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

By M Davies   /     Oct 05, 2011  /     NEPA, Wacky PA Weather  /     2 Comments

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.

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Hurricane Irene – Post #2

By M Davies   /     Sep 02, 2011  /     Annoyances, Events, NEPA, Wacky PA Weather  /     2 Comments

Well, I'm back online….and it only took 5 days.  We lost power several times throughout the night Saturday into Sunday morning, each time the power would go off, it would come back on just as quickly which was a good thing.  Until about 9am Sunday morning when the lights started flickering.  Around 9:50am (right around the same time that Wilkes-Barre City was having people evacuate from around Solomon's Creek) we lost power.  It did not come right back on as it did during the night.  It was O-U-T, out.  My husband called his brother who lives about 3ish miles away from us up Rte 29 towards Harveys Lake and they were out of power since 3am Sunday morning. 

Fast forward to Sunday night…no power.

Fast forward to Monday….no power.

Fast forward to Tuesday…NO POWER.

Fast forward to Wednesday…NO POWER. 

Fast forward to Thursday morning…No POWER.

I left my house yesterday at around 11am after returning from school and there was no power as of then.  My husband then also left for work and attempted to get a shower elsewhere, and then went out for dinner as all of our food here has spoiled (save for what was in the deep freezer).  At some point yesterday, the power came back on.  It wasn't noticed at first because we were prompted to shut off the power at the breaker.  Several people in the Back Mountain Area (which includes Dallas, Dallas Twp, Kingston Twp maybe?, Lehman, Jackson, Ross and Lake Townships) were reporting that appliances were being fried with the currents running through the house after the power was turned back on in their areas. 

Rich had noticed that several of our neighbors had electricity, and we didn't hear the generators running anymore, so he took his chances and flipped the breaker, and sure enough everything came back on.  Yay!  I came home to a house full of running water and electricity and …. INTERNET.  None of which I have had for the past 5 DAYS. 

I'm still adjusting to things being back to normal….and still trying to collect my thoughts about what I want to say about this disaster, but from what I'm reading this morning, there are still some of my friends that have no power as of this morning.  God, I can only imagine what kind of hell that is right now.  I was ready to snap yesterday on day 5…I can't imagine going into day 6.  I really really really hope power returns to those folks soon.  Also, the TL has an article about Page Ave in Kingston still not having power yesterday.  I'm not sure if they were able to get it back soon, but I hope so.  Also, if you take a gander at the comments below the article, you can read everyone's sentiment.  Basically anyone who hasn't had power for 5 days should suck it up and not complain and be thankful we didn't live through Hurricane Katrina, because those people didn't have anything for months. 

Let me just cut you off right there, asshole arm chair quarterbacks without a clue.  Try to UNWILLINGLY (i.e. not going camping) live with electric for 1 day, let alone 5.  And here's a big fucking news flash for you too.  I don't live in the city.  So I do not have the following utilities:  City Sewer, City Water and Natural Gas or Propane.  I have Electric and Phone.  Those are my only 2 utilities.  I have an electric well pump, which means NO RUNNING WATER, NO SHOWERS, NO FLUSHING TOILETS, no drinking water, no ability to make ice, no way of washing dishes, etc.  Some of my neighbors who have propane were lucky enough to at least have the ability to maybe dry clothes or run their stove, but not I.  And do I need to remind you I have 2 young children as well? 

Anyway, before I get too fired up here, the bottom line is that I am happy that the power is back on and hope that it comes back on for the rest soon.  If there is anything I am able to help anyone locally within the area, let me and I will.  As that is the right thing to do with the hell we've all been through last week.

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Hurricane Irene: Post #1

By M Davies   /     Sep 01, 2011  /     Annoyances, Events, NEPA, Wacky PA Weather  /     1 Comment

First up:  The Wind.  I've seen a lot of strong wind in the 3 years that I lived in Sweet Valley, but nothing compared to this storm.  I took several videos which I was able to upload to Vimeo before my power went out (and before the battery in my iPhone died).  I have still more footage of branches falling, but they are on my camera.  From the extreme amount of use I put it through on Sunday morning the battery in that has since died, and with no light and electricity…well I'm sure you can imagine where this story is going….

Here are the first 3 videos so far.  More to come as well as an EXTENSIVE post on my thoughts about UGI vs. PPL, how to PROPERLY prepare in the storm and more miscellaneous thoughts running through my noggin. 

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Whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on

By M Davies   /     Aug 24, 2011  /     Events, Wacky PA Weather  /     0 Comment

I guess I should take a moment to comment on the Earthquake yesterday, but I think this pretty much sums it up:  (stolen from facebook)

Many others felt the tremors, but not I.  Apparently, I work in a building built to withstand the likes of a nuclear holocaust.  My husband said our house shook as if a large truck was driving through, but it lasted a lot longer.  The windows rattled and stuff vibrated on surfaces.  There was no damage.

I heard that downtown Wilkes-Barre (Public Square) was evacuated outside as well as city hall.  Someone on Twitter told me that Mayor Leighton held a press conference shortly thereafter about the event.  The CV has a decently written article about the events here.  I really think everyone is overreacting to this…but hey, who am I to judge.  It was comedic gold to me just the same.  I'm just glad everyone is safe. 

And if you don't follow me already on Twitter (@mhryvnak), here are my tweets from yesterday after the quake:




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