This guest post is by Jim M and entry in our non-fiction writing contest .
We were out-of-town on that Friday, at a conference in a town about 90 miles away. The weather was extremely hot that day- 104F, but we drove in an air-conditioned car to an air-conditioned room in an air-conditioned hotel.
While having dinner with about 90 people in a large room, we were oblivious to the weather outside, not a common occurrence for either my wife or I. I work out doors and have been an outdoors person my whole life. My wife breeds flowers and is outside a lot.
After dinner, there was an auction with a Powerpoint presentation, during which, there were some people who came in and said that there was a storm outside. I just glossed over that.
Suddenly, the power went out. No lights at all, not even emergency lights. After 10 seconds or so, the lights came back on, but then went off again. 90 people sitting in a room in the dark, mostly people over 50, trying to figure out how to make their phones use a flashlight feature. A man came into the room and said that the storm was bad. I could hear it now, and became mildly concerned. The lights came back on and we started the auction again.
When I went out to check on the weather, I was shocked to see huge piles of leaves and branches against the doors and windows. On going outside, a few trees were down, but nothing big – some car damage. The hotel generator was running.
I tried the cell phone – no service. I tried the hotel phone, no service. A tv was on and they were saying that Roanoke had a major power outage due to the storm.
I figured that we had power, water, and I did have my bug out bag and supplies in my car. No problem.
The next day, it was apparent that the damage was pretty bad. I called my neighbor, a retired military intelligence officer, and he said that there was no power and that a lot of trees were down, but none on my house, just lots on the property.
We were not in a position to leave, as we were the guest speakers that evening! It slowly dawned on m that I was well prepped and would leave at 5 am the next morning to drive back.
As the day developed, it seemed that it was a Derecho that had caused these problems. It seemed to be getting worse, because information was not great. Cell phone coverage was not great. It slowly dawned on me that I needed to review preps and get home with a couple of things.
The forecast was for an extended heat wave with temps in the low 100’s. I left at 5 am and there was really only spotty power here and there. I stopped at 2 Lowes and 3 Wal Marts to finally get a window air conditioner. 2 Credit cards did not work, both with over $10,000 available on them. My debit card did work, as I was about $20 short of the $270 needed for the AC unit.
We live in an area where most people have heat pumps. These need a lot of energy to run and my 5K generator did not have a transfer switch. While at Wal-Mart I tried to buy an additional heavy-duty extension – sold out. Did I mention that I got the last AC unit? Day late, dollar short.
As I approached home, the trees were looking worse and no one had power. This was for 70 miles. NO ONE HAD POWER. I did not have this information , or perhaps I would have canceled and left early. No power means no gas. I always keep the tank over half full. Thank God. Do you?
Going down my long country road was tortuous. Trees and power lines down everywhere. People walking on the road – hardly ever see that. People carrying water jugs to go to the spring that comes out of the mountain near us. I got to my driveway, steep, long. My neighbor had cleared the big stuff with his full size tractor.
Approaching the house, I had a bad feeling in my stomach. The house was ok, but there was at least 2 feet of leaves and branches swirled up against the house and equally that much in the valleys of the roof. Fences down everywhere. 26 trees down on 5 managed acres, and at least 50 including the 4 acres of woods. Tree on the truck, tree on the car, tree on the tractor. Luckily, that was a blow down and not much damage. Old vehicles. I was driving the new one.
I went to work getting out the generator, stored in the basement. Fueled it with 6.6 of the 21 gallons of Stabilized gas that I keep in the barn. Do you have gas, stabilized as well? Fired right up.
I collected all the cords and started running them into the house. I had to install a window air conditioner in a crank out window that opens to the side. Had to cut plywood. Had to drill. Got that hooked up in a couple of hours. It was 99 at 1130am.
Checked the fridge and freezer – my neighbor had put a bag of ice in each, but some stuff was spoiled already. Cats were panicky and hot, but ok. Dog still at our friend’s house 10 miles away.
Fired up the chain saw to start cutting some of the trees – vehicles first, then started on the fences.
I will have a 10 year supply of firewood. Pinched the saw in a big tree. I purchased a back up saw three weeks ago, and cut it out. It is a duplicate of the other saw. One is none, two is one.
My most excellent neighbor came by and asked if I could help him with the tree on his house. I have a lifetime of experience with these things and with his huge tractor, was able to get it off of the house with little damage.
Test Run – what did I learn?
Lack of information and communication is a hallmark of a larger problem. Get your information , and use multiple lines of communication to find out things. Land line, internet, cell, text, FMRS, CB, Ham.
Have back up water. I had 100 gallons. It was around 100 F for 11 days. I did not have a transfer switch installed, making it difficult to use the well. 100 gallons for two people, 2 cats, 2 toilets and one dog when it is 100 only lasts 5 days or so. DID I MENTION NO POWER FOR 9 DAYS? We made trips to the spring and to the Fire Station for water. Note to self- transfer switch asap. FLO JAC or similar right away.
Generators use a lot of fuel. 1 gallon per hour when running near full throttle for a 5 K gas unit.
Propane grills do not heat water for tea and coffee efficiently. We have a wood stove, but only for the winter. Buy a single or double propane burner or a jet stove that uses wood outdoors. I did have two propane tanks, good thing – non were available.
Have many gas cans full at all times for cars, tractors, generator.
I had plenty of food. 1 year supply! My wife did not like much of it. She likes bacon, eggs, cereal with milk, hot tea, yogurt, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables. She does not like to try to cook rice, pasta, canned meats, etc on a grill when it is 100. Get food that she likes or I will guarantee you a few days of hell!
I did not need a gun, but had plenty in case I did.
You can’t possibly have enough batteries for a long WTSHTF. In 9 days, we used most of our rechargeables, and 12 D batteries. Note to self – get a solar charger to go with the regular 110 one.
I can’t recommend enough that you get 3w or 5w solar lights. They were problem free and lit the house with a good light, not for reading, but for walking around. They are called garden lights. Get the 3x or 5 x ones for more light.
Carry cash with you at all times. Really. Stash some in your car, some in your wallet and some in your EDC or BOB. Really.
Test everything that you have for preps. Don’t wait. Learn how to use things. Perhaps you need a test run that you start yourself. I have seen the light and all items will get tested and I will get better. You should too.
This contest will end on August 7 2012 – prizes include:
First Place : 1 Year Subscription to AlertsUSA, 1 Radiation Safety Package consisting of the following; (1) NukAlert Radiation Monitor and Alarm (5) Radsticker Peel and Stick Dosimeters (1) Box Thyro Safe Potassium Iodide. All courtesy of AlertsUSA. A $150 gift certificate for Federal Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner Ammo. And a British Berkefeld water fillter system courtesy of LPC Survival. A total prize value of over $700.
Second Place : A six pack Entrée Assortment courtesy of Augason Farms, a Nukalert courtesy of Shepherd Survival Supply and a WonderMill Grain Mill courtesy of Kitchen Kneads. A total prize value of over $550.
Third Place : A copy of each of my books “31 Days to Survival” and “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat” courtesy of The Survivalist Blog dot Net and “Kelly McCann’s Inside the Crucible Set” courtesy of Paladin Press. A total prize value of over $200.
Contest ends on August 7 2012.