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Old 03-05-2015
TonyfromOz's Avatar
TonyfromOz TonyfromOz is offline
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Beenleigh, Queensland, Australia
Posts: 1,136
Default The Uniquely Designed Mothers Car Wash Bucket, The Typical Everyday Life Saver!

How often is something so seemingly simple taken so utterly for granted?

Such is the case with the Mothers Car Wash Bucket, such a seemingly simple thing, and yet so ingeniously designed, a design not intended for what the end use here was, but a design so perfect for this particular use.

Two weeks ago, on Friday, 20th February 2015, Tropical Cyclone Marcia made landfall at Shoalwater Bay, around 75 miles from where I live. That Cyclone came directly at us here in Rockhampton, where I live, directly over us and then past us.

In the U.S. they are called Hurricanes, and yours in the Northern Hemisphere rotate in the opposite direction to our Cyclones, which rotate clockwise here, but other than those two things, they are exactly the same, a very dangerous weather event.

When it made landfall, it was Category 5, and when it reached us four hours later, it had decayed to Cat 3, but was still an enormously intense system.

The wind picked up at around 9AM, became progressively stronger, and from around 10.30 till 12.50 it was quite literally, roaring, seemingly getting even stronger. The rain was solid, and horizontal, and a thick white cloud in fact, so heavy that I could not see the fence of the house across the road, barely 50 metres away. Occasionally I heard trees snapping even above the roar, but no debris came past our home, and when I went into another room, I could see the trees a few homes away from us, occasionally, and they also had lost upper branches, but again, nothing came in our direction, thankfully. We live in a new housing area where all the homes are low set and brick, and constructed to the Australian Cyclone Standard for building.

At around 1PM, the wind stopped dead, and the rain had stopped, an eerie thing to experience, from flat out wind to nothing in a couple of minutes. I knew this was the eye and that it would start up again from the opposite direction in around half an hour or so, as I had roughly calculated the size of the eye, and the speed the cyclone was travelling.

I actually went outside, walked the 50 metres to the corner, looked up and down the street, saw trees down, but more standing than fallen, but no obvious damage to homes, and no downed power lines.

I walked back to the front of our home and could see no major damage to either the home or the garden, though heaps of palm fronds were broken on our Golden Canes out the front of our home.

I looked directly upwards, and was a little disappointed to not see blue sky, leaving me to wonder that the centre eye is in fact a trailing cone behind the eye on the ground.

I then went back inside, having been out for less than ten minutes.

Fifteen minutes later, the wind started up from the opposite direction, strong, but not as strong as on the approach. We had another four hours of decreasing wind until at around 5PM, all we had were gusts and light rain.

However, the power went out at exactly 10.41AM, a time I knew exactly, as I was in the middle of sending a reply email to kbshadow, who was keeping in touch with me in the lead up to when the power went out.

I had an old wall phone, which I plugged into the landline outlet, and we never lost that phone connection at all. I also had a battery operated AM radio, and the radio station kept broadcasting throughout the event, the only way we knew anything from outside where we were, and there were people a lot worse off then we were.

Before nightfall, I went back out and checked for any damage and other than a few bushes, the largest a small tree around 6 feet tall bent over, we had no damage whatsoever.

We were told (before the event) that if power went off, then it might be off for two days.

We were now totally in the dark, and coming from an electrical background, I knew power would be off for longer than 2 days, and in fact it proved to be right, as we had no power for 112 hours, five days and five very long nights, and the nights were the worst because it was still so hot, humid and perfectly still with not a breath of wind. The temperatures varied from 35C to 38C (95F+) during the day and at night, it did not fall below 30C. (86F)

Now, all we had to do was to wait until power was reconnected, with reports coming in of 1900 to 2300 wires down, substations damaged etc, so we knew it would be a long time. The emergency services people worked flat out, as did the electricity company people who tirelessly worked days and nights and in fact are still doing so, now two weeks after the event.

On the Saturday morning after the Cyclone struck, Rockhampton, a middle sized city here in Queensland Australia, with a population of around 75000 people had 97% of the city and its suburbs without power. When we were re-connected to mains power five days later, there was still 50% of the city without power, and in some suburbs, the wait would be another 5 days, so some homes might have had 13 days in all without power. Even now, 14 days after this event, 7% of people are still without power just in the suburbs of the City. Some areas closer to the landfall for the Cyclone may be without mains power for Months to come, as in those areas, the whole infrastructure needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.

Now, after the Cyclone came the long wait.


"Old man look at my life, I'm a lot like you were."------Neil Young.
Old 03-05-2015
TonyfromOz's Avatar
TonyfromOz TonyfromOz is offline
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Beenleigh, Queensland, Australia
Posts: 1,136
Default Re: The Uniquely Designed Mothers Car Wash Bucket, The Typical Everyday Life Saver!

Necessity is the ‘Mothers’ of invention. (to paraphrase the old adage)

The day following the Cyclone, Saturday, I cleaned up around our home, and found out that the local major supermarket (Woolworths) at the nearby big shopping mall, which had reserve power of their own, and would be open on the Sunday morning at 9AM and would have ice.

All I had to do was find something to put the ice in. 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 the two Mothers Car Wash Buckets. I have 2 much smaller buckets which I use to wash our car with, but the Mothers buckets at 4 Gallons were a lot larger and probably more suited to the task at hand I was hoping to use them for, cold storage during the 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 I have below. 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.

Once 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.

Then 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. I wet a large towel and draped it over the top of the now two buckets with the lid removed from that top bucket.

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 pretty critical 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 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.

This area is still slowly recovering from this major weather event, a pretty dramatic one at that. We came through it, and those ingeniously designed car wash buckets were in fact life savers for us. We would have still managed without them I’m certain, but they made life during this time just that little bit more bearable.

I was really surprised at just how much I could actually fit into that 4 gallon bucket.

I would also like to thank kbshadow and Forrest for keeping in touch with me during this time, via my sister who lives in Canberra. I spoke on the phone with her, and she emailed my two good friends in the U.S.

The three images below show the one bucket, the two stacked buckets and the towel over the buckets. The last 2 images were taken after the event, as during it, the batteries in my camera went flat, and without access to electrical power, I could not recharge them.

Attached Images

"Old man look at my life, I'm a lot like you were."------Neil Young.
Old 03-07-2015
abnot's Avatar
abnot abnot is offline
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Raleigh, NC
Posts: 1,191
Default Re: The Uniquely Designed Mothers Car Wash Bucket, The Typical Everyday Life Saver!

I am glad to hear you made it through ok.

I understand what you experienced since we were hit by Hurricane Fran many years ago and out of power for 4+ days plus the yard was a mess due to all the tree debris. Trees were down everywhere as we have a lot of tall pines.

The only plus for us was we had a community well system and natural gas so we never had lost water and had hot water. However, it was super humid the days following so nights were quick miserable.
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