Icemageddon…It was the most significant part of the winter of 2013/2014

Back to the story. I think I said earlier that my daughter, Ashley offered to help me with the installation of the transfer switch. I took this as a good sign and took her up on her offer. We did all of it together. I’m proud of her for wanting to help by being right there next to me doing everything. We had plenty of time to talk about the respect for the danger of electricity. I told her what to do in case somehow I am electrocuted. She looked sort of wide eyed at first but understood my meaning. I told her not to touch me. To go get help, BUT, to make sure that if my wife came down to keep her from coming over to grab me as well. Now that I think of it it is scary thinking about it. If I’m electrocuted at the box it wouldn’t be just a little tingle. It would probably be over.

Needless to say we were extremely cautious and took each and every step slowly.

In conclusion, I’ve often asked what this experience has meant to me. Unofficially I’ve asked many of the people that I come in contact with everyday, if they lost power. This usually leads to a conversation of whether or not they had some type of emergency procedure already in place. People that live outside of the city that I live in mostly have well pumps and sump pumps. Without power their basements can flood and they would have no water. I didn’t have that concern and looking back that costs me in terms of preparation. Even when we had outages of a few hours or a day and the weather was warmer, we could pick up dinner, turn on some candles and ride it out. Not this time. This type of cold took no prisoners.

As I write the final words on this story I think of all the people that went through the experience as we did. Many of them will put their collective heads back in the sand. A few will use that proverbial pain and get a bit more organized. I want to be a part of the latter. For me and my family it is important. Perhaps we will never use these preps. If not, that will be great piece of mind.

I’m not convinced. Our modern society has not on whole gone about decreasing our dependence on electrical energy. We’ve expanded it exponentially. I plan to learn more of the old ways. Of times when there wasn’t a switch to turn on, or a device to charge up. Frankly, I sort of like the times when we have lost power. Not the cold but the unplanned stuff that comes along with it. I like that it forces us to come together. Sister speaking with brother, neighbor speaking to neighbor, families spending time together, it’s wonderful. In those six days I spent more time talking with my 13 year old son, Jorden, than I probably do in a year’s time. That is sad, but at least I’m aware of it. I’m determined and I’ve told him as much, that I want us to spend more time with each other. He even has more of a sense of humor than I knew of.

Learning these lessons made it all worth while. I don’t want to do it again…but I wouldn’t trade the experience. I consider it life changing and thought provoking.

If you were a part of it, did it change how you think?

For me………………………..It Did?

 

Take care, Constant Reader.

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December 27th, 2013. Each day prior to this day, I would check the power restoration site for a hopeful update. The date didn’t budge an inch. This morning it’s Big Breakfast Platters, from McDonalds. It isn’t gourmet and we don’t eat it often, but it would be good today. After breakfast, I keep researching, generators, transfer switches, everything I could get my hands on. Thankfully there are lots of videos on YouTube of just the things I was researching and I’m a fast learner if I can see someone do something.

I check the power restoration around noon and it shows that there is NO power outage at our house. WHAT!!!! I grab my coat and tell Amy what I saw. She tells me to wait because she is going with me. Once we get to the neighborhood, there isn’t any power at the house. WTF. I drive around the neighborhood and there are power crews everywhere. I recorded some video and I called it the “Bestest Sight Ever”. They’re up on poles, riding around in those big trucks with the cherry pickers and repairing that downed power line at the house I spoke of earlier. It was exciting to see them in the area. My poor wife was so afraid that they were going to leave the neighborhood before all the power was on. I dropped her at home and followed the crews around for awhile. This was the most activity and excitement we’d had in a week so I guess I was a power stalker. I didn’t have anything else to do and what they were doing was interesting. People were coming out and showing them downed power lines in their backyards, telling them how much they were appreciated, it was nice. The crews in our neighborhood were from Wisconsin and Ohio.

We hung around for a few hours but the power didn’t come back on. The restoration website changed the estimate to Noon on the next day.

As I was following them around, I could see that they would repair one part and it would lead them to another part down. Amy called it connecting the dots. I think that is a great analogy. After sometime we went back to the hotel. It didn’t look like they were leaving until the job was done so we left them to their work. When we got back to the hotel, once again, all these open rooms and only one housekeeping lady on our floor. We located her and offered to help a bit. I vacuumed a few rooms and my wife helped her make some beds and other stuff. Unfortunately her equipment was in poor shape as I was thinking about getting our kids and we help her with the whole floor. I knew we couldn’t go in rooms where people had stuff, but the rooms that were going to be vacant we could do. She told us that normally this is their slow season and they only have one or two housekeepers and it is easy to keep up. With the outages and the hotel filled up they were just overwhelmed. I’m glad we were able to do a bit. Either way we offered a hand and later a nice tip.

During dinner, which we pilfered from our refrigerator at home, I tell my family that I have embarked upon a new project. I plan to get a generator, transfer switch or sub-panel and if I have anything to say about it, we’ll never be booted out of our home with similar circumstances. They say little but they are encouraging. I know me, I’ll study everything I have access to and be a temporary expert. I say temporary because I won’t remember everything forever. On this subject I won’t be caught flat footed anymore. This experience was too painful, cold and expensive.

Around 2100 I check the restoration website again. Again it says that there is no outage at our house. Amy and I pack up again and go. We’re a little less excited this time of course. We get to the neighborhood and start creeping around. We think we see houses that didn’t have power before, lit up. We tentatively go to our house. It’s all lit up. When I mean lit up, I mean lit up. We must have turned on every light while we were there days ago. I thought everything was off, but apparently we subconsciously kept flipping switches as we passed them. Amy and I hug tightly. We are so glad.

A few days prior as I was checking posts on Facebook, a guy I used to work with said that his power was restored and the surge fried all his electronics. Furnace, stove, refrigerator, phones, everything. After I saw this, I went home and unplugged all of our stuff, including the furnace. So we had a lot of switches to turn on. The house was of course still freezing so we figured we would come back the next morning to; our house, our place, our home.

Once we got home, we all split up and began the process of getting organized and cleaned up. It’s amazing how hard it is to clean a house when the inside temperature is 35 degrees. This took a few hours. Once we met up again to eat, we had to figure out how to resolve our Christmas. We decided that Sunday the 28th would be ‘our’ Christmas Day. We were going to do a little bit of baking, played some Christmas music that we found on the TV and acted like that frozen week didn’t happen. I told everyone I thought we should leave the Christmas tree and decorations up until either Martin Luther King day or Valentines Day, whichever felt right. Usually I get sick of the Christmas Schtik by the holiday, but not this year. We were already going to have a shorter season by 6 calendar days and without the 6 frozen days, it felt like Thanksgiving was only a week ago.

Do you remember my project? Well I wasn’t kidding you know. Since Icemageddon, I’ve researched and researched and learned everything that I could. My daughter, Ashley was curios of the research I was doing and offered to help me if I needed it. I wasn’t sure if I needed help but I figured that we could both learn the process together.

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December 26th, 2013. As I said earlier I usually get up around 0530. But these two nights alone in this cold house, I kept waking up around 0300. I’d look around a bit then sit down and nod off. This made the real wake up more like 0700 or 0730. Also as I said earlier, the cell phone is charging in the truck. The land line phones are upstairs and in the basement. I went out to shovel snow and do all I can to make the house look like someone is coming by and either still living there or is really checking on things. Apparently Amy must have called a couple dozen times on the cell phone and house phone and couldn’t reach me. By chance I went up to our room for something and the phone was ringing so I answered it. It was Alyssia, our oldest, she gave the phone to Amy, who now was completely exasperated. She said she was going to walk home if she had to. I emphatically apologize for scaring her so. That would have frightened me if the tables were turned. I went to the hotel to reassure her that I was ok. It was sweet that she was going to start walking. I would have done the same.

Hanging out at the hotel was non eventful. We left around 1200 so that housekeeping would be able to do the room. We were gone about 3 hours figuring that was enough. It wasn’t. We came back and the room was just as we left it. There were also lots of rooms with their doors open but only one lady cleaning them. Seemed very strange.

This night as we sat around the room Amy took a look at all of us and saw everyone on either a phone or tablet or something and demanded we all put them down to play a game. I wasn’t just searching the net for nothing. I was looking up information on generators. Having a portable generator heat up a house intrigued me and I wanted to know how to do that. Either way she was right. I didn’t want to play but went along with it and had a lot of fun. I’m glad she did it.

We decide to go check on the house then I figured I can bring her back to the hotel. Little did I know after the scare of this morning, she wasn’t letting me stay there alone. She implored me to stay at the room and If I was going back, she was coming with me. Ohh Boy. That changed things. And frankly she was right. The house was too cold. We had done all we could to be in and protect our home. As Amy said, we had to have faith that it would be ok. She was right and I didn’t fight it. Frankly the thought had gone through my mind that morning when I woke up in that cold house.

I slept in the chair. It was warm and I was fine.

 

Up next Constant Reader…HOPE

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December 25th, 2013, Christmas Day. As I said earlier it’s one of our families’ favorite holidays. This year not so much. I go to the hotel room around 0830 and Amy and I go get a little continental breakfast in the lobby. We thought this breakfast goes until 1000 like many other hotels we’ve stayed at. So much for assumptions. We did get a few danishes, fruit and things and took them to the room. When we came back they were closing everything up. We were just going to get some orange juice. A few hotel patrons seemed pissed off. I told the lady thank you for what she was doing. After the morning grub, we go home to check on the house and pick up some things so we can get ready to go visiting for Christmas day. I’m humbled people have offered; but it feels strange to not to be able to bring anything.

We stopped by Amy’s parents home to check on them. Their power is out as well, but they’ve been warming up their house with a gas stove and boiling water. It actually felt normal during the day. The humid air felt warm. Next to my Mom’s house, Cousin Brenda and Jimmy then to Cousin Connie and Eugene. All were gracious and offered food and hospitality. My cousin Eugene called just before we arrived to make sure we weren’t cancelling. We weren’t. It felt good to be wanted. As Connie said if the tables were turned, we would do the same for them. That is so true.

We had a great time of holiday festivities, but I had to get home to batten down the hatches and watch after the homestead. We took the long way home through the city and were amazed at how dark so many parts were. We did see a few power crews in one neighborhood. This apparently restored power to my sisters’ house. Since this was only a mile away from the in-laws we had hope that they would have power real soon.

After dropping off the family at the house, I headed back to the home. This time I took my non-contact thermometer to check temperatures where I would consider sleeping. Upstairs in our bedroom 37 degrees. First floor where I slept last night, 45 degrees. Basement near the phone, 56 degrees. The basement was going to be the place. I had told Amy a couple times that it felt warmer in the basement. This confirmed it. I had to change around the fortification which was harder to do this way. It was easier on the first floor with other locations to go. In the basement, the only benefit was the darkness and knowledge of the where everything was.

Stay tuned for more Constant Reader…see you soon.

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At about 0530, on Sunday, December 22, 2013, I wake up, which is my normal time during the work week. Since I don’t have to work for another 10 days, I figured I would sleep in. Sleeping in for me is 0630. My wife laughs at me because I’m such an early bird. She is a night owl, so we’re very different when it comes to that.

At 0600 our son Jorden comes in the room and says that he thinks that the power is out in the house. My first thought is this isn’t going to be good. I remember the coming storm and how wide spread it was and that it was supposed to be freezing rain. I look outside and it was beautiful. Simply Beautiful. All the trees were covered with a 1/8”-1/4” layer of ice. It looks amazing but it also can do a lot of damage. I know that all that beauty weighs a lot and can knock over trees and down power lines. I look outside and can see that people across the street have power but that doesn’t really mean much since we are apparently on a different grid than them. Often either they have power and we don’t or we have power and they don’t.

As I’m speculating that this can be pretty bad, I go on my smart phone and look for a nearby motel that we can stay at. If this is as widespread an outage the rooms often fill up quickly leaving little in the way of options. I get  a little busy work done and take out suitcases just in case we might need them. I figured we have until 6pm each day to decide whether or not we need the hotel room. That gives us a little flexibility just in case the power comes on.

During the morning my wife calls her parents and they say that they have power, which was good. They live about 10 miles to the north of us. She figured that if it got too cold for us, we could hang out with them. Sounds like a plan to me. Six hours after our power goes out, BAM, her mom calls us and says, “Guess who’s power just went out?” NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

It’s now afternoon and I get my generator out. I like how that sounds. Like I’m all prepared and have just been waiting to use all this knowledge that I’ve gained studying prepping over the past few years. This part of the story wasn’t meant to go smoothly. About two years prior I had been looking for a generator. I’ll admit I didn’t do what I should have done and really researched the topic. Finding out the best brands, what size did we need, how to hook it to the house, what is a transfer switch.This would have been the best thing to do. I did none of that. Just a few glances at the local hardware stores is all I did. I didn’t want to pay the $300 to $700 that it looked like it would cost.

One day I’m shopping in the local Aldi (a discount Grocery Store) and I see a few small generators in the $150 range. I like that price a lot better. I happened to have some money in my wallet so I bought one and took it home. Once there I unboxed it and put in on a shelf in the garage with all the intention of reading the manual and trying it out during the summer of 2013. None of this happened. A year of seasons came and went and just yesterday, the 21st of December was the first day of Winter. This season would prove to come in like a lion in many different ways.

Since this is the very first time pulling out the generator, I read the manual. Sounds simple enough; choke, start, run, sounds like a lawn mower or power washer. I put it in the back yard and get it started, which sprang to life quicker than I expected. I also see that my next door neighbor has a generator running and as a matter of fact it was running all night. I figured the next time I see him, I’ll ask for some advice on this generator thing. I’m fairly technically proficient, but new is new. As the afternoon chugs along, I get some extension cords out and start hooking up a few things to the generator. Nothing really that big; cell phones, lanterns and the like. Seems to work ok so I decide that I will unplug the refrigerator and hook it to the generator through a cord going out the dining room window. I hate to crack the window as that is introducing more cold air into our already freezing house.

As soon as I hook up the refrigerator, the generator shuts off after about 10 seconds. I can’t figure out why. The generator circuit breakers aren’t even tripping, so that I’d have to reset them. Even though I didn’t test this unit out, the reason that I bought it was to be able to keep food in the refrigerator and Deep Freezer safe. Now even that wasn’t working out like I had planned. Despair is creeping in little by little.

Once darkness falls, we light up some candles and touch lamps and have a pretty nice night, talking, playing games and eating together. All the things that often escapes modern families with the advent of all the gadgets that so occupy our time. The temperature inside of the house was still in the low 60’s so we layer up and hunker down for the night. I cancelled the first night of the hotel room since things were going well in spite of everything.

Stay tuned, Constant Reader…the despair continues.

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