The ice storm that recently slammed Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, and other areas last week hit Joanna’s parents as well. They lost power pretty quickly and were faced with an unknown outage length, as well as trees & limbs down all over the property and one up against the house. Like us, they have a huge garden and preserve a great deal of food, so there was significant concern about the life of all their produce and fruit in their freezers and fridge.
So I headed down to Arkansas on Saturday with a generator and chainsaw to bring some relief. I didn’t have much time to shop around for generators, so just swung by Home Depot, who didn’t have many left. I met folks from Kentucky there looking for generators; everything closer to them was gone. I was lucky to find an appropriately sized unit for what we needed, and headed south.
These things make a world of difference; just hearing the hum of the freezers and feeling the glow of a basic floor lamp seemed to feel great after 4-5 days of windup lanterns and packing the freezer with ice. We got to work and cut up most of the downed trees and limbs around their house, got the fallen cedar off the porch, and in general got started on the long road to full cleanup.
I’m not posting pictures, as they may want to protect some privacy, but the damage was pretty rough in the region. Having driven through the area, I think they actually got off somewhat light, though it doesn’t feel like it. Some of the surrounding towns and areas were really devastated, with trees completely topped, split, and fallen. I saw several older barns with freshly caved-in roofs, and some trees still on buildings. I don’t have any regional photos, as there’s no safe place to stop on windy Arkansas backroads. I’m sure Google could serve some up.
This being me, I want to use this to make a simple point: the value of self-sufficiency and sustainability in such situations. Joanna’s parents were well prepared, with lots of water stored away, many battery and windup lights and lanterns, a great deal of home-preserved food, and so on. It’s not something they rushed out to do hours before the storm (though this one had good warnings), but just the basic preparation of careful people with foresight. Driving back to Missouri, listening to NPR, I heard an interview with an authority figure in Kentucky describing how unprepared so many people were, and how that was complicating their situations as panicked rushes for basics like flashlights and canned food overwhelmed the supply network.
I don’t say this as a critique of any individual, just as an observation on the growing short-term perspective and global interdependance of our society. The more one does for oneself, the longer one looks down the road, the better one is prepared for the unexpected. We’re far from perfect in this regard; this experience has given me several new ideas for things we should consider. But like sustainability, self-sufficiency is as much a thought process as a lifestyle, and our society could greatly benefit from a little more self-analysis and long-term perspective.