Powerless – and Unprepared!

That’s how we felt on Sunday evening. And we were powerless (as in, electricity-free), for about 15 hours, as the remains of “Ike” careened through Ohio. We’re a lot luckier than some! Everyone here at Lehman’s has a story to tell – some are still without power, schools are closed and there is ample firewood to be had just about everywhere. (The photos here are of my own yard – blessedly, we had no damage to our house).

After the power went out about 5pm, we lit every scented candle we had and dug around in dark drawers and closets for batteries, then ended up removing half-dead ones from our remote controls to place in flashlights and a small pink lantern that belongs to my 2-year-old. All those batteries were dead in about 2 hours and we had headaches from the very disturbing mixture of midnight jasmine/french vanilla/springtime dreams/pine needle candles. Caught unprepared? You BET we were!

As I tried to sleep that night (after everything was over), I thought of all the things I wished we had  had from Lehman’s – and I even work here! There is no excuse for me, and this situation will soon be remedied (grin). Here are the things on my wish list:

Double Wick Edward Lamp

Double Wick Edward Lamp

Battery Storage System!

Amish Double Wick Lamp – and fuel!!

Key-wound alarm clock (yes, after a restless night, both my husband and I finally fell asleep, only to awake with a jolt to bright sunlight at almost 9 am! Oops.)

Pressure Canner – OK, this wouldn’t have helped us at all a couple nights ago, but part of what was keeping me awake was the thought of all the carefully frozen garden produce and meat, spoiling in the chest freezer! The power came back on just in time and nothing was lost, but I sure would have slept better had it all been sitting in jars on a canning shelf!

Anyone else have an Ike story to tell?

14 thoughts on “Powerless – and Unprepared!

  1. We live in Minnesota, so have little chance of hurricanes causing power outages. However, blizzards, ice storms and high winds can do the damage in the winter. There is less worry about losing food in the freezers if it’s freezing outside. However, I worry about water and HEAT. We are, unfortunately, dependent on electricity for heat and water. I want a wood stove (dream on, Connie) and a separate hand pump to put into the well if it looks like we would be without water for a long time. That’s a dream, too. My husband doesn’t think that will happen, but sure-as-shootin’, if it does, he’ll say, “We shoulda!” We do have oil lamps as he collects antique ones and we do have a nice supply of oil!

  2. Ouch! That’ll do the job. I don’t recall that we’ve ever had an extended outage during the warm weather. Cold weather, winter storm inspired outages . . . been there, done that.

    Can I add to your list?

    * The Farming Game. It’s a good time whether you have electricity or not- and isn’t as cut-throat as monopoly.

    * One, old fashioned, corded phone. Never ceases to amaze me how many folks overlook that nowadays. Cordless (including cellphones) is too easy.

    * Foxfire! There’s 12 volumes and somehow they’re always best read by candle light.

    * Propane camping stove. Nothing like a cuppa hot Joe (insert caffeinated beverage of choice) when the wind is howling. IMHO, they’re also safer to run indoors than the pressurized fuel sort.

    * Something that will make music! A washboard and drumstick will make the cut if that’s what you’ve got. No talent? All you need is a willingness to have a good time trying.

    Aside- I’ve always found myself wanting an old windup phonograph for such situations.

    Another Aside- Vinyl is making a comeback!

    Sarah N wrote:
    >Amish Double Wick Lamp – and fuel!!

    How do these compare with the Aladdin mantle lamps?

  3. Hoo rah for vinyl!!

    Good additions to Sarah’s list Wade.

    We moved to North East Ohio in winter of 2003, moved into our current house winter of 2005. We did not know many people in the area. The house we moved into runs completely on electricity including the pump and heat. Wouldn’t you know it, a week after we moved into the house an ice storm hits, trees down and power is out for almost a week. Freezing temperatures and nobody to help us.

    We were fortunate that the house did have a fire place, but it had not been used for several years. We intended to use it and had it inspected before moving in. A trip to the local home center to get doors for the fireplace, a phone call to somebody that would deliver wood (although it ended up very expensive). A trip to the grocery store for a supply of bottled water. We lit the fireplace and the whole family spent the better part of that week without electricity huddled around the fireplace using candles and the light of the fireplace to see by.

    As soon as we could we installed another source of heat, now we have a coal stove that keeps us warm through the winter and does NOT need electricity. We have purchased several oil lamps and use them regularly. We have a supply of water cached away in case the pump goes out.

    Our power seems to be much more reliable lately than in those days, but it feels good knowing that we have what it takes to get through these unfortunate events.

  4. Greg writes:

    >As soon as we could we installed another source of heat, now we
    >have a coal stove that keeps us warm through the winter and
    >does NOT need electricity. We have purchased several oil lamps >and use them regularly. We have a supply of water cached away >in case the pump goes out.

    Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something liberating(?) about being prepared for these sorts of events. Preparation certainly inspires confidence going into a (winter) storm and, once the animal’s safety has been seen to, I actually enjoy sipping coffee and watching the snow and wind.

    With that said, I would like to be better prepared in the event of a tornado. Winter storms don’t generally pick the house up, or larger bits of the same, and physically relocate them.

    Tornadoes are rare in this part of the country, but it’s been known to happen. If the house had been built ten years earlier, there might have been a bomb shelter. No such luck though.

  5. It is amazingly annoying to not have the internet or water available at the tap of a button or turning of a faucet. However, it is nice to know that we will not be scared of the fire going out or worried about how we will sustain ourselves.

  6. Greg writes:

    >It is amazingly annoying to not have the internet
    >or water available at the tap of a button or turning
    >of a faucet

    Without a doubt. Happily, our ISP still maintains a modem pool. In the event we lose our broadband- we fire up the old laptop and we’re back in business. It’s annoyingly slow by comparison . . . but it gets the job done!

  7. Never ever run a camp stove inside no matter what the kind of fuel.
    The majority of deaths from Ike in the South land was from carbon
    monoxide poisoning.

    If the phone system is still operational, a corded phone will work. A
    wireless phone will not work without power. A cell phone will work until the batteries run down.

    For water, store water in gallon jugs and rotate it on a regular basis, if nothing else, you can use it to flush the toilet.

    Emergencies in Alaska in the winter can be life threatening. We loose our water and the heat tape that keeps the well operational. We do have a wood stove but that won’t keep the water lines from freezing in an extended outage. We have a satelite internet system and the modem will operate on a 12 volt system as will the laptop. I am also a ham operator so have communications thru that.

    This is a good time to look at your preparations for emergencies and make the changes that you might need for your household.

  8. AD4BL writes:

    >Never ever run a camp stove inside no matter
    >what the kind of fuel. The majority of deaths
    >from Ike in the South land was from carbon
    >monoxide poisoning.

    I’ll have to look for those numbers. That’s an education issue and a sad state of affairs. My heart goes out to the families involved!

    Given the divergent fuel sources required by off-peak heating, we’re replacing the CO detector battery (along with our smoke detector batteries) every year and are at least peripherally aware of potential problems that way.

    Happily, in regard specifically to “camping” type appliances, that’s no place we have to go unless it is truly an emergency.

  9. Situations like this are one of reasons I’ve really wanted to get my landlord’s permission to install a hybrid solar/wind power system for the house. Alot of people don’t realize how much they depend on electricity until it goes out, and that happens periodically here in sunny Southern California, land of earthquakes. I don’t worry to much about the cold, it’s only ever gotten cold enough here to hail once in my entire life, and that was 20 years ago. But loosing power to the refrigerator and the air-conditioner in 100+ degree heat can be a serious problem out here, especially since the house I live in was originally built in the 1950’s, and renovated in the 1960’s. The archetects never took passive solar design into consideration in these old bungalows, so it heats up like an oven and stays hot all through the night during the summer.

    The last time the power went out, we just got out the camping gear and lit the hurricane lamp and candle lanterns. But it was the food in the refrigerator we worried about loosing the most. That’s really when I started thinking about alternative power sources.


  10. Sage – you’ve piqued my curiosity.

    In the north country, we tend to focus on how to keep things from freezing solid (including ourselves). I have come across multi-fuel refrigerators in my reading, but they seem to be undersized and expensive. I haven’t given much thought to super-insulated appliances refridgerators/freezers. So long as air flow isn’t impeded across the coils . . . I would think a lot could be done with built-ins. I wonder what the commercial offerings are.

  11. This is the second time in 3 yrs we in East Texas have gone through a hurricane. First was Rita and now Ike. We have 2 generators, rechargable lanterns, oil lamps and a gas grill. Since we were without water for over a week after Rita we now have a 55 gal water barrel for potable water only. Every thing else is 2 55gal. rain barrels. The only concern left is will our 30 plus gals. of fuel last until the gas stations can get power. Luckily our hurricane reinforced mobile home weathered the storm one more time. I thank God we were more fortunate than our brothers to the south.

  12. Wade – you’ve got an edge over us desert dwellers in the refrigeration department. :D

    I have a friend who lives up in the mountains where it actually snows part of the year. If she looses power in the winter, all she has to do is put the frozen foods outside in a wooden or metal chest to keep them from going bad. She also has a wood stove in the living room that her and her husband use to heat the house when needed. Summer time is a bit more difficult of a time for power outages.

    The most important thing I’ve learned over the years is to work with nature, not against it. If you’ve got a cold enough climate to freeze meat outside the house, then you don’t have to worry about the refrigerator going down. Remember that the Inuit store their meat in un-insulated shacks and let nature do the freezing. They just have to keep the polar bears out of it, so they build them on stilts and climb a ladder to get to their pantry.

    If keeping warm is a concern in winter, again I’d say look to past civilizations for the answer. People have figured out ingenious ways to stay comfy in cold weather without electricity and with a minimum of fuel needed. Thick cob or rammed earth walls, straw bale homes, a properly built log cabin…….it’s all about the insulation factor. I was watchin’ a show not to long ago that barrowed a technique from the ancient romans and muslims. Before the house was built, the contractor dug down below the frost line and layed a network of pipes in the foundation and covered it over. When the home was built, they tied a heat exchange system into that network of pipes. Now here’s the fun, an anti-freeze type fluid is circulated through those pipes. In the winter, below the frost line the earth remains at a constant temperature that is warmer than the outside air. The liquid in the pipe warms the house through the heat exchange system. In the Summer, the ground is cooler than the outside air, and the system acts like a heat sink drawing heat out of the house and into the ground. The only difference between the modern and ancient system is the ancient system was a system of air ducts instead of fluid filled pipes. And water conducts here many times faster than air does.

    See, this is why I love history, archeaology, and anthropology. Ancient peoples have a lot to teach us.


  13. Re: the Powerless and Unprepared article. Very good article. May I
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