Thundersnow and Power Outages

Just 4 days after my post, Is It Spring Already?,  we had snow, thundersnow to be exact. Have you ever heard of thundersnow? It is simply a thunderstorm with snow instead of rain. It is not a common thing. This one was a doozie! The thundering was loud and plentiful and the lightening was bright! Have you ever heard that 10 days after thundersnow there will be another snow? I always have. I guess we will wait and see.

It has been raining pretty much non-stop since Monday. Everything everywhere had standing water. Yards, field, and some roads were looking like lakes. Thursday afternoon the wind was really strong. It had the potential for some serious downed trees and power outages. The lights flickered a few times. So, I filled the upstairs garden tub with water and told everyone to charge all of their electronic devices now in case the power went out.  We had one flicker long enough that the TV did not come back on by itself.

Then, Thursday evening’s temperatures dropped changing the rain over to sleet and quickly to snow. It was some of the biggest flakes I have seen in a long time. Several of my facebook friends within 30 miles or less were reporting power outages. Luckily, we never had any power outages this time, but it is good to be prepared.

Our primary source of heat is an electric heat pump. The home is also equipped with older electric baseboard heat that we do not use due to the lack of efficiency.  I do check them once a year to make sure they are working in case we have to rely on them if there is ever an issue with the heat pump. I did rely on them for a couple of weeks about 6 years ago when the heat pump went out in February and had to be replaced. The power bill tripled from just 2 weeks of use! Still it was nice to have a backup and much better than freezing.

But what if the power had gone out? It has happened several times before in the winter. In the past we used a kerosene heater, but it is old and has some serious rust issues due to some leaks that occurred in our old shed before it was replaced.  So, a couple of years ago during a winter storm we realized the kerosene heater no longer worked. Also, always be very careful using kerosene heaters indoors because of the fumes (carbon monoxide) that it puts off when it burns. They are still better than freezing, but just be vigilant about monitoring them.

That year we ended up buying a small portable propane Buddy Heater from Tractor Supply. Money was tight and we needed heat, but it was really all the extra we could afford.

Buddy Propane Heater
Photo Credit – Tractor Supply

We have the smaller model that uses the camping size propane tanks. We now keep a few (not a lot) of camping propane tanks in the case of an emergency. Tractor Supply also has a larger model that connects to a tank the size a outside cooking grill uses. Neither is ideal for long term sustainable heat, but it will keep you from freezing in an emergency. The last time it was used, it was the only heat we had for several days. We had to bundle up and everyone slept downstairs in the living room, but it kept us from freezing.

This fall we also purchased a Champion 3500W/4000W portable generator from Tractor Supply that was on sale.

Champion 3500W/4000W portable generator
Photo Credit – Tractor Supply

It has not been needed yet, but it is a nice addition to our emergency preparedness arsenal. This generator is a descent size, but still not large enough to run a heat pump or even water pump for our well.  Still it can be used to run our freezer and refrigerator and we could run an electric space heater in addition to other electric items (alternating of course).

Remember, if you are relying on a gas generator for preparedness, it is best to have some gas stored as well in case the nearby gas station pumps do not have electricity. If at all possible buy more gas at the time of the emergency to sustain yourself longer, but that is not always an option. Gas cans come in all shapes, sizes, materials, and prices. Gas cans are NOT all created equally.  Some really are worthless so take the time to research types of gas storage options as well as what is legal and safe regarding “stock piling” gas. We would prefer to have metal military style vented 5 gallon jerry cans. However, they are a little pricey.

The Moeller Scepter Vented Gas Can (5-Gallon, Military Style) is the best plastic alternative I have found.

Military Gas Can
Photo Credit – Amazon

This is a good tall and slender shape and size for taking up the least amount of floor space. Anything bigger than 5 gallons is going to be difficult to handle and transport (especially for a female) unless it is equipped with a pump. With all the new safety can regulations, being vented is also important and rare. The gas will not pour well and will inevitably be spilled and wasted without venting. The price of gas alone is enough to not want to waste it. However, if it is an emergency and you have a limited supply every drop is precious. Lastly, do remember that gasoline has a shelf life. Although proper storage conditions can increase the life of the gasoline, it is still best to rotate it into your regular use with the lawnmower or other gas equipment. Additives can be bought and added to the gas to extend the life as well. Do your research on the topic and decide what is best for your situation.

Although we have not gotten our home and living situation completely sustainable, we can survive several days in an emergency situation. Our goal is to be able to survive indefinitely without electricity, but this takes time, money, and effort. Where ever you are on the preparedness path do not become discouraged. It is easy to become overwhelmed. Just be on the path making some kind of forward momentum. Any kind of preparedness is better than none at all.