Future-Proofing

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Well, it is 3 days since my last post in which I shared our concern for the residents of north Queensland who were in the path of Cyclone Debbie.  What a 3 days it has been!

In 72 hours Cyclone Debbie has flattened the island resorts of the Whitsunday Islands and the adjacent mainland towns of Airlie Beach and Prosperine as a Category 4 cyclone before being downgraded as it moved inland.  Most of these areas are still without power or water and this situation is likely to continue for several more days, at least.

As predicted, the system then turned south east and headed towards the densely populated south-east corner of Queensland, including Brisbane.  For almost 24 hours we experienced substantial rainfall and some high winds – but of course, nothing like the conditions endured by those who were in the direct path of the cyclone.

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This is a view of part of our backyard this morning during a break in the rain.  The water in the background is not normally part of the landscape.  The ‘lake’ develops as the run-off from the mountain behind us pools in the low-lying part of our property.  It is not as extensive as some other occasions and will drain over the next few days.

The area where we live lost power about 2pm today and do not expect it to be restored until at least midday tomorrow.  There are currently thousands of consumers in Brisbane and the surrounding areas without power.  We are fortunate to be reaping the benefit of our decision to install a grid-connected battery system almost 18 months ago.  You can read about it here.

While it is great to be able to use our stored power each evening, the real benefit of the system is that it provides us with a power source in the event of a power failure from the grid.  Whether it is extreme weather or any other reason it is reassuring to know that we are not reliant on the grid for power.  This experience has confirmed the importance of a degree of self-reliance and we are extremely glad to be in this position.

 

Stay Safe

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My internet has been somewhat unreliable over the past few days, hence the lack of posts.  I had several ideas but have shelved them for tonight as I would simply like to say to everybody in north Queensland who is in the path of Cyclone Debbie, “Please take care and stay safe.  We are thinking of you and praying that you will be safe”.

2017-03-27 01

 

Preparations

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Exactly a year ago we were in the midst of managing with no power as a result of the wild weather which was the aftermath of Cyclone (Hurricane) Oswald.

When we finally regained power I wrote this post.  More importantly, I wrote a follow-up assessment here.

It feels like groundhog day as it appears very likely that a cyclone will form off the north Queensland coast in the next 36 – 48 hours.  There is no guarantee where a potential system will track but the Bureau of Meteorology predictions are currently showing it crossing the coast and causing widespread rain over much of the eastern and central parts of the state.

Colour Forecast map for next 4 days

Colour Forecast map for next 4 days

My second link is interesting to re-read as it shows that once the immediate threat was over we relaxed and did not pursue some of the things we identified.  We have not bought a generator, nor organised the rainwater tank closer to the house.  The small freezer is not currently in use but is downstairs and could be used if necessary, however, the better option would be the camp fridge (also stored downstairs) set to ‘Freeze’.

We have had a long weekend here and I have unwittingly done some useful preparation.  All of the washing and almost all of the ironing is done.  Meals are planned and some are prepared for the coming week.  There is clean linen on the bed and in the bathroom.  I plan to finish the ironing and vacuum the floors tomorrow evening.  All of this means that I have most of the housework up to date and we do not need to worry about basics such as washing if we were to lose power for several days.  We also have enough food and basic supplies to ensure that we do not need to go to the shops.  All of the electronic equiment is fully charged and we have wind-up torches and radio.   The car has a full tank of fuel.  There is no need to panic but we are prepared simply because of how we live.

What preparations would you make in the event of the chance of severe weather?

No Power – No Worries

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As many of you would be aware, a large portion of the eastern part of Queensland has endured some pretty wild weather over the past week or so.  Ex Cyclone Oswald (hurricane) has wreaked havoc over a large area.  Because the system was moving quite slowly we had plenty of time to prepare for the bad weather.

Flooding in the backyard

‘Prepare’ is the key word here and I think I did a reasonable job.  As usual, there are things that we did well and some that could be improved.  In the interests of creating a reference for the future I thought I would share what I discovered.

Firstly, here is a bit of background.  Our household consists of 2 adults in a 3 bedroom, high-set timber-framed home on a small acreage.  We are totally reliant on our tank water and have solar hot water as well as grid-connected solar panels.  We live about 8km from the nearest town and there is no public transport.  We have 2 vehicles.  Strong coastal winds do affect our property.

Apart from the risk of structural damage to our home, my main concern was losing power.  Without electricity we are unable to run the pump to get water to the house so we boiled water so that it was ready to drink.  We prepared 40 litres which we stored in a 20 litre drum from our camping equipment and the Duke’s 20 litre home brew kit.  We have a refrigerator/freezer in the kitchen as well as a small upright freezer in the study.  I filled several ice-cream containers with water to freeze in an attempt to keep the frozen goods OK for as long as possible.

Home brew

Once we lost power we were still able to access water from a tap on the tank to fill buckets.  However, it is about a 400 metre round trip to the tank.

Solar panels
Because we are connected to the grid we cannot access power directly from our solar panels.  I have heard that this can now be done so I will be investigating this possibility with the company that installed the panels.

Cooking was not a problem as we have a gas cooktop and we also had the wood-heater blazing in an attempt to keep the humidity down.  We had 2 billies of water on the heater at all times so there was plenty of warm water for a ‘shower’ using buckets of warm water.  I also cooked soup and bolognaise sauce on the heater .

Bolognaise sauce
The biggest challenge was keeping food cold.  Since the refrigerator/freezer was in the same zone of the house as the wood heater it did not stay cool for long.  The small freezer fared better as it was in another part of the house.  I ended up using it like an ice-chest.  It was lucky that we did not have a lot of meat on hand so I was able to cook and use all of it without any loss.  I did throw out a few things  but the total value would have been less than $30.  That is a small price to pay rather than getting sick from eating food that has not been stored safely.

We were without power for a total of 59 hours and in that time we had to work hard just to ensure that we had food and drink as well as water for washing dishes and bathing.  I did not even contemplate washing clothes as I knew that we had enough to last until the immediate crisis was over.

THINGS I DID WELL

Prepared plenty of drinking water
Cooked nutritious meals using ingredients we had available
Made sure that the perishable foodstuffs were used first
Wasted a minimal amount of food
Bought a lighter for the gas stove/fire when we realised that the humidity meant the matchbox was damp and striking a match was almost impossible
Having the house decluttered and organised meant that we knew where things were and they were easy to access with minimal light

THINGS I COULD DO BETTER

Start freezing water earlier to ensure that it is completely frozen before the power is lost
Consider buying a small generator
Set the camp fridge to ‘freeze’ before power is lost and fill it with frozen goods that will not need to be accessed during power outage.  This would be especially useful if I had a lot of meat.
Move the small freezer downstairs (the coolest part of the house) and use like an ice-chest
Follow up on our plans to install a rainwater tank close to the house so that water is easier to access

I also gave some thought to what we would take if the house were damaged substantially.  I had sturdy shoes and socks and a torch as well as my essential medications ready to grab if we needed to seek shelter downstairs.  This seems very minimal and I need to give a lot more thought to what we would need to take if we had to leave in a hurry for any reason.  I would love to hear if you have a ‘grab-bag’, what is in it and where you store it.

We survived quite well and were certainly not tested to the limit but the last week has given us several things to think about and priorities to consider.

Pioneer Woman

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“Leaves drip.  Leeches lurk.  Boots squelch.  Carrying water.  A figure appears from the mist-shrouded undergrowth of the rainforest on the far side of the water.  The house is barely visible.”

The privations of living in a timber-getter’s camp in the 1880’s?  No.  Yesterday afternoon in our backyard.  2013.

I have been offline since early on Sunday morning.  Like most of the rest of the coastal areas of Queensland we have suffered from some wild weather from an ex tropical cyclone (hurricane).  We lost power for 58 hours and with no power we have no water.  We only have tank water which is delivered to the house by pump.

We have gas hotplates and a wood heater so cooking was not an issue.  Keeping food cold was becoming a problem.

There are no photos for this post, because just like my ancestors of 100 years ago, I was far too busy just managing to keep us fed and enough water for the very basic necessities.

Generally, I felt as though we managed very well, although that would have changed rapidly if I had to factor in washing by hand.  No thanks.  We were reasonably well prepared, however, there are some things that I feel that I could have done better.  More about that another day.  For now, I am looking forward to sleeping in fresh sheets.  The sheets were due to be changed on the weekend but I delayed doing it as I did not want any more washing piling up in the laundry while the power was off.

This has been a timely reminder of all of the things that we take for granted as well as what we can do without.