No power for days. What do people do?

After a bad ice storm I was without power for about 4-5 days. After the rain-ice the temp dropped to the low teens. I got by with a poorly functioning kerosene heater and candles the first couple days. Then one morning I was at Home Depot looking for a new wick for the heater and they got in a shipment of kerosene heaters and generators so I bought one of each. I was assembling the generator on the back patio when the power came back on! It went back off a couple hours later for a short time so I did get to use it for a while. I’ve had a few shorter outages since in which the generator came in handy so I’m glad I bought it.

We were without power for five days last week. (western suburb of Philadelphia, to much ice for the trees and power lines).

We spent the first night at the house, then moved to my sister-in-law’s house for the duration because her power had gotten restored. When the interior temperature in our house reached 37 degrees we shut off the water at the main and drained the pipes, which pretty much enables the house to endure the winter as-is.

When the power came back on, we emptied the freezer (everything in there had thawed and then refrozen) and removed the few items in the refrigerator that had gone bad. (When you think of it, basically the contents of the refrigerator had gotten a bit warm for a day, then cooled back down to pretty much normal refrigerator temperatures. The refrigerator never got cold enough for its contents to freeze.)

If you just leave your freezers closed, except to quickly take out food, the food will be good for weeks. If you have a lot of unused space in your freezer, like it is not full of food, you should put a few gallon jugs of frozen water in there. Then when the power goes out instead of a freezer you have a large insulated cooler that will still hold food for days or weeks.

We recently had a cold snap combined with high winds that froze our water pipes for 2 days. Fortunately we have a year round stream that is about 2 feet deep even in the summer, so we just took a bucket down and brought water to flush the toilet. We have several gallons of Costco water in the spare room for drinking. If there were a major zombie apocalypse I would run this creek water through a cheese cloth and have no reservations about drinking it.

We heat with a wood pellet stove, but that needs electricity. We have a generator that will run it and a few other things at the same time. In the event that electricity would be out for a long time we also have a wood burning stove that does not need electricity. If gas runs out there are hand saws. I am surrounded by about a billion trees, just that I can see from here.

In the event of a major disruptive event, I think that the availability of beer would be my only serious problem.

I’ve never been without heat or water but Chicago has the occasional power outage, the longest being 3 days. For this I’ve got a 65-lb battery pack in a closet. Since I barely use any electricity (I don’t plug in the any appliances) it lasts quite a while running lights, my wi-fi router, and charging my laptop.

I grew up in a place that routinely gets 100 or higher in summer. Never had air conditioning until I was in my late teens. And even then didn’t use it much because of the cost. In college I lived two years in a dorm with no air conditioning. In a place that not only got to 100 in late spring and early fall, but had much higher humidity than when I grew up. Being in the cold without heat even for a fairly short time is much harder than being without air conditioning when it’s hot.

Where I am, we have the occasional power outage. They usually last for a few hours. Nevertheless, I like to be prepared.

First, my friend I bought my house from installed a propane heater. In the event of a power failure, I can still use it for heat; but the fan won’t work. Second, I replaced the dilapidated wood-burning insert with a new, efficient one (with a glass door, too! :slight_smile: ) So as long as I have propane and/or wood, I won’t go cold.

I also have a Honda 3000 W generator. It has more than enough power to run the fans on the furnace and stove, the television, DVD player, cable, phone, Internet, and computer. It can also run a 600/800/1500 W oil-filled electric heater. For cooking, I can use my collection of Svea 123 stoves or my MSR stove. I still have my Jeep Cherokee, so I have 4WD and chains to get food and fuel.

So I’m pretty well equipped for power emergencies. I suspect that people who live in places where they are susceptible to losing power for extended periods are much better equipped than I am.

We have a standby generator and we heat with propane. Lots of folks have woodstoves to heat with and standby or portable generators for essentials. If you’re on a well you may not have fresh water; friends fill their tub in advance to be able to flush the toilets and do basic washing up. You can tell the folks at work whose power is out – their hair isn’t up to its usual puffery. :slight_smile:

Went through an ice storm about twenty years ago. We toughed it out for a few days in below freezing temps. Gas hot water heater meant hot showers/baths at least. No fireplace though. :frowning:

We dug out the backpacking equipment and actually set up the tent in the living room and slept in sleeping bags. (The smaller you can make your shelter, the warmer you will be.) Hot meals courtesy of a Coleman stove. We kept water trickling to keep pipes from bursting.

It wasn’t that bad but after a few days we realized that power wasn’t coming back anytime soon so I got my hands on a little Honda generator. Just enough to power the fan on the gas furnace and run a few lights. After that, it was surprisingly comfortable. Of course, a day after rigging the furnace, the power came back. Total time without power was seven days and the temps never got above freezing.

While I wouldn’t want to go through it again, it was actually kind of exhilarating.

Dude, you need to stock up! Get more beer.

Until 1950 or so, hardly anyone in the US had home air conditioning, but no one outside of the deep south lived without heat. The people in Chicago who died during their terrible heat wave kept their windows closed because they were afraid of robbers. In most climates heat is much more important than air conditioning.

The gas home heating equipment sold around here have tiny generators that make enough electric power to run the burner and thermostat. Gravity will circulate the heat somewhat if you have hot water radiators. I don’t know about air heat.

During the 1998 ice storm, we went to friends who happened to live in one of the few pockets of Montreal that had power most of the time. There were several interruptions of an hour or two over the seven days we had no power and the water failed for an hour and a half, which was really scary. But we had a pallette on the floor and had a great old time. One pair of 90 somethings who lived just a block away asphyxiated themselves when they went to their basement and started a fire. A neighbor had tried to get them to an emergency shelter but they refused to go. Two of the very few fatalities during the entire ordeal.

Call the 800 customer service line; you get a free room.

Here in Northern Indiana, I have a generator and multiple 5 gallon gas containers. The longest the power has been out here is four day and even was a strain. If it were out for longer, my SO would go to a her mother’s with the animals and I would my Marriott Rewards points to kick it a a local hotel.

If the power was out longer, there are several cities in Ohio within an hour’s drive (including Toledo) and I would simply decamp to them and wait it out.

Around here the only reason power would be out several days would be ice storms, and if you still have icy roads many people are certainly not going to drive on them.

The longest we went without power was 3+ days. My main duty was splitting and stoking the fire in the fireplace. That took a significant chunk of time. Fortunately had a large stack of cut (but not split) wood.

In threads where people talk about living in cold climates off the grid, I can certainly understand how obtaining and preparing a winter’s worth of firewood is such a major task.

Cooking was a problem. We have an old Coleman white gas stove, but no fuel and getting out was a problem. I now have adequate fuel for it and a lantern. (It was cold enough that we moved more perishable foods into coolers outside.)

But the house kept getting colder and colder. Fortunately the water heater is all gas so we could shower. I was about to set up a bed in the basement (which was cold, but not as cold as the rest of the house) for sleeping at night and the power came back on.

The main problem with this and other shorter outages is boredom. The only downtime activity I could do was things like read and do puzzles. But reading by candlelight is difficult. Once the sun goes down, it’s nothing time.

There was a straight line wind storm here in 2012 which had the power out for 4-7 days in the county I live in and surrounding counties. We are also “overdue” for having a tornado so that could also put the power down for more than a day or two.

I’d had a generator when I was working for myself as a contractor, but after four years of not using it I sold it. I had to buy another one just after the wind storm. You never know when you are going to need one.

Hm. I don’t remember how long I was without power after the Northridge earthquake.

That’s partially it, but old age, poverty, and social isolation were huge factors. I read the quoted book and social isolation alone was a huge difference. Heat waves since then have included a lot of encouragement to check in on neighbors/any elderly that you know, among other efforts.

This is a pic of someone on another forum showing his supply of wood for the winter - that’s just nuts.

After living in rural northern Wisconsin for 35 years, the longest we ever went without electric power was 3 days, and that was in October, when it was above freezing.

A neighbor of mine moved into his camper, fired up the propane heater, and was in fine shape. He could cook and had lights and TV/DVD entertainment (that was before the Internet), and he just had to be a bit conservative with water use and sanitary needs, or else melt some snow.

There have been cold nights when the power failed that I have made a fire in the fireplace and slept in a sleeping bag in front of it. Lucky, it never lasted long enough at low enough temps to freeze any pipes.

Candles and battery powered lights are stocked by most. Some people have gas generators which can be hooked into the house electrical system if a master cutoff switch is thrown. It’s possible for a large enough generator to power the entire house, but those that I know who have them just have the capacity for minimal juice – furnace, fridge, limited cooking and lighting.

Some people just say, “fuck it,” close down their homes and head to Florida. I hate those people.

Local governments often make plans for citizens to come to a town hall or fire station which has emergency power indefinitely. Their homes and pipes may freeze, but they will be warm. Local businesses sometimes sponsor food deliveries. No one is going to starve if they forgot to bring their wallet; they can pay up later.

Basically, everyone helps out where they can, when they can. I’ve heard stories about postmen who came to the door to check when the mail wasn’t picked up for a few days.

That’s like 3-4 cords of wood. Not enough for a small house in a cold climate if that is your major source of heat.

Here near Buffalo 6 years ago we had a freak storm in October on friday the 13th that took out countless trees before the leaves fell that wiped out power lines everywhichway.

I camped in front of my living room fireplace with the kitties at night and a ton of blankets. By day three at 10 mph weaving and out of road obstructions I went to a friends’ house and loaded up with more wood. Since then I keep a cord of firewood in reserve stacked next to the house. Learned to keep a moderate fire just enough to be tolerable and bundle up in layers sleeping with a wool hat and gloves in the house and get by.

I’ve lived in my house for over 30 years since I was a kid and the cool thing was how much I got to know my newer neighbors. One neighbor had a generator. We rigged it up to a trailer and for 5 days went house to house and ran it for an hour or two in rotation to run everybodies sump pump to keep anyone from being flooded. Or chill a freezer.

Cars in driveways and lawnmowers or whatever were siphoned for gas all for the communal pool to run the generator.

I ate more meat grilled morning noon and night emptied out of freezers in that 5 or 6 days that I can ever remember.

Welcome to the 18th century.

Since then my best friend living 4 miles away had a natural gas well sank comercially at the back of his farm producing an obscene amount of gas. He has piped to his house more gas than he can ever use and the the company gets the rest. He installed a gas whole house generator and unless it’s a blizzard of epic proportions I know my safe haven.