Sunday, 21 September 2014

08:47 – Barbara left at 0400. Colin was outraged. I just went back to sleep.

Something odd is going on with the fire hydrants on our street. Ever since we moved into this house in 1987, the hydrant in the front corner of our yard and the two at the ends of the block have had green tops and caps, which indicates a flow rate of 1,000 to 1,500 GPM. NFPA considers that excellent for a residential neighborhood. Then, a week or so ago, I noticed that the hydrant in the corner of our front yard and the one on one corner had had their tops and caps painted blue, which indicates a flow rate of 1,500+ GPM. This morning, I noticed that the hydrant in front of our house is back to having green top and caps. Very strange. I conclude that the flow rate of our hydrant must be very close to 1,500 GPM.

I’m building science kits today. While Barbara is gone, I intend to get some work done on the new science kits we plan to introduce Real Soon Now. That and watch Heartland re-runs.

11:47 – One of the things on my to-do list while Barbara’s gone is to do some freezing tests for canned foods that I intend to include in our car emergency kits. Water isn’t an issue. Water expands by 9.0% (or a bit less, depending on the initial temperature at which the volume is measured) when it freezes, so for example 2.00 liters of water forms about 2.18 liters of ice. Allowing for a bit of safety margin, that means I can store 900 mL of water in a 1 L bottle or 1.8 L of water in a 2 L bottle, knowing that if it freezes it won’t burst the container.

But I have no idea what the freezing points of, for example, Bush’s baked beans or Chef Boyardee ravioli or canned chicken or evaporated milk are, nor how compressible the non-water contents are. So I’ll check that experimentally by freezing a can of each of them and seeing if the cans rupture. Anything that doesn’t survive the freezer test won’t be in our emergency kits.

I’ve also been thinking about containers. A good 3-day car kit is bulky and heavy. As of now, I’m using one opaque 20 gallon (~ 80 L) storage bin per vehicle, which is large enough to contain a pretty comprehensive 2-person/1-dog 3-day emergency kit, other than a full complement of water. For water, I’ll probably use clean 1-gallon heavy plastic orange juice jugs. Six of those should suffice, even in hot weather.

For organization within the bins, I’m using quart and gallon ziplock bags to group subassemblies like fire making, water treatment, medical, personal sanitation, etc. Those are further grouped into one backpack and one duffel bag per kit, on the basis that although it’s almost always best to remain with the vehicle, there may be times when it’s necessary to walk out.

I suspect that Barbara may not be delighted about hauling this much stuff in the back of her car at all times, but I think I can bring her around. As they say, it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Anyone who remembers the mess in Atlanta in January of 2014 should make it a high priority to have a car emergency kit. Tens of thousands of people stranded, thousands of them for two or three days, when Atlanta roads became parking lots, all because the Atlanta area had a minor snowstorm, with accumulations of only 1″ to 3″ (2.5 to 7.5 cm). Imagine what might have happened if there had been a serious widespread emergency. Thousands, even tens of thousands, of people might have died because they were unprepared for an emergency.

9 Comments and discussion on "Sunday, 21 September 2014"

  1. OFD says:

    Mrs. OFD is home for the week, more or less, but naturally has to schlep Princess back to Montreal today (after she’s had her weekend’s entertainment and fun down here with her mom’s cah again) and then has to consult with her own mom about various matters, probably including the cottage about to slide into the north Atlantic in northern Noveau Brunswick. Then she has a med appointment Thursday so an eye doc can look at her eyes and find out what the deal is with possible cataracts and macular degeneration. She’s scared she’s gonna lose sight in one eye. And her own mom is declining, as is mine.

    A third day of near-gale-force winds off the bay, but warm, in the 60s and 70s. Whitecaps, breakers and surf throwing spray thirty feet in the air off the pier.

  2. Dealing with water freezing isn’t quite as simple as “allocate X% of space for expansion”. Commonly it will freeze on the top (or on its surfaces all around), then the middle will try to freeze too, and have to break its way out, perhaps breaking its container as well as the enclosing ice.

    Those 2L soft drink bottles seem particularly bad in this respect, since the top narrows: once an ice plug has formed, it can’t easily be forced up. Now, maybe that’ll be okay: maybe the plug will continually be fracturing before it gains enough strength to rupture the bottle (which is quite strong). But it seems worth putting them in the category of things to test, not things that will automatically work.

  3. SteveF says:

    What Norman said. Filling a 2L soda bottle only up to where it starts to narrow works, and you have to make sure the bottle stays upright if it might freeze. It might not be a problem in NC, but it certainly is in upstate NY.

    Similarly, I don’t think milk jugs would survive freezing water, because the plastic of the handle doesn’t expand enough. That is, they certainly don’t survive a NY mountain winter — I know from experience — but they may be good enough for you down there.

    Another thing to test is full bottles of carbonated drink. Theory be damned, I think someone found by accident that seltzer water or Coke or something didn’t freeze until well below 0C. (I think the theory is that the pressure would lower the freezing point, but the dissolved air bubbles would raise it. I’d check Yahoo Answers, but I prefer to get correct information, not up-voted answers that are convincingly written but totally wrong. Oh, if only we had a resident chemist who understood the issues…)

  4. Lynn McGuire says:

    I can tell you that Diet Dr. Pepper freezes somewhere between 37 F and 32 F. I had one in the refrigerator blower air stream freeze and blowup on me last week. The aluminum can was at least 10% distended. I got to clean the entire inside of the fridge, pulling shelves and all. And now it smell like DP inside, not bad.

    Liquid things that mix well with water like alcohols and glycols tend to depress the freezing point of water. Ethylene glycol in a 60% mix with 40% water drops the freezing point to -49 F:

    However, EG is extremely toxic to animals including humans. It apparently tastes sweet in a mix with water, I would not know. We have a case ongoing here in Houston right now where a doctor served EG in two cups of coffee to her boyfriend and just about killed him:

  5. Lynn McGuire says:

    We hit 94 F today in the Land of Sugar. Hopefully this is the last day of summer as we have a cold front coming through tomorrow. Should drop us down in the middle 80s.

  6. Rod Schaffter says:

    I don’t risk aluminum cans in the freezer anymore, because they have become so thin. I’ve punctured them sliding a 6-pack on a concrete flo0r.

    As far as hydrants changing colours, Autumn is just around the corner… :D..

  7. Gavin Downie says:

    As for freezing the 2l bottles, I used them for water when I worked construction. About 1.5l in the bottle and then lay it on it’s side (mostly… cap was propped above the water level) in the freezer. Had the added advantage that as the ice melted, there was no problem taking a drink of very cold water.

  8. Don Armstrong says:

    Yep, two-litre PET bottles, three-quarters filled, with mouth/lid above water, can freeze quite safely. Apart from personal experience, I also cite the practice of heaps of rabbit-raisers, who do this and then give them to their animals to cuddle up to during otherwise killingly hot weather.

    It is also fairly standard practice to fill up empty spaces in freezers, with the added advantages of having waterproof lumps of ice to use in coolers, and then iced water to drink.

  9. Lynn McGuire says:

    I don’t risk aluminum cans in the freezer anymore, because they have become so thin. I’ve punctured them sliding a 6-pack on a concrete flo0r.

    Oh no, the cans were in the refrigerator portion. But they were in the path of the blower vent of the cold air which is coming in at -10 F??? I have carefully moved the remaining cans away from the blower vent.

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