Ready or Not… Not

Wind and Rain

We think it will happen to someone else.  Especially in Wisconsin where natural disasters tend to be uncommon and localized.

But the power failure hit us on a Thursday night.   Ok, don’t overreact, I said.  Power failures are routine; the lights would be on again soon.  Keep the refrigerator closed.  How long before the well runs dry?  We were staying at our vacation place “up north” for an extended weekend.  At least looking good for work/school wouldn’t be an issue.

We got out the oil lamps and the flashlights—some had dead batteries (no spares) but  we actually had oil in the lamps—here’s to ambiance with function!  Since it was supposed to be a cold night, my daughters climbed into the king sized bed with me for warmth.  Dad was on his own under a pile of quilts.

Living by Lamplight

When we awoke Friday morning, we expected to find everything normal, but the power was still out.  Even more disconcerting was the absence of communication so we let the girls sleep in and headed south looking for evidence of life.  Just over a decade ago a rare tornado had hit the area (we were up then too), taking out the entire northern half of the county for days; this was our worst fear.

The first town south, Fish Creek, was entirely dark.  Not a good sign.  Trees were uprooted or lying on lines in many locations.  There was no evidence of power in the rural area beyond there but as we approached the next town lights were visible in windows.  Hooray!

We snagged breakfast in town and picked up a couple of donuts for the kids.  The restaurant was packed as refugees from the surrounding area made their way in.  What did we learn at breakfast?  That outages were widespread and no one really knew very much.

When we got home we were sorely in need of showers so we went scrounging for a YMCA pass hoping one of the Y’s would be open.  While looking I came across some long forgotten tickets to a resort in—drum roll—the town with power! I had gotten these while participating in a charity campaign a few years ago—talk about karma!  We played pool volleyball (parents beat teens!) and returned home, hopeful (and clean).  But alas, still powerless.

When power was not back on Friday evening, we decided to call it quits and go home.  Packed up everything in the fridge.  Tossed or packed up the freezer contents and headed out.  Halfway home we got a call from the power company, “Power’s back on.”  Hooorraayyy!

Back up in Fish Creek, with power restored, the town was beginning to buzz.  We entered our house, flipped on the lights and… nothing.  We put the food out of the back deck (temps headed down to 40 overnight), and climbed into bed dejected.

Emergency Cold Storage

On Saturday morning we went into full emergency mode.  Filled a 5 gallon drywall bucket with water at the Gibraltar fire station for flushing toilets.  Since we didn’t have storage containers suitable for drinking water, we bought bottled water, and then set up for open fire cooking –I wasn’t going to let all that food go to waste.  Two cinder blocks, topped with the grate from the Smoky Joe turned handles down to anchor it and we were in business.  Dish washing and showers at the fire station, internet (for teens with homework) at the Egg Harbor community center.

Wood Fire Cooking

By Saturday night we were pros!  Then the power came back on.  I’d like to say we hardly needed it.  Naahhhh!  We had our first killing frost that night.

First Frost

In the end spending 48 hours without power and water was a bit of an adventure.  We even learned a few things that I will share:

  1. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.  I should have gotten ice before everything started to thaw.  Keeping your fridge/freezer closed only works for so long.
  2. Fill your bathtub at the mere threat of bad weather.  No matter how unlikely you think it is. Remember rule #1!
  3. Have a large clean container ready for drinking water.  Drink out of my bathtub?  Eeeuuuwww!
  4. Keep lanterns, spare batteries and matches handy.  Our cute little lighter ran dry before the first round of lamp and candle lighting.
  5. Trust but verify.  It was truly disheartening to return home when the power company said we had power only to find it dark.
  6. Locate and use emergency facilities early.  That will help to keep your strength up.
  7. Our car phone chargers were godsends, especially with the landline out (yes we are one of the three  households who still have a landline).  We have universal device that plugs into the cigarette lighter but looks like a regular outlet so you can charge any phone or computer. Homework waits for no (line)man.
  8. It’s not hard to cook over an open fire. I got pretty good at it though my hamstrings hurt for days from stooping and two of our cooking pans are now an unsightly gray.  Unfortunately, now the kids want “smoky eggs” cooked over an open fire when we’re back.
  9. Lack of communication is unnerving—even with a car that you take out to talk to people.  When Black Friday rolls around this year, we’re going to look for a discounted battery operated TV.  And we’ve already brought up a weather radio. Myles Dannhausen Jr suggests twitter, which I may need to consider.

Now that this is over, I realize that all of those trite sounding messages about emergency preparedness really do apply to me.  I’ll be reviewing some emergency readiness tips a bit more earnestly now!

Gibraltar Fire Station

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12 thoughts on “Ready or Not… Not

  1. Louise

    The weather has just been so unpredictable these days. We’ve had rain for what seems to be weeks. Today, my roof started leaking like crazy!!! Thank goodness, it’s in the plant room.

    I can’t even imagine keeping it together under such circumstances, Inger. But, as you say, it is a good reminder to stay on your toes when it comes to preparedness. A lesson learned…Thanks for sharing…

    P.S. Just wondering, will you be joining us for the Cookbook Party???

    1. Inger Wilkerson

      Hi Louise–Been a bit preoccupied but I think I’m getting my act together. I should be able to do something with cranberries for your Cookbook Party, so stay tuned! I was excited for another party!

      1. Louise

        I definitely understand, Inger. I’ve been swamped myself and this week I sprung a leak (many, many:) in the plant room. I’m getting a rather detailed lesson in roof repair while emptying buckets of water in between.

        Since this was the first time trying the Cookbook Party, I though it was probably a good idea to make it a month long event so everyone would be able to “make room” for an unexpected post. I hope you join us even if only to see the goodies!!!

        1. Inger Wilkerson

          Good luck with the roof. Hopefully you at least come out of the ordeal feeling like a smarter person! I am actually psyched to do a recipe since I have some frozen cranberries from last season that need to go to make room for the new. Perfect push for this!

      2. Louise

        We sure could use a “bouncing” Cranberry recipe, Inger. Although I must say, this week’s party entry did have a gorgeous Wheat Berry & Cranberry Salad!

        P.S. The roof is a nightmare! Like Scarlet, “I’ll think about that tomorrow:)”

  2. Barbara

    Well, you just listed everything we prepare for in Florida. A hurricane list works for all other power emergencies as well. I keep very little in the freezer between July and October. And I learned one must have a land line too. We all know what restaurants and gas stations have generators. And you have to eat early because they impose a curfew. Not fun, I know.

  3. Kathy

    This was really fascinating, Inger. I love that your kids still want (wanted?) smoky eggs. It sounds like it was the “best of times” and the “worst of times” and I like your list. We get so used to the power coming back on after a few hours that we’re not always as prepared as we could be. Good reminders all around!

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