Hurricane Preparedness and Well Water

'Twas the night before the hurricane ...

If your home uses well water, or if your community's infrastructure is old and fragile, planning how to handle your family's water needs during hurricanes is vital.

It's the day before the hurricane is due to hit the coastline. The grocery store is out of milk, bread and bottled water. Even the cereal aisle is looking a bit empty. You remind yourself that the pantry at home has some food, no one will starve in a week, even if the "meals" aren't balanced (Pop-Tarts three times a day, anyone?). But water ... if the power fails, the well pump can't bring up any water. What should you be doing to minimize the trouble?

Start in the bathroom -- fill the bathtub with water. Tomorrow's showers can wait until the storm has passed. A tub full of water means many happy flushes and several small sink-washes. Get a plastic gallon jug to set by the tub, it simplifies the movement of the water. Do you have any 2-liter soda bottles that haven't made it into the recycling bin yet? Rinse them out, fill with water and set next to the sink for washing hands and faces.

In the kitchen -- Find your jugs, jars and carafes. Make ice tea. Lemonade. Whatever water-based drink your family members like. Fill as many as fit in the fridge. Then make sure your ice maker is running and that any trays are full. Bag up ice, to free up space so you can make more. Have any smaller soda or water bottles? Rinse, fill about three-quarters of the way with water and freeze. Use a pen or marker to put an X on the label. Unless you washed these out carefully, the water in them shouldn't be considered drinkable. Fill the freezer if you can. When the power fails, full freezers and fridges take longer to warm than half-empty ones. Put some of that ice into a picnic cooler, along with a day's drinks and food. Wash those dishes tonight! You can't be sure that power and water will be available tomorrow, and you'll really appreciate having clean plates. Leave any unopened bottled water in the pantry. Cold water is nice, but room temperature works too when you're thirsty.

In the laundry room -- like the dishes, you can get as much washing done as you have time for. Then either unplug the washer or turn off its breaker.

The Day the Power Fails

You've followed all the suggestions so far, you have enough ice to throw a party and every plate and shirt is sparkly clean. The tub is groaning a bit under the weight of all the water. Now the storm has rolled into town and looks to be taking up residence. The power has just gone out ...

Go to your breaker box and turn off the breakers to your appliances and electronic equipment. Air conditioner too, if you can identify it. Why? Because when the power comes back on, today, tomorrow or next week, there is going to be a massive amount of "noise" in the line. You've probably seen how power sometimes flickers again after it's restored, possibly even "browning out." That's because all the air conditioners, fridges, lights, fans, pumps etc. in your community are coming on at once. That electrical mess can kill motors. Lights are fairly immune, so let them serve to tell you that the power is back. If you don't have access to the breaker box, unplug the electronics and turn off the appliances.

Turn off the water to the commodes. If there is still water in your pressure tank (this hub is primarily about well water, remember?), it's drinkable. Don't waste it for washing or flushing, use that tub and gallon jug.

Don't open the freezer at all if you can help it. It does you no good to "check and see if anything has melted yet." You can decide that once the power has come on -- if it was out less than a couple days, use the food up quickly and cook it thoroughly, but it should be just fine.

The Electric Dudes do their thing and Power returns

The lights are on again. You've checked the roof, reclaimed the deck chairs (how did they travel that far?), made sure your neighbors are still alive. Now you can turn on those breakers, hoping nothing makes funny noises as it starts up. Don't forget to turn on the water to the commodes! Open the faucet. As air is forced out of the pipes, you will get some rattling and banging. This is good. It means that water is flowing again. Once the banging stops, check the clarity of the water. Sniff it. Has the purity been affected? In bad storms, sometimes the aquifers get contaminated. Your well might need a chlorine blast -- if you've never done that, call a plumber who has experience with wells.

For the first day or two after the power returns, try to use your water for washing and flushing. Continue to drink up all that you had stored earlier. Boil or filter your water. Once enough water has washed through the well and house pipes, you'll be able to drink it again safely. If you are concerned, get a water sample tested for bacteria.

There are a number of other articles here on Hubpages about Hurricane Preparedness. I only tried to cover water-related aspects, things I have learned in the fifteen years since I moved into a house with a well and water pump. May all your Hurricanes be near-misses!

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