No power for days. What do people do?

I’m in southern California. (We were in the 80’s today.)

I keep hearing about people in the mid West and Northeast losing power for extended periods of time in VERY cold weather.

What do these folks do? It would seem that just putting on a coat during the day and extra blankets at night wouldn’t be enough when the outside temperature is below zero. Would a fireplace burning a lot of wood make a home warm enough to survive in? Are a lot of these homes using gas as a heat source. Do these gas heaters need electricity to work?

Going to a motel (with power) seems like an expensive option.

My parents (and brother who lived in a different house) lost power for 3 weeks during an ice storm.

For heat my dad used portable kerosene heaters to heat the house. My brother used his fireplace at his house. Both worked fine. At night we just used extra blankets. If you use those plastic films to cover the windows, that helps too with temperature regulation. All of those can be done without electricity.

Since it was winter and below freezing, frozen and refrigerated foods were kept outside in a cooler.

So that pretty much covered heating and refrigeration. We still didn’t have running water, the sump pump in the basement didn’t work, etc.

Eventually they just bought a generator, a 5000 watt model. Just enough to run the water (w/o the water heater of course) to take showers and run the pump to drain the basement. But also enough to run the fridge during the day, run some lights and the TV.

I’ve never been powerless for three weeks. Three days was about the most at one time.

My gas furnace has an electric blower motor, so no, it doesn’t work when the electricity goes out. We have a fireplace and basically live within a 10-foot radius of it.

The water heater is gas and DOES work, though. Hot showers are wonderful.

Have babies 9 months later, usually.

better to be in the cold without heat than to be in the heat without airconditioning. You can always light a fire. If it’s sunny and 100 degrees outside, you’re screwed. Sure enough, in extended outages you always hear about old people dying from the heat.

I was without power for about a week after Hurricane Rita, and I was ready to kill myself.

After last week’s ice storm, we lost power for 3 and a half days. Although the outside temperatures were mostly in the 20s, fortunately there was a lot of sun, and the inside temperature remained around 50 degrees, which is bearable if you wear layers.

Generally the people who have these long outages live in areas where outages are not uncommon so they have backup heating facilities: wood stove, portable kerosene heater, portable propane heater. So these plus bundling up in lots of clothes are the most common solution.

Now, I have a generator and a kerosene heater.

But in 2008, we lost power for 11 days in December after an ice storm. No electricity, which meant the oil furnace didn’t work, nor the pump, so there was no heat, or water either. The day after the ice storm, my wife’s mother died, so we left town to deal with that. We spent a week at her mom’s house, then another four days at her sister’s until the power came back on.

In the mean time, the temperature dropped into single digits for a week, so when the power and heat came back on, all the pipes leaked, because they burst when they froze. We finally got a plumber on Christmas Eve, but all the carpets were soaked and water was running down the walls and out of the light fixtures. Merry Christmas!

Hurricane Sandy had us out of power for about three weeks. At first, we thought it would come back on in a day or two. We put a fire in the fireplace, dressed warmly, and slept under 3 blankets. We also spent a lot of time at the public library, which had power restored early. We ate out a lot, and ate slowly.

Our daughter got a generator from someone, enough to get the oil burner and hot water heater running, and we went over there to shower.

Still later, we gave up and bought a generator.

Long before that, though, everything in our refrigerator spoiled, and we threw it all out.

Another option would have been to camp out with another daughter, whose apartment did not lose power, but she is about an hour’s drive away, and gasoline was also in short supply.

We didn’t want to just move into a hotel because we would have had to deal with our cats. Obviously we couldn’t leave them home alone, and taking the cats to a hotel would have been difficult.

All but the oldest gas furnaces have blowers and electronic controls and thus require electricity to work. So the options are A) tough it out if it’s not to cold, B) Generator, even the smallest ones will power the furnace controls and a fridge, C) Kerosene Heater. Some have electronic controls but some do not. D) drain the water pipes and move someplace else temporarily.

Hot water heater design has never really moved beyond pilot light / thermocouples so you generally have hot water, which makes a chilly house more bearable.

Gas stoves have moved to electronic controls, but it’s trivial to light them with a match with no power. Gas ovens turn on and off in a duty cycle so you don’t have the same ability.

I went and rented a hotel room. That’s where I’m at now. Left the house because it was cold (Atlanta - turn on the news). Unfortunately, the power is out here too, so I just fucked myself out of $100.

That’s due in part to bad construction (not insulated or oriented in a way that lets you hide from the sun, no proper blinds), greatly to dehydration and to not taking it for granted that several months a year the outdoors will be roasting, but rather that several months a year you’ll be hopping from A/C house to A/C car to A/C…

Locations where construction and customs account for “several months with temps over 40ºC several hours a day, and thank the weather gods if it gets below 36ºC at night” are a lot less dangerous in the heat than those which don’t have heat-avoidance strategies, even if these get less extreme temperatures.

Pretty evident that by today’s standards, a significant % of the current population would not have survived in the pre-modern era (before 1920). Many people would have just given up and died.

A lot of the people in the pre-modern era did give up and die. Many early settlers refused to eat foods found in the New World, and relied on provisions from the old country. They starved, or gave up and went home.

Partially nonsense, aside from Fear Itself’s caveat (and plenty of people who didn’t turn around ended up dying from the climate anyway). People pre-electricity had homes with built-in heating sources that didn’t use electrical power. In the vast majority of today’s homes, you can’t just chuck another log in the wood stove when it gets cold because your house doesn’t have one.

Similarly, people didn’t move en masse in those times to super-hot climes with modern, sealed-up buildings (like high-rises with windows that don’t open) because we didn’t have ways to cool those buildings then.

It’s just that our ways to create modern comfort end up biting us in the ass extra-hard when power fails.

We toughed it out for a day or two in 1998 during an ice storm. We burned wood in the fireplace and barbequed meals. I brought buckets of snow in and dumped them in the bathtub so we could flush the toilets. We could have lasted longer but we had a 6 week old baby at the time, so we packed up and stayed with relatives in the city who had power.

After 6 days it was getting near freezing in the house. I had bought some plumbing antifreeze and was trying to figure out exactly what to to when miraculously the power came back on.

It took almost 24 hours for the house to come back to room temperature.

For a day or two we use the fireplace, candles, and Chinese take out. We have a generator, but have never used it.

We lost power for 6 days including Christmas thanks to the 2012 Toronto ice storm. We spent a couple days toughing it out, a couple days with friends and then finally hotel rooms had opened up and we stayed in a hotel for the last couple days. In general it was a bitch.

We shut off the water before we left and the house never did drop below 4 Celcius but our biggest issue was the dogs. There were a few places the humans could have gone for the duration but since it was the Saturday before Christmas when the power died all of the boarding kennels we called had been booked up for weeks. The friend that we stayed with shut her cats up in one set of rooms so we could bring the dogs with us.

We had a ten-day outage one winter. The wife and kids went to stay in a hotel in town. I met them for dinner every night, then drove out to the house and ran the generator a couple hours to keep the freezer cold, built a fire in the basement woodstove, and slept on the couch. In the morning I’d stoke up the fire, throw some clothes in a satchel, and go to work. I showered at work in the locker room.

Pretty much the same as we do after a major earthquake or race riot.