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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ice Storm Stories and Preparedness

 Ice Storm Stories and PreparednessAs most everyone should be aware, the last week has provided a harrowing survival experience for Kentucky and surrounding states with a major Ice Storm cutting off power to over 1.5 million homes and killing 55 people.

For those of us here in Utah, we’re more likely to see catastrophic events from a major snowstorm than an icestorm (in searching, I cannot find records of an icestorm like this hitting Utah). Our winter storms, especially in heavy snowfall years, can leave many icey problems. While we may not be likely to have an ice storm, there are still many lessons we can learn from those who have just experienced it. Let’s look at some reports from the Mid-South Ice Storm of 2009.

Click here to view the embedded video.

This video is a great photo documentary of the storm and much of the damage it caused.

Experience Reports

From the Indiana Preppers Network we hear:

the shelves (including generators and kerosene) were empty of the basic foods within 6 hours! Hmmm… does this pose a problem for anyone? The stores also quit taking debit/credit cards at this time. Some of the gas stations in the area wanted cash only as well. So, goes downhill rather quickly. BUT, if you are prepared, as I was, then you need not fear these events.

And from SurvivalBlog:

Within a few hours, everything became coated with a half-inch to an inch of ice: roads, cars, trees, power lines - everything. Throughout the night, we heard crashes as our neighbor’s trees lost massive limbs. We knew it was only a matter of time before trees limbs (which are not properly trimmed back by our utility company in an attempt to cut costs) collapsed on power lines and caused widespread outages. In the morning, everything had turned to crystal. About a quarter million people were without power in our county, but almost everyone in the western half of the state had lost power.

… Looking for a generator at the local big box home and garden center? Forget it, quickly sold out. Ice scrapers, gone. Gas cans, gone. Driveway salt, gone. Snow shovels, gone.

… The university asked students to leave, if possible, and those who couldn’t were sheltered in the campus auditorium. They didn’t have any cots so you had to sleep on the floor or in the auditorium chairs. She wanted me to come pick her up, so as I headed out the next morning on a full tank of gas, my plan was to stop at each significant town on the way to check their power and gas pumping status. Each stop was the same as the next - dead. As I neared the half-way point on my gas gauge, not one city on the way had electricity. It’s as if a nuclear ice bomb had been dropped on the state. I turned back.

…Lots of people I know have no alternatives to heat their homes or cook food. Fireplaces, like mine, are electrically controlled gas logs. I can’t even light it manually. I’ve learned a lesson: get what you need before you need it. Get extra. I will be buying a dependable generator once this crisis passes.

And now, from the perspective of a well prepped author on the Kentucky Preppers Network:

The brunt of the storm hit western Kentucky, where my family and myself live at, and luckily my family and I were somewhat prepared. Coincidentally, exactly a week before the storm hit I went out to China-Mart and purchased a $100 worth of prep items. Monday morning (January 26th) I went out and spent another $70 bucks on more preps to add to my Bug In Items in preparation for the storm. I was personally ready to be stuck with no electricity, no water, and no food for up to a month. My parents had just gone to the grocery store the weekend before so we had a pretty good supply of food in the house and we had purchased a 5000 watt generator about a month before. Monday evening we went out and filled all our cars up with gas, and filled our three, five gallon gas tanks up. Our generator is wired to be fed into the house breaker box so we were able to run all the lights, fridge, freezer, television, router, and my laptop. Cell phones were down most of the time, and so were the landlines, so Internet was our main source of communication.

… We did a good job conserving our fuel, ran the generator all day, and let it rest at night. We could stretch five gallons of gas to last a whole day of nearly continuous use. We were able to eat, cook, shower, and enjoy the majority of our usual luxuries. Now I said I personally was pretty prepared, but my family wasn’t as prepared. We only had a couple weeks of groceries, and not any stored water. Monday afternoon before the storm I talked my dad into purchasing a 55 gallon water drum from the local Rural King. We filled it up when water pressure was going out and had plenty of water to cook with and drink. The pressure was in and out but we never lost ours completely, others in the county did, and some still have no water.

… There are a lot of things that we could have had that would’ve made things a lot easier. We owned many flashlights, but didn’t have any batteries stored, so many of them were useless. In this situation having a stored set of batteries is important so you can power the flashlights you own. Having emergency candles is important when needing light in a room. We had a couple 72 hour candles from a few years ago, but more would have been better. Water is another thing that we did not have. I personally have been storing water in the seven gallon Reliance water containers you can get at China-Mart, but my parent’s had none (other than the fifty-five gallon barrel which was last minute). This could mean the difference in life and death in a survival situation. Getting the fifty-five gallon water drum made a huge difference when we needed to get a drink, flush the toilets, and cook a meal. Store water any way you can people; fill up old juice containers, buy the above mentioned containers from China-Mart or get a fifty-five gallon food grade barrel to store water in. Whatever you do, get a supply of stored water. Food is the next important thing. We had a decent supply of food for a couple weeks, but if this thing would’ve lasted any longer, we would’ve had to drive at least an hour to replenish our groceries. If you’re storing food you want to store food that is easily prepared, highly nutritious, and doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Warmth is another important factor. Everyone in the household needs to have a set of thermal underwear, wool socks, gloves, and a toboggan. If we didn’t have the generator to run the heat on, bundling up and staying in one room would’ve been the best thing to do.

… Having storable food, water, a way to cook, heat your home and a light source, will give you a great advantage when caught in a disaster.

And finally, from some not so prepared people in an article on Yahoo:

… among those resting in every corner of a university theater. Some sprawled in aisles, propped in chairs or curled up on the stage. they, like many others, ran out of food and water at their frigid, powerless home. “I had no idea the storm was going to last this long,” McClung said.

… Deputies trekked door-to-door in many communities to let people know where shelters were, forced to spread the word the old-fashioned way because cell phone and Internet service was spotty.

… Those who hunkered down in their homes face long lines to buy generators, firewood, groceries — even bottled water because power outages crippled local pumping stations.

… tried a half-dozen filling stations before finding one where they could buy kerosene. The two were in a line that swelled to 50 or more at the 13th Street Station, which began pumping kerosene after its owner set up a generator.

“We got food, but I’m just worried about staying warm,” said Brittan, who lives in Mayfield, adding she was frustrated by the search for supplies.

“By the time you hear about a place that’s open they’re out when you get there,” she said.

… Emergency officials feared that toll could rise if people stay in their homes without power for too long, because improper use of generators can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

… “I’m sleeping in a car, which is just fine,” Eason, 74, said. “There’s nothing wrong with a car. Every couple of hours I turn it on, I let it run for 10 minutes and that keeps it pretty warm.”

Lessons Learned/Demonstrated

So we are given the rare (fortunately) opportunity to learn from the actual lessons learned of those who have made it through a local disaster. On the one hand we can learn from a prepper and what they found valuable in their preps - and what they found lacking. We can also learn from those who don’t believe at all in being prepared and rely on the government to take care of them when their TV goes out. Here’s my summary of Lessons Learned:

  1. Be Prepared! (hehe) Make sure that you have plenty of food stored. I personally very strongly recommend having at the very least 3 months worth of food stored. One of the main reasons for so much is to be able to help your less prepared neighbors from starving to death.
  2. Store plenty of water. Recommendations vary, but the easiest to calculate is store 1 gallon per person per day. Try to get at least 2 weeks worth of water stored, then double it! In order to not waste your drinking supply, it is a good idea to also have several (I have 210) gallon or 2 liter bottles filled with water to flush toilets with. Just in case you don’t know, dumping a gallon or 2 liters of water into a toilet will force it to completely flush. This allows you to avoid unsanitary conditions when the water supply to your house is disrupted.
  3. Have a backup power generation system. This can be in the form of a generator, solar, wind or other alternative methods
  4. Have a way to produce heat. Whether it be a fireplace (have wood stored!) or propane or kerosene heaters.
  5. MAKE SURE that you have fuel stored for your alternative heat and power generation systems. Store enough to keep things going for at least 2 weeks, preferably for a month.
  6. Have gasoline stored. It seems that everytime there is an emergency situation in America we hear continuous stories about how there are 15 mile long lines at all the gas stations. Get a clue people! Store plenty of gas, at least enough to get quite a ways out of town.
  7. Keep cash at home! I recommend keeping around a thousand dollars in $20 and smaller demoniations at home in a safe. At the very least, keep $300. With a thousand you would likely be able to buy a ride out of town and to safety if you needed to, not so much so with 300. When the power goes out and things get bad, nobody takes credit cards or checks! Cash on hand is an absolute must if you are going to try to buy something. Keep $20 and smaller denominations so that you don’t have to find someone or some way to break something bigger.
  8. Keep your home stocked and prepped so you don’t have to go to one of these shelters. I’ve never read happy fun stories about a pack of 300 humans being stuffed into an emergency shelter.
  9. To conserve on your fueled heating systems, keep lots of warm clothes and blankets in your house. In a protracted emergency you may need to use your on hand fuel for a very long time.
  10. Make sure you have either plenty of batteries or rechargeable batteries and a way to charge them (generator). Flashlights and other battery powered items will likely only last a few days with constant or heavy use.
  11. Make sure you have some kind of battery or hand cranked radio in your house. This will probably be your most reliable way of getting news and updates on what is going on.

Those are probably the biggest things - do you have any other ideas or things you noticed should be on the list? Let us know in the comments!


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