The Lights Went Out in Texas

In Preparednessby M.D. Creekmore21 Comments

by Texican

Last week our small area of the world experienced a power outage which lasted just an hour and 55 minutes. The power went out at 5:55 pm. Not a big deal, right? I’m prepared, I have batteries, I have flashlights, I have candles, I have lanterns, I have kerosene, I have…….! Yep, I pretty much have it all. Now if I could only find it all.

I write about this very simple inconvenience for the simple fact that although I had everything I needed to get through it, I did not have all I needed very handy. Sometimes it’s the very small things, like this power outage, that show some major flaws in our preparedness.

So, it’s 5:55 pm and since it is late November it is already dark. The power goes off while I’m on the computer in the front part of the house. My wife is in the living room in the back part of the house. I don’t know why this came as a surprise to me but, it did…. it is pitch black in my house with no lights!

For the first few seconds, I just sat there waiting to see if the power would come back on. After about a minute I decided it wasn’t coming back real soon and I figured I needed to do something to get some light in the house.

The problem was I could hardly see to get out of my chair much less out of the room and down the hall to the living room. Luckily I had my cell phone with me and I used it as a flash light to get to the living room to make sure my wife was alright.

She used hers to get to the kitchen to get a flashlight and I took mine to another room to get a second flashlight. Once we both had a light source the first hurdle was jumped. This took no more than 5 minutes so we waited another 5 minutes or so just in case the power should come back on, which it has some times in the past.

But, after 10 minutes or so we were still in the dark. Now we start thinking of having more light than just the flashlight. I have that covered because a few months back we were without power for almost 4 hours. It was during the day so we didn’t need much extra light but, I decided to get two of my lanterns out of storage and fill the tanks and store them in a reachable location inside the house.

I also put 3 of the quart bottles of kerosene and a small funnel and a box of kitchen matches with the lanterns. That foresight worked out well for us and they really were in a good location and easy to get to, once I found the flashlight.

Now, here is an embarrassing admission, I have never in my life lit, used or otherwise depended on a lantern for light. Come on be honest, how many of you have never used a lantern? My knowledge of lantern use comes from watching Little House On The Prairie and I know enough to never leave one unattended in the barn!

Well, I raised the mantle and the wick, struck the match, placed it on the wick and just like that we had light, a very poor light but it was still light. I adjusted the wick a bit and I was so proud of myself that I was just a beaming. Since I did so well with the first one I grabbed the second one and got it going so each of us would have our own light source.

After a few moments of patting myself on the back, we became aware of just how little light the two lanterns were putting out. It was nothing like the light on Little House! I think they may have used a little trickery on the set.

My wife and I both like to read and since there was nothing else to do we picked up our books and started to read. OK, we tried to read and found out real quick that the only way to do so was to get right up to the lantern with the book pretty much touching the lantern. I swear I got a couple of nose hairs singed! We did manage to do some reading but it was accomplished by twisting the body in too many ways for me to describe.

After a few minutes of reading, we decided we needed a smoke break. We never smoke in the house and we couldn’t just flick the switch for the outside lights so we each took our lantern and went out back to the patio. Now that was the only nice thing about the outage. It was kinda like mood lighting and not too bad.

That was over all too soon and we had to return to the dark house. We picked up the books again and read until the lights finally came back on. That was the longest hour and 55 minutes we have spent in a long time. We were happy to have the use of electricity again.

Now to the lessons learned from this minor yet very instructional time period. The first thing I plan on correcting is the number of flashlights in the house. I want at least 1 in every room plus extra batteries in each room. Secondly, I will learn the number of steps to get to and from each room in the house.

Thirdly I will purchase several more lanterns and more quart bottles of kerosene. My storage location for the lanterns and kerosene is a good location and doesn’t need to be altered. From this experience, I would like to be able to get more light in the living area.

I don’t know if more lanterns is the answer or something else, any suggestions?

With very little light we noticed it to be very depressing and somewhat stressful which was something we did not count on. During a prolonged period like months or more that could be a real problem, for us anyway. Since my only knowledge of lanterns comes from Little House On The Prairie, as noted above, I have a question.

I know by extending the wick(turning it up) the flame burns higher and brighter. The higher it goes the more smoke it emits and darkens the mantel. Is there a ROT for how high the wick should be? My lanterns are cheap ones, do more expensive ones work better(I think I know the answer to that)?

To sum up our little outage, I know that light is good. I know that some light is better than no light. I know a small amount of light in a living area is depressing. I’m sure one could get used to it but at my age, I may not have enough time.

I know now that having everything one needs to survive most anything that comes along is worthless unless it can be retrieved quickly and put to use easily. I know that preparing for the unknown future is a lot more fun than it will be living it.

Well, that is a description of my little survival moment. I hope it may serve in some small way to assist some of you in your preparations. At the very least it should tell you not to depend on Little House On The Prairie for your survival needs.


  1. Get some cheap mirrors to reflect the light or plain white paper does too. I have found cheap plexiglas mirrors in plastic frames and added small hinges so the mirrors can sit upright and reflect more light. I also found some cheap led headlights on clearance in the camping section at Wally World and they are great for reading-just need to have replacement button batteries.

  2. Good article! I have 3 oil lamps that I just found recently at antique stores. They all use lamp oil, of which this article reminded me I need a few more bottles. We have plenty of flashlights scattered around the house and a fair amount of batteries, but I could always use more. And we have a few larger camp-style lanterns if needed, which are packed away in the basement. But, I’d be able to find them fairly easily with the use of one of the flashlights scattered around the house. Which reminds me that the only room that is frequently used that doesn’t have a flashlight in it is the office. So, two preps I can do today: order more lamp oil and put a flashlight in the office! 🙂

  3. Author

    I noticed that the people that I sold my old blog domain too has started using my “Wolf Pack” to refer to themselves now to.

    So I guess we need to find a new name for this group… Any suggestions…

  4. As a person who grew up in Florida, we always had hurricane lamps. The wick controls the light. We usually had several hurricane lamps. We used a couple in each room we were in. I love the light from them. However, I would get some of those little camp lanterns and some headlamps. Also a couple of reading book lights. And batteries-all sizes.

    1. Good Idea Rvprepper head lamps and book lights are a good thing to have. I have a lot of hurricane lamps or oil lamps I will get on the ball and add a few more bottles of lamp oil to my stash.

  5. We often lose power and usually it will be off for 6 or more hours. In the daytime that’s an inconvenience. At night it’s a problem. Besides flashlights and lanterns, which we have plus candles on the hearth as well, I bring some of our solar charged path lights into the house and set them up in a vase or tall pot. They make great night lights for the bedroom and you don’t have to worry about them getting knocked over and starting a fire.

  6. Short-term events can be great training. They can point out deficinecies in your thinking without having a major impact on you.

    Lights at events has been one for me. We lost power at a show in a large windowless building. Few people were really prepared, but then the “flashlight” function got used on people’s cell phones and it caught on.

    Olight has a really neat little flashlight, about 1.5″ long. Rechargeable, and would make a good zipper tag for a jacket or purse. I’d keep the “no battery contact” in it because it would keep me from accidentally setting it off. About $17 on their site, if you don’t catch it on sale sometime.

    I try to keep our lanterns and appropriate batteries co-located. I don’t store the batteries in them (in the past this has ruined lights for me), so this helps.

    I really like the mini Mag-Lite. You can take the front off, reverse the body of the flashlight, and set it on a table like a candle.

    1. Ditto that, JP. I keep an “O-Light S1 Baton” w/ a single 123A rechargeable 3V battery in my pocket at all times. It’s part of my “constant carry” like my knife and C/C sidearm.
      For it’s diminutive size, with three levels of intensity it’s a surprising amount of light.

  7. I’ve got an LED lantern (APTEK solar, $23 at Amazon) with five power options – solar (with built-in capacitor), dynamo (hand crank), car battery adapter, USB adapter or 3 AA butteries. It’s got 2 power levels ( 24 or 36 LEDs on) and at regular level has plenty of light for reading. At full blast it’s like being on stage! Safer, brighter and more flexible than kerosene lamps. Amazon has all kinds of them. Highly recommend buying a couple for the house.

  8. You want to turn the wick down so it is just peeking above the lip of the opening it comes out from. To clean the globe between using just crumple up newspaper & wipe it out after it is totally cooled down. You should also keep a roll of extra wick of the right size for your lamps in storage as you’ll go through it especially if your family is uncomfortable in the dark & your using multiple lamps.

  9. I lose electricity for weeks at a time in winter. Because I have cats, I use wall mounted kerosene lanterns so we can move around the house. For cooking and reading, I use solar rechargeable battery LED lanterns. It is also good training on going to bed when the sun sets and get up with the morning sun. In winter, someone needs some light from flashlight or oil lamp to tend wood burning stove. Yes, I lose electricity to winter storms.

  10. 1) EDC flashlight. Always have one on your person. This eliminates stumbling around in the dark trying to find one. I love my Fenix PD35 and carry it in a belt-mounted hard plastic holster. The 18650 battery, while not as available as AA’s, keeps a charge for hours and is rechargeable.
    2) Chem Lights. Break the internal chemical capsule, and have up to 12 hours of light. I can’t say how they compare to your lanterns, but they are far, far less of a fire hazard, and are easily disposable when they die (about 12 hours to totally die, less than that for really useful output – YMMV).

  11. Well I feel quite smug here in the UK! I am actually more organised than you, which is a total first!! I put my initial emergency torch, matches, candles in a box where everyone knows it is. OK if you are upstairs you may have to use your phone to light your way or wait until your eyes adjust enough to feel your way!
    The rest of my candles, matches etc are all in shelves under the stairs, easy to get at.
    As for oil lamps I decided to “collect” oil lamps as a way of covertly including them with my preps as my partner isn’t always on board! I have a nice display of about 20+ lamps all fully working and some topped up with oil ready to go.
    We often have power outages here as we live in the country and storms bring down the wires. Great article as it makes you stop and think where things are in the initial event and can you actually get to them when needed! Thank you

  12. I also have a EDC flashlight on me. We loose power at odd times, and even lost power today, thunderstorms rolling through right now. Creekmore crew is good for me too.

  13. I have three crates of lighting materials in my mud room pushed underneath a bench. They contain headlamps, batteries, flashlights, stick on led lights, matches, candles and several boxes of solar decorative string lights that can be hung up once charged. In several rooms I have the small led lamps with radios that are battery operated with extra batteries. In rooms without those radios I have Luci solar lights lying on a window sill charging all the time. In my country kitchen I have an array of kerosene lamps arranged to look like a decorative display collection. Headlamps are really nice to have because they can be hands free for things like climbing stairs or washing dishes or reading. I also have some solar charged light bulbs and some of those battery run light switches that light up. I also have solar yard light sticks that can be brought inside and put in vases in front of mirrors. Light is important and should have as many back ups as possible. There are many options that are not costly. Candles should only be used if they are protected by globes and put in places away from traffic or flammable materials.

  14. Hello
    When I read the title of this, “The Lights Went Out in Texas” it reminded me of a good book series by Bobby Akart that described the lights going out everywhere but Texas (we have our own grid)
    Texans were feeling pretty smug until they realized that they then had to fend off the rest of the 47 States’ population that demanded entry.

  15. Dang, I missed this when it first posted. Life and schedule has been so hectic and complicated that it makes me wish we’d have that collapse.
    Anyway, when it comes to the oil lamps, if that is to be your choice, if you can make them part of the house decor it makes it easier to get to, have ready and light up. A hanger hook on the wall with the lamp hanging in the ready.
    I have oil lamps in case of…. when buying the oil I buy the smokeless and it works fine. A nice extra about oil lamps is if the power is out when it’s chilly, they will create some heat. Granted the size of the room and number of lamps will be a factor.
    I also bought up a bunch of those “push-on” closet lights and placed them through-out the house… one in each room so I didn’t have to carry lights around, and at the top and bottom of the staircase. I have some that are those “As Seen On TV” ones, 6 inch domes, paid $5 for a box of six as they were reduced for quick sale. They take AA batteries. I also have some of the LED lights, 2 1/2 inch,
    which take AAA batteries. As for going room to room that’s when I wear a headlamp. And if that is not enough, I do have a flashlight in every room as well. It all adds up to my finding my way out to the back of the house to start up the generator… not a big one, 4200 watt lets me run the pellet stove(not my first choice, it came with the house) TV/stereo and PC and the refrigerator.
    As for having to do any cooking, I have 3 stoves, gasoline, propane, butane.
    I’ve been gathering up FREE Wood, when I find it online to use in the backyard pit I built. Amazing how people say come get it. They clear cut and give away the wood. and then there are the free pallets… just have to cut them up.
    Push comes to shove there’s nothing like cooking outdoors.
    Well… kinda got away from the oil lamp topic but it kinda all flows into the same stream.
    take care folks, stay safe.

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