Prepare to be Prepared
Lane Electric employee without power for 10 days shares lessons learned
By Zechariah English
Energy Services Representative
The evening of February 24 sounded like a war zone. What began as a soft snowfall turned into a heavy, wet snow that blanketed our property. Then, the cracks and pops began as tree branches laden with snow couldn’t bear the weight and came crashing down all around our house.
I was on a long-distance call with my dad when the lights flickered. A moment after I told him the power might go out, it went dark and the phone went dead.
I’m Lane Electric’s advocate for disaster preparedness. I thought I was ready to handle a major event like this. What I learned was that I was only prepared for a few days, not a week or more.
I live on Lane Electric lines near Dorena—one of the areas hit hardest during the devastating snowstorm in late February. My family and I were without power for 10 days. I want to share with you my experience and lessons learned, in the hopes that it will help all of us when another such event occurs and power goes out for several days or even weeks.
First, we couldn’t get out of our driveway for two days due to the hundreds of downed trees and limbs surrounding our house. We were cut off from everyone except our neighbors. Our landline phone was out and we had no cell service.
This was a reality check. Never did I think I would be without power and stranded at home.
Thankfully, we have a woodstove for heat, but we were still less comfortable than usual. We also had extra blankets and sleeping bags we used at night. We have a generator and plenty of water on hand. We cooked and boiled water with our propane camp stove outside. For extra light, we had candles and battery-operated flashlights and lanterns.
Even though we had the generator for our refrigerator, freezer, well pump, some lights and satellite internet, I knew we didn’t have enough gas to run it 24/7 for several days. We stored food outside in coolers because the temperature outside was cold enough.
Fortunately, the roads cleared enough after the first two days to make a trip to town to get supplies, but everyone else was doing the same. Many stores and gas stations were closed because of the snow and no power. The line of cars for one of the open gas stations in town circled the entire parking lot and trailed into the main road. A tanker trying to get to the station got stuck in the snow. It was like a scene from a zombie apocalypse movie!
Luckily, we were able to get some of the last propane out of an exchange cage. Even still, we had to resupply gas a few more times before power was
After the roads opened and my home was stabilized, I was able to make it back to work to help support Lane Electric’s power restoration efforts, which meant working long hours and returning home briefly to rest and check on my family.
I know now that I was not as prepared as I should have been. I have learned I need to be prepared for up to a month. This begins with improving my family’s disaster plan, including preparing a reconnection plan if we are in different locations when disaster strikes. I will also talk about emergencies more with my neighbors so we know how we can rely on each other when we need to. And I most definitely will keep more safely stored fuel on hand.
One thing I’m thankful for is that my family stayed safe, with no major injuries or health conditions.
Prepare Little by Little
Putting together disaster preparedness supplies can be daunting and costly if you try to do it all at once. My recommendation is to think of it like paying for insurance or putting money into a savings account. Little contributions over time end up providing huge relief when it’s really needed.
My first suggestion is to make a plan. The Red Cross offers plan templates at www.redcross.org. Another helpful resource is www.ready.gov.
As your budget allows, start investing in what you need to be prepared, and you will be ahead by the time the next lengthy power outage strikes. In
next month’s Ruralite, we will include a three-month shopping calendar to help guide you.
The February snowstorm was a wake-up call for me and for the dozen other Lane Electric employees who were also without power. We are doing what we can to be more prepared for future outages and encourage our members to do the same.
As if a big snowstorm wasn’t enough, not long after the snow melted the Willamette Valley experienced unprecedented late-season rain that caused
flooding and evacuation orders throughout the area. I took the photo above of a home near Row River Road.
Between the snowstorm and this event, I increased my fuel supply from 5 to 15 gallons. Thankfully, the flooding did not cause any damage to my home or disrupt my power, but it certainly was sooner than I expected to face another major weather event.
All in all, my main lesson learned is: the time to prepare is now.