Getting By During The 2015 Oklahoma Ice Storm

Discussion in 'Survival Stories' started by Olpoop, Oct 4, 2017.

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  1. Olpoop

    Olpoop New Member

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    Sunday morning, December 27th, 2015, the electric power went out at our house. My wife and I had gone to bed the night before knowing that freezing rain accumulation was forecast for our area. I got the small camp percolator out of the pantry, and started a pot of coffee on the gas range top. We’re on city water, so we had plenty of water on tap, and didn’t have to use any of the bottled water that we keep on hand.

    As the house began to cool off, I lit the small vent-less gas wall heater in the main room of the house that we’d gotten installed a few years ago for situations exactly like this. We don’t use it except when we don’t have electricity. While I enjoyed a cup or two of fresh-perked coffee, my wife got up and showered for the day. We have a gas water heater, and the water pressure was still just fine for showering. Since I didn’t know how wide-spread the power outage was, I checked our breakers and then walked out and checked the service cable coming to the house from the alley to make sure it wasn’t something on our end. The breakers and service cable were just fine, but we had another problem.

    One fork of the large ash tree coated in ice and pushed by a strong north wind had fallen south onto the new section of wooden privacy fencing that we’d just had replaced a couple of weeks earlier. Luckily, it had fallen across an old A-frame hoist stand that supported the bulk of the tree, and the fence was holding up to the weight of the limbs that were pressing on it. The top of the tree was sticking out into the neighbor’s driveway, but weren’t reaching his house. The neighbor was gone for the holidays, but the tree needed to be removed before he could use his driveway again when he returned. I began gathering tools to begin the tree removal, or at least the limbs sticking out past our fence. I haven’t had a gas-powered chain saw for years, but I’ve got two really good bow saws and an extendable pole saw.

    My wife had been working on a quilt project for the past few days, using her vintage Singer 301A electric sewing machine. But, with no power to run that machine, she simply moved over to our 1901 Singer 27K2 treadle machine and continued with her project. This was the perfect excuse to use the treadle for a while, and there was enough light coming through the windows for her to sew. I soon had everything rounded up that I needed for the tree removal job, so my wife put her sewing project on hold, and we both got our insulated work clothes on and went out to begin the tree clean-up. I sawed limbs and she toted the limb pieces away to a pile near the street. There wasn’t much movement or sound from others in the neighborhood or on the street. Everything was just kind of “on hold”, and the light shining through the ice on everything was actually kind of pretty and peaceful. We worked on the tree for less than an hour, and then went back into the house. At our ages, and not being used to the physical labor, we didn’t want to overdo it. Better to pace ourselves, since it seemed that we had plenty of time.

    I spent a little time looking out the window at an occasional vehicle on the street. It was mostly youngsters spinning their cars around on the ice for fun. They don’t get much of a chance to do that here, so they were making the best of it.

    A quick look at Facebook on the wife’s smart phone let us know that the power outage was indeed wide-spread, but we didn’t know how wide or for how long the outage would last. My wife went back to sewing on the treadle sewing machine, and I found a project to do too. We’ve had a good supply of pecans from our tree that needed to be shelled, but I hadn’t seemed to find the time to get them done. Well, suddenly I had the time (and couldn’t think of a way to get out of it), so I began cracking pecans with a hand-operated nut cracker while she sewed. After a while (when I got bored with cracking pecans), I got into the game cupboard and pulled out a deck of cards and the cribbage board. We hadn’t played cribbage for years, and since my wife was also ready for a sewing break, we commenced to playing cribbage. It was so much fun playing the game again after such a long break from it, although it was a little tough trying to remember the rules. As the game wore on, more and more of the rules came back to us, and we had a great time together in the silence. Soon however, it was time to get our warm clothes back on and go out to cut and tote a few more tree limbs. We worked on the tree cleanup for about another hour before going back into the house.

    Another quick check on Facebook let us know more about the outage, and that we may be out for an extended time. We have been through enough outages to know not to open a refrigerator or freezer during an outage unless it’s absolutely necessary, and we had already opened the fridge a couple of times earlier in the day. We decided that we needed to stop doing that. One thing that we had going for us was that the kitchen was not heated when using our emergency heating system. The cold air in the kitchen helped both the refrigerator and freezer hold their temperatures. The outside temperature ranged between 36 and 32 degrees, so not cold enough to worry much about frozen water pipes.

    Since we had ice available in our rain collection tubs outside (still in service after the 4-year-long drought just years ago), we decided to harvest the ice from the tubs (about 4 inches thick on top) and begin running coolers for our perishable food. The wife had recently bought a large package of bacon and a large ham that she hadn’t gotten divided up into smaller packages to put into the freezer. She also had a large package of chicken quarters that she had thawed out. We removed the ham, bacon, a couple of dozen eggs, and the other perishables from the refrigerator, and put them into the ice-filled coolers outside. Cans of beverages were chilled by the ambient air out on the back patio where the food coolers were located. The chicken quarters were put into a large pot of water to boil on the stovetop. Then, we settled in to wait, and partake in our new routines of cutting limbs, treadle sewing, cracking pecans, playing cribbage, checking the cell phone for information updates, and repeating each activity as the notion struck. Once darkness had set in, we spent our time mostly just playing cribbage. Our lighting was provided by two antique oil lamps and two personal battery-powered LED flashlights.

    The next four days consisted of the same general routine. Daytime temperatures rose up into the upper 40s, and nighttime temperatures dipped down to 25. The ice that had coated everything eventually fell away to refreeze on the ground. The sound of silence the first day was replaced with the sound of generators and chainsaws running throughout the neighborhood. We don’t have a generator, and don’t really want one. I worked jobs for many years in which I used a portable generator, but never have had the urge to own and maintain one at home just for power outages. By leaving the freezers and refrigerators closed, we haven’t lost enough food in 40 years to pay for a generator, even a cheap one. We’ve regularly used the idea of frozen containers of water to fill empty spaces in our freezers, including small amounts of water in re-sealable plastic bags for the smallest crevices. We “broke into” our pickup the first day (chipped the ice away to get a door open) and could then recharge our cell phone daily. The ice on the streets was melted off fairly well by the end of the second day, but with nowhere that we needed to go, we never un-tracked our vehicles. Facebook told us that officials had opened up the closed National Guard facility (recently given to the City due to NG budget cuts), and the food pantry folks were serving hot meals and providing a warming station to anyone who could make their way there.

    By working on them a couple of times each day, the tree limbs got cut back nearly to the fence line and stacked at the street by the fourth day, Wednesday the 30th. The new fence hadn’t received any significant damage at all. The treadle sewing and pecan cracking had slowly given way to more cribbage games. Bacon and eggs for the morning meal, and ham or chicken for the afternoon meal was feeding us well. Raw potatoes and carrots were added to some of the boiled chicken for a soup for a couple of meals, and heated canned vegetables accompanied both the chicken and the ham. We’re glad that we have a gas range. It’s probably good that we were working on that tree, with as much food as we were eating.

    Finally, on the fifth day, Thursday, Dec 31st, our power came back on. So, it was time to open the freezers and see what the damage was. To our delight, everything on the shelves was still frozen. Even the packaged hot dogs and cold cuts on the door were still frosty and plenty cold enough to re-freeze without worrying. We thought sure that we would lose some food, but the cold weather, cold kitchen, and the fully-packed freezers had made the difference. Although, it’s doubtful that we could have gone for another day, between the weather being cold, and us being somewhat prepared for a winter outage, we came through in great shape. We could have done without the tree work, but at least it gave us something to do. Playing the waiting game during an outage is sometimes kind of tough. It can make you feel lonely even when you’re with someone. Your whole daily routine is suddenly changed, and you have to entertain yourself in a different way. Our various activities helped us pass the time fairly well, especially the cribbage games. We enjoyed that so much that we’ve continued to play cribbage nearly every morning and evening since December 2015. It’s a good “together time” for us even when things are running normal.

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    branchd77 and Keith H. like this.
  2. koolhandlinc

    koolhandlinc Expert Member

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    Fun read. I also live in Oklahoma. Just north of Tulsa. My longest outage has been 10 days. I am at the end of the line. They been around trimming trees and replacing poles lately.
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