|January 31, 2009
Alvena F., Paducah KY
I live in the Paducah KY suburbs (far western KY), one of the hardest-hit places in this ice storm that came in on Monday evening here. When it was over, we had over an inch of ice on everything. Ice produces tremendous weight on plants and structures like electric poles. It has devastated our community and people here report nothing to compare with this storm in their entire lifetimes. I have never experienced anything even near this bad before in my 59 years.
We have been huddled around our wood-burning stove for the past few days, with no electricity, but thankful that we had heat and food. Many people do not have heat, and the electric service has been slow to get re-started. We finally got electricity Thursday night about 1:30 a.m. but it came back down again Friday at noon and then back up again Friday at midnite. We are thankful, however, as they state that in a neighboring county it may be months before they get all the electricity restored. The problem in that county is that they have about 1500 power poles that came down "like dominoes" in some areas.
They put police at the gas stations yesterday to keep fights from starting in the long lines that had formed. We finally saw some National Guard troops and heavy equipment yesterday. The stores are starting to open, however some of them have limited hours, or require cash, or are continuing to have intermittent service due to electricity outages.
We hear of many people caught in rural areas who have no way to get out due to fallen trees, and also no heat. We still have people in Paducah with no heat, too. Until yesterday it was pretty cold, yesterday it actually got up to maybe 50 degrees and the sun came out for the first time since the ice came. The ice started melting and we are hoping that today it will all melt off the lines and trees.
I have at least 4 tree branches on top of my house, and the sound when they hit my roof was just incredibly frightening. I slept almost none Monday night because all we heard was a continuous "CRACK.....BOOOM!" as the branches cracked off the trees and fell. Literally, as soon as one finished falling, you heard the crack of the next one falling. Almost all trees here now have no branches at the tops and down most of the sides, and most of my yard's shade trees will have to have some severe tree surgery just to try to get them to where they can recover. I may have to cut some of the trees down due to the damage being so severe. (This is a real lesson to me and I won't let my trees get this big so close to my home ever again.)
Metropolis, a little town just across the river in IL that was also hit in this storm, still has no power at all, and the mayor in conjunction with the other six southernmost counties finally got the governor of IL to declare the southern seven counties a disaster area so that they could get some government assistance like we are getting.
Our governor in KY did get the president to declare us a federal disaster area and FEMA assistance (for whatever that may be worth).
The most critical problem we have had is fuel, largely due to the gas stations not having any electricity to power their pumps. We do have plenty of fuel here, it's merely a distribution problem. (However always remember, it only takes one break in the chain from supply to consumer to keep you from getting what you need.)
Another factor has been that most of the stores can't take credit cards unless they have electricity, so having cash on hand would have been helpful for a lot of people.
Stop lights just started working yesterday, which hopefully is going to ease the traffic congestion that we experienced as people came into town to buy supplies.
Warming shelters were sparse at first, but now they are getting more of them up and running. (But is that where you really want to be when your home is sitting there unguarded in a crisis?)
We were lucky, we've stayed in our home, we have not suffered except for the amenities of life, and we've come through this with a minimum of difficulty. Others have not been so fortunate.
My first thoughts about surviving this situation are:
1. Have an alternative heat source and fuel for the heat source. If you can cook on the heat source, so much the better. Our wood stove was a godsend. I'm burning wood that I have had stored for years on my patio. It was well worth having it there when I needed it.
2. Have food stored that you can heat and eat with a minimum of preparation and have some potable water on hand also. We had canned tuna and soup, eggs, and the like. We also had a cooler to put our refrigerated food in and since it is winter, we just kept the cooler in the garage.
3. Stock up on the fuel that you need ahead of time, you'll be glad later. We had our cars gassed up prior to the storm and were so glad we did when we saw the long lines at the gas stations later on.
4. Have a radio that you can power multiple ways, such as solar, crank, battery, and AC. Ensure that the radio also gets the TV stations so that you can keep up with the emergency broadcasts. We used our TV-band radio every day to stay up on what was happening.
5. Try to have a lantern or old fashioned "coal oil lamp" for light, as candles don't provide much light, the odor may be objectionable, they can be messy and they may pose more of a hazard, especially around children.
6. Have a good supply of batteries in the sizes that your equipment uses. Most batteries last for years and stand storage very well.
7. Have some cash on hand for emergency use.
8. Be on the lookout for unknown people coming into the area who will promise to do needed tasks yard work and home repairs, we have already had many of them coming in the area. Never pay for work that has not yet been done and you are probably better off using a local person or service that you know and trust.
9. Camping supplies like portable stove, pots/pans, can opener and other such non-electric items can come in very handy in a crisis.
10. If you live in a remote area, it's probably advisable to have some kind of personal protection like a gun. I heard of one fellow found a stranger eyeing his generator, who told him he was "just checking it's EPA emission." After the fellow was hesitant to leave his generator, the generator's owner pulled his gun and just seeing that gun solved the problem without any further action.
11. Generators can be nice, however bear in mind the usual ones you see at the store won't power your whole household unless you buy a very expensive commercial variety, and you will have to have very substantial fuel to keep it going. Some people here bought generators and then could not get the needed fuel to use them. While I can afford a generator, I do not think I will buy one, even after sitting without electricity for 3 days. (My attitude might change if I had to sit there for 1-2 months however, so if you live in a remote area, it certainly could be a needed option, depending on your circumstance.) Be sure you know how to operate a generator or any special equipment, as improper ventilation can kill you.