Preparing for the next [_________] (insert natural disaster here)

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Preparing for the next [_________] (insert natural disaster here)

By M Davies   /     Oct 05, 2011  /     NEPA, Wacky PA Weather  /  

In the last 2 months NEPA has experienced the following:

  • An Earthquake
  • A Tropical Storm (Irene)
  • Major River Flooding (from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee)
  • Flash Flooding from Creeks and Streams

That being said, I’m waiting for the infestation of locusts to start at any moment.  All of these natural disasters combined at one time have changed my outlook on the outdoors.  I no longer look at trees and say “Wow, what beautiful, majestic tree!”  Its more along the lines of “Hey, look at how tall that tree is…I bet could probably land on my house and kill me in my sleep.”  Ok, maybe I am overreacting a bit with this….but then again, you probably haven’t driven through the Back Mountain a few hours after Tropical Storm Irene’s winds died down either.

Living without electricity unwillingly in your own house for five days is what I like to describe as “forced, domesticated Survivorman” or “camping, but less fun”.  Don’t get me wrong, things could be a LOT worse.  We could have lost everything in the flood as some of the folks throughout our region have…but it didn’t make it any more of a walk in the park.

Now, I will post the 10 valuable lessons I learned from surviving a natural disaster.  These many not be applicable to every person reading this blog post, I realize, but it should give you a general idea of what you need to do to prepare.


I think this is pretty much a common sense thing, but it was one of the first preparation steps I took when I heard how bad the winds might be.  My yard is a complete open field, with no trees protecting a good portion of it.  If it gets windy, there is nothing to shelter the wind from blowing through.  An awesome example of this is (as embarrassing as it is for me to admit) we bought a trampoline a few years ago for the kids.  It was not secured to the ground…and the directions specifically stated that it did not need to be secured to the ground.  However, I STRONGLY felt like we should.  This caused a fight between me & the hubs.  He felt that the directions knew what was best.  Guess who won this fight?  Mother nature, when she sent a gust of wind across our yard lifting the trampoline up in the air and tossing it several hundred feet in the opposite direction.  $200 is an expensive lesson to learn.  Anyway, before Irene blew through, all of our garbage cans, lawn furniture and deck stuff was put away/secured.  The only thing that blew away was a lid of an old sandbox that my kids no longer use.  There was no way to easily move that before the storm set in.


This is especially important if the weather predictions are specifically stating that power outages are likely and/or you have a well.  We have an electric well pump, so basically when the electricity goes off, we can use the remaining water in the tank, but after that runs out we’re screwed.  Oh how I wish I did this before the power went out.  We were water-less for 5 days.  I feel though, that even if we did save water (in the bathtub, garbage cans, buckets…whatever) we still would have eventually ran out.  Saving water is usually an “in case of”.  No one expected that we’d be without power for 5 days.  I could have taken every necessary precaution and we probably still would have run out of the saved water reserve by day 3.


I have a terrible habit of never carrying any money on my person.  I usually get by paying for everything with my debit card.  In the event of a major natural disaster with an electrical power outage, ATMs are not available for you to use.  Even after the power came back on in many areas, the phone lines were still out.  If you didn’t know, when you use a credit/debit card the POS terminal is basically like a small computer.  It will dial out using a modem and verify that the funds are available at your bank and respond with either “yes” the transaction is good or “hell no” you are broke as fuck.  I can’t say how much to take out.  That’s up to you.  If I had a choice, I’d probably say about 100 dollars or so would be a good start.


This kind of goes hand in hand with the last item…I heard that a lot of gas stations were unable to pump gas when the electricity went out….and those that were up and running were unable to accept credit/debit card.  Whether you are going to need to evacuate, run a generator or simply get to work, its best to make sure you have filled up your tank well in advance of the storm.


This is probably another obvious preparation step, but make sure you are stocked up ahead of the storm.  I’ve pretty much used every single candle that I had in my house during the week without power. I will need to stock up again soon, just in case.  Another helpful thing that I did before the storm was round up all of the candles, matches, lighters and flashlights in a container so they would be easy to locate when/if the power went out.  That way no one broke a limb trying to fumble around for them.  Also, make sure you have advil/tylenol on hand.  Burning all of those perfumy candles all at once can give you a headache!


I pay most of my bills online these days and receive my statements in PDF format through email or the website.  This is completely useless in a power outage.  Write down account numbers & phone numbers and keep it on your fridge, or keep a phone book handy (as much as I despise them…they are handy in a situation like this).


We were hearing reports on TV of people who’s electrical appliances were being fried by the current coming through the house when power was being restored to the area.  Why take the chance of frying a couple hundred dollars of appliances?  “But how will I know when the power comes back on, Michelle?”  Easy.  Listen for when your neighbors stop running their generators.


We were able to get a lot of our information this way.  Obviously, TV was out of the question with no electricity.  And the local stores were closed for at least the first 48 hours after the storm due to no power…therefore…no newspapers, unless we wanted to drive into Dallas to get one which is at least a 20 minute drive.


There has to be a friend, family member, or disaster center close to your area.  Don’t be too proud to ask for help.  Whether its getting a hot shower, washing your clothes, or just getting out of the house to talk to someone.  People are very warm and welcoming during times of need.  Chances are they will be happy to help you….and no, you won’t be burdening them, so don’t feel that way.  During Hurricane Irene, my MIL was our “buddy”.  She was able to take the kids off of our hand for a week until the power returned.  We also showered and washed clothes there.  It was our charging station for cell phones, laptops and the like. BTW, I should note, that my kids were scheduled to go back to school on the Monday after Hurricane Irene was scheduled to hit.  The opening of school was delayed a full week due to flooding and power issues.  I’m thankful for this, because I don’t know how we would have accomplished getting them to school with no utilities.


Things that helped me get through the week:

  • Having a propane gas grill w/ a burner.  We have an electric stove, so cooking indoors was out of the question.  We were able to cook meals on the grill, also the burner on the side was awesome because we made coffee in the morning with it.  I’m sure that burner uses a good portion of the gas in the tank, but hey…its an emergency what do you want.
  • Having a chainsaw.  I bought one for Rich for Father’s day, and it turns out we needed to use it as a tree fell in the yard NARROWLY missing Gabrielle’s bedroom.  You’d be surprised how quickly we were able to get all of the wood and branches chopped up.  Although, I think some of this stems from being bored to death living like an Amish person all week long.
  • Cell phone car charger.  I have AT&T iPhone.  This was my only form of communication for at least 48 hours.  When the power went out, it took the phone line out with it.  Luckily I was able to charge my phone from my car…in fact this became a morning ritual for those 5 days.  I think the first few days, there may have been something going on with the cell tower in the area.  Normally, I’m able to pick up 3G at my house….I was only getting the Edge network for a few days with 1-2 bars of service.  The 3G network eventually returned, as did the rest of the bars…but sheesh, the first few days of communication were tricky.  I had to stand on one foot holding the cell phone while balancing an antenna on my head.  Oh well, at least the neighbors had a good laugh at my expense.
  • Having awesome neighbors.  I have an “I Hate My Neighbors” Category on my blog, and for those of you who have been reading it since the beginning know that I hated my neighbors in Lee Park.  This is no longer the case.  My Sweet Valley neighbors are mostly awesome (with the exception of Drunken Redneck Volleyball….more on them here and here).  We passed information back and forth amongst each other and offered help when needed.
  • Coolers.  We have a large food service type cooler and also a smaller igloo cooler.  We managed to save some stuff out of the fridge from spoiling.  Somethings you just have to accept will be casualties to the natural disaster.  For me, this turned out to be most of the dairy and meat products in the fridge.  We have a deep freezer and were able to save most of the frozen stuff…thankfully.

Things that I have purchased, or will be purchasing for the next time:  (let’s face it, it is only a matter of time until something like this happens again)

  • A battery powered alarm clock.  Yes, I’m one of those annoying people who uses their cell phone as an alarm clock.  I tried to conserve battery power as much as possible with my phone, but still ended up with the battery dying left and right.  If you plan on making it to work or school in the morning, you better have a battery powered something to wake your ass out of bed!
  • A generator.  Obviously, THIS GOES WITHOUT SAYING.  I’m sure as hell not going through this ordeal again if I don’t have to.  Every homeowner usually has a wishlist of things they want to purchase for their house.  A GENERATOR suddenly flew to the top of mine.
  • A camping coffee pot.  I know this sounds ridiculous…but I really need that jolt of caffeine in the morning to get me moving.  I purchased a camping coffee pot from Wal-Mart for 14 dollars.  This can be used if we actually ever go camping and in the next natural disaster.
  • A propane tank?  Maybe we could have at least dried clothes or had food that wasn’t grilled if we had another utility other than electricity.

I’m sure I could think of more, but you get the idea.

Next time around will be different….do you know why?


Suck it, mother nature.

About M Davies

Hi! My name is Michelle and I'm the sassy author of this blog. I also am a wife, mother, sister, daughter, contributor at NEPA Blogs, 1/3 of NEPA BlogCon and work behind-the-scenes in local TV.


  1. Harold Says: October 10, 2011 11:24 pm

    I remember years ago watching a California Fire Marshal on TV talking about the wildfires that blow through there so often. He kept talking about "fuel," warning people to keep all "fuel" at least 100 feet (or something like that) away from the house. After a while he clarified that by "fuel" he meant trees, shrubs, or any other types of vegetation. I found this preposterous: trees are such an important part of our lives, and here was this guy stating that people should live in a man-made desert. Who ever heard of anything so ridiculous?
    After a few more fire seasons I realized the only thing that was ridiculous was the speed with which wildfires could spread,
    After Irene I had the same thought about trees and wind. Fortunately I had actually had the thought some time before Irene, and convinced my mom that she should have a 35-year-old oak and a 40+year-old evergreen removed. She did, and neither  of them came down on our house or our neighbor's.
    Love the point about getting money out of the bank.That's something I once knew but allowed myself to forget.  

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