It might have been Scar from The Lion King who said/sang “Be Prepared”, but it is also the motto of The Boy Scouts of America. I was a Girl Scout for about three months. I think their motto back then was “We have cookies.” I think they should have been more transparent about the length of time the cookies were available each year. It seems to me The Girl Scouts organization has evolved over time and their new motto might be “Be prepared…we have computer hacking skills and the power of a cookie empire.” I’m guessing they now have a merit badge in shrewdness, which is something they will need in preparation for the inevitable disasters of life.
We recently had a weather incident here in Asheville which created a big problem for some residents. I can tell you that I am well-schooled in disastrous weather preparedness. Forty-two years on the Texas Gulf Coast was the academy in which I learned how to be ready for sub-modern conditions. The lessons were mostly taught by water falling down from above, water rising up from below and the huff and puff of the big bad wolf. Most of our weather-related calamites had cute names like Allison, Ike and Rita. But the worst one, Harvey, made me feel like I had been squashed by a giant, malevolent bunny. Harvey’s rain lasted 4 days and totaled 3 feet, creating city-wide havoc.
Most hurricanes last one day as they plow through your area on their way to destroying other places. There is usually always plenty of warning as the tracking systems are quasi-reliable in catching any drift in directional pattern. Keeping vigilance over the weather forecasts is the most important form of preparedness when you need to know whether the hurricane is a Category 1 heading southeast of your location (go to work late) or a Category 5 bearing down on your hometown (conduct prayer vigil). Changes happen quickly. Regardless, people everywhere should be PRE-prepared at all times for any weather-related emergency. Even the unpredictable ones. Then you won’t be left bereft of food and shelter and can reserve the water left in your body for crying when the kids won’t stop complaining about the week-long absence of cell phone service.
Whether your next disaster consists of ice and snow or rain and wind, the potential for the breakdown of civilization might take the form of loss of electrical power, loss of phone signal, undriveable roads, all businesses closed (even the post office), no running water and damage to all or part of your home. We are not people who do well without these things…not for very long anyway. My family has had to live in primitive conditions after the weather in Texas separated us from our creature comforts, which we tend to take for granted. It’s camping in your own home (if the structure is deemed sound enough for rough inhabitance), which is sort of like glamping but you sleep in your own bed and are very much uncomfortable with the temperature. OHamping?
So, like Scar, we need to be prepared to take action and get our hyenas in a row for total immersion into any possible OHamping experience. First, get control of your pride–that’s your family in lion terms, not the emotional state, though once you’ve pooped in a bucket in your garage, that’s pretty much a goner anyway. Don’t wait until you know the storm is coming before stocking up on food supplies. Everyone else will be cramming into the grocery store and the liquor store, so take a tactic from my pride’s disaster playbook and be stocked up at all times! Don’t forget Rascal and Nibbles will need pet food or you may be regarded as fair game–meat-wise. Canned goods and dry goods like rice and pasta have a longish shelf life which you can use and restock, rotating the newest to the back and eating up the oldest first as a means of keeping it from becoming questionable. You don’t want to be standing in your pantry, while the cubs are circling, mulling over how much past its use-by date might this can of SPAM still be safe for consumption. Keeping a week’s supply of currently edible, mostly indestructible, quasi-palatable staples will see you through anything short of nuclear Armageddon.
Water is essential for life. Yes, there might be a ton of it falling on your abode during a weather disaster, but you can’t drink that or cook in it. You can, however, flush your toilet with collected rain water. And let me tell you, if your water supply is damaged or breached, icky backyard water (if it’s not coming through your back door) will be a lifesaver by virtue of its volume as it sluices down your toilet and you don’t have to waste all those gallon containers of drinking water you filled up or purchased on this necessary task. During Harvey, we could not flush our toilets as the local sewer plant was flooded by the over-flowing bayou and there was no place for the flotsam to go except into the general flooding occurring outside our windows. With this situation, and the power outage, we decided to evacuate. There’s only so much shit you can take!
For oncoming disasters which don’t include a flooded sewer plant, putting a heavy trash bag into a large garbage can and filling it to the brim before conditions deteriorate is a safe bet for keeping your household in flushing condition. We have, in the past, filled our bathtub only to come back and find it mostly drained! If the power goes out, you may not have any running water as well. So, getting out all the receptacles you own and filling them with water for cooking and drinking before the event is essential. You can finally make use of that punch bowl your aunt gave you as a wedding present! A week without running water makes you really appreciate that run to the liquor store you made on storm eve. (Be prepared for long lines!)
By now you are asking, “If I have dried pasta, and beans in a can, how will I cook them if I have an electric stove and the entire city is without power?” Go right now to your nearest camping outfitters and buy yourself a little camp stove and some fuel. Frequently check on your fuel supply. As seasoned campers, we possess four little backpacking stoves which have saved our bacon (dried soup mix in our case) on more than one occasion. We once cooked for a week in the little alcove at our front door as it was the only dry place outside to light up the stoves. Always use that camp stove outside or you will have other disasters to deal with. We also have a crank up radio because phone signals are not impervious to devilish weather and it’s nice to keep up with tornado warnings, plus the salsa music might sooth the little ones in their sweaty (or icy) beds.
Lastly, stow a bit of cash somewhere in your house. It’s retro, I know, but you can still buy stuff with it when the lights don’t come back on for a week in your city. We learned this while vacationing in western Canada when a far-reaching power outage threatened to take the fun out of our travel plans. We did not even have enough gas in our car to get us outside the dark zone, so we had to stay and go rafting down a river instead, subsisting on snack food and whatever we could get with our cash. We were glad we had stashed some real Canadian dollars in our pockets. Those loonies and toonies sure came in handy. A mere two days later, we were able to fill up the tank and leave for our next destination, having survived the largest power outage in Canadian history.
Our recent local weather disaster was one I have not had much experience with. Cold. Yes, it got cold once in a while in Texas, and we had to drain and wrap our outdoor spigots. Since there are no basements in southeast Texas, the hot water heater and all the water pipes are in the attics. It doesn’t freeze often enough or long enough to warrant giving up living space for the sake of one’s water supply, you know, the most essential thing needed for life. Inevitably, a dip down into the 20s would send folks scrambling to Lowe’s for pipe insulation. You may recall the fiasco of February 2021, when frigid temps caused widespread power outages and millions of burst water pipes all over the state of Texas. I was happy to be in Asheville, but concerned for friends and all those other people who suffered.
As soon as I knew the frigid temps were to come visiting here in our little corner of the mountains, I immediately flipped into Disaster Preparedness Mode. My main concern here was our water pipes, down in the basement, but not insulated at all. The forecast conditions predicted possible sub zero temps. I started by filling things with water. Then I moved on to preparing for complete annihilation of all the city infrastructure aka no power or water and the roads were not safe to travel. I had heard that freezing to death is a clean and quiet way to go.
OHamping here we come! We stuffed some plastic bags around our main water pipe and turned an electric space heater on low to warm the corner in the basement where the pipes reside. Was it too late to drain all the pipes and head for Atlanta? If we lost power, would I have to allow the dog to sleep in our bed? For once I wasn’t worried about losing all the food in my freezer, but the thought of having to sleep with that stinky dog to maintain body heat did not appeal. We’d need at least two more dogs for that gambit to work anyway.
As a child my husband had been a dedicated Boy Scout. So, together we were prepared for whatever the weather decided to throw at us. We opened the cupboards housing our kitchen and bathroom pipes and loaded the bed with blankets before we turned in for the long, cold vigil. Thankfully, our power stayed on through the night. The thermometer read -1 the next morning. Parts of the city were without water and our neighborhood was in the “boil water” zone for a week. The streets were dry and clear though, so if you could get your car started, you could drive to Atlanta or some other part of Asheville to buy enough water to see you through. I turned up the thermostat and cooked a big bowl of oatmeal thinking, “No OHamping today!” For some reason I had a strong hankering for some Thin Mints and a nice hot toddy.
P.S. The only merit badges I earned in Girl Scouts were roller skating and good hygiene, both of which I continued to practice for a good number of years.