And that’s good to know, especially now that we have frigid temperatures and are very nearly confined to our house as it is. When it’s so cold outside that your eyeballs freeze on contact and you have difficulty blinking because your tear ducts have iced over, you know it’s serious business.
But seriously, have you thought about what would happen if you couldn’t leave your house? Or there was some sort of national emergency and you couldn’t buy the items you needed? Or the weather suddenly went berserk and you were forced to live like the pioneers with no electricity and other limited resources and you had to salvage all of your energy just so you could survive the long, cold night?
It can happen. In fact, my father-in-law is convinced that it WILL happen and has taken precautions (complete with buying a hand gun) in preparation.
Though I wouldn’t go so far as to agree with him on that “let’s panic and do something drastic” level, I DO think it’s a good idea to be prepared for the worst. You just never know what will happen and when you have a family to take care of? It behooves you to think ahead.
Three years ago, Springfield was one huge ICICLE; our fair city crystallized before our very eyes. We received FIVE inches of ice in the span of three separate ice storms. Our temperatures were frigid (sort of like now) and 70% of our city lost electricity. We, personally, were without power for 11 1/2 days – and yes, we were keeping track. It was one of the worst storms to hit our city in Springfield’s history.
We were crippled. People were fighting over firelogs, flashlights, blankets and kerosene all in the name of trying to stay warm at night. One whole family died because they didn’t know enough NOT to put their generator in the garage and the carbon dioxide killed them in their sleep.
People’s homes were being broken into because the owners left to stay at hotels until they got their power back. School was canceled for an entire week simply because they didn’t have any power.
In short, it was a mess.
Part of the problem, aside from the insane amount of ice we received, was that our trees simply … exploded. It was not uncommon to go outside and hear the constant BANG, POP, SNAP of tree limbs as they broke off and tore down our electric lines.
And let’s not forget the explosions and flashes of light as transformers blew throughout the city. And yes, we witnessed quite a few of those when we stepped outside to try and regain some semblance of reality.
Sometimes it was so loud it sounded like a gun shot had gone off. This was especially creepy at night. When it was pitch black (no street lights) and you had no idea where the sound was coming from and you prayed it wasn’t one of your own trees and/or a limb was about to come crashing through your roof. (This happened to a few people).
We moved our BBQ grill into the kitchen and we cooked a few meals on that. But mostly, we went out to grab some burgers. We lost a whole refrigerator worth of food. I spent the entire day preparing for the evening – making sure we had enough kerosene for our heater, making sure there was enough wood for the wood fireplace – we basically existed during that time period and nothing more.
We were completely unprepared for that ice storm. I remember walking around in a virtual daze for the first day or so because I simply didn’t know what to do. I kept expecting the power to come back on, after all, we had lost power in the past, but it had always come back on within a few hours.
When I was finally convinced that this ice storm was indeed SERIOUS and that it would be DAYS before we had any hope of getting our power back, only then did I snap to attention and begin to assess our situation.
We needed light. The evenings were the worse. There is nothing more depressing than sitting around in the dark and just sort of waiting around for bedtime. We needed heat. Our house got all the way down to 40 degrees and we were exhaling condensation – in our house. We needed the basic necessities to survive, in our own home.
Generators were hard to come by – everyone in Springfield was looking for one. Companies shipped generators in from surrounding towns and Kevin stood in line for three hours, in single digit weather, just so he could snag one off a semi-truck. Our lives became considerably easier once we got our generator. We kept it in our shed, well away from the house, but that meant we had to buy extra long extensions cords so we could plug it into our gas heater and warm up the house. The generator was only so much wattage, so it was a constant power compromise: turn this light off so I could turn this on, or unplug the house heater so I could run the hair dryer. It was exhausting.
The generator would periodically sputter and die at irregular and unpredictable intervals and our house would be plunged back into darkness. Lines began to form at the gas stations because everyone freaked out and thought there would be a gas shortage.
I wasn’t so much worried about not having enough for our cars, I was worried we wouldn’t have enough for our generator, and we would have to contend with the cold and the dark once more.
I can’t express to you enough the severity of our city’s situation. I’ve never experienced anything like it before in my life and I pray to God I never experience anything like it in the future, either. It was a living nightmare. It truly was. And I’m not talking about missing TV or my computer, I’m talking about not having heat and worrying about whether we would last the night.
In short, we learned a lot from that experience. We learned to stock emergency rations, to make sure we had plenty of candles and flashlights (the kind that don’t take batteries, you know, the crank kind), to buy a kerosene heater (we had borrowed my parents’ heater), and to have some sort of plan in place in case something like that happened again. Granted, the plan will likely change, depending on the emergency but at least we have SOMETHING, we didn’t have ANYTHING last time.
We are prepared now. And I figure we have enough food and supplies to see us through about three months, if we’re stingy with our food consumption.
It all sounds so third world-ish, I know, but honestly, it’s smart to be prepared, to have food rations and to have a survival plan if it comes to that.
We’ve had some pretty cold temperatures these past several days. And it doesn’t look like it’s going to let up until next week. Thank the good LORD above that all we’re having to deal with this go-around is snow – no ice. And our city utility company has spent months making the rounds and trimming back our trees to help ensure that if we get another ice storm, the tree limbs won’t knock out our power again. (One of the reasons we had such a wide-spread outage last time was because people started vetoing the tree trimming activities – you know, they wanted to be more “green” and as a result, it ended up coming back to bite us in the butt by leaving us in the dark for several weeks. Funny, I haven’t heard one peep out of anyone about trimming back the trees since then. And if anyone EVER says anything about wanting to stop it in the future, I will fight tooth and nail to remind them of the ice storm of 2007).
If there’s one thing you have to do if you live in Springfield Missouri, is be prepared for anything. In fact, Forbes Magazine named Springfield, in their wildest weather report story, as having the biggest variety of weather:
A slightly elevated city in the Ozarks at 1,266 feet, Springfield sits beneath unstable air (cooler air over warm air) which spurs high winds, including some tornadoes. All the leading weather variety towns are landlocked–land both heats and cools several times faster than water. Springfield is also just close enough the tornado alley area of the Gulf of Mexico to keep things interesting.
So, if you see me on Twitter talking about our weather? Now you know why. There is never a dull moment around here, let me assure you.
How about you – how long could you survive trapped in your house?