One of the longtime, faithful readers of Backdoor Survival was without power for five days during the recent ice storm in Aiken County, South Carolina. Sandra and her husband are preppers and have been for quite some time. That said, she ran into some bumps during her experience, one she calls “when the Ice Hits the Fan”.
Sandra has graciously shared her experience and the experience of her family – what worked, what did not work and what needs improvement – so that we all can learn for it. There are surprises here so sit down, grab some coffee and take notes. This is good stuff.
The Ice Hits the Fan – February 2014
Although we’ve been prepping for many events for quite a while, you learn quickly you’re never completely prepared. The major ice storm and the grid down we dealt with a few weeks ago taught us many things, including what worked, what we weren’t 100% satisfied with, along with a few things that would have made this a little more comfortable.
The power company was able to repair the lines so that most grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations were operational very soon. Our power was out for 5 days.
You definitely need cash. Many gas stations and some other businesses were open but their systems which handle credit/debit cards were down. Cash was a necessity.
FOOD and WATER
We had plenty of food and water storage. We are on city water which did continue working, although we had enough water stored to get by for the week, if it had come down to that. Beyond a week, we would have had to obtain more water.
Both of our children are on well water with pumps which require electricity. One had a generator and was able to get water from the well. The other did not have a generator but did fill both bathtubs with water before the power went out at their house. The bathtub water was strictly for flushing the toilets.
Both had enough cases of bottled water for drinking and cooking.
ALTERNATE COOKING SOURCES
We have a propane grill, charcoal grill, and a Coleman 2 burner camp stove. With all the ice, it was easiest to use the camp stove on the back porch. I am purchasing one of these for future events. It is a small oven with a thermostat to use on a camp stove (folds flat for storage).
We did learn that we desperately need a covered area for cooking in inclimate weather. If it had continued sleeting/raining or more ice falling, we wouldn’t have had any way to cook or even boil water. This would be a problem in a Summer grid down situation if it were raining.
ALTERNATE HEATING SOURCE
Our only alternate heating source is a kerosene heater. We had about 10 gallons of kerosene on hand but we did have to buy more. You cannot burn a kerosene heater without the danger of carbon monoxide. We ran the heater full blast for 30 minute intervals (used the alarm on the cell phone) then turned it off. During the night, we did the same thing – 30 minutes of kerosene heater running when we got cold – ALWAYS SETTING THE CELL PHONE ALARM to remind us to turn it off to prevent carbon monoxide from building up in the house.
We have an 840 sq. ft. house but we closed off 2 bedrooms. The average temp in the house was in the mid 60s.
The wick burned out on the kerosene heater and thankfully we had an extra. We had never changed the wick nor had our handyman son. He came over and changed the wick – a learning experience for him and his Dad.
The decision has been made to take up the carpet in the living room and replace it with laminate flooring and having a small wood burning stove installed. A wood burning stove would be less dangerous than the kerosene heater and would also provide a stove top for some cooking or boiling water.
ALTERNATE LIGHTING SOURCES
Oil lamps, candles, flashlights, outdoor solar light, and headlamps were all used.
I had quite a few of these 3 LED key chain flashlights scattered through the house plus I carried one with me all the time.
We had a good assortment of flashlights: battery operated, hand crank, and shake it to recharge.
I am going to experiment with ‘flashing’ behind the oil lamps to reflect more light into the room. The edges will have to be bent over & duct tape applied to prevent slicing fingers and hands.
RADIO & COMMUNICATION
The battery operated radios we have were nothing but pure aggravation to me – too many bells and whistles, short wave, etc.
A couple of simple basic AM/FM radios are on the TO BUY list.
The hand crank radios were not used enough to give accurate reviews.
List of radio stations: Which ones have the best news & weather info.
Cell phone: You will either have to charge your cell phone in the car or you can order a hand crank charger from www.beprepared.com. They have a hand crank flashlight/cell phone charger combo or a hand crank flashlight/radio combo.
Yes, it takes a while to charge a phone by cranking but do you really want to burn the gas you have in the car when more could be difficult to come by.
Crochet: If you crochet, you might want to invest in glow in the dark crochet hooks.
These crochet hooks have a built in light – downfall is they require 3 ‘button’ batteries. I tried to use one and it hurt my eyes in the oil lamp lit room. Joann’s, Hobby Lobby and other stores also carry these. I go by the mm size of the hook instead of the ‘letter’ on the hook.
Games: We have cards and board games but hubby won’t play either. I’m adding jigsaw puzzles to my list for entertainment.
Books: There were plenty of books to read but the lighting was too poor for reading.
Hubby boiled a little water and was able to take a small mirror to the back porch and shave. He was braver than I was when it came to taking a ‘make do’ shower. He boiled a large pot of water & placed the pot in one end of the tub. He then took a plastic cup and wet himself, soaped up then rinsed with the remaining water. I took the chicken way and used baby wipes which weren’t very effective for feeling clean.
EMOTIONAL SIDE OF A GRID DOWN
Boredom was my biggest problem. If we had had better lighting, I would have been able to pass time crocheting or reading.
Tempers begin to get short or ‘snappy’ after a while. I noticed this even in people who rarely show their emotions or get ‘snappy’.
I would advise everyone to invest in more blankets (preferably wool), socks and flannel PJs or gowns. Our son was the only one to have proper rainwear and outdoor working clothes for the weather.
WISH LIST or better yet WE HAVE TO DO LIST
Covered area for cooking Summer or Winter, if we had any sort of precipitation falling, we could not have cooked or heated water outdoors at all.
Flashing for diffusing oil lamp & candle light I mentioned this above & will be experimenting with this.
Thermos A couple of good large thermoses to store coffee & hot water (for other hot drinks or making instant oatmeal, etc.) without having to fire up a heat source outdoors again – especially when you want just one more cup of coffee.
Large Coolers We definitely need a few large coolers. Many people broke off icicles and/or shoveled ice from the ground and other spots to fill their coolers in order to salvage food from the refrigerator. Fortunately, I had a few 2 liter soda bottles of water in the refrigerator freezer along with a 14 lb. ham so we used that as a refrigerator until it finally rose to an unsafe temp. (Side note: Our daughter’s electricity came on several days before ours, so the ham was taken to her house to be baked.)
NOTE: We have a nice indoor/outdoor thermometer. Hubby put the outdoor thermometer in the refrigerator freezer – made it easy to see the temp in the refrigerator freezer without opening the door.
Stainless Steel or Aluminum Cookware We have tons of cast iron skillets, griddles, grills, and Dutch ovens but my nice set of Teflon cookware left something to be desired for heating cans of soup or boiling water for instant coffee or apple cider and hot chocolate mix – it just did not taste right. A few stainless steel or aluminum pots will be added to our supplies. If you’re like us and really enjoy your coffee, you want it to taste good. That was a pleasure I really did miss. You may want to try boiling water for hot drinks on a grill or camp stove to see how it tastes to you.
Fondue Pot (for heating soup or water indoors) Since a fondue pot uses a candle, it would be one source for cooking without dangerous fumes in the house. I will be experimenting with this.
Another definite must have: Plenty of paper plates, Styrofoam bowls and plastic forks & spoons. The last thing you want to deal with in a grid down is a sink full of dirty dishes & silverware.
OTHER THINGS WORTH MENTIONING
1. Our son had to put his generator in front of his house – where anyone could see and hear it. He piled wood pallets around it to help prevent easy sight of the generator and easy access to any would-be thief. He will be coming up with an out of view spot to hook up the generator & adding a muffler to help quiet the unit.
2. Scammers and con artists came to town with truckloads of $400 generators they were selling for $1,400 to $1,600. They were quickly run out of the county by local law enforcement – citing the creeps didn’t have a business license.
3. Although the ice storm had been forecast 3 to 4 days prior, many people were complacent and did nothing.
4. During the week of our “Ice Hit The Fan” event, we did not need to go to the store for anything. We had everything we needed to get through it, including RXs.
TAKE NOTES: I kept a steno pad & pen near me at all times. I made notes of supplies we used that need to be replaced, how things worked (or didn’t) along with what we will buy or build to make another event more comfortable.
After all was said and done, we got through this weather event and grid down fairly comfortably. I would say boredom was the biggest complaint I heard from everyone in all age groups.
The Final Word
I am still digesting everything that Sandra has shared and most especially, am taking the “snippy tempers” message seriously. Although practicing coping skills for dealing with a disaster is something that can be done in advance, living and dealing with those coping mechanisms in a real life event is an entirely different matter.
There are a couple of things on the “wish or better yet have to do list” that I took note of. Pulling my old thermos bottles and my ancient fondue pots from storage are high in the list. (The fondue pots are so old that they are harvest gold and avocado green in color.) Fortunately, I already have a covered area for outdoor cooking. The other thing is coffee. I have a coffee press and lots of beans but don’t have a hand grinder. Oops. Everyone that knows me well knows that I am very cranky without coffee.
My heartfelt thanks to Sandra for taking the time for sharing here “ice hits the fan” experience. You can bet that I will have more to say about this down the road as I read it again and again to make sure my preps are in order.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Bargain Bin: Below are the items that Sandra has mentioned in her article plus a few of my own. Please note that she did send me these links so while I may not have tried all of these products myself, I do trust her judgment.
Coleman Camp Oven: This aluminized steel oven is designed to sit on a two- or three-burner camping stove. The stove itself provides all the heat you need to bake and folds flat for easy storage. Abut $30.
Solar-powered LED Flashlight w/ Keychain: This solar flashlight comes with three powerful LED lights and never needs batteries. Not only that, at on $1.43 with free shipping (at the time of this writing), it qualifies for almost free!
Emergency Hand Crank Flashlight with Mobile Phone Adapter: This is an all-in-one hand crank flashlight and mobile phone charging adapter. Modestly priced.
Wavelength Emergency Radio – Charger and Flashlight: This is an all-in-one hand crank flashlight and AM/FM Radio with a mobile phone charging adapter that charges most cell phones that have a car charger (including many smart phones).
Crochet Lite Hooks: These crochet hooks have a built in light and come in all sizes. I suppose you buy anything these days. Who would have thought it?
Aquapod Emergency Drinking Water Storage: The Aqua Pod Kit Deluxe Emergency Water Storage Kit model lets you store 65 gallons of water in your bathtub. There is also the waterBOB Emergency Drinking Water Storage (100 Gallons).
First Alert CO400 Battery Powered Carbon Monoxide Alarm: Make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector and plenty of spare 9V batteries. I actually have two of these in my small home, one in the kitchen and one in the bedroom. (Our home is heated with propane.)
FordEx Group 300lm Mini Cree Led Flashlight Torch Adjustable Focus Zoom Light Lamp: Here we go with another flashlight. At the time of this writing, this one is only $3.55 with free shipping. It is super mini sized, bright and waterproof. Plus, it uses a single, standard AA sized battery
Blocklite Ultra Bright 9V LED Flashlight: I now own six of these little gems. There is a similar flashlight called the Pak-Lite (which is more expensive) but it does not have a high-low switch like this one. Less than $10. These little flashlights just go and go, plus, they make good use of those re-purposed 9V alkaline batteries that you have recharged with your Maximal Power FC999 Universal Battery Charger.
No Rinse Cleansing & Deodorizing Bathing Wipes: One wipe is more than enough for a complete “bath”. These are a good backup when traditional showers are not available such as the week or weeks following a disaster. I have a case of these – they are that good. See Product Review: No-Rinse Personal Hygiene Products.
Although I have plenty of flashlights and batteries (you might even say I have a flashlight fetish) I also stay stocked up with a dozen of these Clear Mist 100 Hour Plus Emergency Candles as well. For the best deal, purchase a dozen at a time to get a discounted price. Be sure to also check out the Clear Globe attachment.
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