Ice at least 1/4″ thick has accumulated on surfaces outside and today the power started going out around the state. We’ve had it relatively easy here so far, but just a few miles inland it looks like a war zone.
(Scattered throughout this article are various pictures I’ve taken during the storm and it’s aftermath.)
I put a lot of my eggs in the generator basket, so imagine my dismay when I went out Saturday – the day before the storm – and started it up only to find out it wasn’t generating electricity.
It started up fine and ran like a champ, but it wouldn’t produce one watt of electricity. I did a Google search trying to figure out what’s going on and it might be a residual magnetic charge that is supposed to be there is now gone. “Flashing the field” is the way to fix it. I called an expert in town and he said that might be it, but he suggested I bring it in for a look. It could also be brushes or other things, so I’ll be packing it up soon and taking it in for repair. Turns out if you do this procedure wrong it can screw up the gennie, so I’m listening to the expert.
As you’ll see later in this article generators not working for one reason or another was a common theme during this storm.
I’ll update this article if I get more info before I post it.
With the generator out of the picture I know have to fall back on plan B and I’m damned happy I had one. So now I’ve got the kerosene heater out and running as a heat source. It’s not hot in in the house by any stretch, but it’s not freezing cold either. The outside temperature is about 28 degrees at the moment and if it drops a lot I could be in trouble, but for now it’s ok,
For light I’ve got a couple of electric lanterns I’m using. I’ve also got an oil lamp, but I don’t need it yet. We got some candles out and have those in strategic locations around the house as well.
I still have the solar generator I mentioned awhile back and used that to run a couple of electric lights, charge our cell phones, and run the laptop. The kids were tired and cranky when we got home and it was pretty much downhill for them once we landed. They were finally in bed by 8:00 pm, but I’ll tell you, my little boy was in a foul mood and my daughter was enough to drive me crazy. Mrs. Jarhead was exhausted and went to bed with the kids.
For refrigeration I have a few jugs of ice in the freezer that some folks on here suggested using awhile back. You’re some wicked smaht people out there! Basically take a few milk jugs 3/4 full of water and let them freeze. When the power goes out the blocks of ice will help keep everything cold.
For a stove I have a propane cooking stove that works fine for what we need it to do. It’s a two burner, so I can make breakfast in the morning if the power hasn’t come back on by then and perk coffee at the same time. As I’ve mentioned before I have a kerosene stove that is keeping the house warm.
I’m even connected to the Internet as I took my cell phone and turned it into a wifi hotspot. My Microsoft Surface uses minimal electricity, so I can have up to 10 hours of online time if I want it. (I don’t really, but it’s nice to know it’s there if I need it.). The good thing about tablet devices is that they use don’t use much in the way of electricity like a laptop or desktop yet they provide a way to get to the Internet if the landlines are down as long as you have a smartphone.
To quiet the kids down I hooked my laptop up to the solar generator and let them watch a movie before they went to bed.
Overall we’re pretty comfortable, but I’m mad at myself for not checking the generator earlier. In my defense I was told by an electrician that I didn’t need to hook it up the house every time I tested it. I just needed to run it.
Wrong. From now on every time I start that generator up it’s going to be tested under load and that will be a minimum of once a month.
Folks, if you have a gennie and haven’t tested it lately you should go out first chance you get and put it under load. My mother in law has one of those fancy propane generators that kicks in automatically when the power goes out and it didn’t work either.
Seriously, don’t put too much faith in technology. Make sure you have a backup plan, and a backup plan for your backup plan. The kerosene heater is a life saver and without it we’d be freezing our asses off in here.
I went outside a half hour ago (about 9:45 pm) and there’s literally a 1/4 inch of ice covering everything. If more trees don’t come down by morning I’ll be shocked. Some towns here in Maine have taken a serious pounding with limbs, trees, power lines, and poles all down. The lines are causing fires and it’s just a huge mess.
Overall we’re doing fine here. Hopefully the electricity is back on in the morning. I’ll keep you posted!
The Next Day
A friend of mine offered to let me borrow a generator, so I went down in the morning and picked it up. I brought it back and hooked it up in place of the non-working generator and fired it up. Happily, it worked and pretty soon the house was back up and running. The pellet stove was working, so we had heat. The furnace worked and so did the well pump, so we even had hot water.
Having the house hooked up to a transfer switch was money well spent! Basically what happens is when the power goes out I start the generator up and plug it into the outdoor plug. Down in the basement I flip the circuits I want to run on the transfer switch and that powers up the portions of the house I want to run.
My generator is a 5600 watt, which is plenty to run most everything except the oven and the dryer. My friend loaned me a 6500 watt, so I had even more room to play.
I talked with my boss today and he told me how he started his generator and went to plug into the transfer switch and discovered he didn’t have the right cable connector. Another friend had a transfer switch and generator as well, but when he went to start it up gasoline was flowing out of an air vent. I believe he said it was a stuck carburetor, but he didn’t know what it was at the time and thus didn’t have electricity either. He’s had everything in place for months, he just never bothered to hook it up and try it out.
Starting to sense a patter here? We don’t use them very often, but when we do we want them to work. Test your equipment! Do a live test before you need it. Take the house off line and run it off the gennie for a couple of hours. Make sure everything works.
Some equipment doesn’t like “dirty” generator power and it’s a good idea to find out what it is before you need it!
It’s now Saturday the 28th as I write this part of the article – a week later – and some people are still without electricity here in Maine. The power crews have been working 24/7 to restore power and in my opinion deserve a round of applause. Of course there are people who aren’t happy and have actually threatened to kill power crews if they didn’t get their electricity back.
That should be an eye opener folks. What does that tell us about our society? We have become so dependent on electricity that we will actually threaten the people out trying to help us if we don’t have it. Let this be a warning!
There is still ice on the trees, but yesterday was above freezing and today should be as well and hopefully that will get rid of most if not all of the ice. It didn’t help that a few days after the storm another five inches of snow fell on top of it making things even nastier.
The worst of the storm hit just a few miles north and east of where I live sparing us the brunt of the damage. I work with people who are still without electricity.
There are several important lessons to be learned here.
First – have a plan!
As preppers you should be ready for just about anything, however, if there’s a storm coming chances are pretty good that you will have advance notice and can do the last minute things you might have been slacking on. The only thing I really had to do was make sure my vehicles were topped off and any equipment outside was covered with tarps.
Even though my generator didn’t work, by testing it first ahead of the storm I knew that I couldn’t rely on it when I needed it. I have water in the basement that hadn’t been changed in a year, so I refilled all the water containers to make sure I had fresh water. Very good move on my part.
Second – don’t rely on technology!
Technology is fickle. It breaks down. It runs out of fuel. Weather can affect how it works or even cause it to stop working. Having said that if you do rely on technology MAKE SURE IT WORKS!!!
Throughout the summer I ran a monthly test on my generator. I’d start it up and plug it in to the house to make sure it worked. After talking to an electrician the last couple of months I didn’t plug it in to see if it was actually producing electricity. Huge mistake on my part. Plug it in. Test it. Test it again. It may seem like a pain at the time, but it’s nice to know it’s there when you need it.
Third – have a Backup Plan
In my case my plan was to fall back on my camping gear. The two burner propane stove worked beautifully for cooking and heating water. The kerosene stove worked well for keeping us warm, although my wife is sensitive to the fumes. The solar generator battery pack I made a few years ago provided basic electricity for a couple of lights and a laptop. For a small load like that I think could have run them for a couple of days.
One piece of equipment I have laying around, but never used before during an emergency was one of those little hand crank flashlight/radio combinations. I used it for listening to music and weather reports. The kids thought it was quite a thing to crank it up and then be able to get music out of it.
Have a Few Small Comforts Available if Possible
Playing a couple of movies on the laptop helped settle the kids down. When the power goes out it’s a big change for them and they have to unlearn some things that have been pounded in their young heads. (Don’t flush the toilet!)
If you can give them a small bit of normalcy it will help get them back on track.
For me it was the ability to connect to the Internet and check the weather and see how things were going in the social media. It’s good to see how others are faring during a storm like this because it takes away that feeling of isolation. Some people had it way worse than we did, which can help you look at your situation with new eyes.
For those interested – in order to connect to the ‘net with the power down I used my cell phone as a WiFi hotspot using software called Foxfi Key. Then I used my tablet (a Microsoft Surface) to connect. Tablets have a much longer battery life than laptops – my surface is about 10 hours – thus cutting down your need to recharge them.
I’ve written this post over a week or so as events unfolded, which explains the various tenses you’ve seen me writing in. We have another storm coming tonight 12-29-2013. This will be the second snowfall since the ice storm and contrary to earlier reports the expected melting hasn’t occurred. At least not much. Some ice has fallen off the power lines and you don’t want to be under it when it happens let me tell you, but that’s about it. The snow on the trees from an earlier storm (after the ice storm) has acted as a kind of insulator for the ice underneath it.
We have another storm coming tonight with an expected eight inches. It’s been a busy winter so far! If you’re caught in a season like this take the time between storms and restock your preps. Water, food, gas, kerosene, firewood, whatever it is you need make sure you have enough.
Mother Nature is in a foul mood this year and she’s letting us know it!
Hey – if you live in the northern latitudes you’ve got to expect a winter like this from time to time. If you’ve been a part of this storm I hope everything is going well for you.
Sound off below!