My husband and I chose to brave Irene from the Outer Banks of North Carolina. While we were prepared for the storm I do have a couple of after the fact lessons I learned after living for three days without power.
First, consolidate as many perishable items into the freezer as possible. A packed freezer will maintain cold temperatures much longer than the fridge. We are lucky enough to own two refrigerators so we moved all perishable food into the freezers and stacked them with ice I made before the storm arrived. The ice should be kept in bowls or bags and preferably wrapped in both. No matter how long you’re able to keep the door shut the ice will begin to melt, so prepare to dump out the dripping water once or twice a day. It’s also wise to keep a towel on the floor in front of the fridge in case it leaks before you have the opportunity to dump it.
This leads me to my second lesson. If you have the time and wherewithal spend a little money purchasing dry ice. It’s much colder, lasts much longer and won’t cause a liquid nightmare as it melts. In retrospect I could have saved a lot of time dumping water and moving freezer contents if I’d taken the dry ice technique.
Miraculously all the food in the freezer managed to stay remarkably cold for three straight days. Power returned in just over three days, but I think it would have lasted at least another 24 hours. The trick was to keep the door closed as much as possible and the freezer packed. We cooked and ate food as it started to thaw. We made certain to grill two packs of chicken as soon as they began to defrost.
We used the grill for everything! We grilled chicken, heated up leftover orzo and boiled baked beans. Our grill doesn’t have a side burner so we placed metal pots directly on top of the grates. A burner would’ve made things a little easier.
My husband piled up a stack of flashlights before the storm. Among them was a headlight, (a flashlight that straps around the top of your head), much like a coal miner would use. This was more valuable than all the rest, because it freed our hands to do other things. We were able to prepare dinner, brush our teeth, walk around with items in our hands, etc. I plan to search for sales and/or coupons so we can stock up on these in both our homes.
Another great find was an old oil lamp we typically use for ambience. That lamp used very little oil, burned brightly (we can dim and brighten it), and is incredibly stable. I never worried about it tipping over or catching anything on fire, because the flame is enclosed in glass. It also lit up the room much more clearly than a typical candle.
A few other tricks of riding out three days without electricity. When possible take a very quick shower. The hot water tank will retain heat for quite some time, but you want to conserve that for as long as possible. Try to get wet for one minute, turn off the shower, lather and then turn the water back on just to rinse off. Avoid using hot water when running sinks and washing dishes if possible. We rinsed plates and cups with cold water and soap and then placed them in the dishwasher for a more intense clean after the power came back on.
Another trick, fill up the car with gas and make certain you have an inverter to charge cell phones. I was able to hop online, via my iPhone, to look at radar maps and yes even comment on my previously scheduled blog posts. If you have a landline keep a non-portable phone for emergencies. As soon as the power went out all of the other phones in the house were useless, but that phone allowed friends and family to call me to keep in touch.
All in all we fared amazingly well. Our home suffered absolutely no damage and other than an inconvenience of living without power we didn’t even lose a morsel of food. The image at the top of this post of my Dove bar is a testament to that!