After having no power for 5-6 days I learned a few things that really helped. :
Things that are handy when you lose power for awhile
(most of these items were found at Wal-Mart)
1. an inverter~(costs about $15-$25) It goes in your car lighter and converts to an electrical outlet. It will re-charge your cell phone, a cordless drill, laptop computer, a small fan or most importantly for parents, a small t.v. We have a t.v. that has a combo VCR so when the cable went out the kids still could watch movies. It is most comfortable watching it while actually sitting in the car with the a.c. on. You can get an extension cord though and watch in the house. NOTE: Be sure to get one that has an automatic cut off switch so that you do not drain your car battery. If you have two cars get two converters it is well worth it! My husbands van ran the t.v mine ran the fan. My husband was much braver than I was and kept the van off while we ran the t.v. He never had a single thing happen to the battery. Just be sure you have a full tank of gas that is the only draw back of using the inverter for long periods with the car on.
2. Hand held battery operated fan/water bottle. Wal-Mart $4.00. We used that thing all the time especially at night to fall asleep. If you are lucky enough to have ice, you can take a small bowl filled with ice water and put it in front of the fan as it blows on you. It cools the air down a bit. (we did this for patients in the hospital after Andrew.)
3. Helpful advice: When storing ice, KEEP IT IN THE FREEZER!
I had about 8 bags going into the storm. During the storm as soon as I lost power I took out about 5 bags and put them all in coolers. After the third or fourth day there was still ice in the freezer and NONE in the coolers. A good way to preserve ice is to wrap all the bags together first in newspaper and then a towel. Take one bag out at a time when needed and leave the rest together in the wrapped bundle.
4. Home Depot has portable propane grills for $15. They still had lots when we were getting ready for Ivan so there may be some left. They run off the small bottles of propane. Publix had one time charcoal grills for $5.00. They will grill something for about 30 minutes.
5. Be sure you have extra tarp and duct tape in case there are needed repairs.
6. Get a small inflatable pool if you don't have one built in the ground. We lost power but not water so the kids and I went in it often to cool off.
7. Wal-mart also has battery operated radios for $5.00. They are the kind with earphones~ also good for the kids and to keep abreast of the news.
8. Check camping stores if your local Walmart is out of supplies. There are lots of useful items there like real propane lanterns, battery operated coffee pots, even portable toilets for areas that have a problem with sewage backing up. Martin and St. Lucie counties in Florida both needed electricity to power their lift stations. If the lift stations can't operate there is no water pressure...hence the sewage back up.
9. If you live alone or know someone who does, 7-11 and various convenience stores have emergency cell phones. You pay a one time fee (not sure how much) and you have a month of minutes. You can buy more minutes later if necessary. We lost both phones for awhile but the cell phone came back for most people much sooner than the land lines did.
10. Tap lights! They are at Dollar Tree down here. 2 for $1.00. Not sure if the Dollar stores are everywhere but these things are very useful! Its hard to find D batteries after the storm and the tap lights use AA. (So do the battery fans I mentioned above) I had no problem finding AA batteries anytime I needed them.
11. An air cooler. Wal-mart~$7.00-$13.00. You can attach some to your hose and some are portable. You put cold water in its container then use this pump thing (kinda like a keg) and it lightly mists you. They say it cools the air temp up to 25 degrees. Its good for outside use. Especially the ones that are attached to the hose. You sit under this very light mist and it feels a little like a.c. especially with a breeze. (Don't worry...there will be a breeze!) It's the same premise as those big air misters you see at Universal Studios.
12. Don't forget a manual can opener!
13. If the storm is headed your way now, go turn your freezer and fridge to their coldest settings. Seriously stop reading this for a second and do it. Turn your a.c. down too. Try not to open any doors when you lose power. My kids were in and out all the time so it was useless for us but I was amazed at how much cooler my moms house was after 3 days. By keeping the doors and windows closed she was able to keep some of the cool NON HUMID air inside. Once the humidity creeps in its ten times more miserable.
14. If power is out for more than 2 days have a neighborhood bbq with all the frozen meat that is now defrosting. Its a great way to make new friends. These are the people you will need to be friends with too. Especially when they get power back and you don't!
If anyone has any other suggestions please feel free to add to this list.
kent, my man! great suggestions here, definitely things to consider for a hurricane kit or other aftermath amenities/plans. not often that such useful info gets posted in quantity on the main board.. thanks for extending it. -HF