The big storm

This week here in Newcastle we’ve had a rather nasty storm, so bad in fact it has taken out power to about 200,000 homes initially, blown down many many trees and caused severe flooding. Fortunately I haven’t had any damage to anything, and myself and my family are in good health, although I did have to endure quite a long black-out.

I grew up in rural north-western NSW on a farm, so I have experienced many black-outs before as they were common during storms. As kids me and my brothers actually thought they were kinda fun, we’d play hide and seek around the house and play with our torches and other battery powered toys. The darkness made everything new and fun. As we got older it became a good time to study for school and catch up on books we were reading.

Consequently I was reasonably prepared for when the power went out initially, I just got out my candles, filled up some containers with water (just in case) and sat down with my collection of Footrot Flats comics to have a read and a chuckle. It was kinda nice to have a technology free evening.

My entire suburb lost power, it’s amazing how silent the place became, it felt like being back at home on the farm. I spent most of a day listening to the sounds of the wind and rain as they lashed the house, and silence in between.

During a lull in the storm I went shopping for some basics, pretty much just bread and matches. I noted many people rushing around trying to get some kind of lighting, unfortunately many places were simply sold out of candles and even battery powered lights because of the demand. I took the opportunity to get myself a good feed of take-away whilst out.

But the black-out continued, I got worried food in my fridge was going to get warm, so I went and got a bag of ice to pack in to keep the inside of the fridge cool. Normally you could expect food in your fridge to stay cold for about 12-24 hours as the ice melts, so usually you don’t need to worry, just don’t access the fridge much and it will stay cold.

Yesterday I went about getting a gas camping stove so I could cook, and a solar phone charger in case the power stayed off for longer, luckily, it came back on late yesterday afternoon for me, but the whole experience has made me think about what I should have in case just such a thing should happen again.

You should have:

  • Some means of storing fresh water, or fresh water should your supply fail.
  • Candles and torches so you can find your way around in the dark.
  • A means to Cook food that you have, a BBQ or camp stove would suffice.
  • A small emergency supply of food, usually canned or dehydrated stuff is good to have. I often have canned stuff in my house simply because it is easier to store and lasts longer. Just make sure that it’s in date.
  • A radio and batteries to hear emergency broadcasts.

Luckily I already kept most of this stuff on hand, I just didn’t have a gas stove before this time.

I’d imagine stuff like a generator would be handy to have, but I don’t have the storage space. I’m thinking of getting a few SLA batteries and setting up some electronics to charge them and make use of them for charging phones and lighting. I did buy a basic solar charger for phones, but it doesn’t have a battery, and it doesn’t seem to do a good job of charging even a small phone. I may review it when I get some better sunlight and maybe some measuring equipment for USB power.


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