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A couple of days ago, we got to test our emergency preps firsthand (again) during Michigan’s February ice storm. In this short article, I want to cover a few things we did right and what we need to improve.
I’ve done these after-action report type of posts in the past, and I hope it helps you as much as it does me. I was pressed for time, so I didn’t get as many photos as I wanted. It would be nice if we could store time in our preps, but being prepared with a solid plan is the next best thing.
Note: I’ll apologize upfront for all of the affiliate links. They help many people who want to skip the research and see what I’m using. Your support is appreciated.
Michigan’s February Ice Storm – 2023
I’m sure you saw it in the news, but we got hit pretty hard with Michigan’s ice storm a few days ago. It could have been much worse, but hundreds of thousands, including us, were without power. Many still are. And heat!
We Lost Power – Our Blackout Kit Works
Like over eight hundred thousand other residents and businesses in Michigan, we lost our electricity and heat during Michigan’s February ice storm. It was a serious situation, but as a prepper, I couldn’t help but
enjoy appreciate the challenge of putting our blackout kit through another test.
I have a two-part series on building a blackout kit, and it has essentially remained the same. The same generator and preps, other than maybe a couple of new extension cords, cord accessories (splitters and surge protectors), and rechargeable battery-operated lanterns.
We’ve needed and used our blackout kit on several occasions over the years. We lose power once or twice a year, but it’s often for a short period of time, I avoid digging everything out until it looks like it will be out for a while. The power tends to return as soon as you get everything set up.
Our Portable Generator
I’m so impressed with our generator. It’s about eight years old, and not only is it still running strong, the electric start still works. It’s a Champion 9375/7500-Watt portable generator with an electric start (aff link).
One impressive thing I realized is that my generator seems to be even more fuel efficient than advertised.
Actual: 18 hours / 12 gallons = 1.5 Gallons an hour Advertised: 8 hours / 5.7 gallons = 1.4035 Gallons an hour (If my math is correct)
Here’s a screenshot of texts I had with a prepper buddy. Forgive the casual language and attitude.
I used around 12 gallons but didn’t run it for 24 hours. I waited until I knew the power would likely stay out for a while and knew my freezers and refrigerators needed the power. It ran about 18 or 19 hours in total. The advertised run time is 8 hours per 5.7-gallon tank.
Note: Had this been a true long-term emergency situation, I would have run the generator for just four hours a day to conserve fuel. That would keep my freezers and refrigerators at safe temperatures for well over a week with my stored fuel. That’s plenty of time to cook, can, or preserve what I needed to save. As each appliance was emptied, I’d shut it down to further save on fuel. This is also when I’d charge any devices and gear that needed it. For more, see my article: Saving Freezer Meat During A Power Outage – Plus My Grid-Down Plan
Why Not A Whole-House Generator?
In my case, having a whole-house generator is cost-restrictive. I live in an older home, and our wiring and the box/panel would have to be upgraded first. You can buy a lot of portable generators for forty+ grand, and you can’t take them if you need to bug out.
I remember when it would have cost around $2,500 for a whole-house generator to be installed. I’m kicking myself for not making that investment back then. Ideally, I’ll have a whole-house generator with a large solar setup someday. We’ve never lost our natural gas supply, but I understand that’s possible. It would be far easier and safer than storing (and rotating) sixty gallons of gas.
A little over a year ago, I wrote the article, Heating Our Home In A Power Outage, and we used those same two heaters to stay comfortable, even though it wasn’t so cold that it would have been life-threatening. I believe it got into the twenties (degrees Fahrenheit) overnight.
The indoor kerosene heater(Aff link – similar brand but the same size) kept our living area and kitchen (that entire side of our house, actually) warm. The back of the house was cold, but no one slept in those three bedrooms.
We had to run the Big Buddy propane heater(Aff link) on low to keep our bedroom from becoming outrageously hot. The Big Buddy heater did use more propane than I expected and didn’t last the entire night. That wasn’t a huge deal at the time since I couldn’t sleep anyway. I was up listening to falling branches all night.
During the day, I shut down the large kerosene heater and ran an electric heater. No one was home, and it wasn’t so cold that frozen pipes would be an issue, but my dog doesn’t like the cold either.
What We Did Right
Maintenance and upkeep – I’ve consistently maintained my gear, including oil changes and tuneups for the generator.
A decent battery supply – We store batteries and have several ways of recharging them, along with rechargeable devices.
What We Learned About Our Emergency Preps
Stay on top of the news – With all of the ways I have of keeping up on the news, I failed to. I have several emergency radios, cell phones, news email subscriptions, and Twitter. With all that, I had no idea our water supply had been compromised.
We drink filtered water. Even my dog gets filtered water. But we use our tap water for cooking and cleaning. And making coffee! Not anymore. Any water we consume from this point on will be filtered.
We live in Van Buren Township.
My garage is a mess! – I’m in the middle of a renovation project, and my garage is beyond full with four used restaurant tables, twelve chairs, bar stools, and food storage racks. And my garage is where I
keep kept my blackout kit.
Trips in and out of the garage while wearing a headlamp, in the bitter cold, weaving around the mess, and trying to get my fat frame in between piles of junk was a pain, to say the least.
Now my blackout kit is moving to my office/gear room, where I can access it without all the name-calling toward inanimate objects. My garage is going to get a little attention as well.
I never did find my brand new – still in-the-box carbon dioxide detector(Aff link) that was supposed to be in my blackout kit. I ordered another one, and it will be here today. We have a couple already placed in the home, but I feel better having an extra close by when running an indoor gas heater.
Dead batteries – I failed to remove the old batteries from both indoor heaters from the last time we used them last winter. I got lucky and had no corrosion issues, but they were dead. Dead batteries aren’t a problem, I have plenty (Here’s a review post on the battery organizer storage case I have), but corrosion could have damaged my equipment.
We got lucky – While the cleanup this weekend was no fun, we were lucky. We have three old and large trees in the backyard and two in the front. I’m not a tree expert, but they don’t look healthy. We just paid an insane amount for our roof, and one of those trees could have ruined our day.
We have homeowner’s insurance, but no one wants to deal with that. I’ve wanted to remove those trees and replace them with fruit trees for years. That goal has just been moved up as far as a priority.
My blackout kit is a little overkill – It’s not a bad thing, I guess, but we didn’t need half the stuff in our blackout kit. It doesn’t seem like an issue until you’re digging through two separate bins in the cold, pulling out and laying aside things you’re not looking for to find what is actually needed.
Many people aren’t as fortunate – While I heard several other generators in the neighborhood, most homes were dark – and many still are several days later. I couldn’t help but wonder how they were getting along. Were they able to keep warm? Cook and heat food?
Bad weather news isn’t always hyped – The night before the storm, my wife said, “Are you working tomorrow? The news says we’re getting a really bad ice storm tomorrow.”
I replied, “The news always overhypes the weather. It’ll be fine – not half as bad as they say.”
Oops, my bad.
Silly Things I Learned
Move the cars – I learned newer cars won’t go into neutral without power – and then it won’t let loose of your keys. We have three cars in the driveway, and I knew I’d need to move the cars up the driveway, away from the overhead tree branches and powerline. Mine and my wife’s cars were simple. I have a new battery waiting for me to install in my Trailblazer, so – no power. I won’t admit to how long that new battery has been waiting for me to install it.
Michiganders will drive on ice – Michigan’s February ice storm didn’t stop people from going places. Traffic was slow, but it was hard to believe how many cars were out and about. I don’t have much room to talk, driving around in a tractor-trailer for work, but I had imagined the roads would be mostly empty. Not the case.
My neighbor has different priorities – LOL One of my neighbors, a great guy, has a generator but stayed in the dark the entire time. In fact, since his powerline is down, he’s still in the dark. He’s using his power to run his massive grow room in his garage. I totally understand, even though he grows different plants (Within Michigan law) than I do in my garden. 🤣
Wrapping Up Our Experience Of Michigan’s February Ice Storm
We’ve had far longer power outages, and our preps made life easier than many had it. Those emergency preps help us stay confident, reduces stress, and eliminate panic.
Dare I say it can even make us a little cocky?
I fully understand that generators and emergency supplies are short-term solutions, and things could get far worse. The fact remains that most power outages we go through are temporary – so far. Thank God. But plans for long-term outages, perhaps for months, are worth considering.
If you’re new to prepping, consider building a blackout kit. It doesn’t have to include an expensive generator.
- A simple inverter can turn your car into a generator (To run a refrigerator or freezer, you’ll need a large one that connects to the battery, and the vehicle will need to run when used).
- A cheap solar system can charge small devices during the day if the sun cooperates.
- Fully charged, inexpensive USB power banks can go a long way.
- Flashlights are great.
- Rechargeable headlamps are even handier. I use these headlamps(Aff link).
- Battery-operated lanterns are safe and very useful. We have a couple of kerosene lanterns and rarely use them anymore. The battery-operated lanterns are safer, and the LEDs are bright. I use smaller lanterns similar to these(Aff link), a large one(Aff link – newer model – takes 8 D-size batteries) in the living room, and a smaller version(Aff link – newer model) for the bathrooms.
Call To Action / Next Step
Next Step: Building A Blackout Kit
Stay safe. Stay prepared.