ice storm winter
Dan Z. for TTAG

I’ve been getting a lot of calls and texts over the last few days asking how we made it through the Big Texas Chill of ’21. The short answer is, we did a lot better than most people in these here parts. While we lost power for 46 hours during the period with the lowest temperatures (single digits) and have been without water since Wednesday morning, we’re still in very good shape.

The longer answer begins with a simple maxim; preparation pays off. Your Boy Scout leader knew what he was talking about.

While there are some things I plan to change and do differently in the future, we didn’t freeze, we didn’t starve, we have plenty of water and we didn’t have to stand in half mile-long lines to get into a grocery store to pick over whatever was left.

This post has nothing to do with guns (fortunately in this case). But I hope my experience can help some readers in a future emergency situation. And make no mistake…there will be one.

There’s always another hurricane, earthquake, tornado, flood, fire, ice storm, snowpocalypse…whatever down the road. The takeaway here — the one lesson to learn from this — is that you cannot depend on anyone else to come to your rescue. Having the supplies and gear on hand to ensure your family’s and your safety and survival (and maybe some comfort) is critical.

I’ll run through what we did and the gear we used to get by. There are dozens of similar brands of everything we own and used, so make your own decisions there. The key is to have it on hand and ready when you need it.

Power

When the power went out early Monday morning it was about 11 degrees here in Austin. The local utility said the outage was part of an approximately 40-minute rolling blackout. Those 40 minutes stretched to 46 hours, much of it in single digit temperatures.

The cold wasn’t a surprise. People had plenty of time to prepare if they were paying any attention at all. The weather forecast for most of the previous week had been predicting a once-in-a-century cold snap, the kind Texas doesn’t normally have to deal with. That’s why I’d gotten my generator out, filled it with gasoline and started it up to make sure it was good to go.

generator
Dan Z. for TTAG

I bought the generator about ten years ago during an almost week-long power outage due to a bad ice storm when we lived in St. Louis. I used it again after severe summer storms knocked out power there for three-plus days a few years later. Aside from that, it sits in my garage doing nothing which is just the way I like it.

The generator has a six gallon tank and I keep two five gallon plastic cans of gas in the garage as well. That gives me about 24 hours or running time before I need more fuel.

A 5000 watt generator cranks out more than enough to run a refrigerator/freezer, an internet router, a couple of heaters and a TV. It also allows you to keep your phones charged and a computer up and running. Those are the things we prioritized. We have a well stocked freezer in the garage, too, but because it was so cold out there, we didn’t have to worry about powering it.

I’m aware that a generator is an expensive item. You’re going to spend $500 to $600 for one, but just think of it as the price of a GLOCK or a P365. Most of you wouldn’t balk at spending that for a new pistol. To me, knowing it’s in the garage when you need it is inexpensive insurance that could make the difference in saving the food in your fridge/freezer or maybe even your life depending on your circumstances.

Heat

We have two Kenworld oil-filled radiant heaters which we’ve owned for years (we used them to warm a room in an old drafty house we used to own). We never use them now…they just live in the garage with the generator for an emergency like this one.

kenworld space heater
Dan Z. for TTAG

The first thing we did when the furnace went off was close off rooms we didn’t need to heat and confined ourselves to a smaller area. Most Texas houses simply aren’t built for the kind of cold weather we had this week. Our 2000 square foot house is made of stone. That’s a good thing, but the windows and exterior doors aren’t insulated well, so we used tape and towels to keep the loss of heat to a minimum.

Doing what we could to keep as much heat as we could in and the cold out, the two heaters were enough to keep the house livable. Even through the single digit temperatures outside, the coldest it ever got inside the house was 53 degrees. That’s chilly, but you can handle that with layers of clothes.

Light

We always have plenty of candles and they’re nice because they also produce a little bit of heat. But they’re also a (minor) fire hazard, a pain to carry around, and don’t put out a lot of lumens.

Bushnell lantern streamlight flashlight
Dan Z. for TTAG

For lighting up larger areas much more efficiently, we used a combination of electric lanterns and flashlights. We have two Bushnell TRKR A500L lanterns and a Streamlight Siege AA lantern. We also keep a good supply of batteries on hand to power them.

The Bushnells each put out 500 lumens of 360 degree even light which is ideal for lighting up a decent size room. The Siege AA is smaller, generates 200 lumens, and is perfect for carrying around the house into bathrooms or hanging from a cabinet knob next to the stove as you cook (ask me how I know).

As for the flashlights, either the Streamlight Scorpion HL or a Macrostream USB was always in a pocket and came in very handy. The difference between a good flashlight and a $5 Home Depot bargain bin special is substantial, both in light output and utility. That difference really shows in situations when you need your light to perform the most.

Food and Water

We’ve always kept a good supply of “survival” food stores on hand. Plenty of SHTF favorites like pasta, soups, canned tuna, chicken, beans, oil, and lots more that we can rely on during an extended outage without having to worry about resupplying. We also have that full freezer in the garage and plenty in the freezer side of the fridge in the kitchen, so food was never a concern.

We always make sure to also keeping a lot of drinking water on hand, too. Ours was stored in the garage so given the temperatures, we moved it into the house.

Water supply
Dan Z. for TTAG

When we heard of other cities having water problems, we got out the two 20 gallon coolers we own. We put one in each bath tub and filled those with additional clean, drinkable water before our service went down. In the summer we’d have filled the tubs themselves, but with the low temperatures, we had to keep the faucets trickling — including those in the tubs — to avoid frozen or burst pipes.

We never lost our gas service. That meant the water heater and stove kept working, allowing us to heat water or soup and cook the food we have in the fridge.

Power On, Water Off

Early Wednesday morning, the power was finally restored as the Texas grid began to recover. Later that morning, however, we lost our water service. That’s when all of that bottled drinking water we’d stockpiled became important.

melting snow toilet flush
Dan Z. for TTAG

We had another problem, though. With no water service (it’s still off as I write this on Saturday afternoon) we had no way to flush toilets without using our drinking water supply. All of the snow and ice on the patio, the driveway and the walks suddenly became very useful.

We emptied every plastic container in the house and shoveled them full of ice and snow. Then we began melting some of it on the stove as we needed it to use for flushing toilets. We should have more than enough, even if the outage lasts anther week or more.

Aftermath

The temperature here in Austin will push 60 degrees today. Most of the snow is now gone and Austin Water is still trying to get service back to most of the city. Even areas that have water service, though, are still on a boil order.

I had enough gasoline to last another 18-20 hours when the power was restored. That was good timing, because most area stations were either without power and couldn’t operate or had sold out of gas at that time. The roads were still in bad enough shape then (Austin has no plows or salt) that roaming the city looking for fuel would have been an adventure.

The grocery stores are being restocked today and the lines have mostly disappeared. Everyone who was caught short of bread, milk and eggs will be able to stock up again this weekend.

What I’d Change

Again, we were in far better shape than 95% of the people in similar circumstances. The ability to power a couple of heaters made all of the difference. A lot of people abandoned their homes and went to hotels or relatives’ houses. Many slept in their cars with the heaters on.

Still, there are things we could have done better and will improve for next time. Because there’s always a next time.

Heat – The generator and heaters did well, but we also have a gas fireplace. It hasn’t worked in years and we’d put off getting it fixed. That will change this spring. I also want to have more gasoline capacity so will add two more five-gallon cans.

Light – The Bushnell TRKR lanterns are great, but we could have used more. I’ve already ordered two that will arrive next week.

Water – We had plenty of food on hand and still do. And while we have drinking water for at least another week to ten days, I’d feel better having more on hand. The next emergency probably won’t happen when there’s 4+ inches of snow on the ground here, so we won’t be able to rely on that for flushing, purifying, boiling. I also want to keep my store of water in better containers than grocery store bottles.

It never fails to surprise me how unprepared so many people are, especially people with small children where having enough diapers, food, etc. can get critical fast when they run low. I hope some of this has helped and possibly convinced you that the time to prepare for an emergency situation is now…not when everyone else in your area is searching for the same food, fuel and equipment you are.

If this has prompted you to get moving, but you’re not sure where to start, a good resource I’ve found for clear-headed no BS prepper information and product recommendations is The Prepared (TTAG is not affiliated with them in any way). Good luck and stay safe out there.

 

 

 

117 COMMENTS

    • Good article.

      Remember that if gas continues to flow but you have no power you can use a pigtail to attach your generator to the switch on your furnace and run that too.

      Just make sure to put wiring nuts on your line power wires so that when the power does get restored you don’t have exciting issues.

      • strych9,

        “… you can use a pigtail to attach your generator to the switch on your furnace …”

        Now that is a really simple and really clever way for someone to operate their furnace if they have not wired their whole home to operate on generator. (Assuming that the person wiring in knows what they are doing.)

        I tip my hat to you sir.

        • To expand on that, prepare now and wire your furnace to a wall plug. It can always stay plugged in and when you need to attach the generator you don’t have to play electrician in the dark.

          I also don’t pay for fancy generator switches, I backfeed my generator into my welder plug (or any large 220 dryer or range style plug) then when the power goes out I turn my main panel breaker off, turn the welder plug breaker on and fire up the generator. This powers my entire house.
          (if the generator is small like the 5000 watt in the article you may have to shut breakers off to high load things like electric water heaters or electric furnaces to keep them from kicking on and bogging the generator).
          This makes power outages here in the north as simple as flipping a few switches and firing the gen set.

        • Bob,

          “… prepare now and wire your furnace to a wall plug.”

          Oh, now I REALLY like that. Like you said, just keep your furnace plugged into that outlet normally. And then, if grid electricity fails, you can unplug your furnace from the wall outlet (which is dead since grid electricity is out) and simply plug it into an extension cord coming from your generator.

          As for using a dryer or welding outlet to provide electricity to your entire home, that is a simple “life hack” as well.

          Just so that readers know: if you do not have a properly installed transfer switch, ensure that your home’s main circuit breaker IS ALWAYS OFF when you are feeding your home wiring with a generator. That is the very first thing that you must do before even thinking of starting up your generator much less connecting your generator to your home wiring. Along the same lines, shut down your generator and disconnect it from your home BEFORE turning your main breaker back on.

          Important note: there is a very good chance that you will be distracted, nervous, and/or seriously fatigued during an emergency event and screw-up that main breaker on/off protocol. Thus, have a second person verify that main breaker on/off protocol before you attempt to run your home on generator AND before restoring grid electrical service to your home.

          Second important note: for the love of all that is good and decent, DO NOT OPERATE A GENERATOR IN YOUR HOME OR GARAGE! The exhaust gases of a generator will kill you in short order if you operate it in your home. And there is a very good chance that a generator operating in your garage will do the same. Always operate a generator outdoors where this good ventilation — both to ensure safe breathing air and to ensure adequate cooling of your generator.

        • If you do that main sure you open your house main breaker. Not only is the backfeed onto the primary lines through your transformer a hazard we used to enjoy the sound of a generator encountering as many amps as the main breaker can send through it.

      • If you backwire anything then the main breaker should be turned off so linemen working on the lines dont get a taste of your generator. Also, assuming the furnace was gas then that only draws a couple of amps to run the motor. That would have been my priority to heat the house to save the pipes in the outer walls.

    • Great after-action indeed.

      You didn’t mention adult beverages though. If things are stable in the neighborhood, it would be a great time to enjoy a cigar and a fine beverage in front of a small fire.

      Although I’d just stick with the beverage – indoors – in this weather!

      • “You didn’t mention adult beverages though. If things are stable in the neighborhood, it would be a great time to enjoy a cigar and a fine beverage in front of a small fire.”

        Here in Florida, hard alcohol is a standard for hurricane supplies, on bottle per day, per adult… 🙂

        Those with oil heat are the luckiest, usually just a small generator will power the blower, keeping your home toasty warm at the lowest of temperatures…

        • “… on[3] bottle per day, per adult…”

          Holy cow Geoff! An entire bottle of hard stuff in one day? Are you talking little tiny half pints? Even that modest quantity would cause some “rough sailing” for many/most imbibing people.

  1. Reliance Aqua-Pak 5gal stackable water jugs, an RV hose filter when filling, and a bottle of stabilized oxygen to treat it after you fill them. I filled them in summer 2016 and they tasted identical to the well water we normally drink.

    For washing, dishes, and flushing toilets, snowmelt. A strainer to remove grass and debris. A wood stove helps.

    • Has me somewhat confused. I have gallon containers from fruit juice, many times stronger than milk bottles, which I have cleaned out and filled with tap water some years ago, nothing about stabilized oxygen or whatever, why would that be necessary? In those containers nothing has gotten in and nothing has gotten out, the water should be the same as it was when I filled them, no?

      • No disrespect, but I suspect when you use those ‘used’ bottles to store water for 5 to 6 months, you’ll discover there was enough residual glucose leeching out of the plastic that the water will be difficult to consume. Not entirely unusable, but potable water needs a dedicated purpose-made container.

        • So…just curious if you’ve tasted that water after a few years. I was tempted to go that route, but read that bottles that held anything except water would taste nasty even after you cleaned them. What’s your experience been?

        • I have not, you may be right. I have had terrible luck with unopened 2 gallon water jugs made with conventional plastic. Every one I had leaked. I now have a water cooler with 5 gallon jugs strewn about the house.

      • LarryinTX,

        Don’t quote me on this — I thought I recently read somewhere that gases do penetrate typical plastic beverage containers.

        I personally find that hard to believe because I have always thought of plastic beverage containers as completely blocking the flow of both gases and liquids through the container walls. Nevertheless, I recently found some plastic containers of carbonated beverages that had been sitting in my basement for 10 years or so and they most definitely were NOT carbonated anymore, even though no one had ever opened them and their caps still seemed to be sealed. How did the carbonation escape? I don’t know.

        • Klaus Von Schmitto,

          Either way, gases were leaving and/or entering the plastic beverage bottle which is bad. Whatever the mechanism, those plastic containers were not isolated from the surrounding environment.

          Note: the bottles definitely lost their carbonation. For one, they were no longer firm (pressurized). Second, I opened one, poured it into a glass, and sipped a small amount of liquid. The beverage did not fizz when I poured it into the glass and the taste of carbonation was gone.

      • Tap water is likely fine, assuming you mean “city” water (called so even if you live in a rural area, just means it’s a utility and not your own well), since it’s treated. I only have well water so I need to treat it, and I also filter it since it’s a little hard.

  2. If you are buying a generator you may want to consider a dual fuel unit, more choices are better and propane is easier to store.

    • People make tri-fuel conversion kits for portable generators that are pretty easy to install. I have one on my 8k, and my 5k generators.. Being able to burn nat gas, propane, or gasoline.. gives me options..

    • This is the single biggest issue with generators. You can only store fuel for so long. Propane tanks are cheap and last indefinitely. I personally don’t even plan on attempting to keep power but understand some would.

    • A dual fuel carb for Dan’s generator can be had for under $40. (Dan has a natural gas line, and despite hurricanes and could snaps like this I have never seen NG service go down in Texas.) Add a gas hose with some quick connects, and you’d be good to go for as long as your generator is rated to run continuously (and had enough motor oil for it, of course).

  3. I’ve kept a large amount of extra water on hand since before Harvey. After it reached a certain level, I just keep it there as I use it. Keeping a few extra empty 5 gallon water bottles comes in handy too.

    Having a supply of canned goods and non-refrigerated items is a must. Along with extra plumbing parts, blankets, and even paper plates all built up over time. It doesn’t really take much to end up with enough to get you through several weeks or even a month and half. It isn’t easy but ya make it through with a little patience.

    My thing is…
    If Texas can’t handle a week like that then just how will it handle such an influx of new residence and high demand placed on it by more people using more technology like electric cars (Tesla)? It is a great example as to how destructive the ‘Green New Deal’ actually is.

    • Only if you’re retarded and don’t actually understand why Texas experienced catastrophic power grid failures that came extremely close to crippling the whole system for weeks to months.

        • The wind generators did not fail because of the cold weather, but rather a lack of preparation for climate disruption.

          There are wind generators all over America, including areas that experience severe cold temperatures and large snowfalls, yet they continue to operate because the engineers who installed the projects understood the realities of climate change and prepared for the inclement weather.

          The failures in Texas are owned by the Republican party who have not adequately prepared for the realities of climate change and therefore are sadly unprepared.

          If every home had their own solar power system, the only house that would lose power in bad weather would be the one that the tree actually fell on.

        • Way more than wind turbine failures. Natural gas transmission lines and the inevitable moneychangers got into the act. 20 year old Texas policies, too. Even the South Texas Nuclear plant was out. The Texas electricity market system is price-based only. If you spend more money winterizing your generating plant, you just spend more money, as you don’t get to sell your electricity for more, so where is the incentive to winterize?

        • “…who installed the projects understood the realities of climate change and prepared…”

          “…the realities of [local conditions] and prepared…”

          FIFY

          “If every home had their own solar power system, the only house that would lose power in bad weather would be the one that the tree actually fell on.”

          Seems to me you’ve got your facts muddled again. The same bad weather that put the tree on your neighbor’s roof would significantly reduce the output of your solar panels, and the battery pack doesn’t last forever. You gonna set a bunch of kerosene lanterns up on your roof during a snowstorm, just to keep your solar panels generating?

        • “The same bad weather that put the tree on your neighbor’s roof would significantly reduce the output of your solar panels“

          Us hillbillies utilize a tool we like to call a ‘broom’ to remove snowfall from the panels, returning them to full output in just a few moments.

        • You mean, return them from zero to 25% output, and then wait for the sun to begin shining again to recharge that dead battery.

          FIFY again

    • Greenies are yet to be able to tell me how to make carbon-free or carbon-neutral steel without planting lots of trees.

      • There are countries in Europe importing wood pellets from North America so they can claim the energy is renewable. They are literally cutting down trees to be “green”

        • “They are literally cutting down trees to be “green””

          The claimed term is ‘Carbon Neutral’, but that ignores the fossil fuels most likely burned to get it to the power plant…

        • Are you spreading disinformation about wood pellet heating because you work for a Big Oil or King Coal?

          Either way, you are wrong, trees are not cut down to provide wood pellets, that’s just fake news, here are the facts:

          “Wood pellets are the most common type of pellet fuel and are generally made from compacted sawdust and related industrial wastes from the milling of lumber, manufacture of wood products and furniture, and construction.“

          Humans will always cut down trees for building materials, progress means we are better able to utilize the waste products and decrease the need for non-renewable, dangerous and polluting fuels like oil and coal.

          Of course, you can stay in the 18th century and enjoy your coal fire as long as you keep the environmental destruction from extraction, combustion and ash disposal out of my air and water.

        • Study harder miner, but not at wikipedia. From the Rachel Carson Council:

          “There is a well-respected and growing body of research demonstrating that wood pellets are neither carbon-neutral nor sustainable.”

          “Pellet production facilities release dangerous air pollutants, putting surrounding communities at higher risk for health complications. Finally, burning wood pellets releases 65% more CO2 than coal per megawatt hour.”

          Your solar grid flopped, and wood pellets aren’t a panacea either, apparently. What’s a green to do?

    • Maybe Texas should consider electing legislators who are more concerned about the citizens rather than their own personal comfort.

      “Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had amassed $4.7 million in her fundraising efforts to help Texans hard hit by last week’s winter storm as of Sunday evening, her press secretary Ivet Contreras confirmed to CNN.

      The New York Democrat launched her fundraiser Thursday after extreme cold weather, ice and snow caused the power grid managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) to fail — leading to rolling blackouts and a boil-water advisory for nearly half of Texas. The fundraiser had hit $1 million by Thursday evening. The next day, Ocasio-Cortez said that donation figures had risen to $2 million, and she announced she would visit the state.
      The congresswoman’s efforts come as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a political adversary, faces backlash — including from members of his own party — for flying to Cancun, Mexico, last week as many of his constituents were left without power or water.“

      Millions for disaster relief raised by AOC, how much has Ted Cruz raised for disaster relief in Texas?

    • @miner I guess if you were to stop posting about things you know squat about no one would ever hear from you again. Oh if only we could get so lucky.

      • The solar grid did not fail because the technology is inherently flawed, but rather about poor execution by the installation and project engineers.

        The natural gas distribution system actually suffered more degradation during the inclement weather, poor design and maintenance of natural gas lines what is the culprit.

  4. Another option for water or just to back up your water supply, get something like the LifeStraw. Each one is good for 1000 gallons of water.

      • The problem with the ‘LifeStraw’ is that it’s so slow and ponderous, it’s a royal PITA for families of multiple people.

        And it has a limited capability of water volume before the filter is clogged.

        The ‘hand squeeze’ ones are more expensive, but can filter a lot more gallons of water before it’s clogged…

  5. Used milk jugs are effectively free and perfect for you know, storing potable liquids. Also great in that they are more divisible than a big barrel. It makes it easy to share them with neighbors.

    For flushing water we used to fill a bath tub prior to a known weather event. If your drain plug is not tight you can line the tub with a shower curtain to water proof it.

    If you were to find yourself visiting Aunt C. and she had zero preparations you can turn off the pilot light or circuit breaker to a water heater and drain 40 or more gallons from it. There will be sediment in the water but you can let it settle in a tall pan and ladle clear water off the top.

    Regarding gasoline generators, refueling them when hot can be tricky as you are pouring a volatile fuel directly over a hot motor. Disconnecting the factory tank and running a line to a boat gas tank with a quick disconnect fitting is an easy way to increase your run time and take the hazard out of refueling. Six gallons is a standard size tank which is more than a lot of generators have to start with. If you have a second tank it is possible to switch tanks while the motor is running. Do shut down periodically to check your oil level though.

    • Basher,

      I started out the same — repurposing empty milk cartons as potable water storage containers. For reasons that I do not understand, something like 25% or more of them somehow develop cracks and start leaking after a couple years.

      My new solution is very inexpensive and infinitely durable for all intents-and-purposes: I keep about 10 of those handy 5-gallon buckets (and lids) that you can find everywhere for water storage. I have never known a 5-gallon plastic bucket to crack when it just sits inside your home or garage. And it is small enough that you can pick it up and carry it around. (For reference I think I purchased generic 5-gallon buckets and lids for $3 at my local hardware store.)

      Important note: do not keep drinking water in standard (inexpensive) plastic 5-gallon buckets unless you are really desperate. Use those inexpensive 5-gallon buckets to store water for cleaning, bathing, washing dishes, flushing toilets, etc. If you want to keep drinking water in a 5-gallon bucket, then spend the extra money for food-grade plastic buckets. Even then, I would try to avoid keeping them full of drinking water for years. Instead, fill them with drinking water before the weather event happens — or keep them full (and lids sealed) and empty/refill them every month or something along those lines.

  6. ‘…during the period with the lowest temperatures (single digits)…’ – LOL. We had -26F.

    Good write up. I might suggest a 4 wheel drive vehicle in case the snow doesn’t melt off before supplies run out.

    • Having lived most of my life farther north, I know how to drive in the snow…unlike most Austinites who grew up here or migrated from California. So I had no problem navigating less than a mile on snowy/icy streets to get more gas with a small front wheel drive SUV.

      • I know how to drive in snow and ice also, but to leave our house you must climb a VERY steep hill, shaded and covered with 4-6 inches of snow topped with about an inch of solid ice. No go, not with AWD, not with chains, a winch would probably work. We had plenty of food and water, lost power the first day and went to stay in a motel (snow hadn’t fallen yet), power back on the next day and never lost it again. But I guess I will have to buy a generator of some type this summer, since we could not have left later on, and a power loss would have been a big problem. Does anyone know if there is a way to siphon gas from a contemporary car? I was a siphoning champ when I was a kid, but last time I tried all the kinks and smog controls made it impossible. I keep my cars fueled up in the winter, mostly for emergency shelter, but some usage for a generator might also be possible if I could get the gas out!

        But, Dan, I have a question you did not answer. What were your sleeping arrangements? 53 degrees can be handled with layers of clothing, as you say, but I do not have such available for our beds. Do you sleep fully dressed, or what?

      • I was in Dallas the Wednesday before. I was very disappointed in the lack of 60 degree weather. Dodged ice storms all the way down and back. 5 straight days below zero (highs and lows) here when I got back. Just curious how many pile ups they had there. Dallas has a reputation for people forgetting that they can’t drive 80mph in snow and ice.

    • In the major cities or south of Austin, a 4WD would be nice but not necessary. They had roads somewhat open by Tuesday.
      In parts of west Texas and the hill county, a 4WD was just as useless as a bicycle. Sunday dropped 1-2″ of solid ice before the snow hit, and that ice stayed there. Remember, no salt on the roads, no snow plows, mostly no sand either, so you didn’t even know where the roads were. A 4WD F250 driven by a former Alaskan pipeline worker couldn’t get up the farm’s driveway until Wednesday. It just kept sliding back down our hill. (The driveway is dirt and a mile long.) Unless you had chains, it was a no-go.
      We were fine. Plenty of everything. Took others in.

  7. Good article, Dan.

    Katrina was my come to Jesus moment in regards to preparedness. Just watching it unfold on television made me realize that when things go sideways, no one is coming to help you.

    We’re not prepared for doomsday, but we could easily get by for a couple of months with what we keep on hand.

  8. Congrats to all posting here on your thoughtful preparedness!!

    Regarding potable wather, we do not like storing water in plastic. Instead, we use wine bottles (which are always a pleasure to empty) as well as other glass bottles. Wash, fill with water filtered through our AlexaPure water filter, then 10 minutes of ozone water purification. Over the years, we’ve built a supply of around 500 bottles. I figure, for our family of 3, that is a 2 month supply, maybe 3 months with stricter rationing.

    Regarding the generator, I run ours for 10 minutes almost every weekend, to make sure it works when needed.

  9. how much electricity are those heaters pulling?
    I have a 6500 watt generator that I use to run the furnace/blower motor, well pump, the fridge, some lights and the TV/internet if the cable isn’t out.
    You can get a transfer box for just the furnace/blower motor that you can plug a standard heavy duty extension chord into.

        • Agree. I have two of them. One will keep my shop warm when working in there during cold. With appropriate ventillation they will keep the house warm in an emergency.

        • Thanks much for the tip. I have portable oil heaters like Dan that I can run off the vehicle inverter if need to. Now I’m on the hunt for one of these after watching reviews.

        • Manse Jolly,

          If you are trying to run 1,500 watt electric heaters off of a vehicle inverter, you better have the engine running because that would drain your vehicle battery in about 15 minutes give-or-take. (Just one 1,500 watt electric heater would require 125 amps from your 12-volt battery.)

          For that matter, having your engine running might not even be enough since many alternators will not produce 125 amps — and even alternators which are rated higher than 125 amps have to provide current to vehicle operation which, combined with the power draw of just one electric heater, could exceed your alternator’s capability.

          When it comes to emergency area heating, propane or wood (not batteries) is the way to go.

        • Your typical vehicle alternator generates only what is needed at the time, and is not built for a sustained full load. The duty cycle for normal operation will be approximately 1/3, or 30-40%, but may be higher if you crank the whompa-whompa music and fire up all your lights. A typical 125 amp alternator is not built to generate 125 amps for more than a few minutes. It can be used to power a small inverter for a few light bulbs, but not much more than that. Better off with a regular generator or two, along with a variety of pigtails and heavy cords.

  10. For almost no additional cost, you can greatly increase the heat output of an oil-filled heater like that. Applies to any source of unforced heat, such as a wood stove.

    Heat transfer RATE is proportional to temperature DIFFERENCE (that’s why cryogenic liquids are hazardous). Placing even a small fan to blow across the heated surface moves the hot air away faster than convection can, and replaces that hot air that is adjacent to the surface with cold air. The cold air can then more readily accept the heat that you’re already paying for. It’s why your truck radiator has a fan — get the hot air adjacent to the coils out of the way so that more heat can be rejected to the incoming cold(er) air.

  11. I’ve lived like this for years. I spent 17 years of my life in California with the constant threat of earthquakes. I still carry emergency supplies in my vehicle.

    People have been lulled into a false sense of security for decades. Many still won’t be prepared, even with the next crisis. They think the government cares about them.

    Choose your friends wisely.

  12. I saw the forecast and filled up my vehicles gas tank last weekend. Since I was expecting for the power to go out and my stove is electric, I bought enough cooked food (or uncooked and cooked it) to get through a few days. My plan was to place the food in a cooler outside if the power went out. I live in a critical circuit area so my power never went out. I always have enough cases of bottled water, flashlights and batteries. And of course I always have guns and ammunition ready.

    I’m single, no kids. I don’t know how people with families don’t prepare for something like this.

    One of the good things about being in Austin is that electricity is cheap (compared to other places I’ve lived), and the Austin city council pre-determines the rates, so we don’t have to worry about getting a $15,000 bill next month.

    • Rumor has it that may not be correct. We’ll see. I’ve got my electric bill set up to be paid automatically each month, if I get a $15,000 bill that will be a problem.

  13. There is a helpful survival maxim called the “Rule of Threes” which helps us realize/remember that most people cannot survive more than three hours without heat, three days without water, and three weeks without food.

    What that tells us is that shelter (with life conducive environment — not too hot nor too cold) is the first and foremost priority, followed quickly by our need for water. Thus, those should be our two top priorities.

    As for heat, I keep two 30-pound propane tanks and two propane heaters at the ready at all times. If natural gas becomes unavailable, I can close off most of my home and use that heat for a small area that I would also close-off and insulate. If natural gas is still available without electricity, then a gasoline or natural gas powered generator enables you to operate your home’s furnace with proper wiring. In that case, do NOT run your generator continuously. First of all, you will burn through your gasoline far too fast. Second of all, that will attract unwanted attention from bad actors. Instead, fire up your generator and run for maybe one hour while you crank you furnace. Then shut it down for several hours until you home is getting really cold and repeat the cycle. That technique will keep you warm enough for several days on a minimal amount of gasoline.

    • By the way, if you are using a propane radiant heater (like the popular Propane Buddy product), make sure that you can get adequate oxygen in the room. That may require cracking a window open ever so slightly.

      I also forgot to mention another really easy and important preparation: keep an automotive size marine deep-cycle battery on continuous float/trickle charge. You can use that to power 12 volt devices directly (and there are a LOT of handy 12-volt devices) or you can use that to power an inverter for low-power devices which require 120 volts A.C. This would enable you to operate a standard household 8-watt LED light bulb for something like 40 hours on that fully charged marine battery.

  14. I live in NW Austin and we got our water back on, limited pressure, sometime during the night. When I went outside today, the copper pipe from our landlord’s water system to our rental was burst. Fortunately, I had an emergency pipe repair kit I bought 10 years or more ago in the garage. Water service back up!

    I’m going to get a few more, one is none, two is one……

  15. also buy some snow chains for your vehicles, if you have to travel and the roads are poor, better to have traction then to keep skidding around.

    • First make sure your vehicle can accept chains. Many years ago I put chains on a vehicle whose manual said NEVER, in 500 yards the chains were off and the vehicle stuck, with the brake lines torn out of 2 wheels. Not my finest hour.

  16. Didn’t have power for about 4 days here in Louisiana. Unfortunately, I had loaned out the generator a few months before to my parents up north. However, we have a fireplace and I had a massive amount of wood from cutting up a bunch of deadfall from the two hurricanes we had this summer, and a bunch of bottled water left over from those as well. Put up blankets and closed doors to confine us to just the living room, master bed/bath, and guest bath. With just the fireplace we kept it around 55-60 F in those rooms. Never expect the cavalry, expect to self-rescue.

  17. Don’t forget your hot water heater has potable water. Turn off the supply valve to prevent bad water from entering and gap off the drain at the bottom.

  18. Generally speaking my advice to people attempting to prepare for such a thing is this:

    Think of it like a winter camping trip but without leaving your house, so kinda like a “glamping” trip but without the tents… and in the winter. So get things like sleeping bags for instance. But fear not, you’re not actually doing anything super crazy so you don’t need to spend money like you just got balls deep into Alpinism (but it would be cooler if you did).

    A decent 0F bag from a good company like Marmot, North Face (they make pretty good bags, jackets not so much), Klymit, Kelty, NEMO, or ALPS is in the $200-$300 range. Don’t put it in the stuff sack, just put it in a storage sack and put it up on a shelf in the closet. Remember the rating is a comfort rating, it varies a bit from bag to bag but these things are usually perfectly safe down to 20F below their advertised rating before they need a liner. Mostly they’ll tell you this on a tag inside the bag. You don’t need a $800 ultralight mountaineering bag for this.

    Also for water I recommend an actual backcountry pump. Something like the MSR Miniworks. 2000L per filter, field cleanable etc. and will do 1L/min or faster. An extra filter is like $35. But you can also get gravity fed jobs, if you want one that looks nice on a counter Berky makes some good ones. Something like the Miniworks gives you a lot of options and works very well. Lifestraws are cool but they have serious limits on what they can do. Gravity fed, either counter-top or tree-hang style also have limitations, particularly in cold environments where you’re taking the water off the ground and letting cold air circulate all around it. Bridges freeze first for a reason, and your filter can to.

    With generators check the rating on them time-wise. My portable Generac will run for ~10 hours at 50% load off a tank. Check the wattage of your appliances and you can get a good idea of how long a tank will last. Keep in mind that with something like a refrigerator/freezer you don’t actually need to run it more than about two hours a day as long as you’re not opening the door to look around. So keep your fridge/freezers organized so that you can open the door get what you want and close it quickly. A modern fridge, in a pinch, will keep food safe for a few days without electricity provided you don’t fuck around about keeping the door open. If you do your homework up front you will find that just a few gas cans can actually last quite a long time and you don’t need a big generator to get the job done.

    The one thing that does suck about portable generators though is that you do need to watch them like a hawk so that they don’t grow legs. And don’t assume that a chain/motorcycle lock will keep it safe either. Catalytic converter and other thefts that require tools have risen enormously in recent times, meaning that people with bad intentions and the tools to act on those intentions are out there in greater numbers than usual. Someone who shows up with a battery powered reciprocating saw will make short work of your chain/motorcycle lock or will simply cut the bar you’ve attached it to.

    Propane’s nice to have for grills and flattops just in case everything goes to total shit but small backups that run on butane (usually a counter-top rice cooker type thing from an Asian grocery store) as well as camp stoves that run on IsoPro are also quite nice to have and the fuel stores essentially forever in convenient sizes. Again, for IsoPro you don’t need to go nuts on the stove. A MSR PocketRocket or similar will do fine. You don’t need one that’s expensive and fully adjustable for altitude. I do recommend buying appropriate cookware for camp stoves though, specifically the little IsoPro guys. That can run you a couple hundred but it minimizes your fuel usage nicely and in an emergency that’s what really matters.

    I also recommend having a couple of DuraLogs around. If you don’t have the space to really store firewood yet you are forced to fall back on such a thing what you get may not be perfectly cured or may have gotten wet after being cured. Using something like a DuraLog at the base of the fire allows you to build a hot fire that dries out your more-moist-than-you’d-really-like wood so that maintaining the fire when it’s “young” is far easier. Also useful to have the appropriate hand tools for dealing with wood as you may need to split a largish-log that’s cured but has gotten wet.

    • Good info. I would like to add that if your home doesn’t already have a fireplace then wood burning iron stove can be relatively easily installed (can be mounted over a non-combustible surface and the flue can be exhausted through a wall if a roof exhaust is not possible). The heat the stove radiates will condition a large space better than any fireplace.

  19. Thanks Dan, good write up of your experience. Having been stationed at Hood twice in the 80s we were shocked seeing the news of the weather event.

    Good prep suggestions by ALL as well. I’ll second strych9s Pocket Rocket suggestions, they work great.

    Generators placed in large enough hole below ground level and half covered by thick plywood will reduce noise level.

  20. You did well , congrats .

    A couple random thoughts from a retired LT from a North East FD . Candles were good for about 30 house fires a year for my dept. and that’s just a person using one here and there for atmosphere , not half the population trying to get light in their homes with them . Any candles we use are in big heavy glass jars, hard to knock over and the flame is somewhat protected being down inside the jar ,they are placed away from combustibles as well .

    What was on when the power goes out, generally comes back on with the power , we always got stove / house fires , when the power comes on because people don’t think to,turn off the burners that were on when the power first goes off .

    Generators, used to back feed , and or pigtails , were good for two fires that I went to during the last major windstorm here in 2017 . When you consider we run four shifts , and only a few houses respond to any one fire , I’d imagine that’s there was many more . Use a transfer switch , maybe even one put in by an electrician , or power a few individual items .

  21. Thanks for sharing your experience, Dan. Your proved the importance of preparedness. A transfer switch with a separate electrical box is a must in my opinion and it makes things simple and much safer when you do need to crank up the generator. We have one in our current house and had in our previous one, as well.

  22. Dan, I’m wondering if any of the neighbors came around asking to borrow your generator or any other supplies.

    Personally, I feel its good to help neighbors, but not at the expense of putting one’s family in a difficult situation. For example, if a neighbor borrows the generator and it gets stolen or broken, get borrowed to someone else without you knowing, etc

  23. A simple alternative to melting snow to flush your toilet is your in house water reserve. I am talking about your hot water heater. It will have 30 to 80 gallons of clean water and all have a drain valve on them. A hose and a bucket is all that required to access the water but for drinking purposes run a few gallons out where there may be sediment.

    • You would need to be sure to power off the water heater. If electric, and the elements come on, they would damage themselves and have to be replaced. And if gas, you wouldn’t want the be heating an empty tank. That could destroy it.

  24. I have a couple strings of led Christmas lights in my supplies. A boarded up house (hurricane prep) is a dark dark place. Christmas lights sip electricity, are effectively bright, and “festive”

    A shorter string will last a fair time with an inverter/12v system too.

  25. If there is some warning, a water BOB will hold ~50-100 gallons of water in your bathtub.
    You simply place the single use bladder in the tub and fill from the spigot, there is an included hand pump to remove the water. This water should be drinkable since it comes direct from the tap but if it does leak for some reason, it’s still toilet flushing useable, with no grass or other contamination.
    Check the internet, about $20.

  26. Only lost power for a few hours to clear branches. I get juice from one of those ditty, icky, coal fired plants so it’s pretty reliable.

    We stocked up before the storm, plenty of my favorite drinks and food; then I stacked some firewood but since I only heat a few nights this far south, it wasn’t nearly enough. I had some propane but did need to refill that as well near the end but the roads were passable (I may get a few #60 tanks for extra padding). I’ll also eventually build a wood barn but I have other priorities right now.

    I don’t trust grid heating (electricity) because one cold night will literally destroy my livelihood. Old and stupid methods as a main source of heating are the best, aka, wood. Propane is the backup and Electricity is supplemental or only used on not so cold nights.

    Aside from some of my prized plants getting severely damaged (but not dead), and having to refill a hungry stove every 4-8 hours, there wasn’t too much inconvenience.

    If I had more disposable money then I would have better stores but you work with what you got.

  27. Only thing I would add regards the storing of cans of gasoline inside the garage. In general, not a good plan. If at all possible, they should be kept in a separate building, away from the house or garage.

  28. Just keep a pto generator, a semi truck, a dump truck, 3 tractors and a backhoe. Don’t let living in the subdivision and neighbors stop you from having this bare minimum. I’ve got a transfer switch, it runs the whole house. By the time I use up all that diesel I’ll already be fighting off the neighborhood.

    I burn wood in an outside boiler and a inside fireplace, I have enough oak whiskey barrel staves to last 3-4 years.

    As far as drinking water, all of that can freeze so you’re just wasting you’re time. It’s much more safe to store cases of hard liquor, preferably bourbon which already comes in convenient glass bottles.

    Seriously though, I have a bunch of those 5 gallon water cooler things they sell at the stores just for convenience. Since I have city water, a spring, a pond, and a river on my property I feel ok about water.

    I keep a decent amount of food in pantry and more commodity food in the basement. I usually have a couple tons of corn so I guess I could always eat that with dog food after half a year or so.

    The one thing I would like to have is a 4 wheel drive vehicle. I really don’t understand why I don’t have one, I guess I just like getting stuck and pulling it out with the tractors.

  29. I suggest you start and run your generator at least quarterly for one hour under load (a bathroom heater works fine). This will increase the reliability of it starting. I have used stabilizer and have stored gasoline over 2 years with no problems. I keep the generator fueled with stabilizer and a little carburetor cleaner so I can start it quickly.

    • Agree.

      I have 3 generator sets (two is one, one is none.. truth).
      Right now only 1 works, i’ve been putting off cleaning the carbs on the other two and while they do run, they struggle to make full load power, so this summer they’re getting torn down.
      I run the marine stabil fuel, so far some of my oldest gas is about 10 years old and still burns.
      Just did that as a test. I like to cycle my fuel out every 2-3 years and just burn it in my woods truck and fill the gens with new. my cans get cycled during summer in lawn equipment so they’re always fresh.

  30. Good writeup Dan, really appreciate your information. I worked in emergency preparedness for the military. They have great checklists but rarely use them. Set up your own checklist and USE it!

    1. We have an instantaneous hot water heater, thus we have two 55 gallon food grade drums in the garage, we drain and fill them every two years.

    2. If you have the money, go all out for a generator but remember, they are EMERGENCY generators. They don’t have to run all the time. Not everything in the house has to run all the time.

    3. Most people who are handy and not afraid of electricity can install a SMALL transfer switch. makes it easy.

    4. Long term food we have but also MRE’s and a well stocked fridge and pantry help a lot.

    5. Some states require some gas stations to have generator backup and some require their natural gas suppliers to provide battery backup for natural gas pumps if electric fails. Check with your Public Service Commission.

    6. Don’t depend on the government to come to your rescue. Think Katrina, the California wild fires and Texas.

    • Your comment on the lack of a hot water heater reminded me.

      I was worried about not being able to flush toilets during outages or drinking water as I have a well.
      So when I did my plumbing I installed two really large pressure tanks, this gives me about 160 gallons of water even with no power which is a lot of flushing. You can run more than one pressure tank with no issues, just takes the pump longer to refill. If you have city water, even better, just make sure there’s a check valve so it doesn’t back feed.

      Side note, I run my gen to the whole house now and my well pump only draws about 7 amps of 220 so as long as i can run the gen I can pump water.
      Hot water however…. Since the water heater is 4500 watts, it takes all my 5000 watt gen has to feed it which uses fuel quick, I have 8500 watt ones that can hold the load but again, that’s a lot of fuel. so we just do without hot water unless its an absolute must and rarely is.

  31. Tips from the frozen north.

    Easiest way to use a generator on a budget. Transfer boxes are ok but they’re expensive and only have dedicated items attached.
    What we do is have a cord made for the generator that has two male plugs (don’t zap yourself), runs from the generators twist lock to a standard welding/dryer-range plug.
    When the power goes out we shut the main disconnect breaker off as well as any high load devices that aren’t needed like the electric water heater and electric furnace as they are big power consumers and often too big for the generator. Then once the generator is hooked up and running we flip the breaker to the plug the generator is on. This provides 220 power to the entire house, you can turn everything off to conserve power and fuel but this allows you to turn lights on in any room without flashlights and basically enjoy freedom of movement in your home.
    Power comes back on just shut off the plug breaker, and turn everything else back on.

    Backup heat, obviously wood is great but in Texas I would consider utilizing the natural gas or propane. Another good option would be installing a pellet stove, most either need very little 110V power to run a fan or use no power at all, exhaust vents are small and easy to install and a few bags of pellets would keep you warm for a week or longer.
    Try to avoid running heat off the generator as you are basically converting gasoline to heat very inefficiently, this causes you to run through your fuel supply faster.
    Those propane buddy heaters are amazing, propane stores for nearly forever. Kerosene heaters are annoying, used to use them all the time when i was younger. Would pick propane first.
    Place your generator away from your house, spend the extra $30 and get 20 more feet of cord. We had a house fire this winter here, total loss, generator caught fire, burned the house. Added note, use fuel stabalizer like StaBil fuel, worth it, buy the marine kind. Change the fuel out every 5 years min, cans are easy, once a year dump em in your car and go refill them.

    Water… Gallon jugs of store bought are fine, buy one or two every grocery trip and you’ll be stocked quick. No need to reuse old jugs, but if you do, add a few drops of chlorine to keep bacterial growth down.
    Life straws are ok when hiking. But at home just buy those water filter pitchers like Britta, this way you can do many gallons and keep filters on hand. Straws are great for survival but just that, survival amounts, not family sustainable.

    Camping section in stores has water treatment tablets or drops, pick up a few and keep stored with supplies so you can source water if you run out.
    Keep fire starting items. If you aren’t going full post apocalyptic, no need for flints. just buy a few packs of disposable lighters, no sense working harder than you have to.

    Food, easy one. Large jugs of protien shake mix, buy one or two, it will keep you alive for weeks, stores for about 4-5 years. Add to that comfort items like pastas, dry good, etc.. typical storage items.

    Again, honestly, to keep work in 0 degree weather, a buddy propane heater in a single room will sweat you out. I run one in my hunting shack and its made of plywood. Buy the adapter to hook to a grill sized tank, get a few 20-30 lb tanks. The small tanks are ok but don’t take long to drain.

    Really though, pellet stove if you can afford it.

    Having items like this never makes sense to people who see them never being used, but just like carrying a firearm, when you do need it, WOW are you glad its there!

    • Please do not fabricate and use a double ended male cord in the fashion that Bob described. They are called “Suicide Cords” for a reason. Running individual cords to separate loads is a mild annoyance but fine as a temporary situation. If you want to use your existing house wiring then pay to have a proper transfer switch put in.

      The rest is pretty spot on but if you run a buddy heater off a 20 lbs cylinder be sure to use a filter on the line as tiny bits of contaminant from a larger refillable tank can foul out the small pilot light nozzle.

    • I have 2 of the Mr. Buddy propane heaters. I hook them to a 100 pound propane tank for backup heat. They work great. I use the same tank in the summer for the grill and smoker if the propane is not used the preceding winter then refill it in the fall. I also have 2 of the standard size grill tanks for backups to the backup. I also have a small wood stove in the shop that can be retro fitted into the house if necessary. The weather incident in Texas only goes to show that in a long term Grid down SHTF situation most of the population will not survive. Which may not necessarily be a bad thing. Never before in the history of humanity has the gene Pool needed a large dose of Chlorine more than now. Keep Your Powder Dry.

      • Just remember, the Mr.Heat buddy heaters aren’t vented, they still produce CO / carbon monoxide, although at the “safe” levels of 30PPM, which is why they still require a small opening like an open window to operate safely.

        I don’t recommend it, but you can get away with running a patio or large tank top heater inside for 20-30 minutes, make sure you keep a CO detector / meter beside it to warn of any build up and don’t leave it unattended. I can run a heater on low in my smaller greenhouse and get around 75-150PPM buildup which is hazardous, but it take all night to build that up.

    • Get a lot of toothpaste with the protein powder since it will cause plaque and tarter buildup unlike anything else.

  32. When hearing of the news about the troubles in Texas, I had to chuckle, what? These people never imagined something bad can happen? I have a different perscective.
    Growing up in a small town in Alaska the hydroelectric powerhouse was actually 200 feet away from our small house. Many times there would be a parts failure resulting in at least a week or longer wait for parts to arrive by floatplane from the lower 48.
    We had stove oil and wood burning stove for heat. As a child, remember hauling 5 gallon buckets of watter from a nearby stream. We were always prepared and never had a crisis.

    60 years later, I have always been prepared, wood burning stove, standby generator, food stores, guns & ammo and deer in my back yard. Really simple, it’s about making choices. I don’t play video games, I chop wood.

    Face facts, people are lazy and make bad decisions that are enforced by thier stupid friends or parents. They make the same stupid choices in finance and life. If you are homeless in America you, would be dead any where else in the world. so screw you, no one cares about your shitty excuses.

    A successful life is really simple, #1. Graduate high school, #2. Don’t have children out of wedlock, #3. Get a job, be the best employee until you get a new and better job, and last, #4. Read something everyday. It’s really that simple.
    For the rest, My sympathy is on zero, suffer no fools.

  33. Bob, the connection with two plugs is known as a Dead Mans connection. Because it creates Dead Men.
    Transfer switches are not expensive to 4 to 6 circuits.
    Unless you want all items powered in your house 24/7x
    If you treat it like an emergency, only powering critical circuits, the switches run $250 to $450. The instructions are for anyone who is handy. I’d recommend thinking about that connection as you aren’t just powering a receptacle you are powering the entire circuit (occupants may think the other receptacle is not powered) and if you haven’t turned off your breaker to that circuit, when power comes on you will have fun.
    Take care and good luck.

    • Covered all that.

      Again, talking disaster surviving, not luxury.
      Read below.

      Also its only dangerous if the power is live while unplugged. Really, if you’re scared, don’t do it.
      I do it all the time because its convenient for me since my welder plugs are located in the same handy areas.
      Yes you have to shut the house main off, Yes you can power the whole house, No it isn’t different than how your house is normally wired as it still uses a breaker.
      Having the power come on while your generator is plugged in usually results in burned wires in the gen set or popped breakers as the phases don’t usually match.
      No real “fun” to be had, 99% of the time you wouldn’t be able to tell except the gen stops making power anymore.

      Also why would “occupants” think your outlets aren’t powered and what would they be doing with them during a power outage anyhow? Does your SO often rewire your outlets when the power goes out?

      As for something like leaving a blender plugged in and forgetting its turned on, well, you have that issue even without a generator. Power will come back at some point and then you can have your “fun”.

      As with any disaster situation, you can’t be dumb or bad things happen easily to you.
      If you can’t be smart, just don’t, wait for help to find you.

  34. One other important point is to take care of your pipes. I grew up in a rural Colorado house with electric heat and an electric well pump, so when the electricity went out, we lost everything and would huddle around the fireplace (probably few and far between in TX). You should drain your pipes so that 1) you get the potable water that’s stuck in the pipes, and 2) you prevent the water from freezing and bursting the pipes. If you don’t have a dedicated drain, put a container under your lowest spigot (often outside), and open the rest from highest to lowest. Leave them open until the water comes back on.
    Toilet tanks are also an emergency source if you don’t use in-tank detergents or chemicals.

  35. Don’t know why it won’t let me replay to BASHer above, but anyhow.

    Don’t make a double male cord if you’re afraid of it. However I wouldn’t call it a “suicide cord” as it’s only 220 but I get it, if you’re scared, don’t do it. But survival situations differ from “code compliant” guidelines. You can also just hard wire a regular male/female setup and accomplish the same task. As an Electrical Engineer I am well aware of how this works.

    By all means though if you have the money to buy and have installed a full house transfer box and Generac full house generator on automatic switch gear and auto start, go for it.

    But those off the beaten path tips like wiring your natural gas furnace into your generator so your whole house is warm can be life savers.
    You have a better chance of death by single digit temps than you do getting nipped off 220, yea its uncomfortable but that’s about it.

  36. Hurricane Ike left us in the dark and the Houston humidity for a week. My neighbor across the street had a standby generator. Listening to that generator for a week was enough for me. We have a Kohler 20kw standby generator. When power goes off, it starts up and we have power again in less than ten seconds. Our computers and router are on UPS’s, so they don’t even shut down. Through the freeze and the “guard duty schedule” blackouts (2 hours on, 4 hours off), the generator started up 15+ times and ran a cumulative 48-50 hours. $10,000 installed, $350 a year maintenance. Typically, we lose power 2 or 3 times a year and usually for less than an hour. Twice, though, we’ve had longer outages, and the situation in Texas seems to unsolvable so far, as long as it is just a political argument.

  37. Had a whole house transfer switch in previous home wired by electrical contractor. This house had a 240v welder outlet in garage. I made a LONG cable to run from generator (so it can be moved outside) to welder plug.
    I can plug cable in at both ends, start generator, close breakers on generator. open main breakers, then close breaker from generator. NOTHING live bare. I even color coded breakers with model paint and wrote a procedure so the wife can do if I’m not there.

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