Author’s Note: As I am writing this, power is out to millions of homes in the south where snow is extremely rare. We need to remember if a weather event happened even once in history in an area it can happen again. Never think, “it can’t happen here.” Years ago, someone questioned my memory of a hurricane in New Jersey when I was a child in an article I wrote here at Meridian.

A few years later hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey and did millions of dollars of damage. Some have still not recovered nine years later. These cold temperatures, snow and ice storms are not over. More is forecast for this weekend. Please take time to visit Totally Ready on Facebook and share the posts there concerning preparing for power outages and also the article Don’t Be Left In the Dark Wondering What to Do with tips for staying safe and warm after the power fails.

Power outages are becoming more and more frequent. If you live in an area with underground utilities, you are not exempt from power failures. Everyone should be preparing to care for their family once the lights go out. I want to share just two experiences of friends and family who have recently experienced outages and what they learned. 

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The first is from friends:

“We have had 4-5 feet of snow here at the cabin, and a power outage which lasted 7 days! Are we ever grateful for our generator!

“We were both sound asleep at 10:30, a week ago Wednesday night, when I was awakened by the absence of white noise, our window fan! Richard was pretty smart to make the starting of the generator so easy! I took a flashlight into the garage, pulled the lever and pushed the buttons, and we were ‘back in business!’ He was not aware until the next morning that the power had gone off!

“We were just finishing our ‘Come Follow Me’ discussion early Thursday when we heard a crash and watched the power lines go down in front of the cabin! A tree had fallen across the street, taking them down with it. 

“Then Friday morning it felt like an earthquake hit when a 50-foot treetop fell across our driveway and into the street! Prayers were answered when four neighbors showed up to help. They worked 4 ½ hours to clear the tree. One had a chain saw, thank goodness. 

“Sunday morning our hot water heater failed us! One more problem to fix. That warm water felt so good when we could finally take showers!

“Four PG&E trucks were parked in front of our cabin all day the next Wednesday, to repair the damage to the lines! It was about 6 p.m. when power was restored. Hooray! It had been seven days! That is the longest we have ever used our generator! And did we ever learn a lot about what more we need to be prepared for an extended outage!

“I could use most of my major appliances, minus the stove and oven, but only one at a time! We had to turn off the bathroom heater whenever I turned on the microwave! The lights dimmed when I used my blow dryer! I could use the washing machine and dryer, but not at the same time -and nothing else! It stretched my brain to figure out what order to do what, so it felt like we were in constant ‘survival’ mode. But we were
also incredibly comfortable! My electric blanket worked, and we could
even watch TV! We learned several new things with power out for 7 consecutive days.

  • Solar energy [powered] batteries cannot compete with propane and gasoline
    for 7 days. Recharging batteries with solar power takes many days, not
    hours, and cannot supply power and charging at the same time.
  • Propane over gasoline generator.
  • I have a 250-gallon propane tank that holds 200 gallons of propane.
    (Tank needs extra space to gassify the liquid propane.) My generator
    was going through from 25 to 35 gallons of propane per day. At $3.50
    per gallon plus tax and Fuel recovery fee amounts to over $100 per day.
  • We were lucky that Brian, our propane delivery friend, was able to get
    through the snow and icy roads after several days to refill our tank.
    If, not, we would have lost generator power.
  • Gas stations didn’t have power for the week so we couldn’t pump gas.
  • A tree took out the PG&E power lines connected to our house. Without
    our neighbors and me removing the tree from the road so it could be plowed, it would have taken several more weeks to have power restored. (More weeks on generator power.) Chain saws are essential.
  • Our generator can only supply ~ 3000 Watts. Fry Pan, Toaster,
    Microwave, Hair Blower, washing machine and Gas Dryer each uses 1500 watts!!! We have to stagger using any one of these things to keep the
    generator from stalling.
  • Our generator would just stop at inconvenient times. I would start
    it again and 5 or six minutes it would stop again. The stopping wasn’t
    related to lack of fuel or too heavy a load. I was stumped! Then I
    remembered reading a note in the generator manual years ago that it had a ‘low oil’ detector that would prevent burning up the engine. I
    checked and YES the oil was low. I’m glad I had extra oil on a shelf.
    Filled it up and started working again.
  • I don’t like to have a single point of failure so I have recently purchased two smaller propane generators. They usually operate from BBQ propane bottles. As a backup to our big generator, if it fails, the first smaller generator will operate lights, furnace, TV, radios, electric blanket, etc. by itself. When we want toast, microwave dinner, hair blower, etc. I will start the second generator and let it run for the short times and then shut it off again. I will keep a stash of BBQ Propane bottles which could keep us warm for a few days until our big propane tank can be filled again.
  • One of the interesting aspects of this ‘adventure’ was the
    difference in our approaches and attitudes. Richard was excited to have
    the opportunity to try out his equipment and I was in constant ‘problem
    solving mode.’ That was exhilarating for him! He loves to serve, and
    was helping our neighbors, so he felt useful! Figuring out what else we
    needed to have during an extended outage was an interesting challenge!
    He enjoyed the entire experience! We were completely comfortable, so
    our hardship was minimal!
  • I, on the other hand, felt like my brain was on ‘circuit overload.’ Since we have an electric stove and oven, I had to feed us meals which used our Dutch oven, griddle, crock pot, and toaster. That limited my options, so the decisions were constant. There was no operating on ‘auto pilot!’ And there was a certain amount of anxiety regarding how long this power outage was going to last – like is felt with our worldwide pandemic. How long is this going to last? When can
    our lives get back to normal?
  • I also found myself sleeping to escape the situation. I wanted to
    ‘hide’ rather than confront, perhaps hoping something would have changed when I woke up. I am embarrassed to admit the paralysis I felt, rather than being an active participant in the process. I was in ‘survival
    mode,’ and couldn’t seem to focus on anything other than feeding us.
  • I am aware that giving service is the best antidote to depression,
    so I wrapped birthday gifts to send to family members and wrote some
    letters of love and encouragement. Reading good books and listening to
    uplifting music are also helpful.” 

While one family was facing a power outage with freezing temperature another was facing one with nice warm weather. A family member in southern California experienced repeated outages from a few hours to days due to high winds and the power company shutting off power. The following is what they learned:

  • “Although it made perfect sense where I had items stored, I have now changed things around. I now have all my candles, batteries, flashlights, extension cords

(for use with the generator) and other items needed during an outage in one place making them easy to find and quick to set up.

  • I purchased a tea kettle. I have an electric kettle but of course I could not use that. Since I have a gas stove, I could heat water, but pouring from a kettle is easier and safer than pouring from a pot.
  • I now store gasoline for the generator. I did not know about adding a stabilizer, but thanks to my bishop I now have it on hand. The nearby gas stations were also without power so refilling my gas can would have taken a drive across town. 
  • I would suggest you read and understand how the generator works ahead of time. I did not have a funnel to add oil and it was messy without one.
  • Our generator used about a gallon of gas every four hours. The cost for a 24-hour period would have been about $18.00. I did not run mine all day as everyone in the neighborhood had one running. It was noisy and smelly so sometimes I ran the generator for two hours at a time during the day. I left it on at dark so we could have a lamp on and turned it off when we went to sleep. 
  • We were warned the outage was coming so I packed everything in my freezer into a small space at the bottom. I had a bag of ice on the floor of the freezer and placed everything on top of that. I did the same with the fridge and moved everything together.
  • We made a mental list of items to be taken from the refrigerator and freezer before we opened them. 
  • I could use my stove top but not my microwave or oven so we ate lots of soup and other foods that could be prepared on the stove. 
  • One thing I discovered recently was that cell phones do not charge well in the cold. I was recently in Texas for the filming of a scene for The Chosen. We were outside all day in cold from 20-30 degrees F.  My cell phone lost power twice as fast as usual when exposed to the cold. I used a battery pack and the phone charged quickly when it was in my bag, but when I left it out the charging slowed way down.”

Many have experienced ice storms, snowstorms, and freezing temperatures the past few weeks that have not been seen in decades. We have been warned over and over again that these weather-related challenges will increase as the time for the Savior’s return grows near. Now is the time to prepare as a family. If we include our children in our preparations, they will be more prepared when they are on their own in the future, and reassured and calmer as challenges arise now.

Carolyn is now teaching classes over the internet to groups. If your ward, stake, family group or another group would like help preparing, please contact Carolyn. These classes may include any aspect of self-reliance from food storage to kits to power outage, hurricanes, etc. The time is now to prepare, before it is needed. Contact Carolyn over messenger on her Facebook page or in the comment section here at Meridian.