If you lose electricity click here for toilet flush expertise

When trees crash on electrical power wires

Ladies and gentlefolk,  I never thought this blog would come to this!

Almost 500 of you passed by Lake Superior Spirit yesterday mostly wondering what to do if your toilet ceases to work during a power outage such as Ms. Hurricane Sandy.

You keep searching and searching and searching on the Internet for the Valuable Information which will answer your toilet flushing inquiries, don’t you?

You keep typing in the search engines:  can you flush toilet when power goes out, why can’t i flush my toilet when power goes out, do you still have power water goes out, when power goes out can you flush the toilet, can i flush the toilet when power is out, why can’t i flush my toilet if i don’t have power…

OK, I will cease copying and pasting the search engine questions which have plopped folks squarely on my March 27, 2012, blog post:  What you can and can’t do when your power goes off in the woods.  ( I simply don’t understand why all of you weren’t coming to read my coyote yipping post  from yesterday morning.) Yesterday Google search showed my old toilet expertise blog post as #6 on their main search page.  This morning it’s #2.  Go figure what brings fame in life.

Our royal throne made “famous” in other blog & newspaper columns

I’m not really concerned about toilet fame today, though, as my heart is worried for a certain someone who lives in New York City…but more about that as you read on past the practical advice.

What I want to tell you flushing seekers is this:  When Power goes off in the city it’s an entirely different Animal than when power goes off in the woods.


In the woods we’re pretty self-sufficient.  We have Heat from our wood stove.  We have a spare generator out in the shed–even though we’re not sure it works.  We have gas lamps.  We have a gas stove and oven.  We have a food room filled with food–of sorts.  We have matches, candles, flashlights and a half bottle of plum wine from our new Korean in-laws.  We have 30 degree temps at night–which could keep frozen turkeys intact.

You people in the city–I do fret about you.  Especially two “deer” ones who live in cities on opposite coasts.  I shall cease worrying about the West Coast dear one this week, barring any unpredicted earthquakes, and concentrate my concern on my dear one in New York City.

“Do you have water?” I ask.  “Food?  Matches?  Candles?  Is there gas in the car?  Flashlights?  What DO you have to be prepared should Sandy blow fiercely in your borough and flood your apartment, even though you’re on the second floor?”

(Darn!  why can’t the dear ones stay close in the woods, why must they sometimes move beyond Mama’s care?)

They grow up and leave Mama and go off to the Big City where hurricanes threaten…

I tell my dear one that she’s been spoiled by living in the woods.  We’ve never had fear of disaster, except for blizzards which last three days; don’t get me started.  We’re too close to self-sufficient, barring a good supply of water.  (But we live one-quarter mile from Lake Superior.  If our well won’t pump, we’ll walk to the lake and boil our water to destroy parasites and evil intestinal creatures.  Until our gas runs out…in which gas we’ll be closer to a City Mentality.)

So can city folk flush their darn toilets when Sandy the Hurricane visits?  (Excuse me while I Google it like all those folks Googled this blog.)


Avoid flushing toilets or using excessive water if the home has its own water pump. Small amounts of water can be drawn periodically over a long period of time if the water system was at full pressure when the power went out. With a city water system, water will probably still be available in limited quantity when the power goes out. A toilet can be flushed manually by pouring a bucket of water directly into the stool.

Pour your water here if you have water. (We wouldn’t have water because we have a well which, well, runs on electricity)

There!  Now all you city folk can Google me with this question, too.

This shall perhaps become known as a Toilet Blog, considering it’s at least the third time I’ve mentioned the Royal Throne on these pages.   You do remember A spiritual tale of two toilets, don’t you?  And In which our toilet freezes solid and we make friends with Sarah, the shower spider.   And, lord, Back in the bathroom again…

So, yes, dear reader wanting to know about toilets during powerless times, the answer is Maybe.  Maybe you can flush your toilet when Sandy (or some other barreling hurricane comes to visit.)  Sounds like you’ll be able to flush for a while if the city’s water supplies aren’t damaged.

I pray Sandy stays safely off shore.  Stay away, Sandy, from my dear one in New York City and all the other folks who live in the wake of your possible path.

P.S.  What do you do to distract you when you’re worried about loved ones?  I find that gentle humor sometimes help…but it’s not easy, is it?

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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70 Responses to If you lose electricity click here for toilet flush expertise

  1. Thanks for sharing your toilet wisdom. I hope your “deer” ones remain safe. I love plum wine, but haven’t had it in ages. Delicious with quite a kick.

    • Kathy says:

      I am pondering a glass of that plum wine asap, Lisa. It’s been a long day and the hurricane is still swirling. I hope you are safe. Or that you have access to plum wine should the need arise. Hugs!

      • I could use some plum wine right about now, but sadly there’s none available. We’re okay. Lots of wind and rain but we seem to be in a good location. I’m worse off because my Dad went to the hospital today and I don’t feel safe driving out to be with him. This storm sucks.

  2. Brenda Hardie says:

    Ohhh Kathy! I cannot even begin to worry about toilets when your sweet daughter is out in harm’s way! I will send up prayers for her safety during and after this storm. I keep checking on the status of the storm because I have friends out in Baltimore too. Sure am glad I’m not out there anymore! Please keep us posted on Kiah’s safety.

    • Kathy says:

      Brenda, gosh, in our family, we’re often using humor to help us through our heart’s challenges. May your friends in Baltimore be safe. It IS scary. Right now Kiah says it’s just a little rainy and windy. I hope it stays like that… Thank you for your concern.

  3. Lynn says:

    From another rural UP location with our own well…but too far from Lake Superior (12 miles now that we have moved out into the woods) to pick up water there. For years we had a cabin on the shore and water was no problem! Now we keep a large jerry can full of non-potable water for the throne so as not to draw on the well unless for drinking or cooking.

    • Kathy says:

      Hi, Lynn! Interesting that you’re 12 miles from Lake Superior now. We’re exactly 12 miles from town. Your solution with the jerry can sounds ideal. We Yoopers know about power outages, don’t we?

  4. Karma says:

    I’m trying to have good thoughts for all of us in Sandy’s path. School was cancelled for me today, despite the fact that Sandy’s not quite here yet.
    The toilet blog, lol! Thanks for throwing some humor out into the blogosphere this morning while we wait and see what will happen.
    Though I’m a “burb girl” not a city one, I feel a little better off than some when the power goes out. I can cook on my natural gas stove and my water continues to flow through the town water system. For reasons I can’t explain, my water stays hot too. The water heater is gas, but wouldn’t you think it would need electricity to turn on? I’m trying to enjoy having electricity and internet service while I can! 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Hi Karma~~I am glad you have a day off work! That must feel good. I have talked to Kiah 3.4 times today already. She said it’s raining and windy, but she’s all calm and reading her book while Mama worries back in Michigan. Glad you liked the humor. I kinda worried about posting a too-humorous blog when people aren’t in a very humorous mood. Glad you have natural gas and good water! Stay safe, my friend…

  5. Karma says:

    I also meant to ask you, how exactly can you get Google to tell you what your top rated posts are? WordPress can tell you what your busiest day was, but I’ve never found anything that ranks posts in popularity.

    • Kathy says:

      Yep, well, I probably mis-spoke myself in haste. I have no idea re Google and top-rated posts. I only know where they are in the order that they appear under the search engine terms. That might not have ANYTHING to do with popularity. I changed my sentence here on the blog to better reflect that. Thank you!

  6. What a fun post! I’ve been watching the path of this storm, too, but thankfully do not have loved ones in its path. Take care!

    • Kathy says:

      I am glad you enjoyed this, Cindy. My daughter and I were trying to keep it light yesterday, and I wrote this blog post. Glad you don’t have any loved ones in Sandy’s path.

  7. Susan D. says:

    I am so impressed with your performing a public service this morning, while still inserting your usual humor and warmth, Kathy! I had no idea that for some, flushing toilets requires power. No sooner had I finished reading your blog when a reporter on t.v. was covering this very topic, and dispensing advice and tips. You are on top of it, Girl, and so timely. Best thoughts for Kiah and her love, and for all who are in the path of Sandy. Hugs to you.

    • Kathy says:

      Susan Dee, you are the bestest, and you know that. Thanks for our lovely phone conversation today. You are always a wonderful friend and you cheer my spirit so much! Thank you…and thank you again…for being you.

  8. Stacy says:

    I have been in this situation as a city person. The bucket of water works wonders. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Stacy, I so agree! We have poured many a bucket of water into our Royal Throne. We like to fill up big five gallon water buckets and then fill. Hopefully you not have a single wind from Hurricane Sandy.

  9. Heather says:

    We can tell that toilets are the true heart of living in a small cabin in a big woods 😉 Thinking of Kiah and everyone else in Sandy’s path.

    • Kathy says:

      Yes, you’ve expressed it very truthfully, Heather! We don’t like to admit it, but we all know the true heart of our cabin in the big woods. And we can’t ignore our heart, can we? **grin** And yes, wishing those in Sandy’s way protection and love.

  10. sandiwhite says:

    Most city water systems are managed with pumping stations, the water comes from the reservoir and is delivered by the pumping station which runs off of electricity. Should there be major power outages, emergency generators take over to continue the flow. Waste management is generally gravity flow but this some times fails as well, causing system blockages. Draw off enough water before things get too unmanageable so as to have plenty on hand. Never misuse your your drinking water for sewage problems. Number one concern, keeping drinking water safe and in good supply. Kathy, when I lived off-grid for six years in the mountains of N. Georgia, we had gravity flow water from a clear spring plumbed into the house and a septic tank system. We also had “Old Faithful”, the outhouse, standing a respectable distance away from the house should there be water concerns.

    • Kathy says:

      Sandi, thanks for that helpful information. I wish I was more the sort to give such helpful information to people. I’m a little nervous that all the people coming to the blog today are shaking their head at the bits of humor–since they’re probably feeling al nervous and anxious–kind of like I am about Kiah. How impressive that you lived off the grid for six years! That is so cool. I have a friend in California who did the same. Blessings to you and the chicken girls in the south.

  11. lisaspiral says:

    Thinking of everyone in Sandy’s path. I find the number of people who don’t know that the reason you don’t flush the toilet when the water goes out is because the tank is full of usable water. We had an electric pump for water growing up. It can be very frustrating when the power goes out and there is no water to be had. It’s keeping the pipes from freezing that’s the hardest!

    • Kathy says:

      Lisa, it’s interesting how we often don’t think about things like toilets and electricity and cooking until we lose that ability. It IS frustrating to have no water. And no lights and no refrigerators. I sure hope that people don’t lose their power for any length of time. And that it doesn’t get too cold…

  12. Carol says:

    Yes, gentle humor helps, and that works for awhile. You would find me glued to the TV for reports, or to the weather maps on the internet, worry worry worry. I have very dear friends in midstate New York who will undoubtedly be affected, so I worry for them. And for my bloggy friends who are in the area of Sandy’s wrath.

    • Kathy says:

      Carol, it worked for awhile today. Then I just plain got nervous and can’t seem to get out of it. Have talked with Kiah at least four times. Wishing your friends well in midstate NY. And our larger blogging community…sigh…the world is a smaller more intimate place when we know so many near and far.

  13. Times like this are definitely not easy…. I don’t know if I should be keeping watch on the news, or avoiding it – since there’s nothing that we can do to make the storm go away. 😦 I just hope that Sandy decides not to cause too much damage, and people take as many precautions as possible (leaving, if necessary). My heart goes out to all those in the path of the storm, and I hope it’s over quickly!!

    • Kathy says:

      I probably shouldn’t be glued to watching the news on this computer, Holly. It is not helpful. Like you, I hope Sandy doesn’t do too much damage. I pray for all in her path. Thank you…

  14. I will have to send this to my nephew who lives in Brooklyn. You may (probably not) remember we shared Irene in Boston last year. I was there keeping my grandson (mom and dad in Italy) and Greg came up from NY to help…Irene never made much noise and we carried on as usual. Had we lost power, I would have probably used one of those old time slop jars and poured it out down by the river the next morning. How unsanitary is that?

    Love the blog and the humor. Who would have thought that a toilet blog would be so famous? yet useful! 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Hi Linda, I hope you are feeling better today. Your nephew in NYC will probably roll his eyes reading this. My daughter is treating her nervous mama very well, thank goodness. The old-time slop jars may be awfully unsanitary, but sometimes we just need to do it… Glad you enjoyed the attempt at humor. Levity is sometimes needed, isn’t it?

  15. potty humour of the best sort

  16. lucindalines says:

    This is hillarious. It is just another example of how we get so dependent on our technology. I have come to the conclusion that I am happy to have been born into the world of mostly blizzards and some tornados. All we need is a source of heat and the rest works itself out here on the plains. Good luck to all those in the path of Sandy, my prayers are with you. Loved the toilet story.

    • Kathy says:

      Yep, Lucinda, we can get way too dependent on our technology to tell us–why, everything! I’m used to those blizzards, but maybe not the tornados–not too many tornados, that is. My prayers are with those in the path of Sandy, too. Glad you enjoyed my *attempt* at humor.

  17. Lori DiNardi says:

    Ahh, yes, we must be prepared where I live for entities such as Sandy. Fill the tub up with water in advance to scoop water for toilet flushing. Thankfully, we do get advance warning on these types of storms in this day and age. The generator thing that may or may not work, we just found out ours didn’t work after a few years of sitting around. Guess it has to be run periodically to keep it going. Hubby worked on it a couple of weekends ago and got it going again. Whew! Now, my one concern left is what to do if we can’t get gasoline for the generator. I’m thinking of switching to propane gen. Already checked solar gens, wayyyy out of price range.
    Here’s to holding your dear ones in an cocoon of safety from afar.
    P.S. Funny about the toilet search. I get some crazy searches that land on mine too, with just a word or two.

    • Kathy says:

      Oh, yes, Lori, I forgot to mention the filling-the-tub-with-water-routine! Yep, I suspect our generator is in similar shape to yours. It will probably work, but it hasn’t been run recently. Thank goodness for advance warning. And, wow, those crazy search engines that suddenly discover one of your long-ago blog posts. It can be–kinda–embarrassing, lol.

  18. Lori DiNardi says:

    Oh gosh, I just got on my dashboard and found a search for “I had to go go the bathroom really bad.” What’s that about? I wonder if it they wanted to know about toilet flushing too. They landed on my blog (from Aug. 27) about the time I went to see the comedian Frank Caliendo and I sat in the front row. He wouldn’t let me go to the bathroom. 😛

    • Kathy says:

      Laughing–now that’s a funny search to land someone on your blog, Lori! (now on my blog I wouldn’t have blinked an eyelash!) See how funny and strange these searches get? Crazy!

  19. debyemm says:

    Wishing your dear one a safe transit through the storm passing, Kathy.

    Like you, we are pretty much “self-sufficient”. A perennial stream is only a few steps away from the back door. I draw 2 half filled, 5 gal pails, once a month; to change our aquarium’s water. I stay one full 5 gal bucket ahead each month, in case the creek freezes solid. I have carried water up from that ford to flush here too. If the need was severe, the water continues to flow beneath the ice; and we could probably cut our way through . . .

    Also, we have a gas-powered generator. Unlike you, we know all too well how to use it. The longest we were without conventional electricity was 3 weeks. It is a VERY long time. I felt for our neighbors without generators to get them through that. We have to use our generator at least once a year – thanks to more severe weather that some blame climate change for.

    • Kathy says:

      Deb, I enjoyed reading about your self-sufficiency. You are very astute to stay on full 5 gal bucket ahead. I guess we would too…except that the lake is so nearby. But, yes, that ice… I shouldn’t say we don’t know how to use our generator; it’s just been awhile since we used it. But 3 weeks being with electricity sounds so challenging! I think our record has been two days. Hoping that you stay safe from storms this year, dear friend.

  20. Kathy, I’m sure your toilet advice will come in handy for those who need it. 🙂

    As for controlling the worry when a loved one is in the path of danger, well, I guess the best thing is to pray the danger passes them by without touching them.

    I am perfectly happy living on the prairie where hurricanes don’t reach and the ground does not shake. (Brother #1 lives on the west coast where there were recent earthquakes, but I believe he was far enough away that it did not affect him and his family.) The worst we have to worry about is the occasional blizzard. We do have a fireplace, old kerosene lamps and lots of candles and even if it is late in the month (the pantry is generally filled to the brim on 10% Tuesdays), I generally have enough food stashed away for a couple of days. As for water, well, snow can be easily melted – just stay clear of the YELLOW snow! lol

    Hope your dear one stays safe. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Dear Susan, it sounds like you live in a pretty ideal place. But, inquiring minds want to know, what about tornadoes? I thought folks on the prairie have to worry about tornadoes alot. As well as grasshoppers eating all your crops. (See Laura Ingalls Wilder for more prairie adventures, lol…)

      • Hasn’t happened to us, yet. Generally the tornadoes hit the flatter farmland areas outside of the city. That doesn’t mean to say that high winds don’t wreak havoc with shingles and trees. And since we don’t live on a farm, it’s rarely been a concern for me, personally. As for grasshoppers, well, I’m not even a good gardener so the whole point is moot! 🙂

  21. sybil says:

    Windy and raining here in Nova Scotia. Nothing too alarming yet. I don’t think it’s going to be too bad here …

    My brother from Ontario has been visiting me and heads back on the train tomorrow. That might be an interesting trip …

    • Kathy says:

      Sybil, did you stay safe through the night? Does it look like your brother can travel via train? Wishing you well… Here it’s kinda windy and cold, but nothing too challenging, we hope.

  22. Robin says:

    This is amusing. Who knew so many people didn’t know about the bucket of water to flush? I guess there must be lots of folks who haven’t experienced a power outage. Or didn’t pay attention when they were kids and the power went out.

    My family (father, brothers, sister, the whole clan — I’m the only one who moved away) are in New Jersey and I’m trying to keep my mind occupied with things other than worry about them. I’m sure they’ll be fine, but I worry anyway. The storm is expected to make landfall in NJ in about 45 minutes. They won’t be far from the worst of it. My nephew recently tweeted that the power is already out at his place. A big tree came down at my brother’s. But so far, the people are safe and that’s what counts. I hope your “deer” ones stay safe too. *Hugs*

    • Kathy says:

      Robin, it was kinda amusing. (This power toilet flushing blogging surge sure attempted to keep my mind off my worries.) Hopefully all your family are OK today. I read your other comment about the benefits of FB during a time of concern. Last night I heard about a young man in Queens who was killed in his home by a falling tree. Scary stuff.

  23. John Kuttenberg says:

    Mama Drue, you have raised them well. Have faith, this is just the seed of a story that will be told to future children.

  24. Dawn says:

    Your deer in NYC should be fine, even on the 2nd floor. You raised her to be self sufficient and I’m sure she’s all set with flashlights and batteries and food and water and can wait it out. On the other hand, I’m nervous for lots of friends and customers all up and down the coast. So I can understand a mama deer being nervous for her fawn. Hugs to all of you.

  25. Oh, Kathy, who knew you’d be famous for toilet wisdom. Is that the shits, or what? LOL Seriously, we got lots of experience flushing with no power when we lived in Haiti. It happened several times every day.

    I, too, have our friends on the east coast in my prayers. My friend in Manhattan seems to be doing well. She says it’s worse than she expected it would be, but fine.


    • Kathy says:

      It was like being Freshly Flushed yesterday, Kathy!! Seriously! (OK, maybe not as exciting as that, but just as unexpected.) I’ll bet you are so used to losing power. Several times a day…. I am glad your friend in Manhattan seems to be doing well. So is our little deer in Queens.

  26. You are so right about losing electricity when you live in the countr! You still have heat because you have a wood stove and you could use the outhouse (aka tree) if you HAD to — and it’s just a bump in the road. May it be so for those others as well!

  27. Marianne says:

    Hi Kathy – hope all is well with you and your family. I’m watching live coverage of what’s going on in NYC and NJ shore and basically up the coast. Very devastating, indeed. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone in affected areas. We’ll see how it affects southern Ontario soon. Take care.

    • Kathy says:

      Marianne, I think if we had a TV my eyes would have been glued all night. As it was, I kept clicking clicking clicking here on the computer. Have you been affected at all? Heard that many in Ontario were out of power. Hope you are safe.

  28. dearrosie says:

    500 frustrated folks who only wanted to know about flushing a potty ended up reading your wisdom from 7 months ago? so you reach the haloed #2 position on a google search? Wow! imagine what kind of conversation you can have at the next cocktail party when you want to impress …

    • Kathy says:

      It got crazier than that yesterday, Rosie! Yesterday, not only did they go back to my potty wisdom from last winter, they latched on to THIS blog and wouldn’t let go! I swear you never know what will bring you fame… How come it has to be a couple of toilet blogs? lol about that cocktail party conversation starter!

  29. shieram says:

    Kathy, I hope your daughter stays safe. And I pray the same thing for all the people in the East Coast affected by Sandy.

    Oh, for the distraction, I think me my family are like you. Humor always works best! Keep safe. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Thank you so much, Shieram. Fortunately, my daughter emailed to say she’s safe this morning. Now I won’t have to keep distracting myself with humor…and chocolate…and….

  30. We learned to fill the bathtub for flushing at the hint of a storm (and how to cook over an open fire and much more) a year ago when we lost power for 48 hours in our “up north cabin.” Indeed an experience.

    • Kathy says:

      I’ll bet that was quite the experience, Inger! 48 hours seems like a long time when you lose power. I can’t imagine being without electricity for a week or more.

  31. Colleen says:

    I love your potty humor Kathy! It really is much simpler in the country, isn’t it. Or in our case, we were certainly better prepared when we lived in the country, and farther north. Our power went out early this morning ( very rare) and I couldn’t find the flashlight. We don’t have candles, let alone matches. The phones didn’t work and my cell phone was dead. It was pretty pathetic. And a good reminder 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Thank goodness SOMEONE likes my potty humor. Ha ha, just writing that sounds infantile, Dr. Freud! I do think we tend to be more prepared in rural areas, Colleen. I think this awful hurricane has been a good reminder for many of us.

  32. Dana says:

    I hope that your loved ones were kept safe during Sandy! (And belated congratulations (?) on your toilet blog fame.)

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