Wednesday, April 28, 2010

From someone who's been there.

One of the pleasures of my recent trip was a chance to reconnect with a good friend of mine, Dan, who now lives in Kentucky.

Two winters ago he was in the area hard hit by a spectacular ice storm.

Those of us who have a few disaster preparations can always benefit from someone who's lived it.

Disasters tend to have some things in common. They threaten well being on basic levels, things like food and shelter.

Having food is basic enough. Most people, with a little creativity, can get by for a while with the food normally in the refrigerator and cupboards. However, deeper food stores give a person more options.

Cooking food can be an issue. My friend did a lot of cooking on his smoker and grill. The burners on his kitchen gas stove could be match lit. (you do have matches, don't you?) However, the oven needed electricity to run. That still left him lots of cooking options.

One thing he observed is that even people with propane grills were stumped because they didn't have any burgers or steaks to cook. It didn't occur to them that they could heat a frying pan or a pot of water on the grill. He also heard complaints from people that all their food was for the microwave. He had microwave packaged food too, mostly frozen vegetables. It was easy enough to unwrap the frozen veggies, repackage them in aluminum foil, then place them on the grill for cooking.

He used the fresh food from the refrigerator first. After that he moved on to the freezer. Freezer food will keep longer without electricity than refrigerated food. Only then did he dip into the long term storage food.

He had plenty of food and several ways of cooking it. At one point he really wanted baked food. Grilled was getting old. He went to the trouble of building a fire in the fire pit. Once he had a good bed of coals, he placed a Dutch oven in the fire and scooped wood coals on the lid. Viola! Baked food.

To keep the house above freezing, he used a kerosene heater. By closing off the upstairs, the rest of the place was kept quite livable.

For years his wife bugged him about an old Korean War era jeep he'd restored. Well, that Jeep came in darn handy. Not only could he travel the icy roads with 4 wheel drive, he used it to pull downed trees out of the way. She doesn't bug him about it so much any more.

He noticed some weird things. Of course, the few stores that were open soon ran out of everything. People were fighting over bottled water. One of the stranger things was people fighting over shipments of ice for coolers. Okay . . . it was an ICE storm. There was ice all over the place. Not only that, most of the time temperatures were at or below freezing. Just placing food outside would keep it cool enough.

Things didn't recover all at once. A gas station was able to reopen. However, communications were still down so credit cards did not work. Gas was only sold to people with cash money in hand. Not credit cards. No checks. No debit cards. Even if you had silver or gold, that wouldn't get you a gallon of gas. It was cashy money or nothing. Maybe precious metals would have some barter value in a long term disaster. Problem is, you've got to survive until later. Keep at least a few hundred dollars handy.

One thing he did not have was a generator. He did just fine without one. For light, he had candles, flashlights and Coleman lanterns. Food could be cooked. The kerosene heater didn't require electricity to run. One of his neighbors kept a running generator in their attached garage. They were afraid someone would steal it. That's a valid enough concern, but running a generator inside an attached garage is just asking to die from CO2 poisoning. While his neighbors survived their foolishness, others did not.

One of the key factors to his and his family's survival and comfort was having some preparations. More importantly, he kept thinking. While others were stumped by a dead microwave oven, he was cooking veggies on the grill.

His wife complained that he was having way too much fun with the ice storm. It was like a long camping trip for him. He got to cook on the grill and smoker, and drive his Jeep around.

Of course he was prepared. After many years as a Boy Scout Scoutmaster, he had to be.

Thanks for great stories, Dan. (and for most excellent hospitality)



  1. Like the people who threw out all the food in the fridge after two days without electricity.

    In January.

  2. They were throwing out all the food in their freezers after 24 hours. Somebody on the radio said it wasn't safe after 24 hours without power.

  3. Great post.I'm with ya love hearing from folks who have been there,and survived.Its sad how some people who are well educated don't know much about getting by.


  4. If somebody on the radio told them to jump off a bridge....

  5. Just listen for the splash . . .

  6. Glad to hear your friend Dan did OK for himself. It pays to be resourceful.