This morning, after some 24hrs of torrential rains, window rattling thunder and lightning that shamed any New Years Eve celebration, my phone rang. It was a friend, a newly arrived Ibiza resident. Living in the campo (a generic term now used to represent any remote, non-village location) she was a little shaken by events.
Whilst I rather minimally gave her some pointers, I was reminded yet again of the necessity of preparation, the vastness of it and yet also the simplicity.
I had intended, somewhere in that future born of acute procrastination and day-dreaming, to write about ‘surviving’ Ibiza storms. Finishing the call, I sighed. Today I guess, is as good a day as any… Time to start going public with elements of my inner geek…
What follows is, of course going to be influenced by your unique circumstances.
Please adapt or discard accordingly.
Keeping It (un)Real
Whilst we theoretically live in the First World, we are also on a tiny island where the various ‘taken-for-granted’ elements of life tend to fail the moment any extremity is encountered.
For example, electricity.
In the UK, a rail company once complained that services were suspended due to ‘leaves on the track’ and on another occasion, due to the ‘wrong type of snow’. Here on Ibiza, we have our own version – when it rains, lightning or not, there is almost unfailingly power fluctuations at best and complete blackouts at worst.
“Water and electricity – bad for ya, innit”, snigger the Health and Safety zealots
Sure is for us…
So, when a storm is due in, consider what needs electricity to run – your water pumps, stove, lighting, heating etc?
Up where I live, the whole damn lot needs electricity to work, so I’m usually – theoretically – buggered right from the word go.
It’s not just what needs electricity to run however that needs to be taken into account but also what will blow if there’s a power surge – think routers, computers, sound systems, not to mention lights etc. Get a whiff of a storm and unplug every damn thing.
Secondly our 3G and WiFi networks. Hell, might as well throw bog standard landlines into the mix too. These also tend to take a nose dive at some speed, as soon as there’s a sniff of a storm brewing. You can use your landline and call a number you’ve dialed a thousand times before and suddenly, disconcertingly, get the message: “I’m sorry, this number doesn’t exist” If only that was to the tax office… rather than the hospital.
So, expect fluctuating to nil communications too.
Good, now we’re starting to set the scene.
No power (which may also mean no lighting, heating, running water and cooking facilities), and no comms.
Pre – prep’
If you want to keep an eye out on the weather locally, I’d suggest the following apps:
eltiempo.es (FREE – available on web, iOS and Android) lightningmaps.org (FREE – available on web, iOS and Android)
Rain XT (iOS – small cost)
Rain Alarm Pro (Android – small cost)
You can, of course chuck WindGuru, Yahoo Weather, Accuweather etc into the mix, but honestly, a daily check of
– ElTiempo.es to start with,
– followed by a cautious eye on LightningMaps.org and Rain XT / Rain Alarm Pro
and you’ll pretty much have all necessary bases covered.
Chances are that if you live in the campo, you’ll have a vehicle. Now, if you’re new to the island you probably want to be mindful that our camino’s (uncovered tracks) can turn into clay based skidpans the moment it rains. The damn things are lethal. I shall presume that you’re already aware that in our climate, even the tarmacked roads, with the mix of pollution, oils and just the lightest of rain, are also a stuntman’s dream – and a novices highway to hell.
We lose far too many people on this island as it is, and that’s before I even mention drugs and alcohol, excessive tiredness etc. You might not be the idiot but make sure you can survive the one you meet…
The moment there’s a storm warning, I have some really basic steps I carry out.
I check the vehicle has
fuel (I never drive with less than 1/2 tank in the winter, not least because up in the North garages are scarce and so too are their opening hours…)
screen wash check
lights all working
I also carry the following kit at all times (separate to the stringent legal requirements of the island)
small haversack containing
— fluorescent vest
— first aid kit
— small bottle of water.
These are all in a small haversack in case the vehicle breaks down and I need to trek anywhere, day or night.
The island is only 45km x 23km, so chances of me having to trek terribly far are minimal, and is reflected in the sparseness of the ‘exit haversack’ (Plus, I carry a EDC – Every Day Carry – bag everywhere I go and you should see the kit in that … but maybe that’s for another blog post 😉 )
– cat / hedgehog, small animal rescue box.
Facebook buddies have seen this already and are well versed (poor enduring souls) in my love of animals. My kit is simple but effective.
— cat box
— cat box lining (newspaper will do fine)
— small towel (to either pick hedgehogs up with – although I have a separate pair of sturdy gloves but more about them momentarily – or to cover the box when transporting animals (they get sick, if they see the world whizzing by))
— cat meat
— cat biscuits (hedgehogs shouldn’t have the cat meat but biscuits are fine. If you see a hedgehog out during the day, there’s a good chance it is starving – and in the summer, desperate for water)
— small low level bowl to contain
— toilet roll – or any paper towel. There’s always some kind of mess, be it food, poop or whatever, to clean up.
— plastic bag – basically a temporary bin to put aforementioned mess, empty containers etc into.
Things like tow ropes, jump leads etc, you hopefully carry by default…
However, I also carry a couple of these 10m ropes. They’re ridiculously light yet can handle 230kg / 0.25 tonnes of weight – great for pulling fallen tree’s, bigger rocks off the camino. They cost around €1.75 in the Ferriteria, so not exactly bank breakers. I find them easier to use than faffing with tow ropes.
Along with these, I carry a sturdy pair of gardening gloves – perfect for hauling tree’s or lifting (surprisingly heavy, the dense damn things) rocks out of the way.
It ain’t over…
Here’s another point to be mindful of…
Folks are really good at staying indoors when the thunder is cracking, lightning is raining down around us and the rain itself is a solid curtain. Then it all clears up and out folks go. Here’s the problem… if it rains again, even if only lightly, or the wind gets up, life is remarkably dangerous. You see, the earlier downpour has now truly soaked into the ground and a good gust of wind or just that little bit more water can lead to a ‘tipping point’ and that tree, terrace or rock that hasn’t budged thru’ the earlier hell storm suddenly comes loose and crashes or hurtles down the hillside.
I’ve seen it enough times to now be wary of the ‘quiet after the storm‘
If a storm hits good and proper then I lose the ability to prep and heat food (loss of electricity up here)
One thing I do by default is to place a sterilized coin atop of the ice cubes in my freezer.
If there’s a power outage, the coin will sink if anything defrosts too severely.
I’m a bit of a protein and coffee fiend, so my supplies tend to be so influenced.
At any point in time, I make sure I have spares (that is, ‘Not Currently In Use’ – because it’s too damn easy to start using an emergency pack and not replace it in time) of
mixed fruit n nut
If I get enough forewarning and feel the storm might be ongoing, I’ll boil up some eggs in advance. They can keep for a week in the winter temperatures.
I also have three thermoses’, so I’ll make a ready supply of coffee too!
This small supply can keep me healthy and happy for almost a week (although I’ll sure pig out on a three course once it’s over!)
Ah, no running water.
No shower, no toofies (that’s teeth, to you) cleaning…The teeth are easy – bottled water takes care of that.As for showering…
Well, one year after 10 days of no power, as it snowed on Mallorca I did wade into the pool. Needless to say I won’t be doing that again.
I’ve found … baby wipes … to be an excellent solution! I’m pretty big and it takes about 16 wipes for me to feel as clean and fresh as a… babies bottom…
Ach, is it too late to contemplate if this blog post is a good idea?…
I guess it would of little surprise to anyone that aside from the car, I also carry a separate Fist Aid kit – but this one has a couple of additions:
antihistamine cream / tablets
and some total kick-ass painkillers
I can think of little else more unnecessary and uncomfortable than being stuck somewhere, in pain or discomfort when some bog-standard over-the-counter stuff could change the whole game.
It’s also wise to make sure you’ve got every possible emergency number you’d potentially need, right to hand – and not on your phone necessarily. Whilst I carry backup external battery packs for my phones, there’s been times when storms have gone on long enough that even these have given up the ghost.
Emergency numbers for
Police (local station is a good idea)
Vet (even if you don’t have pets – lord knows what you’re going to encounter out here)
Seprona (Environmental officers)
Mates who might come save yo ass, or at least know where to find you.
You may want to add
etc to your own list.
I don’t have any easy answers with regards to heating, bar one. My entire little home needs electricity to work and if that goes, there’s no gas fire or open fire to save my chilly soul. My only secret is a Noo-Noo! I love these things and have half a dozen of them. They’re unbelievably warm, inexpensive – and that’s not an affiliate link – just a genuine, ‘My-God-These-Things-Are-Wonderful‘ recommendation.
Ok, so now hopefully if you’re unfamiliar with preparing for outback storms in Ibiza, you’ll be at least thinking along the right track. It’s not unusual to lose power, Wifi, 3G and even bog standard phone signal.
It’s not unusual for camino’s to flood, terraces to collapse, for trees to fall and roofs to leak! It’s part of our paradise and usually pretty short lived (although climate change seems to be erring to make a liar out of me, as the years go on…)
Apply a little common sense, throw in some healthy fear (Nature deserves that) and bunker down to enjoy the show.
Yes, you might end up tired, a little hungry, a little sick of the four walls that surround you, but this too shall pass and you’ll have one helluva story to tell.
Which reminds me, when it does pass, do these three things:
as you live through the storm, make a note of anything you use that will need replacing.
make a note of anything you didn’t get done or need to get, so when it’s all over, you’re ready and organized, ensuring the ongoing impact of the storms chaos is at least minimalized in your own life.
get out. Get out from those four walls.
Be it, if you’re an introvert like me, a long walk alone, looking in admiration at how the World around you has changed.
If you’re more extrovert in nature, call up a buddy and go for a drink. Be mindful of those who are frail or perhaps live in more extreme environments than even you – give them a quick call and just check they’re ok.
If you’ve not heard from a buddy, check in – maybe they’re sick and combined with the storm, a friendly voice and an offer of help will do wonders for setting them back on their feet.
And if you’re on the receiving end of such kindness, don’t forget to pay it forward.
I’ve got to go do some other stuff now, but I’ve the sneaky suspicion I’ll be back to update this … I’ve written it impulsively, in a hurry, without my usual pre-planning and consideration, for we’ve more storms due in and I’d like to get this out there, to help, in my own small, mountain-isolated way.
If you’ve any suggestions, please feel most welcome to add them in the comments below. I found out today that there are numerous people whom our local storms terrify and I’d like them to know there’s a way through and indeed it can even be a bit of an adventure! 😉