First person: How we stayed cool during a 5-day summer power outage

Kelly Herdrich
First person: How we stayed cool during a 5-day summer power outage
Stay cool in the pool (while you can)

When the power goes out during the winter, we've got our gas fireplace to keep us warm, our milk can stay chilled in the snow out back, and we've usually got the iPad charged and loaded with enough movies and games to keep us entertained for the duration. But when our power went out during June's derecho several weeks ago, the heat wave didn't afford us the same wintertime luxuries. Temperatures in Maryland topped over 100 degrees. With three young children, each of the five days of the power outage was an extreme challenge. How did we stay cool during a power outage?

Use water. Sprinklers, pools, hoses, and water balloons became our best friends during the summer power outage. We lathered our daughters up in sunscreen and let them loose in our backyard with every water toy we had in our arsenal. We were also lucky enough to be able to use a family member's pool during day one of the outage. The lack of a pool filter and vacuum meant that we couldn't do the same after that first day.

Stay low. Don't make the mistake of sleeping upstairs when you're without an air conditioner. While you might be fine for a night (or possibly two), heat rises and you'll be too hot to sleep after that. My daughters simply couldn't get comfortable, and as a result, we had to move down to the first floor or the basement where the temps were considerably cooler. A cool, comfortable night's sleep will help rejuvenate you for the next hot day.

Venture out. A community-cooling center (often situated in public high schools during heat waves and power outages), a movie theater, dinner out, and a walk around the mall are all options for staying cool when you're without power and it's too hot to be outside. Don't despair if it's an hour to the nearest air-conditioned movie theater -- my daughters were able to watch a video in the car, we were able to enjoy the breeze as we drove along, and we wasted three-quarters of a day!

Don't open. When our power went out in the middle of the night, my first inclination in the morning was to open the doors and windows. Don't do it! You'll discover that 80 degrees in the house is still substantially cooler than 100 degrees outside. Unless there's a breeze or the temp cools off considerably at night, keep your house closed up to save your remaining cool air during a summertime power outage.

Use batteries. Battery-powered fans are an absolute must when you need to cool off during a power outage. Keep several in your home in case of an emergency. In addition, battery-powered radios, portable TVs, and the like can all help power outage time (slower than regular time) pass by quickly, no matter the season.