It finally happened to us up here in the mountains: an extended power outage. We knew it was possible when we moved here, yet we’ve been truly blessed that it didn’t happen our first two winters.
Living at the end of a road, one way in and one way out has its advantages, but also its disadvantages. It’s definitely peaceful & quiet most of the time which makes it very relaxing. We can see who’s coming and going and the noise of the city, just 30 minutes or so away, doesn’t reach up this far. We are close enough to civilization, yet just far enough away to make it feel like you are “nowhere.”
The pitfall, though, is if those old trees along the road get weak or burdened by weather, and they come down. We may just find ourselves stuck for a while until they get to clearing the road and stringing the power lines again! THAT is exactly what happened in the ice storm November 2018.
We lost power for almost 4 full days. It was bitter cold outside, too. Snow and ice added to the drama of fallen trees and downed power lines. We decided we would just hunker down, stay warm, read books, and keep the fire going in the fireplace.
We made a bed in the living room, found all the flashlights we could, put on warm clothes, and hunkered down. We thought it was only going to be for a day. No problem. Then we got the automated message saying it was going to be out for several days.
We had just stocked the freezer and fridge with goodies for the upcoming holidays! What to do, what to do. . . we couldn’t get out to buy ice because of downed trees and power lines, and we didn’t want to lose all our foods. Jim came up with the brilliant idea: Since we couldn’t go GET ice at the store, why not use the ice God gave us!
So outside we went with hatchets, pots and pans, and dressed toasty warm.
We chiseled ice off everything we could – any ice source that would break off easily ended up in every large canning and soup pot we own. We took those and stuffed them into the freezers and refrigerator. Things like dairy – milk, cheeses, and cream cheese – I placed into a large pot and surrounded those with ice. Other products, we just put on the shelves accordingly – items that needed more refrigeration were closer to the pot of ice, those like vegetables and fruits, were further away.
We also put two large pots of ice on the top shelf of the upright freezer. We figured that the turkey and whole chicken in the bottom would keep that section cold, and the ice pots in the top, would keep the top cold. When it was all over and done, we were surprised to open the freezer to discover that ALL the meat was still frozen solid. It was SO cold in there that even a small ¾ lb pack of ground we stuck in there hoping to just keeping it from spoiling – had frozen solid! All we lost was a small package or three of frozen herbs, and two bags of frozen vegetables that had thawed completely.
When all the neighbors started checking on each other, we were surprised to learn that so many of them had lost the foods in the fridges and freezers by day two. Jim asked them, “Why didn’t you put the foods outside or even grab ice and bring it inside in containers?” He then explained what we had done.
We kept hearing over and over again, “Why didn’t I think of that?!” Honestly, I felt a little guilty at first that we hadn’t thought to text everyone and let them in on our little freezer secret. Yet, Jim said, he kind of thought folks would have known to do something like that. It seemed like both common sense and something they would have been used to doing, since folks up here have lived up here for so long. He thought they would know how to be prepared.
We consider ourselves more like city-folk, yet we seemed more prepared than a lot of people we ran into after that storm. Even folks we talked to at the store after the outage. We mentioned what we did to keep our foods safe, and everyone acted shocked and surprised.
I will say that I can’t be too taken aback by all their surprise. A few weeks later someone mentioned to me that we should have bottles of water – gallons work well – inside our upright freezer. Apparently, when your freezer is a bit low on foods, you fill the empty space with water bottles, and the frozen water will help the unit run more efficiently.
I have always known that a full freezer operates better. I just never thought to actually fill the empty spaces with water bottles! This will protect the foods should we have another outage, AND provide a form of water storage, too. So, what goes around comes around, there I was saying out loud, “Now why didn’t I think of that?!”
So what else did we learn from our ice storm experience? We can make it through, for one – even several days without power can be dealt with. You do it the old fashioned way: read BOOKS! But we also learned, I can make coffee and tea in the corner of the fireplace if I have to, we need more fire wood, and we need to check on our neighbors sooner!
We need to reteach ourselves to think, evaluate the circumstances, and act!!!
Jim has decades of experience with service in the U.S. military, in the Intelligence field, as a commander in USAF-AUX overseeing air and land search & rescue teams and Emergency Services operations, he also had substantial FEMA training, and organized a CERT team. Most of all Jim has been trained and served in various ministry positions to include serving as a hospital chaplain.
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