A Survival Story, Part II


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Vern Humphrey
February 20, 2009, 05:28 PM
Some readers may remember my survival story from last February, when a tornado tore a 123-mile long swath through Arkansas. Mountain View was hit, and the hospital, ambulance service, and one critical fire station destroyed. We were cut off from the outside world (although there was some telephone service within the county.) We were without power for a week.

Not long after, we lost power for another three days when a snowstorm disrupted our jury-rigged system. Then we had two floods, one on top of the other -- producing a 100-year flood.

A few months later, the remnants of Hurricane Ike went through the Ozarks and we lost power for another six days.

Finally, on Monday, the 26th of January, we had an ice storm -- the mother of all ice storms. It began as heavy fog in freezing weather. The fog froze on the trees, sheathing them with ice. Finally, the weight of the ice was too much for the trees. They began to split and break. Power poles were broken off. People in rural areas were truly isolated -- so many trees were down that we literally had to chain-saw our way to the highway.

In my case, being 3.5 miles down a county road, 0.6 miles down a common road (shared with one other family) and a quarter mile of private drive, it took two days to cut a path out.

There was one bright spot -- although the power pole at the end of the common road was broken off, some neighbors working to clear that part of the county road realized that pole carried my phone line. They cut the pole in sections, and dragged the sections aside as best they could -- the sections were still held together by my phone line.

So I still had telephone service. Until Saturday. On Saturday, the postman came. Those sections of power pole made it a bit inconvenient for him to reach the mail box. So he thoughtfully cut my phone line, so he could drag the sections out of the way. And, of course, we can't get a cell phone signal here in the mountains. I had thought about getting a two-way radio since the last disaster, but hadn't yet got around to it.

Other than that, my survival plan worked well. First, as soon as the power went out, I cleaned out the freezer compartment of the refrigerator. I took all the frozen food downstairs and put it in the chest freezer in the basement "machine room" (which is where the heating system is, the junction box, water cut-off and so on.) The machine room also contains the chest freezer, my gun safe, and all our survival stores. I keep a 1.35 kW generator down there, along with a Coleman dualfuel camp stove and lantern.

With the freezer as full as I could get it with frozen food and freezer packs, I closed it up, took the generator outside and fired it up. For 13 days, I ran this little generator two to three times a day -- and it kept the food in the freezer solid. The value of the food saved exceeded the cost of the generator. It more than paid for itself Thirteen days of operation, two to three sessions a day, each time allowing the generator to go out of fuel, burned about nine gallons of gas.

In passing, I might note some of my neighbors have large generators, and used them for lights, TV and other purposes. This is really expensive, because these more powerful generators use a lot of fuel. And fuel can be hard to come by in a survival situation. Since the tornado last February, I keep 15 gallons of gas on hand, and use my generator for the freezer only.

I got a fire going in the Buckô stove that heats the basement, and as soon as I managed to clear a driveable way out, I started cutting the downed trees into firewood lengths, hauling and splitting then. My Buck stove will take an18" log, but I tend to cut them to shorter lengths -- makes them easier to split with my Wal-Mart splitting maul.

Over the long haul, you will find the fire will burn down at night, and you need to get a good fire started each morning. I keep at least a full box of Starter Loggs ô in the basement. These are made of wax and sawdust, and can be broken into cakes that start fires easily. If you stack split wood in the stove with a cake of Starter Logg under the stack, you don't even need kindling to start a roaring fire.

My wife is a nurse -- she's the Assistant Director of Nurses at the local nursing home. When we got warning of a coming ice storm, she packed up and went into town -- the nursing home put her and several other nurses up in a motel room, so they could keep staff on hand when other nurses couldn't get into work.

She finally came home on Friday, the 30th. And rearranged everything. Me, I was comfortable with a folding table set up in the basement with the camp stove, a pot, spoon, glass and GI canteen cup. That was all I needed. But women need more. Soon we had half the kitchen down in the basement -- pots, pans, seasonings, and so on. Plus her makeup, knitting and other essentials.

Crews from several states were working to restore power. The number of power poles broken exceeded the number of new poles on hand, and our power company had to borrow from other states. Finally, on the evening of Sunday, February 8th, the power came back on. But we didn't get telephone service until the about 6:45 PM on Friday the 13th, and only one number at that (I have a dedicated computer line, which wasn't restored.) When I went down to check on the work, the lines were merely twisted together -- the splice wasn't even wrapped with electrical tape. There was so much noise on the line, conversation was difficult, and of course, Internet connections were impossible. My dedicated computer line was restored (and the other line properly fixed) at 4:00 PM on Friday, the 20th.

As I look across Lick Fork Creek toward Johnson Ridge, the whole mountain seems to be speckled yellow -- that's raw wood showing where trees split under the weight of the ice. The timber is ruined -- anyone who was counting on selling timber will have to put that off for a generation. And, of course, the woods are full of "widow-makers" -- the spilt tops of trees still hanging by a thread.

I have already cut next year's supply of firewood from fallen and splintered limbs -- and after cutting it, I took down all the dangerous trees around the house, and now have a double supply of firewood.

The lessons here are:

 Survival disasters can occur at any time, and leave you completely cut off.

 Work with your neighbors. Help them and they will help you.

 Disasters can last so long and come so often they aren't fun anymore.

 The key to survival is to anticipate a real disaster situation and plan accordingly.

 Plan to stay where you are, if at all possible, and to stick out the disaster at home. Remember, you have far more stuff in your home than you can possibly carry if you opt to go somewhere else, and you may need all of it.

 Practice your plan. Each time you practice, make a note of what you didn't have but wish you had, and steadily improve your plan and your equipment list.

 Economize. Scarce resources (like fuel) may be difficult to replace in a survival situation. Use them sparingly.

 Choose your survival tools for utility, not for cleverness. I use a real ax, splitting maul and chainsaw, not a "multi-purpose survival tool." If I need game I use my ordinary hunting rifle, not a folding compromise "survival" weapon.

 Shoot that damn' postman!

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Rembrandt
February 20, 2009, 06:48 PM
Chin up, at least your wife & dog didn't leave you.....that story could be the basis for hit Country Western song.

tractorshaft
February 20, 2009, 07:55 PM
Good for you ole boy! Nice going. I hear they are creating a gument hotline one could call in times like these for assistance! Just think, you could have saved yourself all that work :)

Seriously, "Luck favors the prepared". Many lessons like yours are learned the "Hard Way", but folks, there is also another saying "Lessons learned hardest are best remembered"...God help us all...

Jerry

crazy-mp
February 21, 2009, 12:49 AM
I work at the new Branson Airport, I got a little taste of what you had. We had a pretty bad ice storm 2 years ago, but I didnít hear too much about people stealing generators in your neck of the woods, just curious, did you have any guns loaded, just in case?

Oh and a little piece of advice, stay out of the woods for the next few months, no joke about the widow makers.

Hungry Seagull
February 21, 2009, 01:50 AM
Great story, great read with much lesson to learn.

I watched the tornadoes on radar, both hurricanes (Ike and Gustav) also on radar, took spouse to hospital in Gustav's teeth and almost lost the vehicle to high water etc...

Saw the ice storm coming.

Where I am in the flats in central arkansas we basically canceled all non-necessary travel, canceled work for that week, gassed the cars and got them ready. Dropped a tree and chopped it up a bit, set up bins of water aside in the tub to supply the toilet for 3 people for 5 days minimum.

Broke out the emergency supplies that we constantly work on. Arranged a feeding schedule for the people in the home for 12 days on that stuff minimum, consumed very large amounts of power leading up to the ice storm's arrival by dealing with absolutely everything like laundry etc so that the house will not need anything for the next 12 days minimum.

Drilled the knock on door need help/food/shelter scenarios from neighbors. Got boots, thermals, over wear ready, good hoods, gloves etc ready.

4 days of 24/7 activity since NOAA indicated models of ice storm. Felt like the one in 2000 all over again. On that one, I told spouse to get cot or hotel room at her work. Those who did not sat on the freeway for the night going no where trying to get home at 5 pm.

Ever since that one, we have been trying really hard to basically be safe through a two week period without nothing.

Once we lost a water main. That took 7 days of no water. There was a ditch nearby that supplied water through a screen sufficent for toiletry and drinking/cooking water came from emergency stocks on hand constantly.

Guess what? We will keep losing that water main until a new one is installed. So.. at any time that water can quit and we are back to reserves. They will need to completely tear out the whole county and replace every water pipe. Aint happening any time soon. So... that is what we deal with. Food? Ok, Power and Heat? eh sometimes. But water? You gotta have it.

I just completed a restock of these supplies, among them a 4 week supply of MRE's and associated items for 3 people expected to arrive sometime in the future.

We are moving into springtime, but things like tornadoes, earthquakes, falling trees and other life things can happen at any time requiring a response of self reliance and able to assist neighbors.

Arkansas may be a little slow in time, but give it enough time and the right people, anything can be done, and done well.

A generator is planned to be installed onto the house natural gas line in the near future. We dont need stimulus, debt, credit or any of that stuff to make it happen. Just plain old fashioned savings and cold hard cash before next winter sets in.

But that generator is no good when there are still 5 trees hanging over my home. Those will be dropped this year little by little with the firewood shipped to a neighbor who has children and heats home with the wood in the winter.

Some folks back east look at the fine mansions and manicured lawns. That's all well and good. But when I see the few tiny acres I have, the game that comes and go, trees to use for wood and water that is somewhat handy I give thanks for all things good that comes from the land.

But there is one thing worth remembering. No matter how hard the breaks come when things get difficult, there will always be someone out there that can use your help if it is in your power to do it.

That is really motivating when someone may be unable or otherwise not-able bodied to get it done as we like to say in these parts.

But this one ice storm that just passed, was just about as big and mean as they get after all the years ive seen nature in the USA. Something to look at and learn from.

Vern Humphrey
February 21, 2009, 09:44 AM
I didn’t hear too much about people stealing generators in your neck of the woods, just curious, did you have any guns loaded, just in case?
I haven't heard of anyone having a generator stolen this time around -- of course, I live so far back in the woods that a thief would have to be lost to find my house. And I only run the generator during the day, right outside the walk-in doors to the basement and take it inside when it goes off.

I always have a loaded gun. I wear a gun when I walk out to get the mail. I keep an Ithaca Model 37 by the bed and a Colt New Service, as well.

Oh and a little piece of advice, stay out of the woods for the next few months, no joke about the widow makers.

No kidding! I've had to take a bunch down around the house, and that's a dangerous task.

TexasRifleman
February 21, 2009, 10:44 AM
 Plan to stay where you are, if at all possible, and to stick out the disaster at home. Remember, you have far more stuff in your home than you can possibly carry if you opt to go somewhere else, and you may need all of it.

This one is really important. So much talk of bugging out but where to?

And how much can you take with you even if you have a place to go?

Bugging IN seems to be the best approach in nearly every case.

crazy-mp
February 21, 2009, 11:59 PM
Glad to hear you exercise your 2a rights!!

What are your thoughts about the new guns in church laws? Might as well ask someone who lives there, instead of talking about it to someone in Colorado or Florida, right?

Vern Humphrey
February 22, 2009, 04:14 PM
What are your thoughts about the new guns in church laws?
I'm for it!

You notice whenever there's a massacre, it's always somewhere people can't carry guns. Prohibiting guns in churches, schools and colleges just creates soft targets.

clarence222
February 22, 2009, 08:49 PM
I feel for you, I live in Far Western KY. When Ike came through we lost power for 5 days, which given the weather and time of year was really just a hassle more than anything else. When this storm hit us starting on the 26th the temperature was much colder. Almost 1 month later and there are still homes without power.

We got lucky when our power came on Sunday the 1st in time for the super bowl. It was definately an eye opening experience to go through. We made it just fine but will not go through it again. We have a list of things to purchase that will be here by the start of next winter. Larger generator, extra kerosene heater, extra propane bottles and heaters.
With something like 95% of all Western KY out of power even if you could get somewhere you couldn't buy anything.

There were plenty of things stolen around here, nothing from us but plenty from friends and neighbors. Yes we kept our guns loaded the whole time.

I feel for you Vern We went through the same thing. The worst part of all of it was the wife friends that stayed for two weeks.

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