Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Ice Storm Aftermath

As you probably heard, a large part of Oklahoma (and a couple of other states) had an ice storm two weeks ago, which led to all kinds of fun with limbs/trees breaking and power lines down. Here are some things that stood out for me:

Unless you have some kind of heater that doesn’t need a blower, no power means no heat. Several years ago I bought an indoor-safe kerosene heater; after assembling, fueling, testing, then draining and prepping it it’s been in storage ever since. If it’s seriously cold outside it won’t make the whole house toasty, but it will take the edge off, and if you can close off other rooms it’ll keep two to three (depending on size) of them a lot more comfortable. Mine is similar to this model

Two notes on the heater: 
  1. Use only K1 kerosene; it burns cleaner and has less smell to it.
  2. There is a fuel stabilizer available for kerosene that both prevents it from picking up moisture in storage, and kills even more of the scent. It worked pretty well here.

Being a fan of flashlights I’ve got several, and I have a nice LED battery-powered lamp (I now have two). I also have two of these Aladdin kerosene lamps. They put out a lot of light and some heat, which is always a good thing in cold weather. They’ll light up a room pretty well, and if you have something shiny to put behind them as a reflector*, you can direct the light better.

You have to watch these, as if you try to turn them up too high too soon you can wind up with the flame touching the mantle** inside and it’ll start smoking and smelling. And you really should fuel them outside. Same notes for lamp fuel as for the heater.

Whether oil lamp or candles, you need either matches or lighters. I have at least half a dozen butane lighters, but I could only find two of the damn things. I need to buy another pack of them, and paint them orange or something. Also, the new ‘green’ version of ‘strike anywhere’ matches suck compared to the old ones.

On battery lights: have spare batteries. Buy good ones, as they have a longer shelf life, and my personal desire is to have more than I think I might need.
* I’ve got a roll of 10” wide, 10 feet long aluminum roof flashing. It’s good for lots of things, and it makes great reflectors. 

 ** The mantle is a chemically-treated gauze cone that sits above the circular wick inside the chimney. It's a good idea to have a spare one, just in case. 

Cooking and Fuel
If you have an electric stove, a propane camping range is really nice to have when the power goes out. I wouldn’t want to try to cook a fancy meal on one (partly because I’m lazy), but it’s handy for heating water, soup and such. Also, make sure you have stuff that’s easy to heat for it: soup, stew (canned or dried), hot chocolate, tea, coffee, things like that.

Make sure you have kerosene and propane before you need it! This was an unseasonable storm, and while I had enough of both fuels to get through, it would’ve been better if the kerosene can had been full and a couple more propane cylinders would’ve been nice.

If you go the kerosene route, check farm & garden stores as you can often get K1 there for a lot less than buying it by the gallon at a store, or buying lamp oil (which is just a somewhat more-purified kerosene). Have a fuel can that’s NOT red, so it’s obvious which one contains what.

Other Thoughts
When you go outside, make damn sure you’re dressed for it and be careful about walking. In this case (other than overpasses and some bridges) the roads and walks never iced, but you don’t want to just stroll out and land on your ass- or head- because your porch did ice up.

Have some cash on hand. A debit or credit card isn’t much use if the network is down.

Finally, know in advance where to get dry ice. I lost the stuff in the refrigerator, but was able to get enough to keep the big stuff in the freezer safe. It wasn’t easy to find, either I knew where to look, but the demand was high.

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