Those of you who felt Hurricane Sandy this week were reminded, yet again, of nature’s ferocity. At our home, about 100 miles north of New York City, on the banks of the Hudson River, the tides and wind speeds were our biggest concern.
The Internet was our constant companion with a shout-out to WeatherUnderground for crowd-sourcing the weather to amateur weather stations and aficionados. We calculated and recalculated wind speeds, tides and barometer changes based on Internet data — in addition to grabbing sleeping bags, water and flashlights and moving the car to the top of a hill. We stayed online searching for all the latest data.
Then we lost power. Our yard turned into a thigh-high lake of Hudson River overflow. We decided to abandon the house and slogged our way up to the cozy car where we spent the night and hoped the river would behave itself.
After years of living on the banks of the Hudson, which can be both beautiful and treacherous (sometimes at the same time), we’ve come up with some high and low tech ways to make sure we’re reasonably safe, warm and in the know — even when the electricity and Internet goes. Here’s our list, please feel free to share yours.
Hand-cranked radios like this one from Ambient Radio are a must for when the electricity decides to take a holiday. OK, you crank a lot for a little news, but if you keep the unit charged until the power is out you’ll be good for a few hours before the cranking begins. The WR-111A costs about $40 and combines a Digital AM/FM NOAA Weather Alert Radio, a 3- LED flashlight and a USB charger. AC power or a car adapter need to be purchased separately.
Maxsa makes a number of solar powered lighting solutions. While they’re only good for about eight hours of illumination, it’s enough light to make it safely down your driveway, light the way for service trucks or just add a warm candlelight glow to your night in the dark.
We’ve used Eton products, too. I think of them as the high tech/low tech Boy Scout of disasters. The Solar Powered iPhone Charger, the hand-cranked flashlight — you can even buy the American Red Cross Line models which give to charity while you stay prepared.
The d-light is a solar light that’s been incredibly effective in providing dependable solar light/LED lighting to emerging countries. It runs on batteries, is super lightweight and powers strong LED arrays. I bought four of these for family members as holiday gifts and was so moved by this company that I’ll donate to their charity as well.
The nPower PEG charger is “the world’s first kinetic energy charger for hand-held devices.” It’s powered as you walk, but you need to walk a lot, like over 30 minutes in order to to charge your phone enough for a quick call, but heck, what else can you do but pace during a power outage?
Sometimes you’re just not near home when the storm hits. We have our home rigged up (my husband’s a nerd) to automatically control our boiler from afar. We use DropCam to record everything from rising tides to squirrels, chipmunks and larger beasts that call the place home when we’re not there.
If you’re not the DIY type, look at Nexia, Schlage’s remote home monitoring. You can control lights, thermostats and locks via your iPhone. Great way to keep your eye on things from afar. Of course, if the power goes that’s all you’ll be able to do — keep your eye on things.
You will get an alert when the power goes out, so under less harrowing circumstances, you can call a repair person or a neighbor to keep tabs on your place.
There are lots of Personal Emergency devices on the market. The two I’ve used: Life360, a mobile app that, provided your phone is powered on and you’ve given permission, can locate you. Other emergency systems like Spot are more extreme, and they carry a fee for usage, but if you need constant contact with family or loved ones, especially those who tend to live off the grid or on the edge, then consider this one. I used this device to track my son’s progress along a river trip and it was well worth it.
The Hurricane Store is a great find for “all things hurricane but works well for any weather disaster. The flashlight for $13 is pretty great.
Back-up Battery Power
It’s also wise to have an external battery that can hold a few charges for when your phone battery starts to drain. The myCharge is a small portable battery that can quickly be charged up from a wall socket, (or more slowly from a laptop) and then supply power to mobile devices via the integrated cords. There’s a micro USB connector and a USB socket so it will work with most phones.
The Kindness of Strangers
In and around New York City, everyone was willing to lend an outlet to charge a device; charging parties appeared all over New York. Sometimes, the lowest tech of all, a wall socket and a smiling face, will do it all. Brightbox and Moxy are two companies offering free charging stations in the flooded downtown area.
Were you affected by the storm? Tell us how you stayed powered up and what devices came in handy.