50 Hours Without Hydro - Lessons Learned

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50 Hours Without Hydro - Lessons Learned

Post by Denob » Mon Nov 04, 2013 4:57 pm

So, the wind storm that swept through the St-Lawrence valley on Friday caused widespread outages across Quebec.
At one point, reporters pegged the number of powerless Hydro customers somewhere around 360,000.
When I first heard the forecast of 90 - 100 kmh winds, I figured I was in for an outage.
Then, when I saw first hand the trees swaying and the debris scattering, I knew for sure.
Of course, I had done my due diligence...making sure that water containers were filled, generator was fueled and working, and batteries were charged.
I really didn't think we would be in the dark for that long, perhaps an afternoon and evening at most, as I usually over prepare for these things...which is probably not a bad thing.
Sure enough, at about 1:10 PM on Friday...zap, no more juice in the wires!
Ok, no need to panic, everything is set and it's going to come back on in a few hours anyways...time to do some reading from one of those old fashioned paper things...whadda ya call 'em....Oh ya, books!
So time goes on without power and soon enough it's getting dark. Time for steaks on the BBQ right?
It seems propane BBQs don't work very well in high winds...no problem, over to the butane burner and in 3 minutes per side...dinner served!
By now, the toilet is getting a little gross, given the mellow yellow rule, so we fill the tank with some stored water and take care of that issue...
Dishes are done using water heated on the butane stove, people are washed with a wash cloth and water heated from the same...
The generator now gets pulled out and brought into service...we'll plug in the 2 fridges, refill our water containers, and watch some idiot box for a couple hours...all the while finding our way around the house with a variety of candles and battery and crank powered lanterns.
After a while, we all start to yawn and bed time comes a bit early, as we now figure we will be without power until the next day at least.
The generator is turned off and one of our 4 legged security devices is chained to it for the night...I'd like to see someone creep up to steal it now!
Morning comes and it's a bit chilly in the house...about 15 degrees celcius, so first order is to get the wood stove pumping out the heat again, then the purcolator goes onto the butane burner for the java boost. No sooner is the coffee ready that the butane can goes empty...hmmm, that was quick, but no issue, lots of spares and another one goes in to heat washing water.
Since one of the teens was away for the weekend, there were only 5 of us at home. Well, let me tell you about 5 people needing to flush! At 6 liters per flush and 5 people doing it, we went through 30 liters just for the toilet...add the coffee and wash water and 2 5 gallon water jugs are emptied withing the first hour of the day. No issues though, back to the generator and we have running water to refill them...and plug the refrigerators in too!
Still confident that the power will be back anytime soon, we keep the generator running to entertain the youngsters and get some laundry done, we had no hot running water, but we wash everything in cold anyways...drying is done on the clothesline outside, or on racks near the wood stove. But this uses gas for the generator...one can gone already!
Our second night was also spent by the glow of lanterns and candles, and of course, being a short term event, we decided to keep the generator running until about 11PM, then off to bed.
About half way through the evening we got a call from my mother wondering how we were doing. Well, we were good to be truthfull, and after talking about the butane camp stove and the wood heat and the generator, my mother admitted that she should probably get a few things like that set up for herself as the house she just bought was completely dependant on the power grid for heat, cooking, lights etc...woohoo! The xmas shopping list is borne!
Almost right after that mom in law calls...no power, has wood heat, but no camping stove, no percolator, no nothing. hmmm...the xmas shopping list grows.
By mid morning Sunday, we had gone through 2 jerry cans of gas for the generator, 2 cans of butane for the camp stove, and would have run out of water if we hadn't had a way to run the well pump.
So, lessons learned...
1 - never assume this is a short term thing...conserve everything from the beginning.
2 - you will use more water than you think...figure what you think you will need, double that, then get more!
3 - you will use more gas for a generator than you think...conserve, and store more.
4 - camping stoves are great, but consider cooking with your alternate heat source. again, the name of the game is conserve from the get go!
5 - candles, batteries, kerosene, etc. will be consumed faster than you thought...store more and conserve. Don't light a room up brightly, but just enough to keep you from breaking a toe on the table leg, and go to bed earlier...you'll have plenty to do the next day and getting the extra rest will come in handy.
All said and done, we went through the 50 hour blackout with both ease and comfort, although if that time had doubled, we would have been kicking ourselves for being wasteful at the beginning. Lesson number 1 is probably the most important lesson we learned...
Now you'll have to excuse me, I have to go fill some gas cans at the pump.

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Re: 50 Hours Without Hydro - Lessons Learned

Post by cernunnos5 » Mon Nov 04, 2013 5:28 pm

Yes, Water, Water, Water. I doubled up on the water after my two week freeze up. I started filling the used milk jugs after that. Not the best and hard to clean so I just have them marked as Animal Water. (For the dogs and chickens and flushing). We already has a simple composting toilet. Just a bucket in a box with a toilet seat. Sawdust covers the waist and it really absorbs the smell. You really don't notice it till it gets close to full.
I have a Tactical Harness and I have a Tool Belt. The Tool Belt is more Useful.

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Re: 50 Hours Without Hydro - Lessons Learned

Post by martha » Thu Nov 07, 2013 8:50 pm

Thanks for this, valuable lessons

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Re: 50 Hours Without Hydro - Lessons Learned

Post by Singlecell » Fri Nov 08, 2013 8:01 pm

Great post man. We need more people pitching experiences like this.

That said, it sounds like some board games, a deck of cards, and a few more books could've been useful. A few questions though? Do you have a back yard? Just curious.

For toiletries... Step one, grab a shovel... step two, go to the park... step three, make sure no one sees you cause if you get caught taking a dump in a public park it's not gonna be good, not even in an emergency.

Also, do you live near a river or lake? I figure if I need water, I got a bunch of filters good for filtering about 2000 litres of water, from bacteria, particulate and protozoa, would you trust your local lakes and rivers? Keep in mind theirs still chemicals, but that's more of a concern with farmers fields and ditches, regarding pesticides. I'm not sure if I'd trust lake Ontario for drinking water but maybe I'd have no choice. I think it'd be cool after using the filter AND boiling it for several minutes. Maybe I'd have to head west, out of the city, towards Guelph. Anyways, with water, at least in Ontario, I think were very lucky. The most freshwater in the world.

I actually know an underground water fountain in Niagara, pours out the cleanest softest water, and it's been flowing for decades. I've drank from it enough enough times at the end of a bike ride. Heh, come in handy for sure. I think most people don't even know it's there. But yeah, tons of waterfalls, streams, rivers, and lakes.

Good job man!

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Re: 50 Hours Without Hydro - Lessons Learned

Post by danielc » Tue Jul 29, 2014 2:20 am

About water, don't waste it!
if you have some spare money, I advise you to buy a water tank (make sure its safe to put drinkable water inside)
I found one that cost around 600$ for 330 gallons, its the square one with a steel cage outside, and it has the same size as a pallet.
330 gallons is about a year of water for 2 people if you don't waste it.
Another hint is to have a filter for greywater (the one from shower and sink) it will cost around $800 to $4000 depending if is isolated for the cold (if you plan to place it outside you house in winter or not).
To complement that, I found a Toilet that uses just 1 pint of water per flush (that means its enough to flush a number 2 without wasting water)

I hope I helped you guys to be more prepped!



Re: 50 Hours Without Hydro - Lessons Learned

Post by Knuckle » Wed Jul 30, 2014 2:50 pm

Another good post to awaken the brain cells. I live in the land of water so I tend to take this item for granted these days. I can walk to 2 fishing holes with 1/4 mile. Yet I don't keep a vast amount of water on the ready to deal with a crisis. I'd have to go get it. Denob's mention of how quickly they went thru water is for sure typical when a family needs to go. I think I'd be rigging the port-a-potty up after 1/2 day for the ladies and guys would be outside immediately.

I found this composting toilet on You Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSQ4UT5tEgw . I like the rotating bin concept at the back. They have some decent designs there that a fella could work on when building their own. I already have a septic field to tie into , so this is an alternative that many could likely do while enjoying their indoor plumbing too.

I knew an old trapper (who's dead now) that spent spent 50 + years deep in the bush. He finally moved about 10 miles from town and called it city living :lol: . His wife wanted indoor plumbing, so he finally built an outhouse attached to the house. He would have loved this compost toilet.

My emergency water supplies are 3 single size water bed bladders another friend was throwing out. I have them framed in a well supported loft where I could start filling them if I deemed it necessary. There is a bathroom already below it so gravity would do the rest. I keep alot of plumbing stuff on hand anyways, so I figure I would have something to do in a blackout. (seems I have way to many 1/2 finished projects though.)

I do have small, medium and even a kicka$$ 4 ft one designed by a plumber friend that he usually sells for $1200 each. They have a backflush system built into them for self cleaning and could be easily duplicated as he buys the materials locally anyways. I haven't taken one apart but know they have stainless screens in them and medium like some fine black aggregate rock and such. I know they cleared up rust coloured water on northern reserves and passed government testing to install them. I'll have to take one apart some day...
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Re: 50 Hours Without Hydro - Lessons Learned

Post by livingpower » Wed Jul 30, 2014 3:52 pm

Thank you for posting your experience. Me thinks I have fewer days water than I thought I had :shock: . I will definitely heed your advice.

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