Lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy

This entry was posted by on Monday, 10 December, 2012 at

More aptly titled, “Lessons learned from an 11 day power outage.” And it goes to show how busy I’ve been since this all happened that I’m only just now getting around to writing this.

1. An efficiently managed freezer has the potential to keep ice through an 11 day power outage.

I spent the weekend before the storm filling every plastic tupperware container in the house with water to freeze into ice blocks in both the kitchen and basement freezers. When I unpacked the freezer when the power finally came back on, there was still one tupperware which was half-filled with ice. I think we only had to buy about two bags of ice the whole time, and we threw out very little food. I just kept re-arranging the coolers as the fridge or spare freezer defrosted, and kept the coolers on the front porch. I just kept re-packing the stuff, and by Day 9 we had used up enough of the fresh food that everything fit into the regular drawer-freezer which acted like a cooler for the last 2 1/2 days.

That said, we would have lost a lot more food if we hadn’t been able to cook on a gas stove. Also, it pays to learn which foods (i.e. condiments, eggs) can go without refrigeration for short periods, and not waste precious cooler space on them.

2. An emergency radio is your best friend.

On Friday afternoon I paid the extra $4 for 1-day (i.e. Monday) Amazon Prime delivery of an emergency radio with a flashlight and micro-USB/iPod attachments, and FedEx delivered it on Monday morning so I was able to fully charge it off of my laptop before the power went out that afternoon. Best. Purchase. Ever. I actually never wound up using the attachments since we had enough neighbors with generators that charging phones never became a problem, but it was a good thing to have anyway. I’ve bought 3 more as gifts to give away for Christmas.

I left it on the windowsill to charge via the solar panel during the day, though on the cloudier days I had to use the crank a few times.

3. Walking isn’t so bad.

Two words: Gas shortage.

Luckily I had filled up my gas tank ahead of time, and with my workplace being out of power and closed for a week, I didn’t have to drive very far. If necessary, I could’ve walked to my second job but by the time they had re-opened, the gas lines had reduced quite a bit from the first few days due to rationing. In the mean time, I had walked to both a grocery store and the public library (both of which had power, and were ridiculously crowded.)

That said, it was incredibly surreal to see what it was like in the 70s. Or could be like in the future. (Though after this experience, I will never buy a non-hybrid electric car.)

4. Decluttering is good.

Had the basement flooded, and the power gone out and prevented us from being able to pump water out, we could’ve been in a very bad situation due to the sheer amount of stuff being stored down there (not to mention mold, etc. although it wouldn’t have flooded more than a few inches, since we’re on a hill.) Thankfully, while the power did go out, the basement did not flood since there wasn’t too much rain. (Unfortunately, my parents’ property at the Jersey Shore wasn’t so lucky, but that’s another–and much more expensive–story.)

Cleaning out the basement will be #1 project for the spring. Luckily, a lot of the furniture down there is waiting for me to find a new apartment, or waiting for my sister to move back from graduate school into hers, so that may resolve itself much on its own as both of those things should happen by the summer.

5. Low temperatures make you hardy.

We rarely turn the heat above 65 degrees in my house during the winter, and had the insulation re-done a year ago. 11 days without heat in November isn’t so bad if you’re used to layering clothes, and having extra blankets on the bed. The lowest the inside temperature got was 48 degrees, but that was after over a week and having been through a snowstorm. (One of my coworkers who lives at a higher elevation had hers go down to 27 degrees — yikes.)

6. It’s not always necessary to run out and buy bottled water.

Caveat: We have municipal water that runs off of pressure, and do not rely on an electric pump to get our water. That said, I know many people who also have municpal water and ran out and bought a ton of plastic bottled water. All I did was fill 3 large-ish pots on the stove and a few large glass bottles, which would’ve been enough for 3 people for a few days of drinking water in case of a boil water advisory, which is about all we’d get here. Which only would’ve been necessary if the water pressure dropped for some reason, since we would have been able to boil it on the gas stove anyway. (Plus, in an emergency situation, I would’ve been happy to drink water out of the plastic containers I’d frozen to keep food cold, which is another several gallons right there.)

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