Twenty-two years ago, Maine was hit with the mother of all ice storms that lasted for two days and left three inches of ice on the branches. Guess what happens to trees that have ice that thick? Lord, how their branches crack and break! On the night of the second day of the storm, I lay in bed listening to what sounded like a nonstop volley of gunshots ringing through the woods around our house as branches came down. Reverting to my Catholic girlhood, I said my Hail Marys over and over, praying that our house would not be damaged by falling branches. Perhaps Mary heard my prayers because our house was spared.
But the storm left behind a terrible swath of destruction. More than half the state lost its power, and because the weather was so cold, restoring power was difficult. Lines would no sooner be repaired when more branches would fall and break the lines again. We were without power for eleven days, and as I have noted many times, because we have a well, no power means no water. In those days, we had five people in the house, and five people go through a heck of a lot of water.
Now, from reading recent posts where I write about being prepared for, say, other ice storms or a certain nasty virus, you might think I was completely ready for the ice storm of ’98. But you would be wrong. We had no extra water stored in buckets down cellar, no supply of canned soups, no extra propane for our camp stove, not much oil for our lamps. We did have plenty of wood for our furnace, but that’s only because that’s how we heated our house back then.
So we didn’t freeze, but we struggled with all the things we didn’t have, especially water. Fortunately, the town has a public water spigot where residents can get water in a crisis such as this, but because of the treacherous roads, we couldn’t get out for a while. In addition, we weren’t caught up with our laundry as well as many other small things we take for granted when we have power.
We made do. What choice did we have? But for a while, the toilets were hideous, and we parceled out every drop of liquid we drank. As we struggled through the aftermath of the storm, I vowed we would never be caught flat-footed again. Going forward, we would have a stockpile of food, water, and supplies to help us get through emergencies big and small.
I have kept my vow. We now have a stockpile of supplies that have served us well. There have been other storms and other power outages. In 2017 we had a violent windstorm that again knocked out power to half the state, and we were without electricity for a week. (Many rural Mainers have a generator. We’ve thought about it but have not yet bought one and so far manage pretty well.)
The Coronavirus is a different type of crisis, but I am using similar methods to prepare. I know some people are probably shaking their heads when they read about how we have four or five months worth of toilet paper, facial tissues, peanut butter, and other necessities. When I look at our stockpile of treats, even I feel a little foolish. But I also feel secure knowing I have prepared the best I can for this virus.
I’ll conclude by sharing what Rhonda wrote on her excellent blog Down to Earth: “It does make sense to have extra food and medications at home to cover you if you need them. Worst case scenario, the virus will run through the community… and you’ll have enough food at home to feed everyone without having to go out. Best case scenario, the virus is a fizzer and you’ll have a cupboard full of food and you won’t have to shop for groceries for a couple of months. Win/win.”