Last Saturday, our friends over in McCulloch County traveled back in time. For 18 hours, the City of Brady and much of the county lost electrical power. Lights. Air conditioners. Water. Stoves. Gasoline. In just a short time after the storms that moved through had disabled power lines from both the north and south of town, McCulloch County residents had to learn how to do without!
I started seeing facebook comments about the power outage. People were still using their smart phones and they were trying to get information about what had happened, how authorities were responding, and when the power might be restored. The earliest information, and initial estimates, were not reassuring. Some of the first reports indicated that it might be 48 hours before crews could fix all the problems.
No one in Brady could get gasoline because none of the pumps were functioning. That meant that unless people had fueled their vehicles in advance, they were unable to travel anywhere. Those who did have fuel went to neighboring towns and stayed in motels.
Residents of hospitals and nursing homes were a major concern. Neighboring towns stepped up and started offering facilities and transportation to get those with special health concerns to somewhere they could be safe. The City of Mason began prepping the Richard P. Eckert Civic Center to be a temporary emergency shelter.
One of the biggest problem for our neighbors to the north was that it had been a long time since they had experienced a long-term power outage. I have friends in New England who have gone for days without power after ice storms brought down the power lines. Other friends along the Gulf Coast have been through hurricanes that took away their power for weeks. The folks in McCulloch County only had 18 hours; but, they had forgotten what it is like to live without electricity.
One of the first things they had to learn was that the water depends upon a source of power. Even with the gravity flow from the storage tanks, water will stop flowing quickly when everyone continues to use it as if the power were still flowing. Rather than filling up emergency bottles with water for later use, people ran faucets, flushed toilets and took showers. In Mason, all of our water comes from the large tower on the west end of town. With no power, water stops flowing into that tower. Take only the water you need and conserve all that you have - don't flush unless absolutely necessary, don't run faucets, don't water yards.
People with gas stoves were in reasonably better shape than those with electric. Except many new gas stoves use electronic spark ignition, or have safety devices that don't allow the burners to ignite without power. A good supply of basic foodstuffs is a priority when there is no power. Bread, peanut butter, crackers, canned goods. Which brings us to the refrigerator....
Modern freezers and refrigerators will keep food frozen or chilled for a long period of time,,, if you don't keep opening the door. Use up the most perishable items first - eggs, milk, defrosted meat - leave the frozen items alone until you absolutely need to start using them. Once you start pulling from the freezer, be aware of how quickly everything is thawing. Friends in Boston held huge neighborhood meals where they could use up their food items that would spoil the most quickly.
Food isn't the only concern when air conditioning and refrigeration goes away. People are now acclimated to the comfort that air conditioning affords them in their daily lives. Our homes are built to make air conditioning more efficient. Without air conditioning, the houses tend to lack the ventilation they need to keep residents cool and safe. Find a way to take advantage of all the breezes you can. Utilize the times of shade to move to the coolest areas inside the house, remaining aware that it may become necessary to leave the house at some point to cool off enough to be safe.
People were running to every store they could reach last weekend to buy up emergency generators. Those are a great way to get through a short period without power; but, they require fuel to continue operating, and fuel was difficult to obtain during the power outage. It is much more prudent to know how to exist safely without power than to just seek out substitute power sources. Such knowledge will allow you to exist for a much longer period of time.
The folks in McCulloch County took a short trip back in time last weekend. Along the way, they learned a valuable lesson that we in Mason County can use to our benefit. Be prepared for such problems. Know what to do when it occurs. Find solutions, not substitutions.
Will we be ready?
It’s all just my opinion.