Submitted July 28, 2009

State of emergency in Massachusetts

December of last year (08) The central Massachusetts area was hit by the worst ice storm in a century … not only did it cripple the central Massachusetts area, but it also went all the way up through the southern part of New Hampshire crippling many towns in that area also.

A state of emergency was declared in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, parts of New York, and Maine with over 1 million people being left without power in below freezing weather – some for over three weeks!

Central Massachusetts was hit the hardest. The ice storm started on December 11th and went through December 12th. In effect, the ice storm destroyed most of the electric power grid and it will have to be partially rebuilt.

The National Guard was also called out to assist in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Many places were without power for almost a month, some areas got their power back on within a week.

Fortunately, I happen to live within a block of our only hospital in this area, so our electric lines are in a priority area. We were only without power for 4 days but it still got down to only 39 degrees in the house!

I used a backpacker's propane stove to heat water and soup, so we had coffee, soup, sandwiches, and other easy to prepare type foods I didn't want to break into my MRE's, but they were there if needed.

We also wore layers of clothing, and used sleeping bags to keep warm. A number of people in the area that own their own homes have fire places or wood stoves for heat and cooking, but those living in a rented house or apartment didn't have those items available to them.

Of course we had long burning emergency candles (16 hour), flashlights, and all the other common things people put away for an emergency, but we also found that there are a number of other items people should have on hand...

We now also have 4” x 5” body warmers on hand that are good for 24 hours of heat. Good for putting in clothes of sleeping bag.

Everyone always tells you to have a portable battery operated radio on hand. Well we did! BUT the two local radio stations in our area didn't have a generator and were off the air! We picked up a number of stations from the Boston area, but there were only mentioning it as a news story and they didn't really give much emergency information that would help us. So we had it just for music to keep us from going nuts (listening to the branches cracking and breaking all around the house).

What I did have, and I recommend to everyone everywhere, is have a hand held battery powered Police & Fire Scanner. Having spent 34 years in the fire service, it's just one of many scanners that I have, but the only one that operates on batteries. With this I was able to monitor the local police and fire channels, this gave me information on: where lines were down, what roads were closed, what shelters were open, what progress was being made and a ton of other important information on what was going on in the whole area. It really gave us important news for our area that we wouldn't have had without it. Plus, no matter where you live, the police & fire frequencies for your area can be found on line, or you can buy a book with them in it.

I also have a small portable weather radio, and was able to keep up with reports from the national weather service for our area.

Since then I have also picked up a crank radio that has AM-FM stations, and all 7 weather station so no matter where you are you can pick up the weather for your area.... it also has a cell phone charger built in so you can charge your cell phone with the crank and a couple of other features too....

Speaking of phones - many people have cordless phones in their homes. We do too, but we also have one old fashion hard wired phone. It was the only one that would work as a cordless wont work in a power outage! Always have at least one hard wired phone. I have also picked up a cell phone charger for my car, if needed I could charge it there.

Another thing I did was fill one quart plastic freezer bags with water and set them outside. They froze over night and I placed a number of them in the refrigerator and freezer to keep the food inside cold. Kind of used it like a cooler.

I notice now there are small cooking stoves with fuel that can be used inside or in a tent safely. They now also have heaters that can be used inside or in a tent, years ago they didn't have these things but they would be very handy to have. The big thing is they're safe to use indoors!

Now I wish someone would develop a refrigerator that would work on some type of safe fuel to be used in side to keep food cold during summer emergencies. We pretty much have winter taken care of, but summer months will still present some problems.

I almost forgot to mention - because of the extensive power outage, most stores were closed, as were gas stations. A couple of stores that were open had been raped of all the good stuff such as food, batteries, etc. It was a waste of time even looking for stuff to buy. So always keep stocked up!

Included are a couple of pictures of our backyard during the ice storm.

Gardner, MA

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