Irene - Some Lessons Learned This Weekend

Discussion in 'General Survival and Preparedness' started by wags_01, Aug 28, 2011.

  1. wags_01

    wags_01 Monkey+

    As some of you may know, I am relatively new to the prepping mindset, so the fallout from Hurricane Irene would be the first test of my preps to date. I own and live in Philadelphia, in a small rowhouse, so many of these lessons will be unique to that situation.

    So, the storm has passed, aside from continuing moderate rains. We (both my house and my neighborhood) suffered no real damage, thankfully. However, here's a few weaknesses in my plans that were exposed:

    1. My biggest fear, due to Philadelphia's particular sanitary system (sewage and stormwater share pipes, an excellent design decision there...) was the possibility of the drainage system becoming quickly overwhelmed with stormwater and not only flooding the streets, but overpressure forcing water back up through the drains in the house. This could be not only catastrophic in terms of damage, but wholly unsanitary.

    Response: I'm looking into having a backflow preventer installed in my drain line. Luckily I only have a single 4" line connecting to the street.

    2. The second biggest threat I anticipated, but failed to prepare for, was flying debris. I don't have a huge amount of windows, but just one of them shattering would have let a ton of rain in.

    Response: In the next few weeks I'll have constructed some plywood storm shutters that I can bolt into place in only a few minutes.

    3. Luckily, my basement is roughly 30 feet above the record high flood levels of the nearby rivers. We did see some water leakage through the stone foundations though, but nothing more than a trickle. However, if we did see the storm sewers back up, we'd have a big problem; there are basement windows only a few inches above street level.

    Response: no idea as of yet.

    4. I realized that while I had plenty of supplies for my wife and I, we'd likely have to take in at least 2 other family members. That would cut our food stock longevity in half, and it's already short enough thanks to lack of storage space.

    Response: encourage a preparedness mindset in neighbors and family members. I feel that this storm, though it did not turn out to be as bad as it could have, can help serve as a wake-up call in this respect.

    5. I've known this for a while, but we're woefully understocked as far as fuel goes. We're low on candles, propane (I have a gas grill out back and a camping stove stored in the basement). Luckily, we didn't lose power or gas (we also have an NG stove & oven).

    Response: Stock up on fuel! Also look into getting a couple kerosene or oil lamps.

    6. I've also known this for a while, but the storm brought it home: DO NOT count on emergency services in a large-scale disaster. Our already understaffed police & fire crews were swamped; I can only imagine what the EMT services had to deal with.

    Response: I feel we're decently prepared for this. I need to shore up the first aid kits with more major stuff like Quick clot, Israeli battle dressings, steri-strips, etc. and perhaps stock up on a bit more defensive ammunition.

    7. We have a good deal of water stored, but no long term water treatment options.

    Response: invest in some pool shock and a decent water filter.

    8. I don't have a good pair of rain boots.

    Get some!

    All in all, I think we're on the right track. Anyone else in the path of the storm want to add their thoughts?
  2. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

    You seem to be on the right track Wags.....

    You at least have given some thought to what your disaster planning deficiencies are and have contingency plans in place for dealing with them....that is a much better position to be than most...the only thing you need do now, is act on the contingency plans.
  3. wrc223

    wrc223 Monkey+

    Looks good wags, you took a situation and learned from it. Many do not.

    Here is what I learned.

    1. I listened to the local, state, and federal officials. When this storm was still down in the carribbean I listened to our "officials" warning us of the coming storm. When the storm went from 125mph winds down to 100mph winds down to 80mph winds, I still listened to our "officials" and prepared for a big event. We cancelled our plans for today and I was standing by at the fire station in case things got bad fast. When the wind went below 45mph and the rain had stopped, I started to realize that all of the hype was total BULL****! We got a few trees blown over and the power was out for 30 minutes. No great flood, no massive outages, no people in desperate need of help (thank God). Just some leaves blown off trees that are scheduled to make their trip to the ground within a month anyway!

    RESPONSE: Dont listen to the government officials who hype things to save their own ass!!!!!
  4. Seawolf1090

    Seawolf1090 Retired Curmudgeonly IT Monkey Founding Member

    Well, they MUST always consider the 'worst case scenario', in case it DOES come in bad. If they down-played it, and then y'all caught a Cat Four in the kisser, people would be mighty PO'd!
    You were lucky that the storm had such a distance to go, and lost a lot of power when it left The South. The hot southerly water is a hurricane's fuel source, and it lost it on the way up.
    Had Irene jumped over into the Gulf, WE in Florida woulda been in deep kimchi.......
  5. Tikka

    Tikka Monkey+++

    They looked ineffective and incompetent after Katrina; so this time everyone would be highly impressed.
  6. wags_01

    wags_01 Monkey+

    I'd rather the authorities be prepared for the worst and overstate the danger than the opposite. I mean, that's what we do ourselves, right? Hope for the best, prepare for the worst?
  7. Tikka

    Tikka Monkey+++

    There was too much fanfare.
  8. wrc223

    wrc223 Monkey+

    I know WHY they did it. Just after hearing about it for four days and watching this storm degrade in the couple days prior to it hitting NY and knowing the amount of time, money, and resources that were mobilized to mitigate the storm damage that never came I cant help but be a little pissed over it.
    It is further pushing of the nanny state. Big government will protect you from everything. You dont need to take personal responsibility for anything, the guvment will save you. They will pick you up and take you someplace when they deem it to be dangerous and will tell you when to stay put if there is too much snow. They will provide for you when you can not and ensure the taxes are out of sight to correspond with being everyone's big brother.
    I understand why they blow it out of proportion but c'mon, common sense and a firm grasp on reality need to prevail at some point.
    Cephus likes this.
  9. Tikka

    Tikka Monkey+++

    The only firm grip the government has is on the taxpayer's wallet.
    Gator 45/70 and BTPost like this.
  10. Gator 45/70

    Gator 45/70 Monkey+++

    Now what you need to look out for is....
    Unscrupulous individuals looking to dump waterlogged equipment on the market...
    Car's and Truck's being the primary equipment...
  11. Pyrrhus

    Pyrrhus Monkey+++

    I'm waiting for some lightly used generators to go on sale. Buy a couple, go over them, and then sell them the next time people freak out. Wal-Mart has pallets of 5500w generators throughout the store, and I know a lot of people bought them and will have buyer's remorse now that the power is back on.
  12. Pyrrhus

    Pyrrhus Monkey+++

    One thing I did figure out is that I am far better for a situation where there is a total breakdown than one where we just have to wait things out for a few days. All told, we lost power for 3 days.

    It wasn't long enough to break into any preps, but it was long enough for me to have to spend a lot of time grilling food that was thawing. We have two refrigerators and two freezers and I don't have a generator big enough to run all those. I typically prep in a way that I would still be able to function well without any electricity, ever. I burned two big bags of charcoal in two days and was seriously considering making some more (even Wal-Mart was completely out) when the power came back on. If I had more time at home during the hurricane, I probably would already have made more.

    All told, things went really well, and the kids learned to appreciate air conditioning. There was an added benefit of dutch oven biscuits, which I always love.
  13. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Just a NOTE, here: You do NOT need a Genset big enough to run BOTH your Freezers, 24/7.... You only need one big enough to Run the Single Biggest Freezer's Electrical Load for a few hours a day, if you keep the Freezers Door closed. Then when the Big One, has been pulled down to Temp, (-30F) you switch the Genset to the Smaller One and let it run until it is down Temp. (-30F) Once both are down, then you can run other things like Lights, Tv, Microwave, computer, or other electrical Loads, until the BIg Freezer internal Temps get above +10F. Then you start all over again, with your electrical rotation. It should be possible to run a modern sized house, with non-electric Heat, and Hot Water, off 3.5Kw Genset, in a Powered down, rotational Electric Conservation Routine, for weeks. The only thing you should be losing is sleep..... .... YMMV.....
  14. wags_01

    wags_01 Monkey+

    There have been a lot of $500-600 generators listed on Craigslist in the MD/NJ/PA/DE area for $1200-1500...people that didn't end up using them trying to gouge those still without power.
  15. Witch Doctor 01

    Witch Doctor 01 Mojo Maker

    1. a Shingle will fly over 300 feet in a stiff breeze...

    ( and may not be available need to put up more shingles, tarpaper, and roofing nails....)

    2. Regardless of how well built and anchored a steel building is it can out fly a shingle...

    ( i will consider adding more than the required number of tie down/anchor straps than normal on my next steel building...)

    3. I didn't have to use my wood burning stove..

    (but i do have enough oak and gum that i can probably burn it for two more years...)

    4. It's good to have a chain saw on hand when trees blow over...

    ( i had mix and bar oil but pretty much went through 2 chains ... consider putting more in preps... as it takes a while to sharpen a chain with a hand file... )

    5. 11 inches of rain will help stop a drought.... it will also float idiots off the road who try to drive through it...

    ( there is no limit to idiots who want to drive around in a hurricane... and fortunately no limit to volunteer firefighters who will go out and get them out of the mess they got into them...)

    6. always expect the unexpected like the father -in-law who thought he had a stroke and needed to go th the emergency room when you are cleaning the mess up...

    (no stroke but it cost a day and a half of work....)

    7. Hired help will not use the safety equipment you provide...

    (even with safety equipment in you preps some idiot that you hire will not bother to use it... keep a medic bag handy... and don't forget saline to was debris out of said idiots eye)

    8. Keep an eye out for frends family and other monkeys...

    (cause FEMA still isn't in the county yet...)
  16. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    It only takes one dig in the dirt, to make a Saw-Chain gnaw thru wood like a beaver, instead of cut thru the wood like a Hot Knife thru Butter..... and folks without much experience, hit the dirt on a regular basis..... Nothing like a good Old Stihl, sitting in the woodshed, all sharped up and ready to cut..... ..... YMMV....
  17. Witch Doctor 01

    Witch Doctor 01 Mojo Maker

    yep and that happens more than you like when you are limited to who you can find to operate them....

    now about that chain saw...[beat]
  18. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Lessons learned from Irene (or prepping failures and successes)

    I did as I advise all folks starting out the prep lifestyle, and did what I thought necessary for sorta short term loss of the conveniences of life, and remained on a path to medium term survival, then to long term. Long term is a somewhat silly thing for me to consider, being near the end of my 7<sup>th</sup> decade above grass roots. But it is evident that I’m not ready for medium term realistically expected. (My medium term is presently defined as a month or greater.) Fact is, the short term is in question now, but the shortcomings are identified and will be corrected. It is a good thing the lessons were taught in summer, rather than winter. In a matter of speaking, this was an enforced dry run. Others have mentioned doing a power off weekend, I recommend it as a way to find the holes in preps. My dry runs were only hours long, not enough to test all that needs testing before need.

    -A hands free flashlight is invaluable, far more than I would have thought. Mine is a ballcap mounted thing, and I used it far more than a handheld light, of which I have way more than enough.
    -Oil lamps are a seriously inexpensive way to see things you forgot were on the floor. (But solitaire under flame lighting is boring. I couldn’t think of any projects that could be done in limited light.)
    -Unless you are ready to shift your habits to “farmer’s hours” (up with first light, sleep when the sun goes down) you need more lighting and other things to keep going when it’s dark out.
    - Never pass up an opportunity to top off your fuel cans. (I got caught with an MT that was needed; had to make a special trip to the county seat.)
    -Don’t forget some ready cash in case it can be used in lieu of credit cards. If the power is out, the machines don’t work, but the place might be open for cash dealings (if they have anything left after the rush.)
    -Don’t forget that if the power is out over a wide area, chances are pretty good that there won’t be a way to get the gas can topped up. Lucky here in that one town over is a different power vendor, so the pumps were working, even if the credit card machine was off line.
    -Having a stock of food is a good thing, but you need a way to prep it. If your grill has a side burner, that’s a good thing. Mine doesn’t, so I need to get a small camp stove to heat soups and stews. Since it wasn’t cold enough to fire the wood stove, I did without canned stuff that wanted heat.
    -If your standby power is not rigged to light the bathroom, take your shower before dark.
    - If you live for the web, consider where you might have to go to find a wifi zone. But don’t forget they might also be out of power, more likely they will, just like you. I have DSL. The vendor’s servers are supplied by the same power company as my house. No internet ensues, thus solitaire.
    - Hot water is not a luxury, it’s a necessity chez moi. My water tank (domestic and house heat) is heated with propane, but needs electricity to run the burner. Since I was running the gennie, I didn’t need a backup for it. Winter will be another story, the wood stove might not be the best idea, but a kettle on it will happen. Fact is, I'm probably better prepped for winter than summer insofar as heat is concerned.

    I ran the gennie twice a day, YMMV if your fridge isn’t the highest grade. Had I been a bit more ambitious, I’d probably have done better with 3 times at two hours instead of 2X at three or four. Uses about 5 gallons of unleaded in 8 hours of run time per day. Power was out for about 60 hours.

    You need to plan out some projects to fill in time that you wouldn’t otherwise have. Running off to the trap range is a non-starter if they get power to the machines the same place you get it for your stove.
  19. Sapper John

    Sapper John Analog Monkey in a Digital World

    Well one thing that I did learn,the damage was so severe that some neighborhoods were so damaged and trashed that you could not use a vehicle. If someone had to bug-out,they would have to do it on foot.Also, some of our "productive" citizens in one area of town(13 at last count) were arrested for threatening linemen with physical harm because the linemen didn't get their power back on first due to "racism".Go figure!
  20. Gator 45/70

    Gator 45/70 Monkey+++

    We try to get them to stop and eat with us...a few cool adult beverages... and ..Heck they will cut down damaged tree's for you..With their equipment...

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