Last Wednesday night I found myself out with some girlfriends from work getting a MAC makeover, dining and driving home during one helluva wind storm. I had spent part of the evening making fun of the big "wind event" on the horizon... then it hit as we made our way to our cars. Holy crap! It almost knocked my off my feet! I live in Southern California for God's sake! What the hell was going on?!
I read a text from home explaining that the power was out but candles were lit and to not bother trying to park in the garage. Got it! I white knuckled the steering wheel all the way home. The wind was really raging. I had trouble sleeping due to the noise outside. OMG! I can't remember ever seeing or hearing anything like it in my life.
I woke up to see the damage. It turns out we had experienced hurricane force winds of up to 100 mph. I was happy to see that our recently pruned oaks and orange trees were fine. Our neighbor's non-native pines, on the other hand, had blown all over our yard. What a mess.
That was only the beginning. We ended up enduring six days and nights without electricity. I realize there are people in other parts of the world suffering through far worse but... it sucked. We happened to have hot water to shower and wash dishes in. Without
that, I would have high tailed it to Palm Springs or Santa Barbara.
Turns out an ice cold shower just isn't for me.
On the bright side we were very resourceful and discovered what really comes in handy when surviving without power. Here is what became most important to us and a few emergency supplies you might want to keep on hand:
I remembered our ancient campfire coffee pot and just knew Dad would have never thrown it out. It was right were I thought it would be. I found that filling it with hot tap water then bringing it (close to) a boil on the gas powered BBQ worked quite well. It was really cold outside so I quickly learned to just set it in the fireplace. In this way we were able to make coffee, tea and hot chocolate.
Last summer I spotted this emergency radio and picked it up, just in case. It was fantastic. I live in the foothills and tend to get terrible reception but this radio worked like a charm. It's a bit spendy but it's more than just a radio. It has lots of great features (battery/solar/crank powered, flashlight, weather channels and it can charge your cell phone!). I highly recommend it.
Candles and matches-
Just make sure your candles are unscented. Seriously, our house smelled like a French whorehouse. Blechh! Unscented long burning tea lights to float in bowls of water can provide a some nice light.
Friday morning it became apparent that we would be in the dark for the long haul. Flashlights, batteries, candles, matches and ice could not be found for 20 miles. I decided to hit the Home Depot near work and picked up the last two battery-operated lanterns they had. Candles are great but really tough to read by (I don't care what Abe Lincoln said). The lanterns run on 8 D-cell batteries, which is ridiculous, but those bad boys really became important. We were glad to have them. I suggest having at least one lantern per person in a household.
Camping cookware set-
I found the cutest set of camping cookware in the closet. I was able to heat up some leftover pasta and it was quite a nice meal. I suppose I could have used our every day cookware on the grill but I didn't want to risk it. Cooking in aluminum pots meant for a campfire seemed more sensible and they worked just fine. Ours look something like this:
I rediscovered this addictive game. Have you ever played? It's so simple and fun. Try it some time. I pulled out a deck of cards but didn't really play anything. I also completely forgot about Bananagrams. Bummer! That would have been great too. Time slows down in the dark, keep some family friendly games around to pas the time. Trust me.
Those were the most critical items that kept us going. Keeping warm was the most important business at hand. I found that hopping under the covers in bed was the best way to stay warm. The problem was that I tended to get so tired so early. I now understand the need to wake at the crack of dawn to get a fire going to heat the house and to get a kettle going. This, of course, meant falling to sleep by 8:00 or 9:00 each night. It was a strange, cold, dark week but we learned a lot and will never take electricity for granted again.
We have since packed up all of our supplies for the next time we have no electricity. Power will eventually go out again, this time we will be even better prepared.