Monday, February 8, 2010

Navigating a Snow Day--With a Power Outage

We currently have 20 inches of snow, and another foot or so is on the way! I wish that I could announce that we have everything under control: kids happily entertained and a slew of household projects underway. I can't! We had great plans for the weekend, but we learned pretty quickly on Friday night that our plans were all contingent on us having electrical power--which we lost for about 24 hours. We are still trying to get back on track.

This is the third time we have lost power for an extended period of time in the past year, but the first time we couldn't escape! In the past we've been able to get out of the house and do something else while waiting for power to be restored, but that wasn't possible due to the blizzard of snow blowing outside. I was even reluctant to let the kids play outside because it would be hard to dry them off and warm them up when they came in from the storm. (The interior of the house stayed at about 55 degrees, at least as long as I was still there to see the thermostat!)

We didn't do enough to prepare for this storm. There are a few areas where we were well-prepared:
  • We had plenty of food
  • All our technology was charged up
  • We had plenty of warm snow gear for everyone to wear
 There were other things that we didn't prepare for so well:
  • We didn't have a stockpile of water. We didn't even think of this!
  • We didn't think about how we would handle things if we lost power: we had no alternate heat source, few candles and other alternate lights (some items we had but didn't remember having them or recall where they were until after the power was restored)
  • We store our flashlights where the kids can get them and play with them. We were fortunate that the batteries still worked in the main flashlights.

One main solution that we are considering is to purchase a generator; this would allow us to keep the house functioning on a basic subsistence level while waiting for electricity to resume. We didn't expect to ever need a generator as we live in a highly populated suburban area, but our neighborhood is old with houses ranging in age from 60 years old to built yesterday. It seems that this layering of electrical power needs has created a complex, fragile system, at least in our neighborhood. One outage last summer was caused by a car accident about a half-mile away! During this most recent outage, we could see the lights on in the houses across the street from us. The general rule is that it takes a minimum of 24 hours for the power company to just restore even temporary power. It is a frustrating situation that has disrupted three weekends just in the past year. Does this level of disruption justify the purchase of a generator?
We did do a few fun things while the power was out. The kids spent several hours playing with my camera. They took pictures and made videos of each other giggling, dancing, and saying silly things. It was difficult to tell which they enjoyed more: making the videos or watching them.
I was also grateful that we have a gas water heater, so the water stayed nice and hot. We lit candles and placed them up high in the shower caddy hanging around the shower head so the kids couldn't reach them, and everyone could enjoy a nice candlelit bath or shower. Beware: we didn't have any way to dry wet hair!
We also appreciated our coffee press: we bought it to use while camping, but it came in handy to prepare warm caffeinated beverages for my Snow Removal Expert. (My husband.)
Stay safe if you are experiencing or expecting a big storm!

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