Someone asked me how we experienced hurricane Sandy and the subsequent black-out. How did we manage without power?
Well the short answer is that we did some preemptive planning, and we were able to use other people’s resources. We were warned about the storm in the week before it arrived by the media. They basically said we would lose power. So beginning Saturday we started freezing big blocks of ice using the kids plastic toy storage bins. I also did a lot of laundry on Saturday and on Monday. We checked all the flashlights and batteries, stocked up on food and drink, and filled the cars with gas.
The storm hit Monday night, and I have never been in such a violent wind storm before in my life. The sound was a kind of roar which you heard even inside, punctuated by creaking of the house and cracking noises of branches and trees. Scott and the kids stood on our covered porch and watched. The warm wind smelled of salt air and the rain whipped by sideways. Suddenly a giant 90 foot tree crashed over in our woods, roots and dirt pulled out of the ground. It got hung up in another tree and there it rested suspended at a crazy angle till we had it felled. At this point it started to feel pretty nerve wracking. If any of the trees in our woods would tip towards the house we would be hit, even though they were fifty feet away.
The power went out around 8pm. Little did we know it would be nine days before we got power again. That night we put the boys in Katrina’s room, which is in the front of the house. I did not sleep until 3 am when the storm lessened in intensity. The next morning we awoke, unscathed, and thankful to God for sparing us.
Scott headed out early Tuesday morning (unbeknownst to me) to Lowe’s, and got in line for a generator which he found out were coming in that day on a truck. I was glad he decided to do so because it sure came in handy. Three hours later he and 89 others had their generators. We used the generator to keep the freezer and fridge cold, and to recharge cell phones and Scott’s laptop. We were hoping to get our natural gas hot water tank going with the generator, but since it is a new, complicated heating system it only worked for one day. The hot water we had, stayed hot for a long time and we had two days of “little” baths. Since I have an electric stove I had to use a camp stove on the porch to heat water and cook. We hooked it up to an extra propane tank. We also have a propane BBQ grill.
The first day or two I just kind of got organized, moved a whole bunch of frozen meat into a really good cooler with some ice. Even though we were using a generator, we couldn’t keep the freezer really cold, and did not want to run the generator continuously since we were becoming aware of the severe gas shortage. The frozen blocks of ice helped tremendously. We had one in the fridge and it helped keep the temperature down when it wasn’t on. We put the rest of the ice on the top shelf of the freezer and packed the rest of the food close together on the bottom shelves.
At first you kind of sit around and wait for the power to return. Then the realization sets in that it isn’t coming back any time soon and you begin to develop a new routine. The kids were home for the first week, so that made the days busier. Any work that had to get done needed to happen during the day since by 5 pm it was dark. Fortunately I have wood floors on the main level, so I could sweep. As the days went by the temperatures got a lot colder and it was imperative to keep the wood stove going full tilt to keep it warm in half of our house. That meant the boys/men keeping wood racks full and me keeping the fire going. Mornings were chilly, but nothing compared to the many people who had no heat. By Monday, the temps were well below freezing at night and not much warmer during the day. As the days without power continued, more people left the neighborhood for family and friends who had power and heat.
My in-laws had power after three days, and we used their home for showers and laundry. If we did not have that option, life would have gotten more difficult. It took ten minutes to heat up one dish pan of water, I can’t imagine heating up enough water on a little camp stove for even “teeny” baths.
Our home phone worked intermittently so that was a blessing. Our cell phones were less reliable. We had no internet the first week, and then Scott was able to use his cellular card on his laptop (just in time for the election!) The kids played outside a lot during the day, and rediscovered various board games in the evenings. I really appreciated this aspect of the black out… not having to monitor computer use etc. I managed to catch up on my reading… I like to buy books but don’t always set aside time to read. And I went to bed earlier… I had hoped that habit would last but I have relapsed already! 😉
It’s funny how quickly you adapt. I baked biscuits on the grill, made nachos and chili dip on the grill and planned single-burner, stove top meals. Our world shrunk pretty quickly to basically our neighbors, so that you’d share important information like: which gas station just opened, and how long was the line. Scott was fortunate to only wait two hours to fill his 8 gallon gas can. Others had to wait for many hours. Our cars didn’t need to be refueled since we did not go anywhere too far. Once the state started odd/even days it began to get better. If the last number on your license plate was odd, you could only get gas on odd number days. So you adjusted to the new reality.
It was strange going out. The roads were a lot quieter at first, the detours were numerous because of fallen trees and power lines, and more people were walking. Although the sound of traffic was gone, as the week progressed the hum of generators increased to a loud rumble in the neighborhood.
Overall, the experience was useful. I learned some new life skills, and to appreciate the conveniences I have. I feel more confident about dealing with a similar situation in the future. Next post I’ll share what I think are indispensable resources in situations like these, and what I was not prepared for.