Batten down the hatches!

The west coast of Vancouver Island is well-known for its storms. Powerful windstorms build in the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Alaska, and batter the Island. In my memory, the worst storms have been in March and November, but they can happen at any time. Although the Far Side is protected – facing Juan de Fuca Strait rather than the open ocean, we still get our share of wind and rain storms.

Last weekend, fierce winds followed by torrential rain resulted in downed trees and power lines, and washed-out roads. We didn’t lose our power, but some guests en route to the farm had to take a confusing detour to get here. Now there are three major storms headed our way. Big wind, big rain, big waves. Glad we don’t live on the beach, as waves of up to nine meters are forecast for Jordan River – just up the highway from us!

As always, when a weather warning is issued we pay attention. There are many things we do to prepare; fill the wood boxes so we can stay warm, fill the oil lamps and generator with fuel, check the batteries in the flashlights, stock the barns with hay and grain, clear the drains and gutters, etc.

There are also a few tricks you learn when you live in an area prone to power outages and road closures. At first sign of a storm, we fill the bathtub with water. That provides an extra supply of drinking water (no power, no well pump. No well pump, no water.) We keep extra drinking water on hand in the freezer, too. We use a bucket to fill the toilet tank so we have a functioning bathroom. We keep our vehicles fueled up, and have extra fuel on hand. We have a corded land line, so we have a functioning phone when the power is out. We have solar-powered and hand-cranked radios so we can find out what’s happening out there, or listen to some music.

We have a generator that runs a secondary panel. This can be run for a few hours each day to keep the freezers and fridges running, and can also power the well pump. Matches and candles are readily accessible at all times. Rain barrels are kept full so we have water for the sheep. Firewood and kindling are always nearby so we can heat the house with our woodstove. Extra propane is on hand so we can cook on our BBQ, but we also have a gas cooktop that works when the power is off. We stay well-stocked with food and basic household supplies, and the laundry is done regularly so no one will run out of clean clothes or towels. We also have the security of a close community. Our neighbours look after each other – firewood, barn space, etc. is shared in times of need.

Storm-watching is exciting. Sitting in the glow of an oil lamp beside the fire is charming. But our safety – and the safety of our flock – comes first. So, we batten down the hatches and hang on tight.