Hurricane Irma and the Power Outage
Oh my goodness, what a week this has been! Hurricane Irma wiped out the power grid here in Florida, and while most of the state is getting back to normal, my house is on Day 8 without electricity. Don’t feel too sorry for me; we do have a generator!
It has been a very interesting experience, both from the perspective of being without power ourselves, and watching others deal with it in various ways. To be fair, I’m separating the people who simply lost power, like us, from the ones who actually sustained damage to their homes from wind, flooding, falling trees, etc. That’s a whole different thing altogether.
After Hurricane Matthew came through last year and left us without power for 3 days, we decided to invest in a whole-house generator, one of the big ones that gets installed out back and comes on automatically when the power goes out. We live out in the country, with a lot of trees along our dirt road that have a habit of falling on the power lines during big storms, so we knew we were likely to lose power again in the future. It wouldn’t be such a big deal, except that we have six horses and two donkeys, and they require about 100 gallons of water every day. If you had to haul that much water every day from somewhere else, how would you go about that? It isn’t easy, I promise!
While we do have the capacity to just let the generator run and have power like things are normal, it costs a lot in terms of propane to do that. Also, we would burn through our 200 gallons of propane in about four days, with no guarantee of getting more right away. So, we have devised a schedule around our needs.
When I wake up in the morning, usually around 5:00, I go downstairs and fire up the generator. We let it run for about three hours while we work out, bring the horses in from the pasture to their stalls and feed them, eat breakfast, and shower. That gives the fridge and freezers time to run through their cycle a few times and recover from being off all night. We turn it on again at noon for an hour, 5:00 pm for about two hours so we can cook, and at nine for an hour before bed. This lets us do most of what we need to do (excluding laundry), while stretching our fuel capacity to about three weeks.
Here are some habits I’ve observed that I have, and can’t seem to break:
- Turning on the light switch when I walk into a dark room.
- Turning on the tap to get a glass of water, rather than reach for the pitcher
- Laying in bed at night wishing the ceiling fan was on
- Looking at the alarm clock when I wake up to see what time it is
- Assuming that the shower will be hot, even if I forgot to turn on the water heater earlier
- Expecting the laptop/phone to be connected to the internet at all times
- Believing that my phone will charge while I’m asleep
Here are some behaviors that I have managed to change:
- Stop opening the fridge to find something to snack on
- Stop using the bathroom (as opposed to going outside, as we do live in the woods…)
- Using the computer with 1 screen instead of 2
- Drive the diesel truck so I don’t have to wait in line for an hour at the gas station
- Get everything I need out of the fridge in 1 shot, instead of opening it 3 times.
- Turn shower off while I soap up to conserve hot water
Judging from Facebook posts I have seen, I’m not the only one going through this process! Facebook has been useful, in that we’ve been able to learn tips and tricks from one another on how to improve the quality of our powerlessness. Menu ideas have been especially insightful for me, as I am not very handy in the kitchen. Keeping a rotation of frozen milk jugs filled with water going back and forth from the fridge to the freezer will help maintain the fridge temperature when the generator is off, and that’s a really big deal.
Anyway, I’ve decided that I will probably break all of my old habits the day the power comes back on, and then I will have to relearn them all. That’s okay; I’m ready to give it a go! I miss the air conditioner at night, and I’m looking forward to not having to walk to the other end of the barn to start the generator every morning before I can make the coffee!
J. Boyd Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the big blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com