On April 6th we were at the kitchen table having lunch when the sky already gray from the rain turned dark. Then it began to hail, but the hail was not falling it was pounding the house horizontally. The intensity of the hail increased and was a little scary. Just as I stood up to close the drapes, the NOAA Weather Radio alarmed. (You might want to have one, too.) There was a tornado 5 miles northeast of Haymarket. We are 5.5 miles northeast of Haymarket! My husband said two words, “basement now.” We grabbed the cat and our coffee cups and went down stairs. You need to have a plan in place for storms or other emergencies- there is no time to consider you need to be prepared to act. We settled in my husband’s man cave (actually the basement is an over crowed and cluttered library, office and home theatre) and turned on the TV to the weather channel just as the power went out. In less than 20 seconds the TV was back on.
Ten years ago when we first bought this house, I had a Guardian 16 kilowatt automatic generator manufactured by Generac installed as part of our emergency planning. When the power to the house is cut, the generator automatically kicks in to power most of the house in under 20 seconds. (Generac advertises that the new generators come on-line in 10 seconds. I have not timed the generator since having the gas line replaced last year, but I think it is longer than 10 seconds.) The generator runs on liquid propane from a tank buried in my yard that also powers my hot water heater, backup furnace, fireplace, gas grill and stove. The generator can supply the house for 23 or more days depending on whether the gas furnace is running, and is housed in a lovely insulated aluminum casing under my deck (muffling the sound) and looking almost good as new even after ten years of sitting outside. (Note that if the generator runs more than a few days it will need oil.)
The generator works great. Without electricity I would have no water, no septic and my freezer containing a quarter of a cow (grass fed sustainably raised down the pike) is in danger of spoiling, my carefully laid down wine is in danger of being damaged and my life generally disrupted with the loss of the all the modern conveniences. Instead my generator powers the well, septic, elevator, refrigerators and freezer, the cable and high speed internet and most, but not all, of the house. Over the years we’ve adjusted the load a few times, but we are never without power. The generator is serviced annually and my propane tank is never allowed to fall under 50% full. The propane tank has a very readable gauge on it. We stayed in the basement until the storm had moved on and the tornado warning for our area had passed.
We emerged from the basement to find 7 of my 15 plum trees pulled out of the ground. A chair from the deck had been lifted by the wind over the railing and flung out into the yard and the rest of the deck furniture was “rearranged” by the storm. The funnel to my rain gauge was gone, but all the solar panels were still on the house and a when I did a quick binocular survey of my roof I did not see any damage. Since then, we have had several significant rainstorms that brought a total of 13.46 inches of rain (as measured by my rain gauge with a new funnel) and no leaks. So, I think our roof made it this time. All that rain has alleviated the drought that had been building in this area over the past year. There is no longer any area of Virginia that is in drought- a silver lining to the recent rains.
You always have to plan for emergencies and the future to be ready for what comes at you. When my husband wanted to retire and suggested we look around for a place to live-my criteria was adequate water, location where a mild temperature increase from a climate warming would not be devastating, and high speed Internet. My husband was born and breed in Virginia and in truth there was little chance of us retiring anywhere else. Fortunately, based on several different predictions, the eastern slope of the Piedmont region of Virginia is a climate change sweet spot, and far enough from the shore and high enough that rising sea level (or sinking land which is also happening around here) would not impact us. It was predicted to get wetter and warmer (like the Carolinas), has a moderate four season climate with lots of available water in the Culpeper Groundwater Basin and average annual rainfall of over 44 inches a year.
When I finished my basement and installed the elevator that made it possible for those who can no longer climb steps to live in this house, I installed a secondary sump pump utilizing the elevator shaft (installed a couple of feet below the basement) as the natural drainage point. The sump pumps are also tied into the generator. Power is most likely to fail just when you need a sump pump, so a backup system is necessary- either a battery or a generator. The sump pumps are tested and run each spring when I drain the hot water heater- last Wednesday though by last week I knew they were working. The house has good natural drainage, but all the rain lately had at least one of the sump pumps was operating this spring. Our land has a good slope of about 40 feet from the northwest corner to the southeast corner with the house itself on a slight rise that serves to keep the basement dry.
Hurricane season officially launched last week. NOAA's 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook indicates that for the Atlantic an above-normal or near-normal hurricane season is most likely. The outlook indicates a 45% chance for an above-normal season, a 35% chance for a near-normal season, and a 20% chance for a below-normal season. NOAA is predicting 11-17 named storms, 5-9 hurricanes with 2-4 of those major hurricane storms. Now is the time to plan for storms. Make sure you are ready for the next big storm. Check out this link to the Prince William Emergency Preparedness Guide.