I often write and speak about disaster preparedness and emergency planning, but I unfortunately had to practice what I preach after my house was blasted by a major winter storm recently.
It was a lovely January morning in Kansas…
I was happy and comfortable in my nice warm house, looking out the window at the accumulating snow brought by Winter Storm Gia. It was a good storm, with about 10 -12 inches of snow by the time it was all finished.
Normally our snow storms are not very eventful, but this was a wet heavy snow. I heard a few tree branches breaking due to the weight of the snow and ice, but the noise was getting louder and more frequent.
As time went by, the breaking branches turned into breaking limbs, which turned into trees falling. As the trees fell, so did the power lines and out went the power.
Usually when the power goes out it’s pretty quick to come back on. Not this time. The storm was widespread and lines were coming down over an area of about 50 square miles. At it’s peak, more than 150,000 people were without power.
It would be three days later before I was brought back into the modern age.
I was the only one on my block dumb enough to stay. It was eerily quiet with no street lights or houses lit up, but it was peaceful. While some people would dread the thought of sitting in a cold, dark house, it really wasn’t that bad.
Yes, it was uncomfortable and yes it was cold (43 degrees inside the house when I woke up), but in general, I wasn’t too worried about it because I was prepared (and I was too cheap to go to a hotel).
I’ve written books about disaster preparedness and emergency survival…
My disaster experience and knowledge comes from having been involved with numerous tornadoes, fires, floods and other events. All of the things I’ve dealt with involved others, but not me personally.
I never really put much thought into actually having to put my own lessons into action for myself, but it was time. Granted, it wasn’t the zombie apocalypse or a major disaster in the true sense of what I teach preparedness for, but it was good practice for it.
After a few hours of realizing the power wasn’t coming back, I jumped into action. I didn’t even have to consult my books for what to do!
I took the food out of my refrigerator and buried it in the snow to keep it from going bad.
I had flashlights and plenty of fresh batteries. I also had candles and lighters. I even had some glow sticks. Light wasn’t going to be a problem.
Nearby restaurants and Walmart had power, so if I needed really anything I could get it, but I had supplies. I had cases of water. I had canned goods. I had plenty of things which wouldn’t spoil.
My phone had a good charge, but if not, I had one of those fancy little portable power chargers, made for times like this. I also had my car fully fueled in case I needed to charge both or if I needed a place to warm up.
I had plenty of blankets to wrap up in to keep warm.
Luckily I didn’t get to the point of needing to light a fire in the yard to cook (I would’ve just ordered a pizza before that happened), but I was ready!
I was proud of myself.
The old saying “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone” is true, especially when it comes to electricity. Sitting the dark was boring (WiFi is more useful than we give credit for) but I found non-electric entertainment. When all else failed, I just went to bed.
As I laid in my bed, I could see my breath as I exhaled, but once I got situated under my mound of blankets, it was fairly comfortable (did I mention I was also wearing a beanie and gloves?). It was inconveniencing, but I’ve slept in far worse conditions.
When the power finally came back on three days later, it was weird. I flipped on a light switch and thought to myself “whooooooa, cool!”. I cranked up the music again, turned up the heater and said “ahhhhhhh”.
It was nice to know I didn’t just talk the talk when teaching others… This was a test under optimum conditions, but I proved to myself I could do it if needed. I hope I won’t have to do it again, especially under worse conditions… But hey, I’m ready!
Written by Marty Augustine
Marty has been teaching disaster preparedness classes since 2002. He is the author of “Disaster Planning Made Easy“, “Storm Safe Kids” and “Responding to Disaster“. All of Marty’s books are available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and other book sellers.