Me: 30 Y.O. disaster nut, planner, list maker, worrier...
Wife: 28 Y.O. passively involved in disaster preps, helps out with the occasional idea or scenario she is curious about, not particularly interested prior to this event.
Daughter (Baby): 1 yo, eats, screams a lot, able to bypass any obstruction gets into things, requires 1 body for monitoring full time, interested in playing with things that cost too much to be played with.
Father-In-Law (FIL): ~50 Y.O. Fairly crafty and resourceful. No disaster planning or thought, aware of my passion for preps, not particularly interested prior to this event.
Mother-In-Law (MIL): ~50 Y.O. Fairly crafty and resourceful. No disaster planning or thought, aware of my passion for preps, not particularly interested prior to this event.
Brother-In-Law (BrIL):~13 Y.O. No disaster planning or thought, aware of my passion for preps, not particularly interested prior to this event.
Home: a townhouse on the outskirts of a small city. Town water, town sewer, NG hot water, NG heat baseboard hot water (requires electricity for pumps) setup for a moderate bug-in, with no outside support, for approximately 1 month, during non winter conditions.
BOL1: My in-law's place. Pros: Well, wood stove, remote-ish, limited access, lake out front with semi-potable water, additional personnel, able to be refitted as a bug in location with minimal effort. Cons: Current occupants are not like minded, main stove is electric, not actively setup for a bug in. Approx distance from house: 15 miles (28 Mins normally). Intended usage: fall back position from home, regroup/resupply point.
At a little after 1600 Wednesday, 10Dec08, I received a weather alert from EmergencyEmail to my phone (here about half way down explains it) informing me that there was a "Winter Storm Possible" As the day went on it kept getting upgraded and reissued finally becoming a "Major Winter Storm" for sure by Thursday afternoon. I gave it little thought, but did mention to my boss to update and redistribute the call list for closures. That night when I went to bed it was cold and rainy, but didn't look too bad.
I was woken up at 0015 on Friday, 12Dec08 by Wife trying to get the air purifier to work, with much irritation on both our parts. I grabbed my flashlight off the nightstand and went over to take a look. As I did so I realized that it was quiet, very quiet. I looked at the air filter and then looked around the room realizing that my alarm clock and every other gadgets' lights were off. I let her know that no amount of wiggling cords was going to do it, as the power was off. I went downstairs to check the breakers to see if it was just our house. Breakers were all fine. I went out the back door and saw that the whole complex was out. Out the front door and i realized the street is out. Looking up, and seeing the absence of the suburbia orange glow our sky has, I realized that everything around us is out... Oh and that everything is coated in ice...
I grabbed my phone and realized I had gotten a text message after I had gone to bed that night from MIL letting me know that their power was off and on and off at their house (BOL1). I texted MIL to say that ours was off for good and we might be over in the morning. Surprisingly got one back from MIL saying their power was out hard as well. She dispatched FIL and BRIL to get water from Wal-Mart since their well pump is electric.
I went back up-stairs and told Wife that power is off everywhere, to which she replies "Then go back to sleep". I declined the offer and went back down to the basement to do a quick gear check and stage everything for roll out in the morning. Looking around and actually, for the first time since the baby came, seeing the basement and all of my gear was an eye opener. I realized the ultimate killer had crept into my house and I didn't even know it... COMPLACENCY... My gear is not stacked and orderly like I remembered it, ready for a shake down run. It was scattered and mixed in with other stuff, it was covered with other junk, it was a mess.
MISTAKE NUMBER 1 wrote: I let “life” get in the way of maintaining the plans and preparations that I had set up to keep us alive. I realized I hadn’t done a gear check in months, I used to do it monthly. LESSON: Don't let day to day life get in the way of your real priorities.
Three hours later I had basically thrown everything that wasn't gear into one corner freeing up enough room to arrange, check, evaluate and stage the gear that I wanted to take if we left in the morning.
The Gear: wrote:On Me:
Gerber MultiTool (far superior pliers)
Glock 17 w/2 mags
Camping Support Box:
Dual Fuel Dual Burner Colman Camp Stove
1 Gallon Can of Coleman White Gas
Old School Hurricane Lantern
1 Bottle of Lantern Oil
Hiker Pro Water Filter
Fireplace Gloves (like welders gloves)
Fuel Funnel W/Filter
AA Mini MagLite
0 Degree Sleeping Bag
MSR Water Filter w/Repair Kit, Spare Filter
Coleman Dual Fuel Backpacking Stove
1 Quart Bottle of White Gas (Full)
50 rds 9mm JHP
Two Leatherman supertools
AA Mini MagLite
2 FRS/GMRS radios
Misc stuff tossed on top:
6 Gallon Desert Can filled with fresh water (I have town water)
1 Deep cycle battery
1 smaller utility battery (12v/25Ah)
2 750 watt inverters
Cabling for those and the charging generator I built.
MISTAKE NUMBER 2 wrote: It didn’t end up biting me, but my plans have always been to go with a full roll out of all gear in response to a bug out scenario. This time I brought what I knew I needed and figured I would cope with anything I didn’t or go back and get it. I didn’t need anything in the other cases, but some of it would have been nice to have, made my job easier. Some of it could have been life and death, trauma FAK. If I had just stuck to my plan I would have had all that and more. LESSON: Have a plan and don’t abandon it for any reason.
I tried to go back to bed to catch a couple of hours of sleep, expecting that things would probably be cleared up by the morning and I would have to go to work.
I was wrong. At 0530, when I woke up, I realized that the house is cool, and there is still no power. I checked outside and now heard the sound, quite a few separate ones, of limbs snapping and good sized trees coming down in the distance. I decided to bang out of work for the day and take my family to BOL1 because it has heat and water seemed easier to handle then heat. I went to call the work number and leave a message for my boss letting him know the situation, and realized I had no signal. It’s uncommon, but not unheard of. I power-cycled my phone and still had nothing. Checked Wife's phone, nothing there either. It was starting to dawn on me that the situation was a bit more dire than I had originally thought. I got dressed for function and dumped all my daily gear into cargo pockets, put on my pistol, grabbed an extra mag for good measure and started the day.
Gear got dragged up-stairs, water containers got filled, then went up and woke up Wife, and briefed her on the situation. She asked if I'd called my boss or her parents to let them know what the situation was. I told her that the cell towers were out too. She advised that I had to find a way to tell my boss I'm not coming in. She was right of course. We agreed that she would get Baby bundled up, pack her a mini-BOB and get us ready to go, while I went out to try to get coverage or find a working pay phone.
MISTAKE NUMBER 2 wrote:Though it didn't turn out badly, we had no protocol on what to do if something happened to me. If I got t-boned at an intersection, she had no fall back plan. If she had a problem she had no way of getting a hold of me. We should have waited and gone together once everything was ready. LESSON: Don't split up unnecessarily. Have a plan if you have to split up, try to have some communication if you can.
I drove about 20 minutes south and was able to find a cell tower that worked. Called my boss and briefed him. I tried the house phone at BOL1, no answer and no answering machine. Tried MIL, FIL, BRIL cell phones, all straight to voicemail. Not good. My mom is a worrier too so I checked in with her and said we were fine and would be but that I likely wouldn’t be able to call for a while. I returned home to find all is as needed for evac. I briefed Wife on the situation. We made the decision regardless, prompted by the 60 degree and cooling house, to go to BOL1 despite the lack of communications.
We left the house and the rain and ice was bad but not holy crap bad. We opted, at Wife’s suggestion to take our secondary route (secondary roads) to BOL1 to avoid the icing that 101 tends to get even under normal winter conditions. The new route took us past an acquaintance’s house so we decided to pop in there and see if they were fine. On the way, at the road we would turn onto to check on the acquaintance, our secondary route was hazard obstructed and blocked off by signs. We elected to go and check the acquaintance anyway since the road is blocked right before her road. She was fine, she sent the kids off to the ex-husband, her to a friends house. I advised her of the road situation and advised a path out. She in turn gave me directions for an alternate to my alternate route to BOL1.
As I drove on the carnage got worse and worse. More trees and limbs and lines down. I made it to within 500 Yards of BOL1 to find that there was a line of cars staring dumbfoundedly at the 2 foot diameter tree that had fallen over, root structure and all, snapping the tops off of the telephone polls that held the wires that snapped like fishing line as it fell...
I flagged down the guy in front of me as he was turning around. He said that he lived in the same area and that he would be taking a route I wasn’t familiar with to get there. I asked to tail him and he said “it’s up to you”. I felt the implication was “What you do is your deal, I’m handling mine” and that was fine with me. I lost him at some point, and decided to go back out and take a route I was familiar though it would cost us a fair amount of time and gas. It turned out that a newly fallen tree and associated lines from the pole now blocked my way out. I realized at this point that I had kind of assumed that the damage was completed and that we were in the wait for normal stage. I was wrong. The trees were continuing to come down. I ended up doing lots of backtracking and guessing and general “I feel like it’s that way” type of navigation. It was not pleasant.
MISTAKE NUMBER 3 wrote:On my first trip I left without navigational aids of any sort. That was a mistake. I had three approaches to BOL1. I hadn’t considered that all three would be obstructed at one point or another. I have a GPS and a gazetteer. The Jeep has an onboard compass that is less than accurate, I forgot that I had a decent compass in my BOB not that it would have done much good without a map… Future trips I took included those things as routes opened and closed randomly and I was always rerouting, having better intel on the area would have been a big benefit. Additionally I intend on taking a different route there every time from now on so that I am more familiar with the area. It could have been much worse. I was lucky. LESSON: Always take navigational aids, even if you are going somewhere you’ve been hundreds of times. All the ways you know to get there might be obstructed.
I finally arrived at BOL1. I got Wife, Baby, FIL, MIL, and BrIL together and we had a disjointed conversations about what, where, when, and how. It burnt way more time than it needed to. Wood stove was hot and the living room was a comfortable temp but without the blower running it will not heat the rest of the house very well. They had 8 gallons of water that they went out and bought right after the power went out. They had three 1 gallon buckets for flushing the toilet, with water available in the lake out front to refill. They had two fridges full of food, but limited dry goods. They had zero gasoline.
I asked FIL to take every gas container and fill them all, RFN. I asked MIL to compile a list of items we needed, ASAP, because people would be rushing the stores if they weren’t already doing so.
During the initial brief someone mentioned a friend of ours that lives about a half mile away. She’s a really nice divorced lady, and has a basement that has a taste for flooding. I agreed that something should be done if it could be done without inconveniencing or endangering our group. I set up the inverter and battery bank to run the wood stove’s fan, and a couple of more small fans to direct heat around. Threw a couple of CF bulbs in a couple of the lamps and plugged them in and told everyone to only turn them on when they needed to do something that wouldn’t work with candles, as I didn’t know when I would be back and the battery’s charge wouldn’t last forever. I grabbed BrIL and headed over to check out the friend. This time I remembered to take a 2-way radio with me.
From that point forward my wife served as a most excellent communications hub relaying anything that came across to the appropriate parties. It was a great asset to have someone sitting by the radio at all times. It was also an easy task since the baby requires constant supervision.
It turned out that the friend had 18 inches of water in her basement and rising. So I ran back to BOL1 and grabbed my AC generator and brought it to the friend’s house along with 2 1/6 HP utility pumps, hoses and extension cords. I had the gen about maxed out, it’s only a 3 KW (I ran it at an estimated 3600 watts for 3-4 hours at a time several times during the event). One ½ hp (15 amps), one 1/3 hp (10 amps), one 1/6 hp (5 amps) pumps and the level was dropping pretty quickly. Three hours later it was dry in there. I told her I’d check on it throughout the weekend as she and her kids were bugging out to their church.
BrIL and I packed everything up and headed back to BOL1. MIL briefed me on what she and the rest came up with. They were in a pretty position. They would have liked to have more water but they were fine for now. What they really needed was paper cups and plates, more batteries, and some snack food. The rest was just more of what we already had. No big deal. I also learned that FIL has a big conference pre-booked, prepaid, etc starting tomorrow morning in Connecticut. That sucks. I can tell he’s conflicted, and he tells me that if I need him to stay that he will be happy to but that if I don’t need him than he should go. He got the gasoline and it looked like things were fairly stable, so I told him I would take care of everything.
Light was failing and I wanted to give the generator a rest, so I decided to make the supply run. I checked the battery bank and it was looking healthy. I asked for final suggestions. More roads closed that were open and a couple open that were closed. All the time that gigantic tree was blocking my quick and easy path to the primary road. I was tempted to try it, but was pretty sure Murphy would see me flattened if I did. So I took more back roads to go the long way around. After getting out to the main road I clipped a tree that was hanging in the road with my passenger side mirror. It did its fold back thing as designed but the combination of temperature and the force of the blow shattered the glass. That was thankfully the only injury or damage for us for the duration of the event.
Walmart was out of value packs in batteries at most of the displays but I managed to find some back in camping. They were out of anything even resembling a flashlight, or headlamp. They were out of all water but the tiny half pint bottles. Fuel lines were now long. I ended up getting everything I needed and most stuff I wanted. I only got that because I already had most things that people were just thinking of now. They were also sold out of inverters and deep cycle batteries. How you going to charge it when it’s drained?
I headed back to BOL1 with supplies and a few more things my house. As I drove up I noticed that their house was conspicuous due to the shades being up and it being lit up real good. I would need to institute some light discipline, as in “don’t broadcast that we have power, when the lights are on draw all the blinds and curtains and such.”
Once there I switched from inverter power to AC generator power, which allowed lots more things to get turned on including a fridge. We consolidated highest value stuff from two fridges into one. Things that were lower value got put in the entryway which was just above freezing or out back which was way below freezing. We grilled some steaks for fun and morale. I watched BrIL loving that we could play PS2 while the power was out. Then I kicked his butt at Madden for some normalcy. Meanwhile the 12V genset charged the battery up for it’s next round of service.
After about 4 hours the fridge had cooled everything back down and the freezer was good to go, I shut down the AC gen and 12V gen and transitioned everything back to inverter/battery power for the night. Just the stove blower and a fan was a small draw so it was going to be fine.
And so ended the first day…
The next days were similar to the first. I ran the generator to the friend’s house to pump water. Came back to cool the fridge. Ran BOL1 on inverter when the AC Gen is engaged elsewhere and at night. Filled buckets for flushing and washing. We cooked on the Coleman. Candles supplemented artificial light. Books and games for fun when the AC generator wasn’t running. Movies and PS2 (for morale of course). Life was really pretty good considering.
The biggest surprise was the fuel consumption. I realized about midway through the second day that my 12V genset is very over powered in the engine department. The alternator produces about 50 amps at idle and ~65 at WOT. It will be on idle from now on. On the other hand the little Honda AC generator only used about 5 gallons in four days.
MISC THOUGHTS wrote:I bought 5 gallon buckets with latching lids from HomeDepot for storing non-potable water sometime on day 2. That morning and the night before had been real cold and the lake iced over and had to be opened up with a maul. It also allowed the transport of water without sloshing it all over everything and losing water. I’d like to get a few more for general usage.
I wish I had brought a second firearm with me, for me, and another to leave at BOL1. Never needed any but if the situation would have been different it could have been nicer to have more.
I need to press the team angle and get everyone else in the group up to speed on what we did and why and how. I ran myself kind of ragged trying to be everywhere at once. If people had known what needed to be done and when it would have saved me a bit of effort. There’s a debrief scheduled for this weekend.
I need to get in shape. I got winded way too much when doing manual labor. I guess happiness has made me complacent in more areas than just gear.
What did I miss?