Cyclone Marcia – Rockhampton Queensland Australia (Part Five)

Posted on Tue 03/03/2015 by



I mentioned in the last Post how we had lost power, and in the heat, everything in the fridge had either gone off already or was rapidly getting to the stage where it was no longer viable.

AfterMarciaFridge01I knew that our local major Supermarket was getting bags of party ice into their store on the Sunday morning early, so I was there on their doorstop just prior to 9AM, and because of the crowd, they had actually opened early. I headed straight for the ice and got 2 bags, and they were limiting people to 4 bags. I got a couple of other things as well, and just as I was about to leave, I saw our daughter in the store, and she was also getting some ice and other goods as well.

We spoke and they invited us over for the afternoon, as they were also rapidly losing food from their freezer of their fridge as well, and they needed to expire it befor it also went off, so they were going to have a barbecue that afternoon. Our daughter mentioned that her neighbour needed some of those large D Cell batteries, so popular for all those hand held torches. I knew that there were none available her and in the nearby large BigW outlet. I did however know where I could source some of them. In this same huge shopping mall is a seconds store aptly titled The Reject Shop, and they take seconds from all the major Supermarkets that cannot be sold there and they then sell them at discount prices. Having visited this store with my good lady wife so many times over the years we have lived here, you get used to seeing where the items are stocked, and I knew where the batteries were. This store had not been open since before the Cyclone event, and all I had to do was wait for opening time and walk straight to them. I mentioned this to our daughter and she was with me when the store opened. We went straight there and there they were plenty of those batteries. I use them in my transistor radio, and it takes three of them, and not sure how long the power would be out I decided to get some more just in case. I picked up a pack of 8 of them, as did our daughter also. Oddly, this pack of 8 batteries was cheaper here in this store than what they were charging in the major Supermarkets for packs of two batteries, so sometimes it actually pays off to keep your eyes open in these seconds stores.

I had to get the ice home before it melted, and once home I placed both bags in the kitchen sink.

Now all I needed was something to use as a cold storage container, mainly for water and milk, and here necessity proved to be the Mother of invention.

I don’t have an Esky any more, and in the U.S. I think you call them cool boxes, so I looked in the shed, and the only thing I had which was large enough were two Car Wash Buckets from the Mothers Car Care Company. I have 2 much smaller buckets which I use to wash our car with, but the Mothers buckets at 4 Gallons in size were a lot larger and probably more suited to the task at hand I was hoping to use them for, cold storage during this power outage.

Once I had the 2 bags of Party Ice at home I placed the items I wanted cooled into the one bucket, tipped in the bag of ice, which all but filled it to the top of the bottles, mainly milk and water, as you can see from the first image at the top of this Post. The second bag of ice I placed in the kitchen sink wrapped in a wet towel, which served 2 purposes. It slightly melted the outer layer of ice into a shell, thus partially protecting the inner ice from the heat, and the wet towel acted as an evaporation mechanism, further keeping the ice as cool as possible for as long as possible, which in the now very high ambient heat was not very long.

In that heat outside, even with the one now full bucket in the shade, the ice still melted in around an hour or so, but it cooled down the water and the milk. I left it for a further couple of hours and then drained the still relatively cold water, and dropped in the remaining ice from the kitchen sink which was still quite OK really. As what was now in the bucket was cold, this load of ice lasted a lot longer, and did not completely melt until almost Sunset.

The following day, I could not source ice from Woolworths, and our daughter told me that the ice making factory, CQ Ice was close to us. I looked up the address in the phone book and found they were only one mile from where we lived. I went there at around 3PM and got 3 bags of ice.

MothersRefrigerator01Once home, I did the same thing, and as the contents of the one bucket were now warm, that first bag of party ice I put in had melted away to cold water in around an hour, but at least everything in the bucket was now cold. As it melted so fast, I thought there must be a better way to further insulate the bucket and try and keep it colder for longer. I had noticed that the two buckets fit inside each other, but with a gap of around 5 or so inches at the bottom of the bucket, because of the extended lip at the top of the buckets. So, while that first bag of ice had melted, the water was still very cold. I drained this cold water into the bottom of the second bucket filling up the space where the gap was. I then tipped out the remaining cold water, and then pushed this bucket into the one with the cold water in the bottom of it, and the gap was now totally filled with cold water. I rearranged the contents of the top bucket, which by now was a carton of tomato juice, a carton of longlife milk, two large bottles of water, and a large plastic jar of sliced peaches. Because they were now quite cold, the second bag of ice I placed in now lasted considerably longer, and I also placed a tub of butter on top of the ice, scrunching it down so it was almost covered by the ice as well. I was surprised just how much I could actually fit into the bucket.

MothersRefrigerator02Then I added an old concept which was originally developed here in Australia, and called a Coolgardie Safe, after where it was first used, on the Goldfields of Western Australia almost 130 years ago. It uses the principal of a wet thick material which then acts as an evaporation mechanism to cool down the contents of the container. There is some information about The Coolgardie Safe at this link, and this is in fact still quite a popular way to cool things here in Australia. So, to hopefully add to the cooling of our food, I wet a large towel and draped it over the top of the now two buckets with the lid removed from that top bucket. (These two images showing the buckets stacked and with the towel on top were taken after the event, as the batteries in my camera went flat during the wait, and there was no way to recharge them)

This kept the contents not only cold, but in fact the ice stayed as ice for almost 4 hours. That third bag of ice in the sink and covered also with a wet towel, was still quite viable when I rearranged the whole thing, tipping out the water from the bottom bucket and replacing it with the cold water from the melted ice surrounding the ‘goodies’, emptying the remainder of the water and then filling it back with the last of the ice for that last bag.

The ice melted during the night, but the contents were still quite cold in the morning.

I repeated this whole process on the Tuesday, only this time I waited a further hour, until 4PM to go and get the ice.

We had cold water, tomato juice to have with our evening meal, milk for my cereal in the morning and cups of tea throughout the day, and butter which remained viable for two hot days.

That gap in the bucket was the most critical thing in this whole process really, as it allowed the container with the water, milk etc to have a volume of cold water acting as an insulator between the top bucket and the concrete of the back porch, where we virtually lived for those five days.

The power came on sometime after Midnight on the Wednesday early AM, and I finally noticed it when I saw the bedside clock radio flashing at 4.30AM. Both now relieved that we had the power back on, we went out onto the back porch, and noticed the lights on in our housing area. Both thirsty, I lifted the wet towel and took out one of the water bottles, still cold, and there were even some small blocks of ice still as ice in the container, not bad after they had been in there since 9PM the night before, now 7 hours from being put into our Mothers Car Wash bucket refrigerator.

So, while the Mothers buckets were designed specifically as car wash buckets, I found that they were perfect for what we wanted, and for when we needed something like this so desperately.

Later, on that Sunday, we went across to our daughter’s family home for the evening meal, as they expired the last of their food from their freezer. Peter made some beef mince into small meatballs, and cooked them up on a small Primus gas powered burner in the kitchen. He also did a pile of chicken breasts on the barbecue, and some pasta shells in a large pot on the side burner of his barbecue. Their neighbour also visited and there was more than enough food for the six of us. Peter had also sourced some beer, which was in one of his cool boxes so the two gentlemen here had some cold beer to go with their meal.

We stayed for around three hours and came home just after dark set in.

It was another stinking hot night with not a breath of a breeze at all. The torches were holding out a lot better than I expected and we even still had cool water and milk for a cup of tea.

We were now into the third day without power.

We had somewhere to cook. We could keep the essential things cold, and all that remained was the waiting.