’s crap. If organization worked for you, you’d have rocked it by now. It’s time to ditch stuff and de-crapify your world.

    If you're not using the stuff in your home, get rid of it. You're not going to start using it more by shoving it into a closet.

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    Registered User elphie's Avatar
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    oh, I hope your dog is okay... please keep us posted on this.

    Thanks for this information... we stopped using paper plates and plastic ware a while back but now I know I need to get some for my emergency kit.

    Another thing we always do if we suspect we may be w/o electricity (we live in a rural area so this happens about once a year, usually only for a few hours but sometimes longer( is fill the bathtub with water so we can do a manual flush of the toilet if necessary.


    A few suggestions for the troubles you had:

    We have a kerosene camping lamp in our emergency kit... it gives off enough light to play board games or read and while candles/flashlights are fine for bathrooms/bedrooms a kerosene lamp is better for living room/kitchen

    In our kit we also have shampoo and body wash that don't require water... not the greatest thing in the world but works in a pinch. (We found these when my ds suffered from 3rd degree burns and couldn't shower until he healed and they are sold at most medical supply stores). Baby wipes and anti-bacterial hand wash are also in there even though we'd never use these for every day use. The gym near us has day privelages for $5 and last year when we were w/o power for a week I went twice just to use the showers... talk about great motivation to exercise, lol.

    Great thread, especially this time of year when we may really need it!

    ETA: it is also worh mentioning that we always "crack" the line by leaving faucets in the on position to help prevent them freezing up.
    Last edited by elphie; 02-01-2009 at 01:31 AM.

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  5. #4
    Master Dollar Stretcher madhen's Avatar
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    Fixer, I lost power for several days last winter, and learned some of the same lessons. Funny you mention the paper plates, because I just bought some about a month ago, for that very reason. That, a box of plastic utensils, and some hot-beverage cups. No reason to waste precious water on washing, and I would just save the plastic utensils to wash once power returned, to store for the next time.

    I have a holding tank for my well, so I had 1500 gallons of water to use, not to mention several bottles on reserve. I solved the washing in cold water problem by sticking a stock pot (biggest pot I had) on the wood stove. By the time the water in that pot was as hot as it was going to get, I could "blend" it with cold water to have enough to at least do a "bird bath" with a couple of wash cloths. I just kept the stock pot on all the time, and refilled as needed, as it was so cold, I had a fire going all the time.

    I also picked up a little gizmo that plugs into your car cigarette lighter and allows you to plug in small appliances. That way, I could recharge my cell phone, listen to the radio, etc. If you had a long enough extension cord, you could probably run it from the car to your house, and plug in a small table lamp. (Just don't run down the battery in your car!) I just used it to sit in my running car with the heat going and check my laptop!

    I also had a propane lantern, and one of the cool things about that is, again (with the type I have), you could put a small container of water on top, and it would heat it to boiling relatively quickly. Great for soup mixes, coffee, etc. I currently have about a dozen small propane tanks stored and waiting.

    It is really hard watching your parents suffer. When my father came down with cancer, I watched my mother (a very petite Asian woman) trying to help him. He was over six foot and probably weighed 250 lbs at the beginning. But he was too embarassed to let his kids help him, so my mother had to get him in and out of the bathtub (because just prior to being diagnosed, he had chest surgery where they cracked open his ribs), help him to the toilet, etc. There isn't much you can do, except to try to help out the stronger parent, so they have the energy to help out their partner. Maybe take food to them, so they don't have to try to prepare it themselves. Help bring firewood in. Help them sort out their medication. Little things that sap your energy when added together. It is really hard on you, though, so you have to try to conserve enough energy to manage your own affairs. In case of an emergency, it might be better just to agree to all stay at one house, unless that is just completely not convenient.

    Overall, the thing that kept me going was trying my best to find the humour in everything and to treat everything like a challenge that just needed thinking through. When it first became apparent that I would be without power for some time, my first reaction was to kind of panic and think how I just couldn't function without it. But as each thing came up, I somehow figured out a way around it, and made it out the other side. Granted, I didn't have to worry about my family and friends, as they don't live near me and were not going through the same problems. And it isn't like I had hail driving this year's crop of corn into the ground. But I did have lightning strikes and trees falling down on top of my fences (and enough of my roof blowing off to merit me having to have a new one put on in October).
    DH aka Mad Hen
    (http://mad-hen-creations.blogspot.com/)

    Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want. Anna Lappe

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    thanks for posting fixer!
    yours is the second post like this i've read this morning.
    & i am learning a lot that i haven't thought of.
    i have been thinking more about emergency preparedness esp since this storm has reminded me of our big one several years ago & having no power for a week or so w/ kid in diapers & an elderly neighbor we helped.

    since then i've acquired oil lamps w/ supplies & i buy candles at yard sales...we're just not good w/keeping batteries around as we don't use them for anything regularly.

    did you not have any heat whatsoever? that is my biggest concern. i know that not everyone has a woodstove or a kersosene heater.

    you made some good points on the psychological stressors of being without things we've come to depend on...the hot water & the light.
    and as you said, having a sick pet or family member makes it very trying.

    Glad your power has been restored & I do hope that your dog is recovering.

  7. #6
    Registered User PrairieRose's Avatar
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    A couple of years ago we were w/o power for a week at a time, twice. I learned a few things as well. We have nat. gas heating but the thermostats are all electric=useless. We have nat. gas cook top and oven but have the electric pilots but you can actually light the stove top manually which helped a lot. We also used disposable plates, ate food that we didn't have to cook much but we did have water which was a blessing. We had a generator which helped a lot. We could run a small heater in the room we were in, a small tv, and a computer....or a blow dryer (omg I missed not being able to wash my hair daily.... ). I would highly suggest for everyone to have a generator (gas operated). It was a huge help. We bought a 2nd one for my parents house as well. Don't wait till the disaster happens to buy one....there won't be any.

    Glad you have power again. Hope your dog is ok.......was it a stroke or something?

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    Registered User YankeeMom's Avatar
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    In 1991 and again in 1998 we had really bad ice storms. Without power & water two weeks the first time and without power one week the second time. Some things we did:

    ~my dad rigged a car battery (he's a mechanic so he has these in the garage) to some cables (jumper cables?) and a car headlight so we had light at night.

    ~we used the wood stove and kerosene heaters for warmth

    ~we cooked on the gas grill, we also warmed stuff up on the top of the kerosene heater we were using for warmth...boiled eggs, hot water for tea/coffee/cocoa.


    For me, the worst part was not being able to clean/be clean. I couldn't vacuum the carpet (wished I had a bissel sweeper like they use in restaurants), had to use cold water, etc.

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    Registered User Cricketlegs's Avatar
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    Oh gosh I am so sorry for your dog! I hope he gets better soon.

    Also, for you being so emotionally effected by this storm. It is crazy the way that happens.

    I have been really depressed when we had outages during 2 hurricanes and really really angry at my dh because both times he has been gone on fishing tournys at the time leaving me to hold home, child, pets, and sanity together on my own.

    A very hot irrational anger brought on by lack of AC, power, food spoilage,possible house damage and FEAR.

    I know where you are coming from.

    We had no ice or outtages this time. It just missed us. We didn't even get a day off from school--dd was besides herself!

    Now we have the generator but haven't had to use it yet although if dh was gone could I make it work....hmmmm something to think about.

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    Registered User Debbie-cat's Avatar
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    Fixer I hope you dog gets better soon. It is so hard when animals are sick and they can't tell you anything.

    Propane lanterns are great and we have 4 of them with enough propane to last quite a while. They give off heat, so like madhen says, you can heat a small pot of water or soup. They are also a great light source. We have four, one for each person in the house.

    Not much you can do with cellphones. Even if you had a landline phone, it probably wouldn't have worked either due to downed phone lines in the area.

    Baby wipes and antibacterial hand wash will do wonders for a sponge bath in a pinch. I have gotten into the habit of taking cold showers (the doctors say it is better for you anyway) and once you are used to it, it is fantastic.

    I hope your parents get their power back on soon. Take care and I am sending you my thoughts and prayers.




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    Registered User joyofsix's Avatar
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    Things we've learned from power outages
    ~dh bought a generator to run our sump pump, bailing for two straight days is a downer
    ~we have lanterns and candles for light
    ~sleeping bags for all are a must for warmth

    ~we were trying not to open the fridge or refrigerator and we got really tired of peanut butter and cereal
    ~we have a fireplace but it didn't really heat stuff up, we did cook hot dogs in it
    ~our home is electric, thus nothing works when the power is out, I wish I had a camp stove

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    ya know folks, an open fire outside will cook food and heat water. just a thought. remember fire safety and eat some warm food people! This is why I cook with cast iron. It can be used over an open fire and on the wood stove or basically anywhere. and it lasts for decades.
    don't forget an update on that beautiful pup of yours.

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    When buying survival gadgets think solar. We have a solar cell phone charger, solar cooker and solar radio.

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    Registered User Contrary Housewife's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thefrug View Post
    an open fire outside will cook food and heat water.
    This is true, but... First you need a supply of wood. Most people don't keep one, or they have a little bundle from the grocery store that would last maybe a couple of hours. People who don't rely on wood heat really have no idea how much wood you need for a week of cookfires or heating.

    I live in the city. Not only are we not allowed to build outdoor fires (whether that would be enforced is another question) but if we needed wood we'd have to cut a tree down, which would leave us with green, wet wood, which you know is a whole 'nother problem that most folks don't know how to deal with. Most city folks don't know wood has to be dried.

    And frankly, during an ice storm I'd rather make do with a sterno in my freezing kitchen than try to get a fire going outside in the snow.

    In the summer an outdoor fire is almost like camping. I think a lot more people could manage it.(Again with a proper supply of fuel) But then, nearly everyone here has a gas or charcoal grill or smoker, so cooking outdoors in even moderately inclement weather is possible without resorting to wood fires.
    Stop trying to organize all of your family’s crap. If organization worked for you, you’d have rocked it by now. It’s time to ditch stuff and de-crapify your world.

    If you're not using the stuff in your home, get rid of it. You're not going to start using it more by shoving it into a closet.

    Use it up, Wear it out,
    Make it do, Or do without. ~unknown

    Because we, the people, have the power to build a better future. KH

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    Registered User Dancing Lotus's Avatar
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    We when were out of power for a week during a hurricane we found disposable eating and cooking ware to be invaluable. We also found powdered milk and ready to drink milk in those tiny boxes very helpful. It might cost a bit but at least you don't' have to worry about it going bad after you open it.

    And propane for the grill was pretty important along with lots of matches.

    I am very sorry for your dog, I hope he is better soon

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    Registered User Cricketlegs's Avatar
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    I am really getting worried about the dog. Wish we could get an update...

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