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Preparing For A Winter Power Outage

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Our family recently survived a lengthy power outage after a major ice storm. We really did not find it that difficult to do, in part because we were prepared ahead of time. However, some of our neighbors who were not prepared ended up staying at a hotel for several nights, at the tune of $65 per night.


I am passing on some of the ways that we stayed warm for our week without power. The most important factor is that we prepared. For 3 days, the weather forecast warned us of a major ice storm heading our way. We decided then to prepare for the worse case, and it paid off.

  • We brought up firewood from the barn. We laid out wood in the fireplace and filled the inside firebox. We also filled the wood holders on the front porch with wood, and also stacked it beside the holder.

  • We stocked up on lamp oil, and brought out the lamps and candles stored in the basement.

  • We made sure we had plenty of batteries on hand.

  • We charged our rechargeable lights, lanterns and radios.

  • I filled several containers with water in the event the water company also lost power. If they did, we would lose water pressure, then lose our water completely.

  • We all took a shower as the ice storm started. May seem silly, but knowing it may be awhile before we could bathe again, we opted to start out smelling sweet! I also made sure the laundry was all caught up and the house was clean.

  • I made sure we were stocked up on animal feed. We put extra straw in the rabbit hutches and chicken coup in the event they lost their heat lamps.

  • We stocked up on foods that we could prepare over the fireplace. This included s'mores, hot dogs, popcorn, hot cereals, soups, and stews. I bought some extra milk and put it in the freezer, and also bought more powered milk.

  • I washed and re-seasoned the cast iron.

  • We brought in the hot dog and hamburger holders from the camper, as well as sleeping bags.

  • We backed our vehicles into the garages and barn. My husband plugged in the tractors and made sure they were fueled.

  • We brought up the board games from the basement, and restocked ourselves with books from the library.

  • I made sure our cell phones were well charged.

  • I bought on clearance a power strip to plug into my car's cigarette lighter. In turn, I could plug an item into it to recharge, such as a lantern or cell phone, or even my laptop.

Then we sat down to wait. The ice started falling around 10 in the morning. It was rather pretty as it coated the trees and fences. By evening, it was very slick to walk on. We still had power when we went to bed at 11 p.m. We did not turn down the thermostat before bed as normal. My rather wise husband said, we needed to keep as much heat in the house as possible, so instead we turned it up. At 3 a.m. I woke up to a chilling house. The inside temp was 65. It had been 70 when we went to bed. My nightlight was not on. The power was off. I woke up my husband and he immediately got a fire going in the fireplace.


We kept the fire going, and managed to keep the house at a steady temperature of 65 to 67 degrees. It is much easier to maintain the temperature than it is to warm up the house had we not gotten up to light the fire.

We let light in through the south windows, and blocked off the north ones with curtains, as their was a strong wind coming from the north.

For entertainment, we played games and read. I had my children take a warm bath each day, as we still had hot water as we have a gas hot water heater. This helped keep them warm and they thought it fun to have a bubble bath by candle light. Our children slept in their sleeping bags in the living room by the fireplace. My husband and I stayed in our room, which is just off the living room as we could still get some heat from the fire. In addition, we have a heated water bed, and by keeping the bed made, and sleeping on top of an extra comforter, it held its heat and kept us warm.


Since we still had hot water at this point, we had lots of hot tea and hot cocoa to drink and help keep us warm. I did the dishes by hand after every meal with warm water to help keep me warm in the kitchen. I did it in dishpans, and saved the water. It went into containers in the garage and one of the bathrooms. We kept the water at a very slight trickle to help prevent the pipes from freezing.

We dressed in layers. Sweat pants are much warmer than jeans. We wore 2 pairs of socks and our long johns.

After our water went out, we used the saved soapy dishwater to flush the toilets with as needed. The saved rinse water became water for our rabbits, dog and chickens to drink.

We did not open the freezers or refrigerators except to remove and replace food. By day 3, our refrigerators were no longer at a safe temperature, so we removed food and placed it outside on the back porch, and some in the garage. Our freezers stayed below freezing, as they have more insulation. If need be, my husband would have gone to town to buy a couple blocks of dry ice for the freezers. However, he didn't need to this outage.


As I said earlier, our biggest factor in being able to ride out the power outage was preparation. Had we waited to gather our supplies after the power had gone out, we would have been doing a lot of fumbling around in the dark basement, and opening and closing the doors to the outside a lot. We would have been having to drive on dangerous roads to town for supplies and risking having an accident.

By April from NW Missouri

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By guest (Guest Post)
January 18, 20080 found this helpful

Wow, your family was well-prepared - congratulations! (Glad I don't live in a snowy climate!)

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January 18, 20080 found this helpful

When we were on Guam (typhon area, not ice) we learned to fill milk jugs with water and put them in the freezer to act like an old fashion ice box. Your milk did the same thing. Then we could keep the freezer cold longer and have extra drinking water as it thawed.
I'd add to make sure there's a phone in the house that has a cord. If the cell isn't an option, the cordless phones often don't work in an outage. I keep the old $6 phone in my night stand, just in case.
And we assigned each child their own flashlight so we didn't have kids stumbling in the dark with a candle.
Great work on making it work. Your preparation as well as your attitude made it fun instead of a tradgity for your children

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January 18, 20080 found this helpful

Wow April, you certainly were prepared. I enjoyed reading your post, as I would have been the one to head to the closest hotel with my dogs and kitty, but around here they are over $200 a night. Ugh.

Thank you again for posting your story, I have printed it!

Northern Virginia

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By guest (Guest Post)
January 18, 20080 found this helpful

This sounds silly but I recommend keeping or getting a really tall/big bucket. Blizzards are very, very uncommon in Alabama but one year when I was a kid we got a real bad one and lost everything for a week. Even ran out of firewood and had to move into the camper. The worst was the toilet went out on us. For 4 days we had to use this bucket! Great funny story now...but not then! lol

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January 18, 20080 found this helpful

This is WONDERFUL advice. My brother & sister-in-law got caught in that same ice storm, but down in Oklahoma. They thought they had enough firewood, but ran out before the ice storm did. Unfortunately they were like your friends, depleting quite a chunk of their savings to stay in a nearby hotel. Thank you for submitting this. I just emailed this to them.

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By guest (Guest Post)
January 19, 20080 found this helpful

Wow ~ I am so impressed. You guys thought of everything. And not only were you very prepared, but you seemed to have a great attitude about it all. Great job!

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January 19, 20080 found this helpful

You was prepared. Your story was great. I would of got into my car & left.

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By guest (Guest Post)
January 19, 20080 found this helpful

I loved this story and you were really prepared. Thanks for sharing this with us, maybe we can use it some way or another, you never know.

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January 19, 20080 found this helpful

Shortly after we were married, we lived in a small house that had a gas wall furnace, a gas water heater, and a gas stove. When our electricity went out during ice storms, we still had heat, we could eat, and we could take showers or bathe. Not having lights wasn't too bad since we had hurricane lamps and candles. Now, when we have bad storms, I really miss that house!

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January 19, 20080 found this helpful

We also experienced a power outage that lasted over a week last year & not everyone has the money to stay in a motel. Our biggest problem: NO heat. (it was below zero!) We live in a fire-trap (1981 mobile home) so, no wood stove or fireplace. Thus! We froze our rears off!... (Before I moved here, I'd lived with only wood for heat for over 20 years, so to not have that option, was a real wake up!) We now have a small propane heater, but are somewhat afraid to use it because of possible carbon monoxide poisoning... We DID have a tiny propane cook-stove that REALLY saved the day!

---> What people DON'T know about power outages, is that with no electricity, gas stations can't pump gas!... So if you know a storm is coming, please fill your tanks beforehand, as you never know when you'll need your car in an emergency. We have many Asian immigrants that didn't speak English in Seattle. Most came from warmer climates where they'd never use'd or needed a generator before. Many put generators in their garages that were hooked to their homes (so they wouldn't bother their neighbors with the noise) Many of these people died during that 10 day power outage from carbon monoxide poisoning! They'd also put the generators to close to their doors or windows (like on their porch)... Many died! It was so sad! Many nursing homes & homes that cared for the elderly didn't have back-up heat or generators. This was a disgrace! We had many that had "bundled" their cable & phone service & only had a computer phone (like Vonage), so they had no phone that worked! Unfortunately, the police are asking business owners to take out most of the pay-phones because they say only the poor & drug users uses them (because they SAY everyone has a cell phone these days, I think this is HORRIBLE!)... Taking out most of the pay phones was another tragedy, No (regular) phone at home, no gas to drive around & look for a pay phone & all of the "real" non-electric portable phones sold out at all of the stores. Batteries & flashlight sold out too! Please buy this stuff BEFORE you have an emergency!

---> What saved the day, was a radio station that dedicated itself to helping. A mother (who's husband was in Iraq) called in to say that she & her kids were cold & had no place to go (all the shelters were full & NONE would take animals!) then someone else would call & leave their name & number at the radio station to offer a warm place for the family to stay. They had a list of people that needed help & a list of people that offered help (like extra wood etc) Lots of people offered help!... Lots needed help, too! The problem was finding a working phone to call in with!... When a lady called in to say her father was staying in a senior care center that had no power or heat, a man drove 90 miles to deliver a generator & wood to them! The public really pulled through! One guy called in with a great way to keep kids warm: You set up a tent in the living room, Then put yourself & your kids in the tent inside sleeping bags etc, then on top of the tent, you pile more blankets (making sure there's ventilation) This keeps their body heat inside the tent. The guy with this idea lived in the mountains in wintertime in a tent & this is how he kept warm!
* Thank God for KOMO 1000 AM in the Seattle area, they really saved the day!

---> Here are some of the BEST survival & preparedness sites out there, Please take the time to read up & stock up in the event of a flood, power outage, ice storm, earthquake... whatever... You'll be glad you did! ....


The Millennium Ark - My FAVORITE SITE! *Click on the references underlined on the far left of the page
http://standeyo … iles/Hollys.html
http://www.cybe … eral/artad1c.htm
http://www.mill … s/Pet_Links.html
http://www.eart … -pet-owners.html
http://www.grea … com/survival.htm
http://a.webrin … survivalringinfo
http://www.nati … eatlightcooking/
http://www.appr … _sawdust_toilet_(original)
http://waltonfe … pack/dryice.html
http://www.hash … /foodstorage.htm


4 PERSON EMERGENCY 72 HOUR EMERGENCY BACKPACK: (great to keep in your car trunk!)
http://www.alwa … ICFRxoCwodmALATA
EMERGENCY RADIO (wind-up, solar or electric)
http://www.ccra … anger-radio.aspx
http://www.sand … edia/cbwfoam.htm
FLASHLIGHTS: (led, wind-up, shake, or rechargeable)
http://www.ccra … p;cof=FORID%3A11
http://www.ccra … ery-charger.aspx
POWER MONKEY: (charges cellphones, mp3 players, & camera when batteries fail)
http://www.ccra … powermonkey.aspx
http://www.ccra … power/index.aspx
LIQUID EARTH (gel to grow plants in, can be mixed with dirt & requires much less water!)


CUMBERLAND GENERAL STORE: Selling "old time" non-electric housewares (like cast iron cooking pots, hand-crank coffee grinders & crank washing machines) wonderful resource! order their catalog for lots of wonderful simple living tips!
http://www.ibib … /1/msg00001.html

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January 20, 20080 found this helpful

You prepared wonderfully, great job. we lived in the mountains at one time and when we got a big snow storm we too lost power for 5 days. we had a wood stove so that helped and we always kept our wood stacked near the house so not to far to go get it when needed and we always got a small amount of coal chunks to add to our fire to get it going longer. we also filled 2 liter pepsi jugs with water before hand and then i would heat the water from them on the wood stove and add it back to the jug as we went to bed giving each one there on bottle to keep inside there beds with them to help stay warm which works for about 2-3 hours, you can just keep reusing the same bottle of water by this method each night for keeping your body warm while sleeping. and we closed any rooms we were not using and closed off the floor vents with heavy books to save the heat to go to the rooms needing it most.

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January 22, 20080 found this helpful

Excellent advice! Our friends and family think we are nuts for doing these things when a storm is coming. Thankfully we have never had to experience what you did, but we have peace of mind knowing we are prepared!

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By guest (Guest Post)
January 22, 20080 found this helpful

Regarding the freezers, we have found that packing every available space with newspapers was a very good insulation to maintain the food temperature.

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January 24, 20080 found this helpful

I live in a mobile home and the power only seems to go out in the winter. I do the same stock up on water and batteries and flashlights and warm clothes. In Michigan the temperature in the winter is always around 0 degrees. I have been there before to. I have a king size bed and when the power goes out every one sleeps in the bed to generate body heat to keep warm. I recently was given a down comforter and I am glad it is warm. I stock up on water packed vegetables as this is a good source of drinking water and has a shelf life of 5 years.

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January 27, 20080 found this helpful

Thank-you for providing the links!

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October 22, 20110 found this helpful

Good advice but not everybody is situated so that they can do this. I always have canned tuna and canned vegies on hand. We can always eat cold cereal. Between soda and bottled water we have plenty to drink. Being my apartment only has a shower, I have two really large wastebaskets that I keep especially for keeping water in when the city has to shut the water off for some reason and sometimes our maintenance department has to shut the water off, and I always fill these two waste baskets to use in the toilet.

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