Organizing for Lights Out

runninginplaceNovember 3, 2005

Lights, hot water heater, stove, phone...we're still without electricity or telephone service almost 11 days post-Wilma (I live in Miami). So far not a sign of repair crews and with the pole down in my neighbor's backyard, caused by her tree which fell and which now has all the electric and phone lines tangled in it, looks like it will be awhile yet.

We have a generator, thank goodness and my husband is a saint; he's been maintaining it daily so we have a moderately livable situation. The juice flows in through a 220 outlet which means light switches work, the refrigerator too and television. Limited though-not too many lights, etc. No hot water, no stove. No microwave. No computer or internet (DSL lines needs a phone line after all).

Last week I used our gas grill and a little propane camping stove to cook pretty good meals daily. We actually ate very well trying to use up the frozen meat, chicken, fish etc. This week we finished all that and I closed the kitchen-it's takeout time till the electricity is restored :).

We're using 5-gallon water jugs to get solar heated water; I fill them in the morning and by evening the water gives one a tepid bath which is much nicer than a freezing shower! I finally broke down and started adding a garden jug of boiling water made on my camping propane stove to the tub for everyone's bath and that really makes it nice. It feels like incredible luxury but I was able to get propane bottles so I'm stocked up for the long haul. I use the camp stove for my morning coffee too, another luxury I relish daily.

Anyway, I'm rambling but it has been interesting to see how carefully and conservatively you can live if you need to--and how profligately we live when we don't! From taking baths and showers to discarding clothes ('can't you wear those one more day? I can't do laundry after all!) to being very mindful about what we eat and how much gas we use. Last week was quite remarkable because the gas stations were all closed then jammed for days with desperate folks. Same with grocery stores, any stores actually.

Our estimated restoration date is November 10 and if we wait that long it will almost break our hurricane Andrew record which was 3 weeks.

Just hope the weather doesn't stay hot and sticky, it's hard to sleep at night anyway with people blasting generators 24/7 (we turn ours off to be considerate from 10 pm till 6 am).

Reporting from the dark ages,


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wow, Ann!

You know what my first thought was? "Oh my goodness, the logistics!" All those extra chores! (though I guess you don't have to worry about vacuuming or laundry, right?)

But you're right--we really do live quite profligately in America. Life is really easy when you've got electricity, safe running water, etc.

I'll keep some prayers going for cooler, drier weather down your way.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2005 at 5:37PM
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My dad's power was out in Memphis two summers ago for 11 days after a bad wind-storm knocked out power to 80% of the customers there.

The biggest thing he was glad he had was phones that did not require external power; they just plugged right into the wall jack.

When my SIL, who lives in FL, heard that tip, she realized not one single phone in her house could work standalone. And of course within a year she was hit by Charlie.

We have one phone on each level in my home that plug straight in the wall.

Another thing, he could not eat out. They didn't have power either. AND he didn't have a lot of gas to drive and no gas stations had power to sell it either. So you have to make do with whatever.

Cash is also a good thing to have in an emergency kit because ATMS are dead in a power outage.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2005 at 10:31PM
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I can truely sympathize, although for me it turned into a way of life for quite a while.

I taught in a little burg in Missouri and my first year salary in 1980 was $9,500 (gross, not net pay). Even working in a nursing home after school didn't get me enough to keep my utilities on. And in that town, all three utilities were on one bill, so you didn't just lose electric, you lost gas and water, too. Of course, no way I could afford a phone.

Miserable. I would wash my hair in a tub at the nursing home before I went home. You can get really clean standing on a towel with a half gallon of water. Chilly though. Even in the summer. And you LEARN not to have to go to the bathroom, except while you are at work. I could eat at my two jobs, but peanut butter and crackers was the fare at home.

Fortunately, it was only me and I didn't have to take care of a family under those conditions.

After my first was born we were without electric for over a week. I didn't seem bad, since we had a gas stove and water. Gas hot water heater, too.

I think three days is the longest we've been without power since I moved here.


    Bookmark   November 3, 2005 at 11:04PM
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Can you cover those jugs with some black trash bags? I think that would help heat them up more. I feel for you. DH and I camp a lot. If I don't have a hot shower at least every 3rd or 4th day, I'm ready to kill.

I hope you get power soon.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2005 at 1:37AM
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"All those extra chores! (though I guess you don't have to worry about vacuuming or laundry, right?)"

Vacuuming no, laundry yes. This morning I did 7 loads at the laundromat; last week I went to my sister's house.

"The biggest thing he was glad he had was phones that did not require external power; they just plugged right into the wall jack."

Yes, the cordless plug in models are no good at all without electricity. We also have a land line phone. It won't work either, since the phone line is tangled in a downed avocado tree behind the house :(. The estimated date for phone restoration is Nov. 29. Till then if you call my home line there isn't even an announcement that it's out of service, it just rings constantly. And of course without a phone line no DSL so no computer so no way to work at home (I have a flexible work schedule and handle things via email from home when needed). The kids luckily can come up to my office if/when they start needing to use the computer for homework. They only went back to school Monday and power was off in many classrooms and the cafeteria so the weekly work load was light. I'm sure it will be heavier next week.

Adella, we tried wrapping the solar water jugs, but once the sun sets and the jugs come inside they cool off pretty fast anyway. I've been using the camp stove to heat up a jug of water in an old stainless steel pot for each person's bath each night to get the bath temp to tepid rather than gasp-when-it-hits-you cold. Haven't had a shower since a week ago Wednesday when the last of the hot water was used out of the water heater, just a few inches in the bathtub once daily. I wash my hair under the cold water tap in the morning. It suffices but it's not much fun.

Quiltglo, hats off to you for going without utilities for those long stretches! I'll admit I'm pretty low today. At this point I'm looking at almost certainly a third week with no power. The power company is blithely assuring my part of the county power will be restored by...November 10. Yep, another week of this fun. I can hardly wait.


    Bookmark   November 4, 2005 at 1:36PM
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"AND he didn't have a lot of gas to drive and no gas stations had power to sell it either. So you have to make do with whatever.

Cash is also a good thing to have in an emergency kit because ATMS are dead in a power outage."

Oops, Karen forget to comment on these issues. Gas became a huge problem after the storm. Because the 3 heaviest populated counties in the state had no power at all, there was no gas to be had. People who either hadn't filled up pre storm or who needed gasoline for generators were frantic, and there were lines stretching literally miles even at empty stations where people had heard rumors gas might be available. It was wild.

We were okay on that score. We always do our pre-storm rituals early: gas, cash and food. So our cars were topped up and the generator cans were full. We actually had to go to a secondary gas level after Wilma, for the first time ever. By the end of the week the generator gas was almost gone, and it still wasn't readily available at stations so my husband drained our boat's gas tank with a hand pump. That yielded a huge reservoir of fuel, which we are still using. So now we know we can be completely self sufficient for at least 2 weeks.

We always pull cash out as well before a storm, and as you say Karen, it is vital in a real emergency. After Wilma, once stores could open at all they often couldn't process credit or debit card transactions since there were so many phone and power lines down. So they were accepting only cash, and in many cases only small bills.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2005 at 1:47PM
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With the way we actually live, dependent on utilities, grocery stores, in suburbs and need vehicles to get anywhere, you can only plan for so much.

Since we live in a heavy earthquake zone, we do keep a supply of water, food, batteries,etc. Even our schools are set up to keep the kids for 72 hours if needed.

DH and I were talking about if we needed to put in more supplies, but where in the heck would I put them? The house could get smashed flat and they wouldn't do anyone any good!

We try and keep the vehicles full since the last big earthquake three years ago was a 7.3. I watched my neighbor's tree fall over and her retaining wall turn to mush. I figured the ground would open up under the house, but it didn't. Even the massive quake in 1963 (9.2 on the richter) was in March and it's darn cold here 6 months of year.

It's hard to plan on how to keep warm.


    Bookmark   November 4, 2005 at 5:50PM
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