We’ve come through another serious snowstorm here in the northeastern United States, and once again, it was one during which I had to use some of my survival skills. No longer having access to a backup heat source, such as my old woodstove, I now have to resort to other tactics in order not to stress out when I know it’s going to snow and we might lose power. Today’s weather is hyped to the point that you’d have to be living in a cave not to know that a storm is on the way. Once I hear about it, I start planning. But I usually have most of what I need all the time, so that I don’t have to end up as one of those people waiting in the long lines at the supermarket.
First and foremost, I make sure that I have candles and a good supply of dry matches and that all my flashlights work. If not, I replace the batteries, and then leave them in strategic areas so that I can get to them quickly if the power fails at night. We think we know what complete darkness is, but we don’t. Even on the darkest nights, there is enough residual light from streetlamps and security lights lingering in the air to brighten things a bit. Once the power goes out, though, you are plunged into total and complete darkness. And if the storm takes place around the time of a new moon, you quickly learn what total darkness is.
Next, I make sure that I have water. I keep empty soda bottles and water jugs filled and under the counter at all times. And if you have a septic system with a pump instead of city water, keep a large pail of water nearby to use to flush the toilet with. If you have plenty of warning before a possible outage, keep a couple of pans of water hot on the stove over very low heat, and keep your coffee maker filled with hot water, replenishing both as needed. If the lights go out, it will cool down quickly. But you will at least have some for a very short time. If you have insulated jugs or thermos bottles, fill those with hot water, too, and cover them with a blanket or a large towel to help them retain their heat longer.
Keep a supply of canned goods and other nonperishable items such as peanut butter, canned meats, tuna, nuts, cold cereals, bread, and crackers on hand at all times. If the power goes out and the outside temperature is below 30 degrees, keep cold foods safe by putting them inside a plastic bag and putting them outside in a shady spot or even better, right in the snow.
As the weather event approaches, turn your heat settings up to overheat your space and put on extra clothes. Add extra blankets or throws to your bed and plan on spending time there if the outage is prolonged. Keep extra socks, shirts, thermal underwear and pants handy, as well as a heavy jacket, hats, scarves, and mittens or gloves. Invest in a few pouch handwarmers, and keep those handy as well. During an outage, keep all drapes and curtains closed, and don’t open any outside doors anymore than you have to. Close doors to extra rooms, and live in one small area. And keep moving rather than sitting in one spot.
While dealing with a power outage in any situation isn’t pleasant, it can be much more of a challenge without an alternate heat source. Being prepared is key and at least relieves some of the stress. And with any luck, it won’t happen at all!
Rachel Lovejoy is a retired freelance writer who specializes in nature writing. Her column "From the Urban Wilderness" appears weekly in the Journal Tribune, published in Biddeford, Maine USA. Rachel has also written several ebooks for Kindle Publishing, and is currently working on another. In addition to writing, she enjoys reading, cooking, music, old movies, photography and feeding the birds.