No-power tips for #Sandy survivors

My mom’s name is Sandy. So watching a storm named for my mother slam into the United States’ most populous region, threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions of brethren while potentially altering the outcome of our upcoming election, is upsetting on many levels. Many, many levels.

But that’s not your problem, East Coast. You’ve got real #Sandy issues, namely torrential rains, damage, debris. I join the rest of the nation is praying that no tragedies occur and that damage is as minimal as possible.

But there’s no doubt a thing like this is going to knock the power out. That’s a given.

I live in the woods. I know there are different versions of “the woods” in describing living arrangements. We have many amenities: electricity, telephone, two satellite dishes on our roof that bring TV and internet into our home. Most of the time we are living a lovely modern existence, nestled in the tranquility of a northern forest and nearby lake. But any serious storm generally sends those trees a knockin’ and you can almost count on power outages in high winds.

We had an extended outage of three days this past summer. I wrote a column that might be amusing to some facing long power outages, or maybe not. Maybe it’s something you’ll laugh about later. Or never? I have no idea.

My point is that power outages quickly render the world you normally inhabit into something far different. The first day is a novelty, but then some harsh realities set in. So, some advice for anyone going without water now or in the near future.

  1. First of all, don’t be a hero. If the authorities have asked you to evacuate, do that. We’ve never been evacuated here, but if someone tells me they can’t get fire, ambulance or police service to me if I need it, I take that as a cue to board up and get out.
  2. Water. I don’t just mean the bottled stuff so you can hydrate and sustain life functions, though that’s pretty good, too. Get some buckets of nasty stuff you can use to flush your toilets. Maybe you live in a town with pumped water and sewers and don’t need electricity to flush — normally. But if your city is banged up enough you’ll lose water too and I can’t tell you how much you’ll want to flush the toilet. If you have kids, especially young kids with pooping issues who randomly produce feces the size of an adult forearm, you’re going to want some buckets of water for flushing. I understand there will be a fair amount of water available, now or soon.
  3. Learn early the folly of your phone dependence. Though I am a deeply addled internet addict, I have striven to maintain some distance from my cell phone. I get a very limited data plan, no texting and I rarely answer the thing. It’s nice to make a call when you need to, or catch up on phone calls when you’re riding somewhere. But if you are an app hound who uses the phone to find products, directions or general information — you’re in for a long week, son. Don’t count on it, because you might be able to use it if your power goes out, but if the tower goes out (possible in a big storm) you’ve got Angry Birds, a calculator and e-mail you’ve already read.
  4. Paper plates. Plastic cups. Sporks. If you can, do your dishes before the storm hits. Run picnic conditions thereafter. Get the garbage out of the house. I stress again, mind the smell. It is the smell that gets you, probably around Day 2.
  5. Go back in time. You’d like to have a generator. You’d like a hand crank radio. You’d like to have a good supply of light sources, such as flashlights and lanterns. You’d like to have enough propane or charcoal to cook outdoors. You’d like all of these things, but as I write this it’s too late and you won’t get any of them. Find someone who does.
  6. Use this time for your family and to meet your neighbors. Your fellow humans are often terrible sources of stress. Often it’s their fault, not yours. You are also probably a terrible person as well, at least sometimes and certainly in the eyes of some. But an experience like this is a one-time opportunity to bond with something bigger than yourself. Community formed now will endure past when the lights come back on.

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