Last weekend was a much anticipated long weekend in Canada. It was Victoria Day weekend. Brentnol and I planned to catch up on outstanding work, and the kids were looking forward to some downtime. We were all looking forward to the customary fireworks. If someone had told us we would spend the entire weekend in darkness, we would have called them crazy. Despite our discomfort, we decided to turn our adversity into an adventure.
Emergency Alert Issued
At around 1245p on Saturday, May 21, 2022, an emergency alert was issued warning of severe thunderstorms. The children were in the yard playing while Brent and I were getting lunch together. A second warning was issued around 106p, and we noticed the sky was getting dark, real fast. We called the children inside, and no sooner than we did, the rain started. Hail was expected, and so were tornado-like winds. We had weather like this before, but the emergency warning issue made us take it seriously. The trees were swaying violently; our youngest Zarah was so terrified. Late last year, we had a tree removed from in front of our home, and I am happy that we did because I am confident that the tree would have landed on our roof had it not been removed.
The lights went off almost immediately, but we weren’t worried because if we ever have a power outage within a matter of minutes, power is restored but not this time. This experience illustrated how dependent we are on electricity. Our stove is electric so we couldn’t cook. There was no hot water, no TV, no Internet. In fact, for at least 12 hours, we had no use of our mobile devices. The networks were down in our area. The Electric Company did a great job of keeping us updated, and I am sure they did their best to get power restored to us. There are still so many families that have no electricity in their homes.
A small clip of the wind and rain.
Survival mode had to kick in. We were grateful that we had no damage to our home; in previous storms, our fence fell, and we lost our gazebo. We decided we would go from adversity to adventure. The Power Company was reporting we would have electricity by the next day. So we were planning on just hunkering down for one night. Zarah was still very terrified by the entire experience. She complained of chest pains, and when I felt her chest, her little heart was beating at a rate. Brent and Eli went to Walmart to get a small gas stove so we could make dinner and warm water for our evening bath. Walmart in our area was in complete darkness, and so were Home Depot and Canadian Tire. They had to trek to Scarborough to get the supplies. We had flashlights, so we were good in that area.
From Adversity To Adventure
Brent and I have had experience with being inconvenienced by a power outage that lasted overnight, but the children hadn’t. So we decided to make the most of the situation by lightening the gravity of the problem. Here are the seven must-haves we used to overcome the unexpected in this instance.
1. Gas stove
Our stove is electric, so we needed a mobile gas stove to prepare our meals. There was a carbon monoxide warning on the stove, so the cooking had to be done outdoors. We called the outdoor cooking a “bush cook.” This name added a feeling of doing something exciting even though we were being inconvenienced. Brent and I had bush cooks when we were growing up in Guyana. A bush cook is simply a fun meal prepared and cooked outdoors mainly by children.
2. Lamps/flashlights/Extra Batteries
While candles can work to provide light, flashlights or lamps are a safer option, especially if you fall asleep with them. We had a few flashlights and a lamp but still grabbed some more at Walmart as a backup. We made shadow animals on the walls with the children to distract them before bed.
Extra batteries are always good to have as a backup.
3. A Charging Device
Unfortunately, we did not have any way of charging our cellphones. Luckily we had our laptops, so we connected our cellphones and charged the batteries. The twins felt like they saved the day when we used their laptops to get the job done.
4. Ice/Ice bucket
The lack of electricity meant the fridge would defrost, and the food would thaw. We bought several bags of ice and placed them in the freezer and moved as many items that could fit in the freezer to maintain the cool temperature. We were also going to put some ice in the ice bucket with veggies to keep them fresh, but luckily the electricity returned and spared us this task.
My two older children were helpful in this exercise; the younger ones were more interested in poking holes in the ice bag to munch on a few pieces.
5. Extra Water
Luckily our water was still running, but extra water is always a great idea. We filled two containers with water just in case.
6. Disposable Utensils
Thankfully we had running water, but that water was hyperthermic, so washing dishes for an extended period was not an option for me. We whipped out our paper cups, plates, and disposable wooden spoons to ease the burden. The kids were happy we used “picnic” plates, which kept them distracted.
Since our hot water was out, we had to boil water to take our baths. Our extra bucket came in handy for this. Half a bucket of hot water to about one-quarter bucket of cold water was the perfect mix. Using a bucket for a bath is a great way to save water because you use just what you need instead of taking a lengthy shower. The kids did not mind this at all. I am all for long showers, but I adjusted.
A few pics of the aftermath
Other must-haves to prepare for the unexpected include:
I am always guilty of never having cash on me. I am so well adjusted to the plastic world that we live in, I always have my debit card on me, but in a case where systems are down, cash is king.
Our cellular networks were down in our area; a good old-fashioned landline is necessary in case of emergencies. While landline service may be affected as well, it is always good to have one as an option.
3. Emergency/First-Aid Kit
It’s always a good idea to have your emergency supplies in the event of a cut or scrape or any other injury that may result.
4. Extra Blankets/Sleeping Bags
Several families were displaced after the storm passed. Extra blankets or sleeping bags could come in handy, especially if you have additional family members at your home that may have been displaced.
5. Canned Food
I struggle with consuming canned food, but in a situation where you may not be able to prepare fresh food, it comes in handy. Of course, you would have to keep an eye on expiry dates and use and replace them as needed.
Power was restored on Monday, May 23, 2022, at 353pm. I was so relieved because even though we were managing, it was a little stressful to have to do all the extra steps to get simple tasks done. Ten people are reported to be dead. From start to finish, the entire thing was out of a movie based on natural disasters. The emergency alert was given with short notice; it was like the storm came out of nowhere, it lasted what seemed to be about five minutes, and after it left, the sun returned like it wasn’t just bullied out of the sky. The destruction that it left in its wake can be fixed, but the loss of life cannot. The most we can do is stay alert and have the essentials in the event of another such storm that I am sure will happen in the future.
Thank God the storm did not happen in winter. That would have been a game changer.