Preparing For El Niño Storms

We begin this post with a gutter cleaning selfie showing the precipitous drop from the front of our house as well as a view of the “flipper fence” handrail I built for the in-laws.

The much promised El Niño rainstorms are on our doorstep this week. For those of you in the rest of the world who might be unfamiliar with the phenomenon, every decade or so weather conditions in the Northern Pacific conspire to heat up the ocean which, in turn, causes unusually heavy rainstorms to hit California. Climate change only makes this condition worse.

Most of the preparations I did are things I should do every year but have been lazy about due to the drought. But with January here I finally:

  • Cleaned the gutters and French drains. This is no fun, especially since the gutters on the front of the house are difficult to access. I discovered that the front gutter was completely clogged with loose asphalt roofing material.
  • Channeled some of the water from our gutters to the backyard garden. Since our house is on the hill I have to send the rest of the water down to the street, unfortunately.
  • Made sure to have working flashlights with fully charged batteries. Our electricity has gotten increasingly unreliable over recent years.
  • Charged the 2 meter ham radio (it’s also a scanner).
  • Got a supply of dry goods that can be cooked without opening the refrigerator/freezer.
  • Fixed the foundation (I did this ten years ago and am happy I did it, though it was expensive).

One thing I still need to do is get a charger for my cell phone. If any of you have a recommendation I’d appreciate it.

Other than pitch a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson El Niño disaster movie is there anything else I should do? What have you done to prepare for El Niño?

Stuff You Learn When the Power Goes Out

What our weekend looked like.

What our weekend looked like.

On this past sweltering Saturday, Kelly and I holed up in our bedroom, the only room of the house graced with any kind of air-conditioning. Around 4 pm the power sputtered and went out. Sprawled across the bed with the cats, we opened the window hoping to cool the room down. Instead, the unrelenting bright sunshine, palm trees, the police helicopter hovering over an adjacent street and our lack of electricity lent a Baghdad-like vibe to what remained of the afternoon. But Armageddon is not without its charms. It turns out that when the power goes out you learn a lot about yourself and the things you depend on.

The good things about losing power

  • I felt a sudden feeling of peace. Why? We had no internet. Since we don’t have a smart phone we had no way of checking email, Twitter, Facebook etc. All we had was our always reliable land line. If you wanted to reach us you had to call us. It’s funny how all this connectivity that’s supposed to improve our lives ends up being a burden. I made a mental note to consider pulling the plug on the wi-fi more often.
  • I was also thankful to have friendly neighbors. I walked over and chatted. We joked about pulling out the candles and banjos. They told me what was going on, that the power company would not be able to restore power until 1 a.m. the following day. Our friends on an adjoining street that we don’t see enough, came over with their dogs and we chatted.

The bad things about losing power

  • I discovered that when the power goes out we have a transportation problem. This is due to our quirky garage, a concrete bunker in the side of the hill our house sits on. When the power goes out the only way to open the garage doors is with a key. The problem is that you can’t close and lock them unless there is electricity. So I could access our car and bikes, but I had no way of securing the garage which is right on the street. I didn’t want to leave it open, so if we wanted to go anywhere we’d have to take the bus. Clearly, I need to fix this.
  • While I enjoyed our break from the interwebs, I also realized that a lot of information I depend on is now stored in the cloud. If the power had been out for longer I would have had problems. It was a reminder that I might need to print out and store a few vital documents and phone numbers.
  • I also realized that we should keep a few convenient dry goods in addition to the rice and beans in the pantry. I didn’t want to open the refrigerator and freezer. It would have been nice to have some trashy and easily prepared items such as mac and cheese.
  • One of the first things I did when the power went out was to pull out my 2 meter ham radio to see if I could figure out if something serious was going on. From the lack of chatter I could tell that the power outage was likely small. But I also realized that I need to periodically use the radio if I plan on using it in a real emergency.

I suppose the final lesson is the realization of just how privileged we are in the US. Most of the world’s people have to get by with unreliable power.

What have you learned when the power goes out?

A Library for a Post-Electricity Future

Just in case you need to do your own dental extractions, Survivor Library has you covered.

Just in case you need to do your own dental extractions, Survivor Library has you covered.

A recent episode of WNYC’s On the Media took a look at what would happen if a solar flare or electomagnetic pulse zapped our access to the Interwebs. What will we do when we can’t Instagram our taco platters?

One of the segments of the show profiles Rocky Rawlins, who runs a fantastic website, The library is a trove of pre-electricity how-to books, everything from building your own steam engine to beekeeping, navigation, parlor games and much more. Most of the books in the library date to the 19th century.

Since Survivor Library is in an electronic format, you’ll need to either print it out or build your own Faraday cage if you want to use these books after the next Carrington event.

I was particuarly excited to find, in the Survivor Library, a digitized version of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica. Good riddance Wikipedia!

011 Cleaning, Long Crowing Roosters and Water Storage

Kosova long crowing rooster chick. Image: Wikimedia.

Kosova long crowing rooster chick. Image: Wikimedia.

In the eleventh episode of the Root Simple Podcast, Kelly and I discuss our new house cleaning routine, long crowing roosters and we answer a reader question about emergency water storage.

Apartment Therapy post on cleaning: How to Clean Your House on 20 minutes a Day for 30 Days.

Erik references the importance of processing your inbox, an idea learned from a book Getting Things Done by David Allen.

Long Crowing Roosters
The Wikipedia article on long crowing roosters.

A youtube playlist of long crowing roosters.

Musical break
“Banty Rooster Blues” by Charley Patton.

Listener Question: Water Storage for Emergencies
A correction to the podcast–the Food Safety Advisor is not free to download, but the information on water storage that I reference can be found here.

Amazon link to the water storage container we use.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on StitcherThe theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. Additional music by Rho. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.