This was a good “drill” for something more serious. What if we couldn’t have driven to McDonald’s for breakfast each day? What if a tree had fallen on our house? What if we couldn’t get home? What if gasoline was scarce? Do I have appetizing shelf-stable food to eat in the first 48 hours before we were forced to grill up everything in the freezer? Did I have the fuel to grill all that food?
From now on I’ll be putting high-value items in the deep freeze. I threw out lobster tails, some specialty cuts of lamb, and our favorite sausages because they thawed so quickly in the refrigerator’s freezer (in about four hours) and not the deep freeze. And veggies, frozen pizzas, ice cream, and bread will go in the refrigerator's freezer. I can bear to lose veggies over meat and seafood.
Be a Chatty Cathy. Go out and check in on your neighbors. I introduced our family members to the neighborhood and we checked on people around us. We heard the talk of the neighborhood. Who had damage, did anyone need help, who had spoken to the power crews, what was the prognosis? Keep in mind that what you hear could be outdated information or an estimate or opinion, but keep communication open.
Initially assume that safety systems are going down. Does the railroad crossing signal have power if the lights are out? Are pumping stations able to deliver water? Is the water sanitation station working properly?
Candles were banned at our house. With the summer swelter, the last thing we needed was an extra heat source in the house or a house fire. I may still include them in my long term planning, though.
The iPod provided some entertainment. Although it wasn't necessary, it made things more normal in our high tech electronic lives. I'll take steps to make certain it's able to be charged in future events.
The natural gas was working, so the hot water heater was working just fine. We all showered. Nice!
Filling the empty parts of our chest freezer with 2L bottles of water probably saved our deep freezer full of food. It gave us the full 48 hours to formulate a plan, and it helps our freezer operate more efficiently day-to-day. And we could have let it thaw for drinking water if water sanitation went out.
Keeping the cars filled up on gas saved us time and stress. I always like to keep it over a half-tank. We were fortunate to have an almost-full tank that morning.
We had stockpiled some different kinds of flashlights. We had different lighting needs. Some made the grade and others didn't.
- Rayovac LED flashlight was a power saver, but not very bright. It was fine for walking in the dark house and navigating the stairs.
- Some cheapo LED lantern saved power and provided room illumination (unlike a focused flashlight) and could be set down on a table (unlike a rolling flashlight). The clear top blinded us when trying to see things in the room.
- 9V Pak-Lite is super slick with an 20+ hour run time, glow-in-the dark cap, and it's pocket size. The square battery doesn’t roll. Since I use 9V for our smoke and CO detectors, I have extra batteries, too.
- Our LED solar yard lights were a lighting boon. I pulled ours out of the ground and put them indoors in a bucket to use as a nightlight. They were going to be on anyway, might as well give them a better use. They were not too bright, just enough to orient ourselves in the dark.
- The Mag light, the old gold standard in personal lighting got no use. The batteries were draining so quickly and I decided to save fresh batteries for a more efficient light.
The laundry was all done, thanks to my husband. The rest of the house was a mess, but we had clean clothes and towels.
We probably should have evaluated our electrical needs in a power outage and purchased an appropriate generator some time ago. We had a window air conditioner that we could have used. I’m considering the cost of a generator vs. the cost of losing what was in our freezer. I’m also factoring how often we’ve had a power outage like this (rare) and how likely it is to happen again (who knows). In our area a snowblower might be a better investment. I'll have to weigh this out, but for now, I'm not beating myself up over it.
All the other things we enjoyed - being able to eat out, getting cash after the storm, not dealing with a fallen tree - these were fortunate events that had very little to do with our planning, but we took advantage of all the good things we could.
The Big Chicago Storm and Power Outage: Day One
Power Outage Day Two and The Great Generator Search
Chicago Storm Lessons Learned and Preparations that Paid
Generators for Backup Power
Practice an Evening Without Electricity
Give light and the darkness will disappear of itself.