She’s Coming Right For Us!

Given that I live in Southeastern Pennsylvania, rather than Florida, having two hurricanes come through in two years is not something we’re very good at dealing with. And this one is coming straight in with a strong right hook:

Hurricane Sandy Track

I’m expecting Sandy to bring higher winds than Irene, but not quite as much water. Water was the main problem last time. The winds they are calling for aren’t worse than a strong nor’easter which is a known quantity in these parts, and the trees are mostly bare by this point. Regardless of what happens the next 48 hours, I feel much better prepared for Sandy than I did Irene. Aside from all the home improvements, which should help us weather the storm and keep the amount of water coming into the basement to a minimum, we also now have better preparations than we did for Irene:

  • My house is on a hill, so I have some barriers to divert water around the house in the back. During Irene I had to set this up during the storm.
  • Generator is full (10 hour run time @ 1/2 load).
  • 5 gallon can of gas for an additional 5 hours of run. I wanted another 5, but the area has been stripped of gas cans. In a pinch I can probably get it from the cars, which are both full.
  • Sump backup pump battery and deep cycle marine battery are both topped off. I have an inverter standing by to run light appliances, radios, and mobile computing equipment off the marine deep cell.
  • Two cases of cheap beer.
  • Two cases of bottled water, and two of diet soda.
  • A case of baked beans, and I have enough hot dogs in the freezer to make beans and franks.
  • Cables for running everything critical off the generator are pre-placed in the house. All that is left is plugging into the generator and firing it up if we lose power.
  • Because we’re redoing my office, everything is already out of the basement. But with a generator and backup pump, I think I have pumping covered well.
  • I cleared all the grass and dirt off the sewer clean-out, so in the even effluent starts backing up into the sink in my basement, I can pop it off. That will keep things from getting too shitty downstairs.
  • Blog is backed up to a secure off-site location.

I should note that we have enough battery to run the blog about an hour. We have enough generator to get us through 15-20 hours beyond that. In the event of a multi-day outage, or a serious problem with the house, the blog will likely go offline. My bigger fear is a fiber cut. But if it’s going to be a while, I will move it to another location. My first priority is keeping the basement dry, keeping the meat in my freezer frozen, and keeping my beer cold. The blog is a tertiary priority. I love you guys, but not enough to drink warm beer, even with the power out after a hurricane.

In the mean time, the rain has started, and the winds have been picking up. My trees and a few of the neighbor’s trees will be my enemy for the next 48 hours. Wish me luck.

39 thoughts on “She’s Coming Right For Us!”

  1. I actually think the water (at least here in DC) will be much worse than the wind.

  2. Aren’t you short on water. One Gallon per day Per Person is the rule down here but we dehydrate quicker. Unless your water supply is gravity fed, you have a pump or your Water System has emergency generators, be ready to be use water for EVERYTHING including cleaning.

    BTW, water for toilets…. kinda important. Have a big bottle of bleach near the toilet you don’t have to flush much. It will disinfect & kill smells.

    If you have 2 bathrooms, select one for #1 and the farthest away for #2 (keep bleach here.) Pour about 2 cups of vegetable oil or baby oil in the #1 toilet before using. The oil will act as barrier between the water and the environment plus save you on flushes.

    Yes, you can always pee outside, but you don’t like alone.

    1. A gallon a person a day is about 7 bottles a person. One case of bottled water is 32 bottles. We have a full case, plus have the equivalent of a second case stashed around the house (mostly in our bag that usually holds the generator cables as part of the “oops, we forgot to buy bottled water” rations).

      We also have lots of soda for hydration purposes, as well as a bit of coffee that I’m currently cold brewing. We’re also about to take one of our wines to the next step so we’ll have at least one 5-gallon carboy for washing/toilet water. So we should be good.

      1. Water is bulky and it’s hard to store enough of it. My personal philosophy (and I’m head of preparedness in my household) is that, after a storm, water should be easy to come by: we have a 55-gallon drum connected to the roof downspouts, and there are plenty of canals near where we live.

        The problem is the cleanliness of that water, so I have invested in filtration, distillation, and other such systems. They don’t take up nearly as much room as multiple jugs of water.

        1. One place that most people have in their house where they can get a lot of water is the hot water tank. If you shut the cold and hot lines coming in before any warnings from the city, that’s 40+ gallons of water that’s potable and safe to use. (If you have a tankless, though, you’re SOL.)

          1. That’s a good point, and one I considered when I swapped out our tank hot water heater for a tankless. But because I brew, I have about a 40 gallon capacity for water if I need it in a pinch.

            1. Also be sure to kill the breaker to a electric hot water heater if you start to drain it for water, if the power comes on and your heater isn’t full of water the heating elements will burn out in seconds………

        2. You can also fill bathtubs full of water before the storm hits. It’s good for cleaning/flushing purposes.

    2. We’re on gravity fed municipal water. I’m more concerned about not being able to drink it than the water stopping.

      1. We are on pumped from wells municipal water here, dunno if they have BU generators for the wells or not, I’m gonna assume ‘not’ until I know different. got about 40 2 litre bottles of water stored, a stream about 100 yds away we can get water from for flushing toilets if needed, and about 32 2 litres of soda sitting. Got a coleman lantern, 4 bottles of propane for it, candles, and a tub of crisco I can stick some string into to make an emergency candle out of. (A container of crisco can burn for days depending on how many wicks you put into it)

        As long as the propane tank on the grill doesn’t run out we should be good for weeks if need be, I just hope the windows hold, sux having wind and rain blowing in. Got some plywood and lumber scraps, nails, etc if worst comes to worst.

        God keep us all safe…….

    1. I still have some good beer left… and I’m bottling some of my wine so I can repurpose my carboys for water storage, in case they say we shouldn’t even shower with the water. I figure for emergency purposes, cheap beer works as well as the good stuff. Life’s too short to endure hurricanes.

    2. Thats why I live on the left coast… The last hurricane hit here when I was 3.. and I’m substantially older than that now :)

      Beleive it or not I actually remember that one! They didn’t call it a Hurricane at the time, but it was (Ok, no it wasn’t.. in the Pacific they are called Typhoons).

      See Columbus Day Storm of 1962

    1. Secure, but not undisclosed. I stored it on a server at work. That mansion we’re in I think would survive a drone strike. It’s solidly built. I also have it stored at a friend’s house. All within the affected area, but I also have it on a USB key. If we lose the blog it’s because I’m dead :)

    2. Our campus is also all on standby generator. So power outages are not a problem for us. That’s one nice thing… I don’t have to worry about work.

  3. Good luck to you both. I have friends in Newark, NJ. I hope both locales are spared. Nice prep list, by the way. If the storm really rolls in there’s going to be a lot of sad faces and I doubt many people put much thought into such things.

  4. Should’t you have at least one case of good beer.
    Seriously, if water is an issue, ought one have a way of collecting rain water. I think that anyone ought to be able to get lots of pure rain water from such a storm.

  5. When I released the book I guess storm survival was not on my mind. My heart and prayers go out to all in the path of the storm coming to the East Coast.

    Stay Safe (most important) and if you can, eat well!

    Stephen Weston, Author In The Wild Chef

  6. Hatches are batten down here in MontCo and I’ve got a sharp axe and chainsaw ready to go. I get the impression it’s going to be a bit crazy. My place doesn’t have a basement so water inside is less of a concern. it’s the 6 monster oaks and maples that have me a bit worried. The kids will be sleeping downstairs Monday night when the brunt hits us…

    1. A chainsaw is the next item I need to get myself. I have several red maples in the yard. Hopefully we’ll see it through. They’ve survived as bad as this before.

      1. I remember our discussion from after Irene regarding a chainsaw.

        If you do get one, great. If not, get a decent bow saw. It’ll cost you less than $20 and there is no learning curve. In other words, you aren’t likely to need stitches with a bow saw!

        Also remember gas chainsaws are two-cycle and require oil mixed in with the gasoline. If you don’t have a spare or dedicated gas can for that, well you are out of luck.

        Good luck to you and Bitter. We may have a dusting of snow here in NC and some heavy wind but that should be it.

        1. I can cut manually… but only up to a certain size. I have some trees that would present a problem for a bowsaw, unless it was a really bigass one, and I don’t see Bitter on the other end of a large enough bowsaw. Of course, at that point, you likely need a bigass chainsaw too, and the one I had my eye on would be on the small side.

      2. “Wish I was a willow tree”. (Mickey Newbury)

        Water. A few years ago, I got pissed at the city and cancelled my 30 year-old account due to a gross overbilling which they refused to correct. I lasted 6 months and ten days offline. (I still had electricity, it’s a different provider)

        Actually working at the time, I brought home 4 gallons of potable per week for coffee, and collected rain water for bathing. It required a twice-monthly trip to the suds-your-duds, but I was determined. I strained and lightly chlorinated the rainwater, and rigged up a battery operated pump for daily showers. If I hadn’t needed city pressure for my swamp cooler when it hit 100 outside, I’d still be giving them the finger.

        It’s amazing what you can survive when you are willing to do for yourself and see it as an adventure.

        (The toilet logistics is a different situation entirely. Trust me, you don’t wanna go there in my hip waders)

      3. I got my saws out and dropped two medium gums yesterday before the storm got here. I watched them and they worried me during Irene. Sweetgum snaps under heavy load. I promised I’d cut them before the next storm. Now they will add to the firewood this winter.

        I you don’t use a chainsaw somewhat regularly, go with an electric model you can plug into your genny. They won’t leak oil, need tune-ups, etc. They will get the job done. Frankly, I found a friend’s electric model did more cutting than most small gas-powered models I have tried. For trees I go with the big saws, but they get heavy after a day limbing out logs. I am thinking of adding a small electric model near the barn for sizing and the smaller stuff I drag up to the doors.

        Anyway, look them over. They work great and will run fine under almost any 2 kW or better generator.

          1. Try the new electric corded tools and be plenty surprised. Modern motors have made them a powerful set of tools. I got a corded weed eater for my place in Florida and it did significant work that even a gasser might have had trouble with. Pulling the cord around wasn’t too much effort.

            I bought a corded tool or two recently just because I didn’t want to deal with more gas, carbs and oil in more tools. I already got a lot of them. In each case I got it because it was a small job, and in each case they measured up against something much more expensive and gas.

            If you need to step beyond 100′ of your house with a saw, or fell a sizable standing tree – forget it. But for close-in stuff I am now going electric.

      4. I have a chainsaw, but after it sitting unused for about 5 years I couldn’t get it to start, it might have had gas left in it, in which case I doubt it will start again without a carb clean/rebuild. :-(

  7. Stay safe. She should be at my place 18 hours after she hits you. (Just off Route 15 in the Northern Tier south of Corning, NY.)

  8. A little late now, but I would have expected you to be better prepared, brother! Living an hour or less from the coast? Oh yeah.

    You’ll probably be just fine, but for next time, have an inverter generator and twenty gallons of fuel, minimum. Fuel is liquid gold when the power is out. Get your twenty plus and THEN, if you wish, pick up twenty more before an impending storm! Stabilize it all with Stabil or PRI-G. And you can’t siphon out of modern gas tanks.

    Water: Get the WaterBOB or whatever they call that giant bag that fits in your bathtub. Ideal for storm preps. You should have more water and less soda and cheap beer. As someone earlier wrote, life’s too short for cheap beer.

    Inverter plus deep-cycle battery equals about 1/2 kilowatt-hour of power. Keep that in mind, my friend.

    I’m sure you’ll be fine. Keep your head down, stay sober and be careful.

    1. First of all, we’re more than an hour from the coast. Secondly, just where on earth do you live that you have room for 20-40 gallons of gas just sitting around? Regardless, we don’t have that kind of space. We have a moderate-sized home on a postage-stamp sized lot with a tiny shed. It’s just not reasonable.

      We are two people, we are close to an urban center, we are close to multiple major roads, and even during a major blizzard, we were only out of power for a day. During Irene, we recognize how lucky we were to not lose power at all, but most of the folks in our town who did lose it were back on in a day. We are able to follow & interact with county emergency officials via Twitter, and we just heard this morning that at least some of the utility crews sent from the south to help this area are actually staying at a hotel very close to us – the very next town. We have enough provisions to get through the storm, and we can deal with a mutli-day outage without much difficulty beyond the blog going down if the outage is too prolonged.

  9. I live in Ft. Lauderdale FL and have seen my share of hurricanes.
    The water problem for those that depend upon a municipal water supply is actually trees. What happens is that trees are blown down and when their roots pull up, they rupture the water mains, thus losing and contaminating the water supply.
    Even after the mains are repaired, the water can be contaminated for a few days.
    Some really good ideas in the many posts here.
    Keep your head down.

  10. For “Plan B” purposes, you can hook up the Inverter to the Car Battery on your Vehicles, run a cable over to the Fridge, and run your car for about a half hour or so. Worked for me during a 3 day power outage. No Food Spoilage whatsoever. Also, I was able to keep the Cell Phones and the Laptop up. Take Care, Les.

    1. Also, if you got room in your deep freeze put in some 3/4 filled with water 2 litre soda bottles now, before the power goes out. they will freeze into BIG ice cubes that will help keep your refrigerator cool for quite a while if moved over after the power dies.

  11. BTW, I’m right about where the P in PA is on that map, she’s aiming for me!

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