Our area was hit on Wednesday April 29Th by the tornadoes that came through Alabama. It was a long day beginning with tornado sirens going off around 5:30 AM and continuing on and off throughout the day, all the way until around 5 PM. We had multiple waves of cells come in with torrential downpours. My front yard was underwater and we gained a creek in the back yard where water flowed down the elevation in the yard. All day the sirens went off with each cell and tornadoes were being spotted all around us, heading our way. Around 4 PM our electricity went off. All the transmission lines were destroyed so most of upper AL was without power, knowing it would be probably a minimum of 5 days to get lines back up.
Since we knew it would be days we decided to get up early and head to Nashville, TN, about 90 miles north of us, so that we could look for a generator to keep our freezer food from spoiling. We went to Sams and Walmart and got extra water, peanut butter crackers, goldfish crackers, peanut bars, large package of hot dogs, hamburger patties, extra batteries, eggs, ham, 2 large gas containers, 2 large water containers, chips, beenie weenies, spaghettios, Lara bars, and cash. We first bought a 1500 watt generator for $200 minus 10% because my husband asked if they were giving a discount to AL residents and the guy gave him one! Always ask! Later, we ran into my husband's boss and he told us about a place that had 5000 watt generators for $450 so we got that one. We sold the smaller one to friends. We made sure to fill our tank and also the gas containers before heading home and also ate a meal in TN.
Having a generator was great. I was able to use food from the freezer and keep stuff cold which gave us many more options over canned food. We used our grill and a camp stove and pretty much camped in luxury for a few days. We had friends over, the kids had friends spend the night, we made a campfire for smores each night, family went to clean debris on two different days, and hung out together. The devastation is horrible. One church member lost his daughter in the storm that hit the University of Alabama. Our church assisted another member's parents sift through debris and clean up who survived a direct hit which destroyed their home. The dad was in the bathtub and the mom and sister in a closet. The mom and sister were sucked out and redeposited somewhere else injuring them with multiple broken bones. A family from our old church lost their home. A coworker of my husband had his house moved off the foundation about 20 feet and the roof torn off. Our former pastor of 11 years in Florida is now in Tuscaloosa. His church was heavily damaged and his wife is in 3rd week of chemo/radiation. Many many people that have lost all they have and it is heart breaking. The beauty is how our community has come together to help one another. People will give all they have to assist others. The gas stations and grocery stores opened using generators to operate. The utility workers have worked around the clock to bring life back to our community. We had church Sunday without power or lights. It was so great to come together to love one another and thank God for our safety and pray for all the ones affected.
I had just bought a peculator the week before. I don't drink coffee, so it was odd that I bought it. My husband loves me. We used it to heat water for tea also. I had a set of camp pots and pans I bought at a garage sale and had never used. They are really good to have. I always pick up candles at garage sales, even the wonky ones. They are great to have. I keep an extra propane tank for the grill at all times and small ones for the camp stove. We couldn't go long without electricity, though. Using the grill to cook uses a lot of gas and we would be in trouble if we had to do it an extended time.
We had hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled chicken, grilled pork loin, roasted potatoes, corn, sauteed onions, green beans, and even a peach cobbler using my home canned peaches and a gluten free batter. I had a hard time having anything gluten free when the family ate sandwiches, spaghettios, and such. I tried each flavor of Lara bars and am going to get a couple of boxes from Sams to keep on hand. I also need to can some gluten free soups and stews.
The solar yard lights work to bring in at night or recharge AA batteries. Our favorite lighting was stand up lanterns. Candles didn't put off as much light and the kids seemed to play with them. I worried about leaving a room with one lit for fear they would catch the house on fire. I have an oil lamp that I never got out. I also have head lights I didn't get out. I found that my kids really messed around with the matches and lighter sticks. I put them on the bar so I would know where they were and when I got up at 3 AM couldn't find them. I sat a flashlight, all I could find, on my shoulder to light a book to read. I will still buy candles at garage sales because they are so cheap and good to set around. If I was unable to keep batteries in our lanterns they would be very useful. We like to light them for regular use also, so they are worth keeping.
The first night it was storming after we lost electricity and the tornadoes had passed us. We couldn't use the grill or camp stove. We had no way to heat anything. I am going to get a box of the heat packs that soldiers use to heat their MREs. I have also seen where you make a table stove that uses a hanger bent with legs and a surface to hold a pot. You place 3 tea light candles under the pot to heat food.
I think all in all we had food, water, gas, a way to cook, light and all we needed to survive a few weeks without power. The generator was a bonus. If I didn't find one I was planning to can some of the freezer stuff using our turkey fryer. May have worked and may not have, I haven't tried that. I have a few things I want to try or do now. I have not pressure canned and want to make up some soups, canned meat, canned beans, canned broth. I want to try the tea light stove. And I have wanted to make a solar oven with the boys for awhile. That would have been fun to try to cook some meals in a solar oven. I also want to make some sun tea by paining a milk carton black to help absorb the heat of the sun. It is all kind of fun...except for the major loss to many.