Life Without Electricity

One hundred days. That’s the amount of time the Willamette Valley is expected to be without electricity when the next megathrust earthquake strikes the Pacific Northwest. If you live in the region and just felt your heart crash to your stomach, welcome aboard.

Wondering where the 100-days fact comes from? Information about the electricity recovery time can be found on the Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Aftershock page. Their aftershock widget is finicky these days. On January 14th, 2021, Spencer, an OPB Member Center employee emailed me the following, “the Aftershock feature is going to be retired so it will not be updated for use”. Screen-prints from their page, along with some explanations have been added to my OPB’s Aftershock page. 

The second place I’ve found this estimate is in the 2013 Oregon Resilience Plan Executive Summary. It is also in the second video below. In it, the City of Salem Emergency Manager, Greg Walsh, discusses outage expectations regarding Cascadia at the 25-minute mark. 

Take a few breaths and check out this short 5-minute video from the EIS Council.

Electricity has become a resource we are highly dependent on. It’s scary enough to imagine three months without our lights turning on. For those who don’t have natural gas as a power source, a lack of electricity takes away our stoves, microwaves, washing machines, dryers, and dishwashers. It takes away our heat source. Then, of course, there are computers, phones, and TVs, but a major power outage has consequences well beyond all of this.

Without electricity, gasoline will not pump into our cars, water won’t flow from our sinks, food production will struggle, communication systems will fail, and ATMs won’t provide cash. Some stores will be forced to close, generators will run out of emergency fuel, and hospitals will struggle to provide care—for three months. Will it occur during the coldest, rainest three months? Who knows.

It is, beyond a doubt, a terrifying thought. We can admit to ourselves that when the earthquake hits, it’s really going to suck. But feeling terror now won’t help when that inevitable first day comes. Panic won’t help either.

Taking purposeful steps ahead of time will absolutely help. Here is a presentation by City of Salem Emergency Manager, Greg Walsh with some amazing preparedness strategies for you and your family to consider.

There is a lot to digest here. We have had some wonderful comments come in regarding generators. Beginning at the 25-minute mark in the above video, Greg discusses long-term outages, including the need to store gas, and gas stabilizers. Make sure you have a system for rotating it, too.

For now, come up with one thing you can do to mitigate the hardship and do that one thing. Whether it’s getting a flashlight and some extra batteries, having extra gasoline on hand, or setting up the supplies for a handwashing station and filling a jug of water, you won’t regret the step.

Next week, repeat the process. Do it again, and again, and again until you think you can manage at least two weeks without electricity. The longer, the better. Click the buttons below for other great sources on this topic.

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