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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Guest Post: What I Wish I'd Known During the 2008 Ice Storm

Special thanks to my sister-in-law for writing this guest post for us! It seems like so many people all over the country have lost power this winter, so this is a valuable read for everyone!

What I Wish I’d Known During the 2008 Ice Storm
By Shauna Siebach

I always thought of myself as a level-headed person who deals well under stress. I thought if I knew a disaster was coming, I’d make the necessary arrangements to ensure my family and I would be comfortable and safe. However, I did not deal as well as I thought I could during the ice storm that slammed New Hampshire in December.

I feel most of problem was that I was not prepared for it to be worse than I thought it would be. The weather report prior to the ice storm notified us there would be a snow storm that would mix with ice and freezing rain. Upon hearing this I planned to do my grocery shopping the day before and then hunker down at the house keeping the wood stove going during all day.

The night before the storm I went to bed as usual expecting to do my cleaning the next day while I was stuck inside for the day. We lost power around 10 p.m. but this had happened before and I thought it would come back on shortly as it had done in the past. My husband Mike woke me up around 2 a.m. to say he thought we weren’t safe in the house and needed to go to my parent's home or to a hotel. When I looked outside I saw that most of the trees surrounding our house were either doubled over or broken from the weight of the ice. There was also a fire truck in front of our property clearing away a fallen tree. Looking at the conditions I told him I thought we’d be safer inside rather than traveling anywhere on icy roads. For the rest of the night we were kept awake by crashing branches and trees.

The next morning Mike drove into town and told me that everything was without power and said he was nervous leaving us at the house without a phone or way of contacting him. After he left I got things ready to head to my parents house because I knew they had a generator and a land line phone so I would at least be in contact again. I thought we would be there for the day and would head back home when we got our power back that evening. I packed enough clothes and supplies for me and my one-year-old for the day.

Once I got on the road, however, I realized things were much worse than I originally thought. There was no power in any of the towns I drove through on the way to my parents. It is normally a 25 minute drive and it took me an hour and a half to get to their house due to closed roads. When I arrived at their house (after walking the last half mile because their road was impassable by car) I was exhausted and the day had just begun. The news I heard was that I would most likely be without power for another 5-7 days and it was then that I knew I was very unprepared for this to happen.

While there are a few stories of compassion and brotherly love coming out of this, unfortunately there were many times when people took advantage of others. Generators especially demanded a premium. We saw generators and generator accessories being sold for 2 to 5 times their normal price. One man purchased the entire stock of an emergency essential item and auctioned them off outside the store exit. Fist fights broke out over who grabbed what first. The shelves where batteries and flashlights are stocked were bare early the next morning.

One other aspect of the power outage that my husband took care of was keeping the house functioning. We are on a well so we lost water pressure. Because we couldn’t keep our faucets dripping to prevent pipes from freezing, we had to keep the house temperature above freezing. Luckily we have a wood stove and we had a kerosene heater that we could keep running overnight. Our sump pump stopped working, obviously, so to keep our basement from flooding, Mike would fill 5 gallon buckets and use the extra water to back fill our toilet to keep that working. He also thought it was important to move our cars around the driveway to make it look like someone was always home at night, because there were some robberies in the area.

Knowing what I know now, here are some things I wish I’d done differently:
  • Take a shower the night before the storm. I wasn’t able to take a shower for a couple days after the storm because my parents’ generator was having trouble.
  • Not buy so many perishables when I went grocery shopping the night before. I thought I was doing a good thing going grocery shopping the night before, but we lost a bunch of stuff in our fridge and freezer because we were without power for so long. We moved the food to our porch to keep it cool, but we had a 50 degree day that spoiled the food.
  • Done my cleaning the night before. All my laundry was clean, but I wish I had it all folded, dishes done, etc. so I feel I could leave my house clean at least.
  • Have more menus/meals ready for this sort of situation. I have food in my pantry and in food storage but both my mom and I were completely unprepared to put things together into full meals. When you are tired, hungry and unshowered, it is not when you feel most creative.
  • Gather more emergency supplies such as batteries, candles and water. My mom, sister and I naively headed to Wal-Mart for these items when the roads were clear only to find the shelves completely empty.
  • Have 72-hour kits ready for all of us. I ran through the house in the dark grabbing what I thought we’d need but I ended up forgetting several things. If I had a 72-hour kit ready I could have just grabbed it and gone. I will also include entertainment items such as books, crossword puzzles and sudoku books because it is alarming how much we rely on TV or the internet for evening entertainment.
My main motivation for getting these things ready for next time is so I won’t be such a burden on other people. My parents were nice enough to have us at their house for the outage because they had a generator and a gas fireplace. I know they would be glad to have us back again in a similar situation but I would like to be much more help to them instead of depending on them for so many things.
Our Stake President gave a great talk at our ward preparedness fair about why it is so important to be temporally prepared for disaster. He said that when we are prepared temporally it allows us to continue to grow spiritually. In a disaster if we are continually only thinking of the temporal survival it doesn’t allow us much time for spiritual growth. I had never thought of food storage/emergency preparedness in that light. Having gone through my own mini-disaster of not having power for a full week I can attest that this principle is true. Not having all the comforts we are used to and being tired, dirty and frustrated due to lack of preparation made it difficult to feel like I was spiritually progressing. Each day we were concerned with very temporal concerns because we were planning life meal to meal and planning our activities hour to hour. The biggest lesson I learned for next time is to have a much better game plan and supplies pulled together so you are not rushing to the store with everyone else for the same items. I know that this goal is attainable and we will receive help from our Heavenly Father if this is a true desire of our hearts.


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