Author Topic: Lessons Learned - Survival Stories by The Average American  (Read 11536 times)

Offline firetoad

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Lessons Learned - Survival Stories by The Average American
« on: February 04, 2009, 11:14:21 AM »
This is a topic that will highlight real life survival stories and lessons learned by our very own members here on the forum.  This topic is not meant to glorify or elevate events or people, but to share with others what has been done and already learned.

Winter Weather - Ice, Sleet, Snow, Extreme Temperatures

KyFarmer and the Ice Storm of January 26-28, 2009

aakelley and the Ice Storm of January 26-28, 2009

DeltaEchoVictor and the Ice Storm of January 26-28, 2009
« Last Edit: February 07, 2009, 12:34:59 AM by firetoad »

Offline firetoad

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Re: Lessons Learned - Survival Stories by The Average American
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2009, 11:14:52 AM »
KyFarmer hails from Kentucky and was greatly impacted by the Ice Storm of January 26th through the 28th of 2009 that severely affected countless communities and hundreds of thousands of people.  KyFarmer shares his story with us…

The original post can be found here.


I've been through tornadoes in the Southwest, I've been through hurricanes, I've been through blizzards, I've even been in an earthquake - but I've NEVER seen anything like this.  This was worse in my area than most people had predicted of prepared for.

Here's kind of an update of the events and the lessons learned.

Storm came in last Monday night with freezing rain.  The impact and the damage varied greatly if you went 50 miles in any direction.  Where I live was among the second hardest hit areas.  Freezing rain continued into Wednesday morning then the snow started.  By the time all was said and done, I had about 2 to 2.5 inches of ice (I measured) and about 3-4 inches of snow. 

Monday when I got home from work, I cleaned the flue on the woodstove, moved a bunch of seasoned firewood from the barn down to the house, moved the generator down to the house, took the suburban to town and gassed up, and stocked up on perishable provisions (milk, lunch meat, etc).

Our power went down Tuesday morning about 9:00 am.  No flicker, no drama, just dropped off.  That's never a good sign - but we fired up the generator and away we went.  I've a 5500 watt unit hooked up on a whole house relay switch.  It'll run about 10-12 hours on 4 gallons.  It will run everything in my house except the electric furnace (which I don't need because of the woodstove), and the cooktop.  If I shut everything off, I can run the water heater, and then turn it off and everything else back on so my water pump works (house is on a reservoir, I can't get county water where I am)

Temperatures never got above 25 until Saturday when it hit 40.  Sunday it was about 50. The temperatures were a curse, because they caused all the fields and side roads to turn to soup and made it hell for the power guys to get in an work.  They were/are pulling work trucks with dozers across peoples fields.

At one point on Wednesday, there was a 5 county area around where I live with 100% power outage.  The ice took down a trunk line and 10 substations. 

My grandfather lives about 15 miles away, and it was Thursday before I could get to him.  Keep in mind I've got a 3/4 ton suburban that's outfitted as a hunting buggy.  Lifted, re-geared, the whole deal and it still took me that long.  The damage from falling trees was enormous.  The "major" roads were difficult due to trees and lines down, but the secondary roads were impassable.  I drove through fields at some points to get to my grandfather

At one point on Tuesday it sounded like the army was having artillery practice in the woods behind my house.  If you've every heard the top on a huge 100 yo oak hit the ground - it's an awesome sound.

Biggest problem in my area proved to be fuel.  There was ZERO gas, diesel and kerosene in my county and two neighboring counties for most of the week.  If you got lucky and the station had enough power to run the pumps, there was a huge line of people.  I have a tank on the farm so it wasn't a big deal to me - but it was a major problem.  Tankers couldn't run until late Thursday or Friday and shortages were still felt as late as Monday.  You could drive 50 miles and get all the gas you wanted, but people panicked.

Several towns and counties lost water supply because the water substations went down when the power substations went down and the fuel supplies on hand wouldn't run the purification and pumping equipment for a long enough time.  As I said - I have a reservoir, but it's something to think about.

There was/is an entire county that the state has essentially asked people to leave.  It'll be at least the end of February before they get power.  I'm really remote within my county - so I probably won't have power until valentines day.

I had, at one point, 14 people in my house, not counting the people that wandered through to take showers.  It's awesome to see people help each other out!  I had a cousin in Missouri that once he finally got in touch with the family, went to Lowe's and bought 8 generators and drove them all night to get to us on Saturday.  What the family didn't buy, we took to town and sold for cost.

So ...long story and sorry to bore you with the details.

There were a lot of lessons learned.

Lesson 1 - My wife and I learned that we're not nuts for doing this.  We're more convinced than ever that  12 months of lockdown supplies is a necessity. 

Lesson 2- We may have to reevaluate how much we need to accomplish our goals in light of the extended family.  We have to make some hard decisions on who and how much we're willing to help if it gets really bad.  It'll be very easy to be taken advantage of - we've got to put some serious thought into that.  Part of the planning from here is to make some hard decisions on others.  We're going to have a talk with my extended family.  They know what we're doing, and poke a little fun at us - but the tune has changed.  Problem is that the neighbors and friends know what we have stashed.  We're going to have to tell the family what we are and aren't willing to do in another situation like this.  If you have supplies and a plan, and your friends/family do not - it's best to consider that BEFORE there is a crisis.

Lesson 3 - Pack Mentality is DANGEROUS.  A PERSON is smart, but PEOPLE are scared, panicky and not real bright.  The fuel issues in town really drove that home.  There was gas 50 miles away, but we had fights and lines and a shooting over fuel.  In a crisis - if you are going into a situation where crowds are likely, ALWAYS have an exit plan and a weapon.  Probably - you should give serious consideration to whether the trip is a NEED or a want.

Lesson 5 - Protect/Guard your stuff.  People were stealing generators, siphoning gas out of neighbors cars.  Nuts.  Hell I chained my generator to the support beams on my deck and joined the chains with a bolt not a lock so it couldn't be cut easily.  You have to look objectively at what you have - am I a target?  Is the placement of this item, the use of this item, or something I'm doing putting me at undue risk of attention (grey man!)

Lesson 5a - Decide NOW how far you are willing to go to defend your stuff and your home.  After my issues with fuel, my wife and I had a talk about "what if".  She told me that is someone was taking food, firewood, fuel, generator, etc then they were threatening the health and safety of our family and she wouldn't hesitate for a moment to shoot them, and she wouldn't expect me to either.  I was glad to hear her say it out loud.  Decide that up front..don't get into a situation where you have to decide that under stress.

Lesson 6 - Location REALLY matters.  My house is in a REALLY bad location.  I've got to build a cabin and storage off the road.  My house sits right on a paved road.  You have light and smoke when no one else does, and you're gonna have trouble.  I had some trouble with people trying to steal fuel.  I've got to reevaluate where my stuff is.

Lesson 6a - DIVERSIFY!  If you have substantial stores - spread them out in multiple locations.  We're going to spread stuff out among several locations on the farm until we can get an isolated storage location built.

Lesson 7 - STORE FUEL.  If you don't have the capacity of a large tank like I do - have AT LEAST 7 days worth of fuel in cans for your generator.  Get a siphon hose and learn how to use it.  Keep the tanks on your cars FULL, and buy LOCKING gas caps for them.

Lesson 8 - Cell phone's are NOT your friend.  You don't realize how much you depend on them until you don't have them.  We lost cells on Monday and they didn't come back up until the following Sunday.  We've got some 10 mile two-ways ans we're going to distribute them to friends and family as an alternate means of communication.

Lesson 9 - KEEP CASH ON HAND.  When we finally made it into town, there was no power and no phones in the businesses - hence no credit or debit cards.  My wife and I keep cash on hand just for this reason.  We have the advantage of living in a community where everyone knows everyone, so you could in most cases write a check - but in a more heavily populated area - that's probably not the case.

Lesson 10 - Things can get REAL bad REAL fast.  I would say I got a brief glimpse into a total SHTF scenario.  It was short, but it was bad.  No power, no heat, no fuel, dwindling food supplies, people with no preparation - and it can get scary quick.  This was just three or four days, you take these things away for two weeks?  Three Weeks? Longer?.

Lesson 11 - Rural is better (in my opinion) and people are GENERALLY good folks.  There was a group of us that went around on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday on 4wheelers checking on folks.  We had to take chain saws and log chains to clear some stuff - but we did it.  There were groups of people what got together with 4WD's and took the elderly to the shelters.  A contactor in town took three HUGE gene's to several churches to help set up shelters.

I learned some great lessons, and got a great test run.  We're making modifications to the plans based on the lessons.  I hate that it happened, but it was an excellent teaching moment.---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A complimentary post by Jack...

Here is a radar shot of the storm on Tuesday night.  As you can see the storm streached over 2000 miles long, it did modest damage in Texas and as you have read the further north the worse it got.  I have a friend in Indiana who said he just got power back yesterday!

This just goes to show, we preppers ain't crazy!  No matter how the media paints us.

« Last Edit: February 06, 2009, 06:20:50 PM by firetoad »

Offline firetoad

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Re: Lessons Learned - Survival Stories by The Average American
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2009, 01:25:03 PM »
aakelley hails from northern Kentucky and was greatly impacted by the Ice Storm of January 26th through the 28th of 2009 that severely affected countless communities and hundreds of thousands of people.  aakelley shares his story with us…

The original post can be found here.

Another post from KY.  We live in Northern KY and got hit with about an inch of ice on Tuesday night on top of 4 inches of snow and then another 5 inches of snow (nice sandwich) that knocked the power out at about 1:30 AM Wednesday morning.  First thing we learned was the the two is one, one is none things applies to everything including generators.  After the windstorm we had last fall (from Hurricane Ike...yes, we had a Hurricane in KY this year) I bought a 5.5 KW generator that would run off the 1,000 gal propane tank I have buried in the back yard (that also runs our furnaces) and installed a transfer switch to run the basics.  At 6 AM on Wednesday morning, I rolled out the generator, hooked it up and fired it up.  All seemed fine for about 2 hours and then it just stopped putting out power.  It was still running, but when I got my multi-meter out, all I could get at the terminals was 2-3 V.  not really enough to run anything :-(.

So we went truly without power for most of Wednesday.  Wednesday night, we broke out the sleeping bags for my son and I, and my wife and daughter shared the bed, all four of us sleeping together in the extra bedroom in the basement, figuring even though it was low (heat rises) it would stay the warmest longest.  When we woke up the next day, the house was at 47 degrees!.  We lost a degree about every 90 minutes through the day and night (something good to know for future reference).  That wasn't going to do, so I got out 'field and barn project generator' (A very old 2KW briggs and stratton powered genny I bought to provide power when I was building stalls in the barn and painting the fence), cut the end of an extension cord and wired it in to power the A side of the transfer switch (the side with the furnace on it).  That did the trick and I was able to get the temp inside back up to a relatively balmy 64 over the course of the next 6 hours.  Only downside with the smaller generator (besides only being able to run the furnace, fridge and one set of lights in the kitchen) was that I had to fill it up with a gallon of gas every four hours.  Fortunately this little genny ran without fail for the remaining 1.5 days that we we were without power.  The power came back on around 7 on Friday night.

Other lessons learned:

Need to rethink where the generator(s) are positioned.  Had them both in the workshop and that made it really hard to get over all the now and ice to hookup to the transfer switch.
Only had 5 gallons of gas on hand for the other generator.  Definitely need to get a few more cans if that is going to be the backup (although thinking about getting a few big batteries and an invertor as a backup and relegating the 2KW genny to third string)
I did end up making extensive use of the coleman white gas cookstove (pancakes, macaroni and cheese, coffee) through the day.  You really don't appreciate how much better warmed carbs can make you feel when its cold outside (and inside!) until you are there.
Need to get some more things in place for the kids to do.  Day 1 of snowball fights was fun, but day 2 without the Wii started to make them a bit crazy.  Crafts, books and boardgames are on the list

Overall it was a good 'test' and had only strengthened my resolve that we are on the right track.

Pretty much everyone in my neck of the woods has a generator, so they all had at least basic power for the duration. The few that didn't doubled up with neighbors.  Food was another story.  One of our neighbors had to borrow milk and bread from us. And I must admit that we ended up trading them for some sugar.  If we couldn't have done that, I did have some in 5 gallon buckets in the basement, but I thought it would be a waste to open those for what was going to be over soon.  Maybe another lesson learned...have two stages of backups.  One you can access for short term emergencies and one for long term so you don't have to break into the long ones and use them up for something that should pass soon.

The roads were pretty much impassable for the first day.  After that they were still really bumpy from all the ice that stuck to the road despite the plows, so it was pretty much only trucks out on day 2.  So by the third day (when I ventured out for the first time), one of the three gas stations near our house was open (may have been open the whole time), but was cash only.  The local grocery store was open, but wonder of wonders Walmart was closed!

As far as securing the generator, I used a combination of being far away from all but one neighbor (we are 1/4 mile off the road), putting the genny behind the house (can't hear it when you are 100 feet in front of the house) and my coon dog (who does stay outside in her igloo even when it's cold and icy) to protect the genny.  I also have a MURS Alert on the driveway that lets me know if anyone is coming down, day or night.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2009, 04:13:25 PM by firetoad »

Offline firetoad

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Re: Lessons Learned - Survival Stories by The Average American
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2009, 12:33:02 AM »
DeltaEchoVictor hails from sourthern Missouri and was greatly impacted by the Ice Storm of January 26th through the 28th of 2009 that severely affected countless communities and hundreds of thousands of people.  DeltaEchoVictor shares his story with us…

The original post can be found here.

Okay, here goes.  I'll do the best I can remembering the time line of things.  Life is for us, is essentially back to normal.  We were lucky, we only went without power for about 30 hours or so.  From 7PM on January 27th until around 11PM or so January 28th we were without electricity.  I'm not exactly sure when the power went out because I was at work & my wife had the emergency cellphone.  She called me at some point in the evening (on the 27th) & told me the electricity had gone off.

The ice storm actually started for us on the evening of the 26th of January.  I was just getting to work about 5PM & one of the girls I work with asked me if I thought that we'd get much ice.  My finely honed psychic powers tole me no...thank god I don't rely on my psychic powers to make a living. ::)  & yeah, it was sleeting at that point, & I mean really sleeting. 

1st lesson more attention to broadcast news.  Because I live most of my life in the dark (literally, not least not until this damn ice storm) I tend to get most of my news from the inter-webz.  I avoid broadcast news generally...turns out it's actually handy to pay attention to what the local news stations are saying.  I was caught completely unaware about the humongous ice monster headed our way.  What can I say, no excuse here.

So, it sleets all night the 26th & when I get up on the evening of the 27th it's still sleeting...damn, I wasn't expecting this.  I'm standing in my front yard & all I'm hearing is the tick tick of the hardened ice crystals falling all around me.  It's surreal, there are rare moments in our lives when everything is completely & absolutely silent.  When what you hear & what you feel  are the know it's not good.  You know you think you're ready but that little voice in the back of your head is saying "are you really"?  That's how I felt as the sleet came down all around me, it coated the trees, the yard, my Jeep & me as I stood there & wondered what would come.

Here's what I had on hand.  I had plenty of food & water, I had supplemental heat in the form of a kerosene heater & a several gallons of k-1 kerosene to run the thing.  I wasn't particularly worried for Tina & I.  What I was worried about was how bad it would eventually get for everyone else...& how long it would last.  We also had our camper which was stocked with supplies.  The only problem was that it was still up at the deer lease...which may not have been a bad thing....depending.

I'm going to put up a bunch of pictures because at this point things start to get a little blurred.  We basically spent from the evening of the 27th until the 31st doing what we had to do.  I got very little sleep, I spent quite a lot of time ferrying Tina's colleagues back and forth from her work to their houses...there were some of them that stayed at the nursing home working for 2 or 3 days straight because people were calling in.  There was only 1 family, I'm sad to say, who came & got their family member.  Tina's work, which is a nursing home, was without power for a week.  They basically put as many blankets as they could find on the residents & moved everybody to the halls where they could concentrate the heat (provided by a generator that they imported).  At one point the administrator went to our local Walmart & K-Mart & bought every blanket the stores had in stock.

2nd lesson learned...people in general, don't really give a shit if they're not suffering.  Sorry, but human nature being what it is, if you're not affected it's difficult to understand or empathize with what's going on.  Unless we're directly & primarily affected we tend not to think about it.  There is always someone who has it tougher or worse than you do.  Remember that the next time you feel like whining about something.

On with the pics....most of these were taken from the driver's seat of my Cherokee, so I apologize if they aren't the best.

On my way home the morning of the 28th, around 4:30AM when I got off.  Normally this stretch of road would be lit up like daylight, but the power was off at this point.  What you can't see are all the stores & street lights around the road.  This is essentially in the middle of town.  The objects you do see are street signs.  The white is ice.  We ended up getting very little snow, maybe an inch or so at the very end of the storm.

Later on the morning of the 28th.  I'd taken a colleague of my wife's home after a 48 hour shift.  This is 67 N. Hwy coming in to Poplar Bluff.  Only a couple of Jeeps on the road at this point, including me ;).  Not much else moving, not even DOT trucks....

The blob on the left is a car that is stuck in the median.  I don't know how in the hell it got down there but I imagine it was a miserable walk for whoever was driving.

Some shots around town on the morning of the 28th, the third day of the storm.  It was still sleeting, freezing raining & at the very end some snow....

A school playground in my neighborhood.

On the morning of the 30th (best I remember) I received an e-mail from a friend of mine that lives in St. Louis, she was concerned because her parents had been trapped inside their home  since the storm started on the Monday previous.  She was able to talk to them because their hard line hadn't been compromised.  They said they weren't able to get out because their driveway (a 3/4 mile country driveway) was blocked by downed tress & debris.  She said I was the only one she knew who might be able to get to them.   She said she figured I had a chainsaw, a  4x4 & emergency heat...sometimes it sucks to be the "prepared guy".  I value my friends, if you're my friend all you have to do is call.  Lara did, so I did what friends do for for friends...I packed my shit, geared up & headed toward her parents place.  This is what I found when I got there.

Not as bad as I thought it would be, but it took me two hours to get about 1/4 mi. down their driveway.

I got little distracted by the scenery....I love nature, in all her vicious ways.

That big tree came down because of the ice.

I got lucky, Lara's dad was just around the corner here.  He'd started clearing from the house so I wouldn't have to clear much more from here.

Making the corner...headed toward the house.

I'll post more pics later & the rest of what I learned.

Offline archer

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Re: Lessons Learned - Survival Stories by The Average American
« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2012, 06:08:41 AM »