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Monday, May 16, 2011

Armageddon At Your Doorstep, Part 3

Blogger kinda put a kink in my book tour. Fortunately, I'm taking a break today so I can bring you the last installment of how we survived Hurricane Rita.

Here's a breakdown on where I'll be this week.

Tuesday: 'My First Book' with Misha where I'll talk about world building.
Wednesday: 'RT Reviews' where I'll tell you about the imminent Chicken Zombie Apocalypse
Thursday: I'll discuss the three layers of promotion at 'Tony Eldridge'.
Friday: At 'Embrace The Shadows' I'll share the reasons I chose the types of promotion I did.

You can still comment at ParaJunkee or The Galaxy Express for a chance to win a copy of Apocalypse Rising.  I'll choose a winner for each place this Friday, 5-20-11

On to the last installment.

The following article was to appear in a country magazine, but I pulled it when the publisher and I disagreed on appropriate compensation. This article is copyrighted. Please do not reprint without permission. Part Three of Three. Go here for Part One. Go here for Part Two.

Armageddon At Your Doorstep by Maria Zannini
Part 3 of 3

Once I arrived things improved marginally. Greg concentrated on limbing trees that buried our power line. I worked alongside him during daylight hours, dragging brush and building enormous mountains of burnable debris. At night, we switched to clean-up detail and slowly started to put the house in order.

The nastiest job was cleaning out the refrigerator and both freezers. I think I slept with the smell of bleach on my hands for at least a week. Nothing could be trusted to be sanitary and I scoured every inch of the kitchen by lantern light. 

Losing refrigeration tries even strong stomachs. I double and triple-wrapped the rotting food and immediately loaded the bags onto an open trailer. We hauled them to a special dumpsite, the mammoth dumpsters so burdened you could no longer recognize them as bins. It was a giant mountain of refuse where gulls and rats patrolled the area for easy pickings.

Over the years we’ve used our emergency supplies for minor crises, but until this experience we had never needed to rely on them this much or for so long. By the time it was over, our supplies were nearly depleted.

Fortunately, as our reserves dwindled, the city was coming back to life.

Grocery stores and gasoline stations opened for a few hours each day. Clerks armed with flashlights guided customers to darkened corners of their stores for what was left of their supplies. FEMA and the Red Cross had lines wrapped around parking lots.

There was no violence in our community. No anger. I think when it came right down to it, people were too tired to fuss, complain or waste energy. There was so much to do.

As for ourselves, as long as we had gasoline for the generator, it made life bearable. At night, we’d run the generator long enough to cool the house down and get some sleep. But there was nothing we could do about the mosquitoes. Despite drenching ourselves in bug repellent, they swarmed on us like a black fog. I felt sorry for the out-of-state linemen trying to restore power. To them it must have looked like a plague of biblical proportions.

We were without power for twenty-one days. And while the city immediately set to work on restoring electricity and a potable water supply, we continually had problems with our lines and pipes on our side of the property line.

Our area crawled back into the 21st century on its hands and knees. Even today, the tree line looks like a bad haircut. But we managed, and we survived. The experience brought out the best of our community. Neighbors helped neighbors, strangers became friends, and we never again took simple conveniences like running water and light for granted.

I made a list of things from our emergency reserve that we used on a regular basis. Now that I know better, I’ll also stock more medical supplies. Injuries occurred frequently and we went to bed every night sore and exhausted.

Aside from the usual things most of us stock, this list comprises those items we used most. Our home emergency kit includes:

• Flashlights. Battery and hand-cranked

• Hand-cranked radio. A lifesaver. Communication with the outside world is imperative especially if you’re isolated.

• Butane lighter or matches

• Rope/chains

• Duct tape. It repairs darn near everything.

• Bleach 

• Mosquito repellent

• Work gloves. We wore ours out. Always keep extra

• Extra socks

• Calendar. Things became a blur as one day melted into the next. The calendar kept us organized. 

• Pen and paper. It’s easy to forget things when you have so much to handle. Write everything down.

Food: This is an entry unto itself. In the past I always stocked food that had a long shelf life and easy to prepare. Now, I take our emotional well-being into account and throw in comfort food like sweets and complex meals that require cook time. When you’re beaten and stressed, even something as simple as a pudding cup tastes special.

Water: Because of the tremendous heat and the work, we drank gallons every day. Store more than you think you’ll need. If your water is out, you’ll need to wash with bottled water too. Fill extra bottles from the tap before a major storm.

Med Kit: Aside from prescription drugs, we used a lot of aspirin and painkillers. Other useful things:

• antiseptic
• alcohol
• petroleum jelly
• bandages
• tape and scissors
• waterless soap (Since we didn’t have water, this came in handy.)

The most important item of all is perseverance and you won’t find that in any emergency kit. You have to supply that on your own. We came home to an overwhelming disaster knowing we were going to be without for a very long time. We paced ourselves, working as long as we could and making a little headway each day.

We were lucky. We saved our home with a lot of sweat and muscle. But a lot of that also came from preparation and patience. Now that you’ve finished reading this story, I hope you’ll check your own supplies and make a list. No one can predict a major disaster, but you can prepare for it--and outlast it.

It was a brutal existence for a few weeks, but I was proud of us for making it. I just hope I never have to relive that in this lifetime. :grin:

What's the worst emergency you've ever had to endure?


Angela Felsted said...

Wow. We have some emergency supplies, but not nearly enough. Usually, before a storm hits, we fill all our tubs with water. But I always thought that was more for flushing toilets in case we lost power.

I've heard rubbing alcohol is useful for cleaning in emergencies and that paper plates and utensils are really valuable for preserving water.

I'm glad you guys survived. The worst disaster we went through was last year when we had this really bad snow storm and we didn't have power for a couple days.

The nights were really cold and I worried the pipes would freeze and my kids would turn into popsicles. But we survived it. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: I would much rather have a disaster in the summer than the winter. I'm glad you made it all right. Bad enough to risk creating kid-cicles, but broken pipes--oy!

Ref: paper plates, etc
Yes! They are a must-have.

Liz Fichera said...

I am so ill-prepared compared to you, Maria. Your story was a good wake-up call for me.

Maria Zannini said...

Liz: I was surprised we weren't as prepared as I thought we would be. It was a real life lesson.

Mike Keyton said...

I'm friends with a 'survivalist'. Wonderful. Great novel material here, but I can't reciprocate with any disaster on that scale. I don't think getting stuck in snow quite cuts the mustard :)

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: More survivor than survivalist. You do what you gotta do to get the job done. It's amazing the depths of perseverance when Mother Nature throws you a sucker punch.

Ref: stuck in snow
It's like the difference between a major heart attack and a minor one.

It's a major heart attack if it happens to you. It's minor when it happens to some other guy. :)

Madeleine said...

Your experiences make me realise how much we rely on modern technology and that our ancestors would cope much better in some ways. Great post.
My most recent emergency was the cat having his 4th lots of stitches and he's not yet 2yrs old! :O)

Maria Zannini said...

Madeleine: I have to be honest. Animal emergencies upset me much more than catastrophes. I'd rather face ten hurricanes than one emergency vet visit.

Suzanne Brandyn said...

I don't think I've had to live through an emergency as you have.

I was in the Newcastle earthquake in Aus years ago, buildings came down over us, people panicked. It was scary, loud and so unexpected. But we didn't have power out like you.

Keep well,

Maria Zannini said...

Suzanne: Oh man! Earhquakes scare the bejeebers out of me. You can't prepare for that, just survive it and hope it doesn't shake everything apart.

Glad everything turned out all right.

jackie b central texas said...

In my lifetime I have not had anything of the magnitude of what you lived through Maria... My parents had it happen twice with Hurricanes where they were wiped out and had to start over, once before I was born and once when I was 5 years old and I remember vividly how horrible that experience was for all of us because we were almost trapped by rising water and had to ride out on horseback to our closest neighbor and let the horses go free when we got there...

My parents and I made it through as did their wiener dog who rode out the floodwaters in an armchair in the house we lived in... All 5 horses survived as well, they floated over the fences and were found a few days after the waters went down on a oil well tank top!

Life is full of emergencies large and small and you and Greg have my admiration, and I hope you never have to live through one like that again either!

Shelley Munro said...

Maria - judging by your list you were more prepared than a lot of people would be. I hadn't considered things like gloves or the fact that small treats would help keep morale. Thanks for the hints.

Hubby and I were talking about a hand cranked radio/torch only today. We decided it would be handy to have around the place.

shah said...

I'm a wimp - if a disaster of this magnitude occurred I wouldn't want to be one of the survivors.

Found you from your tour. I'm a new follower and fan. Shah. X

Maria Zannini said...

Jackie: Can you imagine how difficult it would be to weather a disaster like that in years gone by? Natural disasters are always bad, but I've always felt safe in knowing that eventually the rest of the world (or at least my neighbors) will be there to help.

Maria Zannini said...

Shelley: I highly recommend the hand-cranked light and radio. Batteries are sometimes hard to come by after a natural disaster. Or in my case, the batteries are old and didn't last long.

Shah: Welcome! Don't count yourself out. We're all tougher than we look when faced with trouble.