Here we sit, watching the “boob-tube” on a Friday evening. Enjoying some mindless entertainment after a workweek. There are a few rumbles of thunder in the distance. Looks like we might get some rain to cool things off. Suddenly, the wind picks up; it is shrieking and howling around the house making a noise like we have never heard here before. Thank goodness for the cedar trees that shelters the house, protecting it from the worse parts of the weather.
The power flickers, once twice, three times and the satellite goes out. Within minutes, the power goes out completely. We wait for a little while to see if this is a temporary outage or if it will be longer. After an hour, we decide to wait a while to see if power returns. We know that the refrigerator and freezers will be okay for a while, even though the heat has been near 100 degrees. We get the battery-powered lights out and wait for the storm to pass. The generator is not on an automatic switch because we have nuisance power fluctuations that trigger it too often. We decide to go to bed and see what the situation is in the morning.
In the morning, we check for damage outside the house and over the property. No problem. The cedars did their job and we have no damage and all the trees are intact. Since power is still out, I go to start the generator, to protect the freezers and turn fans on in the house; the temp is forecast to be 100 degrees for the next few days, with nighttime temps in the high 80’s. Crap! The generator starter is fried! ARRGGHH! Time for Plan “B” (always have a Plan “B”). We crank up the emergency radio and discover that the storm has leveled most of the Mid-Atlantic region and that there are over 3 million folks without power and many homes crushed by fallen trees. The power company can’t give any estimate for when they will restore our area. They will only say that it may be as much as a week before it is restored. The damage is huge. Big trees blown over, smaller trees snapped at the 10′ level and many homes damaged by the winds. The wind exceeded 96 mpg gusts. Within 2 days, cell sites ran out of power making the use of landlines (using OLD phones) the only non-RF communications available.
I go down to our Travel Trailer and turn on the “dry camping” mode, knowing now that this would not be a short outage. I keep the LP tanks full and the potable water tank full at all times. I also keep the grey and black tanks empty and ready for use so we always have a backup and are ready to go camping with little notice. Good, the RV’s fridge is working. We get the perishables loaded from the house fridge and load them in.
Now for the freezers. Your freezer will keep food frozen for 24 hours, or more, unless the temperature where they are is really hot. Then the “good” time is reduced to 12 hours. We contact our local “Prepper Network” and find that the member closest to us has power and has offered to keep our most important frozen goods in their freezer. We will lose many other frozen foods but, the bulk of them will be saved. Due to space constraints, we lose: 4 large turkeys, 3 large hams, some frozen bread and 15 large bags of veggies. On our way out to move the frozen goods, we weave our way past and under large fallen trees. They took out the high tension electrical lines for 4 spans. That’s where our power went. I find out later that the local Food Lion lost $326,000.00 of perishables. Multiply that by the total number of stores in the Mid-Atlantic region that had this issue and it is a staggering amount of food and dollar loss.
In the end, we endured 4 days of outage, in 100+ degree heat, sleeping poorly in the heat and humidity and retreating to the basement briefly to cool off. We are on well and septic here. No power means no water for drinking, washing, toilets, or cooling off. Thank goodness for preps. using the trailer for hot and cold water for washing. To preserve the trailer holding tanks, we used the house toilets, using collected water in the rain catchment system (600 gal available) for flushing, supported by previously stored potable water in 2-liter bottles for drinking and cooking. The well’s pressure tank was able to power toilet flushing for 2 days with stored pressurized water. After that, we dumped rainwater into the toilet tanks for flushing.
After the first day, we could hear multiple generators running in our neighborhood. At night, when moving around, we could see that many families had moved into their RV’s or camping gear for the duration. I was pleased to see that so many of my neighbors were ready for this event. They are a rugged and “old school” bunch, not relying on Public Services to keep them safe and comfortable in this semi-rural area.
After the power returned, and we did our cleanup and retrieved our frozen meats, we looked at our preps and how they held up. There were others that remained without power for 8 days, mostly in the metropolitan areas. We are pleased that our preps generally were good. There are a few minor lessons learned but, in general, we are encouraged that we have prepared well. Having mostly been prepping for cooler weather, our preps for extreme heat are lacking. Changing the priority circuits for the generator to allow the house A/C to operate, not only the furnace in cold weather is one change. Enlarging the well pressure tank to extend the duration of water pressure in the house is another. For this event we did not need to go into our long-term food storage supply. We have sufficient “everyday” non-perishable foods to maintain a normal diet for a couple weeks, without resupply.
This event makes a person understand very clearly what the country will be like if the power grid goes down for an extended period of time, possibly for months to years. It also highlights the need for Preppers to form small groups of like-minded folks to assist in times of need. It is also a good idea for each small group to have some contact points with other small groups. If a Grid-Down SHTF event hits, we all will need trading partners in the new reality. It is a good idea to make those contacts now and form your associations while you have the leisure to do so and get acquainted with your trading partners. Test your Preps and test your network. It may mean the difference between surviving hand-to-mouth in the 1800’s or surviving in the 1950’s. Which one do you prefer?