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  2. Something that helps with all the stress that you spoke about, which my wife and I experienced during Irma, was taking multivitamin once a day. We were without power for 11 days and also experienced the eating and sleeping disruptions. I think supplementing the body with the vitamins helped us avoid getting sick with the stress of preparing the home, during the Cat 3 hurricane and the cleanup after, especially for more mature persons who are on the shadier side of their prime years.

    1. Great idea. I too am in the mature persons group and have supplemented my diet with vitamin supplements for over 30 years. While I got tired as the event progressed, I bounced back fairly quickly and did not get sick during or after the event. Most of my fatigue is due to age, I just can’t do what I did when I was in my 20s, so better preparation is now even more critical.

  3. Thanks for the details. I learned a new thing today. 64 years old and a Hugo survivor. One thing I might add is to open the main breaker before the lights go out for good. that might prevent that surging on refrigerator/freezer, and Air Conditioner circuits that can be very harmful to those compressors and circuit boards.

  4. Good point from Dataware on preemptive grid separation; additionally I would share our solution to the A/C problem (assuming you don’t have a generator capable of supplying whole house AC for a week); I purchased one of those 115 VAC portable units that the big-box stores sell. It’s large enough to cool a bedroom, will easily be powered off a standard generator (<10 amps), and requires no permanent installation.


    1. Thanks Florida Guy. I have a portable AC unit that we did not use because we only incrementally ran the generator. I have used the AC unit which is a 10,000 BTU unit when our main AC was out an it cooled a room perfectly. My concern during the Irma event was sleeping in a room with AC and running a generator made it hard to hear noises for security reasons. Also I wanted to be respectful of my neighbors and not run the generator between 11pm and 7am. You can bet once I get the generator quieted down and can run it day and night, I will be running that AC.

      Florida Guy, you have a great idea using a portable AC and any one living in the south or tropical climates should have a portable AC unit.

  5. The described system of connecting the generator to the house appears to be safe as a transfer switch completely isolates the generator from the grid and does not rely on just opening the main breaker. If that is not the case then a transfer switch must be installed.

    For others considering implementing a similar system here are some thoughts. I had a well pump on my retreat property that was a 30 amp 220 volt unit. I wired a manual transfer switch to the pumps so it could be powered by the grid or the generator with isolation from the no used source.

    This is a link to a typical transfer switch but not the single circuit on that I used if you were powering more than one circuit. Realize that you will probably have to institute manual load management.


  6. I’m off grid here so power is dependent on my efforts but people on grid should consider installing part of what I use, namely;
    A battery bank and an inverter. Mine are 8 golf cart batteries and a 4kw inverter. These run the house full time. Those without out solar can charge the batteries through the inverter. My propane powered 8kw genset will charge mine in an hour, once a day. A 4kw would work just as well.
    This way people can have almost normal conditions without excessive use of a generator.

  7. This is an excellently written, well-organized account of the incident. Thank you very much for taking the time to write it; your real experiences are so valuable to all of us. I especially appreciate your mention of things you could have done better, will do next time, etc. It sounds as if your family was a help during this stressful time. Give my respectful regards to your son!

  8. I had been living on my boat in the San Francisco bay area and had just recently moved into an apartment with my GF. We had a hammer wind come through. (A hammer wind is when you are working on your boat and put the hammer down on the dock. The wind then blows the hammer off of the dock into the water) Anyway, suffice it to say that it was a very strong wind. Power was knocked out in our apartment for three days. Driving up to the apartment building you would see light in only one of the apartments. Ours! We had brought our kerosene lamps from the boat to the apartment. They were a great asset and we now have them available in our house in the Pacific Northwest.
    Fuel for same stores for a long time but I did have one small plastic bottle that fell off of a shelf in the garage. The (old) plastic fractured and we now keep the fuel in a blue kerosene jerry jug.

    We had a very full fridge and by leaving it closed the entire time we were able to keep all of the food. Granted temps were moderate and in a warmer climate it would not last as long.

    I do have a couple of questions for the author and the readers. First, I just added Stabil to a couple of 5 gallon jugs of gas and the directions said 2 ounces for 5 gallons. Why did you add 4 ounces? Second question is on the generator muffler. We have a 7500 watt duel fuel propane or gasoline generator hooked up to manual transfer switch. Where we live power outages are not uncommon and we have used the generator a few times and it is loud. Would we risk damaging it by installing a second muffler? I’m thinking of maybe attaching an old VW bug type muffler to the exhaust. I know that muffler design is critical on 2 cycle engines and ours has a 4 stoke engine. Thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.

    1. from experience…it is very hard to quiet a noisy generator…muffler has very little effect…generator housing very difficult to construct with proper ventilation and also to keep the muffler from burning it down…the best solution in my opinion is to buy a quiet generator to begin with…check the decibel ratings..I usually use a Honda 2000 watt when noise is an issue…also bigger is not better..worse fuel efficiency and more noise…I have an off grid cabin and have wrestled with these issues for several years…there is no easy solution except solar which I use and very much recommend

      1. I’ve been in the power generation business for over 30 years (mechanical engineer, power plant maintenance superintendent, and power plant manager) and have made a commitment to my wife that we will have power in times of emergency. As such, we have a number of generators. The quietest generator is a military diesel MEP-803a Tactical Quiet (1800 rpm). They’re available on Ebay and elsewhere for around four or five thousand dollars. The next best is our Onan 7.5JB propane generator with an automotive muffler. It also is an 1800 rpm machine. We have other generators including the Honda 2000eu, which is a good quiet little generator. Each of the generator have specific purposes based on ease of setup, needs at the time, and noise level. For a substantially sized generator, the one thing to shoot for is 1800 rpm, for both quietness and reliability. Keep in mind that the big box store generators are 3600 rpm screamers that are destined for short lives.

    2. Hi, a couple of answers to your questions:
      1) Sta-Bil – 2oz for 5 GAL of gas will get you one year 1 year of storage of fuel. Using 4oz will get you up to 2 years of storage. Nothing stores great in Florida due to heat and humidity so I use 4oz and swap fuel every 12-16 months. So far the gas has always been good.

      2) Regarding a muffler for the generator. I removed the factory muffler had an adapter welded on to which I connect a flexible pipe to a standard car muffler. I have been told by several engine mechanics that using a muffler will decrease power output of the generator engine, by how much? I do not know. Also, when I first fired the generator up after installing the muffler I discovered the generator makes significantly more noise than the exhaust. I have removed the muffler until I get a better understanding of the power loss and build an enclosure for sound dampening.

      I think your choice of a 7500 Watt duel fuel generator is an excellent choice. It’s not to big to move around and will put out enough power for the essentials.

  9. Regarding generator noise. A muffler shop once told me to hold a rag over the exhaust side of the muffler [for a moment] and if that doesn’t quiet it down neither will a muffler. Usually the noise is coming from the mechanics of both the engine and the generator.Solution buy a generator with a lower decibel level or build a sound proof box around the generator. Note: remember to build in proper ventilation for cooling and exhaust.

  10. PRE—pared pre being the key pre storm or incident cook alot of cold or frozen food like 5 to ten days worth of meat rice pasta . put in ziplock bags or plastic containers . then when needed reheat or eat cold ! no power would you rather have raw chicken or baked / grilled / fried chicken ready to go ? same with pork or beef or fish . if it will go bad anyways cook it PRE before then put back in fridge if you have to evacuate you can load it up and take with to eat as you move . if crowds from other area’s are around food being cooked “smells” after event will bring alot of hungry folks to you location and could be dangerous . power and or fuel to warm is minimal. plus your diet/intake will be wonderful not sparse and your stress level will be less with not having to worry about cooking food daily . the time not cooking can be invested into recovery or whatever .package it into portions that will work for your family/group to control inventory and access into cold storage time to minimize loss of temp sorting out later. even label with marker for ease of id . cook more than you think you will need by factor of x2 ie 3 days cook 6 days,,, 5days cook 10days if recovery happens quicker then great help others with meals or don’t cook after power comes on for couple of days.

  11. I lived in hurricane alley all my life and lived through 7 of them. That being said SOLAR is the best way to go. Fuel gets burned, candles melt down, but the sun will sooner or later start to shine again. SOLAR lights/radios you keep in the window 24/7, a huge battery you attach a trickle charger to so it will be topped off when you need it, and solar panels NOT attached but in a closet so you can set them up where needed.

    This and converting most of your portable electronics to rechargeable C, AA, and AAA batteries. Using converters for D sized.

    One other very necessary item; a gallon of hurricane wine in the pantry.

  12. Great post thanks. I do have a question, what is the grounding rod for the generator? And how deep is it sunk into the ground.

    I am in real rocky soil that makes placing anything I into the ground very difficult.

    Thanks again

    1. Hi Skip,

      I am using an existing ground rod that I am told is 8 feet deep. Below is YouTube video showing how to use a homemade water drill to bore a hole for a ground rod.


      You can also dig a trench an bury it vertically as long as the trench is two feet deep.

      Try looking for an exiting rod near a Phone or /CATV Box or by the electrical panel.

      Good Luck.

  13. Excellent communication of the events leading up to the main event. Take away, spend time now with some critical thinking of what you will need and do. Some events require minutes or hours to execute. Stay safe and prepared at all times my friends.

  14. I managed to jerry-rig (hope I can say that without offending anyone) a motorcycle muffler to a 10hp/6500 Briggs 4 stroke engine, with a buried 8′ tailpipe. Change in exhaust was less than 2 decibles according to a local code enforcement officers meter.
    It seemed to run ok but I eventually removed it because of no real information available on back pressure specs for small engines, and no real advantage.
    I finally went with an 2500/5000 inverter and an old truck with a 180amp alternator. Easy peasy, just connect to battery, fire her up, switch on the inverter, bring it up slowly. No more having a cardiac arrest jerking a recoil start!
    Ran the reefer, window unit AC when needed, puter, and lights over an 83hr outage after Irma. (have to have a longer outage to fully depend it though)

  15. Good article, excellent timeline account.
    On the generator noise its hard to quiet them down but I have a dedicated shed that I can leave the doors open to direct the exhaust outwards which also directs the majority of the noise. That direction is towards that backside of my house. While some find that irritating at 100 feet away its not bad and allows me to listen for any disturbance in motor noises. It also keeps ice off the controls during winter storms.
    Again great job in doing and articulating the account.

  16. Randy, Keith, Thanks for the opinions. I was hoping for an easy fix. Oh well. My problem is I can’t go much smaller and be able to run my 220V submersible pump. I’m thinking now I’ll build a dedicated shed and insulate the heck out of it. I can rig an exhaust fan to run when the generator is on.

  17. Excellent article,a wider view of weather patterns/trends may have given a longer lead time(the track kept progressing west due to a buckle in the jet stream). A little meteorology is just one more on the list of preps to learn.

  18. Great article. We came through Hurricane Harvey, 5 miles from eyewall. Lots of tree, shingle and fence damage. Lost a 33’ sailboat owned for 37 years in Rockport. We were on generator for 7 days, ran a window unit at night till midnight. A week after the storm we had a 30 amp plug wired into the main house panel to eliminate the suicide cord. Also picked up a new 10kw dual fuel. Wish I had it during Harvey, then I could have used the 5kw to run the well. Oh well we are ready next time. Refrigerator and freezer kept food at proper temp with management. We have gas stove, water heater and of course an outside grill. Noise was not much of a concern, except to us, as our nearest neighbor is several hundred yards away.
    The new gen will run most everything with the exception of the 5 ton AC. Of course not at all one time.
    We had most preps well done ahead of time with lanterns, gas, food and water.
    We are thankful that the storm quickly downgraded to a 1 by the time it hit us, or there would have been a lot more damage.
    It has made an impression on the neighbors though, nearest one is getting a whole house Generac, neighbor across street is installing a 45kw Cummings to run his house and honey farm operation.
    Lessons learned. Few nights without AC in South Texas is an eye opener.

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