Thursday, August 25, 2011

Go On, Irene

Just a little reminder to those naive enough to think otherwise: Mother Nature is not your friend. Now, I am not going to make any of the Armageddon jokes that write themselves when the First Noticeable Earthquake In Over A Century rattles your unsafe-for-earthquakes brick building on the east coast, then as soon as the shaking stops the weathermen tell you to expect a hit from the First Category 3 Hurricane Strike Of Your Lifetime, too. (I don't need to make any of the Armageddon jokes such circumstances invite, because everyone else in Connecticut already has. I heard every one of them, while shopping for hurricane supplies yesterday.)

Yesterday morning I wasn't particularly concerned about Hurricane Irene but decided to buy bottled water and a few other supplies anyway, figuring, By the time you know for certain a storm'll hit, the stores have already sold out of everything. Indeed, almost half the shelves in my local supermarket's bottled-water aisle stood empty by one o'clock yesterday afternoon; there were still plenty of overpriced brands like Fiji water, but stocks of the store brand spring water ran low.

Still, "almost half the shelves empty" means "more than half the shelves full." I bought two small pallets of cheap store-brand water bottles, still doubting I'd actually have to drink them anytime soon, and by the time I got home and hauled the water, canned meats and assorted no-refrigeration snacks I'd bought into my kitchen, the weather reports had changed; instead of saying "chance Irene might hit" they all warned of a "SEVERE THREAT TO THE NORTHEAST." And the reports specifically cited Hartford and New York, and I live between those two cities in a valley that got slammed back during the infamous Flood of '55 (caused when the rains of a dying hurricane drenched already-soaked ground like the kind we have right now, here in Connecticut) and in fact -- although you'd never guess it, to look around my neighborhood -- I live only a few feet from the bank of a formerly aboveground river that had an entire residential neighborhood built over it sometime in the past century or so.

Vast is the difference between "an emergency kit you buy when you don't really expect anything to happen" and "the emergency kit you want when you think something actually will." So I went shopping again to negate the differential, and now I'm hustling to finish some writing assignments that aren't actually due until next week, but now I want them done and gone by Saturday, just in case I lose power the next day and don't regain it by deadline. I'm also turning sandwich bags into ice bags as fast as my three ice cube trays will let me.

Damned annoying hurricanes.


Blogger Charles Pergiel said...

Excitement! Thrills! Adventure! At least I hope that's what's in store for you, and not any of the bad/annoying stuff.

10:26 PM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

Hurricanes definitely are not fun. One item you may find useful is an ordinary, old-fashioned, simple, plain Jane, landline telephone that does not require a voltage converter or otherwise need to plug into an electrical outlet. That type of older phone will still work even if the lights go out, but you'll have to disconnect your other phones first. You might find one at Walmart for ten dollars or less.

As regards making ice - I presume for keeping food cool - don't waste your time with ice cubes. Get some empty plastic bottles like milk jugs or something smaller and fill them with water. Freeze them and fill up your freezers with them, because they will stay cold much longer than air, should your power go off. You can even fill up space in the cooling compartment of your fridge with frozen ones; as they melt they will keep your food cool. If you use clean ones, you can drink the water from the ice. You could also freeze your purchased bottled water if you remove some of the contents first to keep the bottle from bursting.

Put a good stopper (one that doesn't leak) in your bathtub and fill it up with water, so you'll at least have water to flush the toilet or wash with. Takes a three to five gallon bucket full per flush. Don't forget to have a bucket on hand.

If you have a charcoal grill, it can be handy for cooking or heating water, if the gas or the lights are off. DO NOT try to use it inside (but you already know that I should imagine.) Don't forget the charcoal - or burn small pieces of wood instead.

An old-fashioned, hand-powered can opener is real nice to have, too -as is a stove top coffee percolator (if you like coffee.)

Hope this helps. I'm sure much of what I mentioned has already occured to you - or would, if you thought about it. Good luck and keep us posted.

10:53 PM  
Blogger Ceilidh said...

Silly! Yankees always buy bottled water. Ok, picture it. You're thirsty. You want water? Seriously? Buy freaking Coke. And do you know why people buy water? Because they're on wells and when the power goes out, so does their pump. Florida is a podunk state and we've NEVER lost water. Be more concerned about all the meat in your freezer IF your power goes out. And remember, eggs can be boiled on your bar b q. Been there, done that. But hey, that's a small hurricane. It's no big deal. Some wind and some rain. We don't always lose power and you don't have to worry about ac and pressing yourself against the cold floor tiles just to get some relief.

6:44 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

Thanks for the advice, everyone!

Smartass, I already have bottles of ice freezing in there -- I always carry a bottle of ice, topped off with tapwater, for everyday drinking anyway. The little bags of ice are to keep my small six-pack cooler cool. Right now I have three bottles, each containing roughly 80 percent of a liter, frozen solid in my freezer. Also a one-gallon Coleman camp jug frozen solid. And -- here's an idea I got last night -- I have some empty plastic six-quart storage boxes about the size of shoeboxes; I've washed those out, filled them with water and they're freezing right now; when the time come those giganto ice cubes will help keep my cooler cool, and when they melt they'll be more drinkable water.

The little baggies of ice will be for my small cooler, the one designed to only hold a six-pack plus a small chemical freezer-pack. For the storm, I'll leave the freezer packs in the freezer (and if they save the frozen food in there, so much the better), but I'm keeping the ice accessible in the coolers.

We already have a plain-Jane landline telephone packed away in our emergency supplies box, and it's gotten us through past power outages.

Thanks for the reminder about the bathtub. I've already washed out what plastic buckets we have; I figure I can use water in the bucket for face-washing and keep the water in the bathtub for toilet-flushing (I hope it doesn't come to that). The plastic pitchers and containers which can't possibly fit in the freezer or fridge, I'll fill with tapwater and keep them on the counter. But between my ice bottles and my purchased water bottles, I have enough water to last at least eight days, if not more, and that's not counting all the small bottles of juice and soda I already have.

I expect inconvenience and annoyance, but no real problem. Hope not, anyway.

7:37 AM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

And do you know why people buy water? Because they're on wells and when the power goes out, so does their pump. Florida is a podunk state and we've NEVER lost water

I live about thirty miles north-northwest of the Houston, Texas city limits and when Ike came through here a few years ago it knocked the power out for two weeks. I don't have a well, but the private water co-op I get my water from does - their pumps were off for three days. Fortunately the storm brought fifteen inches of rain in twenty-four hours, flooding the little creek at the end of the block way out of its banks, so finding water to flush toilets was not much of a problem. Since it was all runoff water, it wasn't clean enough for anything else.

It might be surprising, but some folks do still drink water. When I'm really thirsty there's nothing better than the chilled water I keep in a jug in the refrigerator. But that's what I and most of my contemporaries drank growing up. As a kid, fifty years or more ago, there was no bottled water - we drank tap water; and cokes (pop, soda, etc.) were a treat you mightn't get more than once a week. Usually mothers made Koolaid for their kids back then.

I've lived an "interesting" life at times - interesting in the sense that the Chinese sometimes mean it: Among other things I've seen the lights, gas or water off numerous times, either because of storms or because the bills weren't paid (when I was a kid.) One can get by, but clean running water is the most difficult "convenience" to do without.

11:23 AM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

Jennifer, sounds to me like you are experienced and well-prepared. Maybe the worst thing you would have to worry about is flooding, if Irene brings you alot of rain. I've never had a home flood - hope I never do.

11:45 AM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

I've been watching the news and weather reports about Hurricane Irene, and it is being compared to Ike. Ike was a cat 3 which came ashore as a cat 2, but it was over 300 miles wide like this one is; it did damage as far away as Ohio and even New York state.

It looks to me like the eye of this storm will pass through eastern Connecticut - probably just east of where you are - after it comes north over Long Island (I pity New York City.) If you are on the west side of the eye, you are on the "clean" side of the storm - meaning no serious thunderstorms or tornados for you. However, even if Irene is downgraded to tropical storm status, you will be deluged by steady rains and you will receive sustained high winds until the thing gets well north of your location. Looks like you'll be in about the same situation as I was when Ike's eye passed through about 30 miles or so east of me. You are not in for any kind of a picnic, I can assure you.

I hope you are on high ground. If you have a basement with anything stored in it that you don't want to get wet, you might want to remove it. Lastly - please, please, don't do like some idiots in Houston always do and attempt to drive your car through flood waters, no matter how shallow they may seem. Again - good luck to you and yours.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

Christ, I'm tired.

Did more shopping today (after a doctor appointment I made several months ago), and even bought another small pallet of bottled water -- 24 half-liter bottles. Bought some "luxuries" too -- hard candies, some interesting-looking canned pates, small single-serving bottles of juice that made my frugal soul scream (the per-unit cost being almost double the cost I usually pay for large bottles of juice), things like that. But there's a difference between being frugal and being cheap, and the whole point of living frugally and saving every dollar you can is so that at times like this, you can afford to buy the stuff you need.

I've got about four gallons freezing or frozen, either in 80-percent-filled one-liter bottles, or in a six-quart plastic storage box. That box now contains a single ginormous ice cube containing over a gallon of water. There's also the little bags of ice I've made, too. I'll put the large boxes and bottles of ice in my big cooler, along with pre-chilled drinks, and the small bags of ice will be in the little cooler, along with sandwiches I make. I should last two or three days before I even run out of *cold* drinks, and have to resort to lukewarm bottles of water or juice.

Thanks for the reminder about the bathtub, Smartass. I had to buy a bathtub plug today. (I remembered filling the bathtub as a kid; I just couldn't remember why we filled it.)

I think my neighbor, the divorcee with two little kids, hasn't bought any supplies due to lack of money. I found six old gallon jugs I'd forgot about -- I bought them after Katrina -- so I dumped out the six-year-old water and rinsed the jugs thoroughly, and when the storm starts I'll refill them from the tap, in case my neighbor and her kids need any. (Not that I'm a softy or anything; I just figure being without power and water will be annoying enough, without having to hear the kids whine "Mommy, I"m thirsty.")

I'm also proud of this idea: I went to a job-lot that always sells disposable aluminum dishes for outdoor chafing dishes, and I bought several small disposable aluminum chafing/baking dishes. I figure if I have to heat canned food on my Sterno kit, and I have no water for washing dishes, I can use those aluminum pans as disposable cooking pots.

I already have plenty of small plastic shopping bags, and large black contractor bags, to provide bugproof garbage disposal.

Still have to hustle to finish those damn articles I have to write, though.

6:19 PM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

Christ, I'm tired.

Yes, seems like women usually get stuck with most of the work of storm prep if they're the ones who run the household. One other thing I thought of: Do your laundry so that you'll have a good supply of clean clothing.

7:23 PM  

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