Would a Robust Emergency Fund Have Prevented You From Suffering After the Derecho?

I don’t think Dorothy is in there.

On June 25, 2012, a rare, freak storm passed through the mid-Atlantic region. The storm is called a derecho because of the severe, tornado-like winds that are associated with it. Over two million people were left without power, some for over a week after the storm ripped through West Virginia, Virginia, DC, and Maryland. Immediately afterwards, a searing heat wave hit the area, leaving those without power sweltering and suffering. At least 13 fatalities were blamed on the storm and the subsequent power outages.

Could Sufficiently Funded Emergency Funds Have Prevented Deaths?


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While there were a few people who had their homes damaged, by far, the vast majority of people who were affected by the power outages did not have damage to their homes. The aboveground power grid failed, and crews were forced to work night and day to try to repair the lines. While the crews raced against time to restore power, those without electricity were forced to go to cooling shelters or to sweat it out.

If you’ve been to a Bikram yoga class, you know what it’s like to sit in a room that’s 100 degrees with a high level of humidity. Imagine being in a Bikram class for a week, with little respite.

If you have sufficient emergency funds, don’t suffer during a power outage. – Click to Tweet

Wouldn’t you try to leave? Go somewhere?

The typical rule of thumb is that you want to have 3-6 months of expenses saved up in an emergency fund. I argue that you should have even more than a six month emergency fund in cash for other purchases.

I personally would classify facing a week or more without power as an emergency. It seems like a perfectly justifiable reason to, if necessary, tap into the emergency fund. The objective? Find a place to stay where there is power.

Here are some places to look:

  • Hotels. This is the obvious one. Try to find a hotel which isn’t full that can keep you while you ride out the power outage. Use Priceline or Hotwire if you can to get a price less than rack rate.
  • VRBO. This is the Vacation Rentals By Owner website where people put up their vacation or second houses for rent. Contact the owners first to see if they indeed have power.
  • Bed and Breakfast Online. You may be able to find a bed and breakfast nearby which still has the power on. You’d even get breakfast included! You might get used to the pampering.
  • AirBNB. One of the latest lodging crazes to sweep the internet is a website where people are renting out bedrooms, or even couches, for others to stay. Any air conditioning in a power outage…

If you are faced with a situation where Mother Nature has defeated your power company and is looking to either leave you sweltering or in a deep freeze while you await the return of electricity, think about some of these alternatives for temporarily escaping your situation.

Were you affected by the derecho or by another weather event which took your power for several days? Did you leave to stay somewhere else or not? Tell us your story in the comments below!

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About Jason Hull, CFP®

Jason Hull, CFP®, is the Chief Technology officer of myFinancialAnswers, an online comprehensive financial planning service.

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