Lessons Learned

Now that the waters have receded (from our apartment) and the ice has melted (from the Great Texas Polar Event of 2021), here are a couple of things I’ve learned from the experience.

1.)  You cannot have too many flashlights, lanterns or batteries.  Seriously.  When our power went out, I was three lanterns short, and I kept misplacing my goddamn flashlight — you know, you put it down to carry a bucket of floodwater outside, then can’t find the thing when you come back into a darkened room.

Addendum:  You don’t need trillions of candlepower to get by.  Seriously, again.  In fact, my trusty Surefire was often too bright, its beam blinding me when bouncing off a mirror or white wall.

Next steps:  I’m going to get at least three more battery-operated lanterns like this one:

I already have one of these, and for long life and adequate lighting, it’s the best:  it saw me through the last Plano power outage (5 days) back in 2016.

As for flashlights, I’m going to get a bunch of these Maglite 3C bad boys:

I used to pack one on hunts and camping trips back in South Africa, and over about five years it never broke, flickered or burned out — and those were the days before LED bulbs, even.  (I can’t believe that I don’t own one now, come to think of it. ) There is going to be at least one in every room in the house, and in each car as well.  (Note:  I already own a sufficiency of “tactical” Surefire and Fenix flashlights, and also a couple headlight types as well.)

I’m also going to get a lanyard to hang a smaller Maglite around my neck, just in case.

2.)  My little butane cooking stove was completely inadequate to cook anything outside — the wind kept blowing the flame out, and even in calm conditions, it took over half an hour to boil a single pot of water, because butane sucks under frigid conditions.  Here’s the offending object:

Next steps:  what I’m going to get is a sturdy camp stove, like this one:

…which uses Coleman Fuel, white gas* or in a pinch, even gasoline (which I always have on hand in a spare fuel can).  Or I might just go crazy and get one of these:

I don’t care much about portability because it’s for in-home emergencies like we just endured.

Conclusion:  it doesn’t seem to matter how well prepared you think you are — I certainly wasn’t, even though I thought otherwise.  (I didn’t run out of batteries, which is the only good thing about the whole sorry business.)  Next time will be better, I hope.

*Coleman Fuel and white gas are almost the same, except that white gas, while cheaper, doesn’t have the extra stabilizers and corrosion-preventatives that the branded Coleman Fuel contains.  Even so, either will last up to ten years in an unopened container.


  1. Good. You’re willing to learn. The small stove will work more efficiently with the 1 lb propane bottles. Also, in the absence of the built-in windscreen the Coleman will work as poorly as the non-winscreened small stove. A windscreen is less cost than a new stove.

    As for the maglight, consider the LED bulb replacement for a whiter, brighter beam. Lastly, Dollar General stores have small LED lanterns for about $7 that use 3 AA batteries and I find them invaluable when the power goes out. Not too bright that they blind you, light weight, small – maybe 6 inches tall, and inexpensive all the way around. Get a half dozen or more then get a bulk pack of amazon brand AA batts.

  2. I always have a extra propane tank for the gas grill just in case because you can burn through lots of propane if that’s your only stove. I also have sheets of plywood, in the basement for a variety of potential emergency needs, including sheltering the grill from the wind if that becomes our primary cooking device during bad weather. It is much harder to grill outside if it’s really cold and windy but that would provide some help.

  3. As mentioned above, any outside stove can have the flame burn out. I can generally move mine into the detached garage if I need to cook outside, but having some materials to make an impromptu windscreen would also help.

    Also recommend propane over white gas, but I guess it depends on what you’re used to. I have a propane grill, plus propane on the RV, so staying with propane keeps me to a single fuel. And generally you can find the small propane bottles almost anywhere. Bonus, get a propane lantern too. There’s also an adapter to refill the small bottles from the big bottle to save on money. Plus if you have to chunk stuff in the car and scoot, you don’t have to worry about carrying a liquid fuel.

    I have something similar to the Camp Chef pictured above. Just note that is primarily for BIG cooking. Like a 5 gallon pot of crawfish, or Texas sized skillet of chili. If you are just trying to heat up a frozen dinner for two during survival week, it is impossible to get the flame down low enough not to scorch the food. Still a great thing to have, but the Coleman stove is probably better for small stuff like percolating coffee or making a single can of soup.

    And back to the subject of propane, there are a number of small propane heaters available. I have an old one that I use in the garage and plan to get one or two more for the house. Enough to keep a single room warm.

    I’ve lived in Texas all my life (5+ decades). These types of winter storms are probably once a decade type events. I don’t ever recall seeing this much trouble with the power grid or water. And I’ve never heard of people losing natural gas to their homes before – that’s a first and directly caused by the green initiative. That NG issue is causing me to rethink a few things. I have NG heat, fireplace, stove, oven that are part of my basic “we can handle this shit” plan. If the NG pipeline goes down, I need to double my propane supply. Lessons learned.

  4. A few years ago, after looking in vain for a flashlight I had just put down, I bought 10 cheap ones and stashed them around the house. I pick them up every so often to make sure they’re still working, because cheap flashlights are cheap. When a few quit working, I just buy another half dozen.

    That’s in addition to the good ones, of course. You don’t want to only have cheap ones, but that 99 cent single-AA light can help you find your Maglite.

  5. When I stopped home brewing, I gave my turkey fryer to my son. I have a gas grill, so I can still heat food. Last outage, the coffee maker was the one thing I missed the most. Now I have small Honda generator. I also have 2 lanterns, and a weather radio, and a good first aid kit. Next up, a propane heater.

    1. Always, and I mean ALWAYS, keep a percolator around for emergency coffee. No electricity needed, just a gas/propane stove.

  6. (waves in Floridian)

    My issue is not having enough storage space so I go with portable that can be put away, otherwise I would go with the big ass double burner stove.

    I am not comfortable with liquid fueled stoves, so I have a similar portable like the Coleman but in propane gas running out the green bottles. It has served honorable duty after a couple of hurricanes and the bottles can be refilled via a small gadget from a standard 20 pound grill propane tank. There is also available a hose kit that allows you to connect the propane tank to “bottle-fed” stoves.

    General lamp? Streamlight 44931 Siege. Batteries last a LONG time, you have several levels of illumination and can be positioned in different ways for maximum illumination.

    As personal light? I have a bunch of small COAST HP1 Coast HP1 (1 aaa) all over the house so there is one handy in case of sudden power loss, plus the usual suspects but I am also adding headlamps to the kit. The Energizer are economical, hardy and once you realize you can have both hands to do stuff, you will wonder why you didn’t do it earlier. In fact, get one for everyday use (trust me) and one per person for your emergency supplies. I even added one to my car’s first aid kit.

  7. I found these emergency lights to be very useful: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B072XWW418/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    I have them in outlets in the kitchen, living room, hallway, and bathroom. They provide enough light for moving around when the power goes out, preventing you from stumbling around in the dark if your flashlight or lantern isn’t directly at hand when the power goes off. And you can take them off the wall and use them as a flashlight to find your way to a better light. Kind of like using your pistol to get to your rifle. (Since I live in the country, where there’s no spill from street lamps, they’re useful as nightlights when the power is on, as well.)

    And as someone else noted above, the classic Coleman stove comes in a version that runs on the small propane bottles. Or you can get the version you showed, and get an adapter to run on propane.

    1. For the propane version of the classic Coleman 2 burner stove there is a hose to run it on a big 5 gallon propane bottle. They last a really long time and are far cheaper per pound of propane than the little ones.

  8. Similar to the lessons I learned after Hurricane Sandy hit NJ and left us without power for nine days.

    Just a couple other points:
    – It’s REAL handy to have different sizes of flashlights. Keep a small one in your pocket if you’re using a bigger one for something, if you need to put the big one down you can use the small one to find the big one in the dark.
    – Plan for failure of your equipment. A guy I know has a $200 flashlight that takes special batteries. I asked him what he plans to do if he breaks it, loses it, or the battery croaks at 2 am.
    -ALL my important battery powered equipment is powered by batteries I can buy at a convenience store (mostly AA and AAA, some D and C). And I’d MUCH rather have ten $20 flashlights than 1 $200 flashlight.
    – Those cheap little 3-AAA flashlights are your friends. I get mine at Harbor Freight, and I bought a bunch at Home Depot a few years back when they went on sale for a buck a pop because the cheap-assed batteries they come with all died. I bought ten of them, two were ruined because the batteries leaked, so I got eight functioning flashlights for $10. Cheap at twice the price. Plus, they’re great for pocket-use in the first point above, and if you lose it you’ve got a dozen more.

    I have to make some new adjustments just-in-case. Most importantly, in NJ we had a gas stove, so we could cook with the power off (just had to light the burner with a match). Here in PA we have an electric stove, so maybe a propane burner would be a good idea (and it can be used when we cook-out too). Maybe even one that doubles as a flat-top. Hmmmm.

    Mark D

  9. This cold weather shit sucks a big, green, prickly, wiener ! I had a nice six foot cactus that was about ten feet long against the side of my house in the back yard, carefully pruned for a number of years and it froze and fell over with several hundred pounds of cactus pads to get rid of. That’s here in the Texas Hill Country where I am told it has been about four decades since this much cold for this long.

    The first morning without power I used the side burner on my propane grill to heat water for coffee, with hot water we have the one cup drip thing with filters and they worked well. After I froze myself a bit I remembered my Coleman propane camp stove in the garage and I brought that inside with its one pound bottle and we used that to cook breakfast. As for lights at our age as old people my wife and I have a rule that we don’t get up in the night in the dark with out a lamp or flashlight so we keep a small flashlight within reach at all times. Old people fall too easily and it really screws them up, we have those little cheap flashlights stashed around the house as well as battery camp lights to take into the bathrooms so that worked out all right.

    All in all with one 12 hour outage and about ten of those rolly polly things for a couple of days we came through without any damage to the house and I did not ever have to start my generator to run the fridge, stuff stayed well frozen and when the temp was below 20 if the power stayed off too long we were just going to put the frozen outside and the fridge stuff in the garage and I am too old to even think about this shit. Come on Texas and stop being Greenie Wienees and get your back up systems in order to handle more of this Glow Ball Warming Stuff.

  10. I’ll endorse the Camp Chef with the BIG propane tank. Get the one with two different kinds of burners, the simple ring like the one shown in that picture and a high-power one to boil large pots of water faster. Nothing better than a Full English at 12F after a long, cold night.
    Also agree with cheap D-Cell lanterns like you have shown, three at least, and obviously a freezer full of D batteries to go with it. Nothing made me sadder during our power outage than the little array of electronic devices all lined up and charging on the generator. USB charged things don’t seem to have near the staying power of a traditional battery.
    I bought the generator to carry the freezer and fridge over hurricane outages in nice warm weather with no thought to heating my old bones. An electric space heater is now on the shopping list. (Also looking at propane heaters.)
    One thing I forgot to employ was the headlamp(s) I got precisely to avoid the lost flashlight problem. One was in the same ready-box with the lanterns. Should have used it.

  11. My 2 cents…
    Preparing, not prepping, just takes time. Been doing this since hunting days, Y2K, 9/11 etc. good 50 years. A little at a time.

    I have these el cheapo LED lanterns. Sandy proven also !!! They cost approx 8 bucks apiece.


    Also have a UCO candle lantern just in case.

    For NO FAIL hot water check out a Ghillie Kettle.


    Some kind of water filtration device. I prefer Katadyn brand. But even just a couple of Lifestraw is better than nuthing.

    My personal approach is have something , like a propane stove, that depends on society still functioning. Still need stores that either sell or will refill bottles. But have a backup also that is essentally 1800’s vintage. Simple straight forward. Like the Kettle above it just needs twigs/wood.

    A little bit at a time for the youngins. No need to spend lots of money all at once. Buy yourself birthday gifts or if you have some extra money.

  12. FYI, liquid propane has trouble boiling at low ambient temperatures (below 40 degrees F). While propane may do you just fine for normal Texas weather conditions when the cold does come in, you’re likely going to suffer poor propane performance. I discovered this when my propane patio heater never would turn up very high in cold weather (rather ironic, isn’t it).

    Since I live in a house with natural gas, my backup is charcoal. And I already have plenty of oil lamps, oil, and batteries, and battery powered flashlights and lanterns.

    1. Propane won’t “gas” at all below -40F. It can become sluggish in the cold, as I found last week. You may have to nurse the burners along until they warm up a little. I think some of the issue is the regulator becomes unhappy below freezing. I found the more open of the two Camp Chef burners was the easier to light. I imagine that a flameless unit, like a patio heater would be very difficult. There was a youtube video I watched recently where a guy used a handheld propane torch (kept in his nice, warm truck) to light his flameless, tanktop propane heaters.

      1. My propane heater is one of those tall standup models with the gas at the bottom and a burner at the top. But that’s the not the problem.

        The main problem is that the tank is cold and the propane suffers from low vapor pressure at low ambient temperatures. And of course the mere act of boiling from liquid to gas is an endothermic process (it requires heat) that causes the LP tank to get even colder, exacerbating things even further.

  13. To add to all of the good stuff listed above –

    A box or two of the old strike anywhere wooden matches (if you can find them) or the strike on box type. Disposable butane lighters don’t work at low temperatures.

    In this old man’s opinion the quality of Coleman has gone down over the years. That may be because I’m old. Unfortunately Coleman is about the only game in town for gear that you can find just about anywhere. I used a pump up Coleman stove and lantern for many years but always had trouble with them. I wasn’t very good about draining the fuel or cleaning the burners and I’m sure that was the cause of my problems. I went to a 2 burner propane stove that uses the one pound bottles and it has given us excellent service. I think that Coleman also makes a one burner stove that screws into a one pound bottle and stands vertically. Nothing fancy but with 3 burners going I can turn out a pretty good meal.

    Coleman lanterns – either the gasoline or propane types -present a big problem because of their cloth mantles. The mantles are extremely fragile and very difficult to change when the lantern is hot and not much easier to change when cold. I’ve given up on Coleman lanterns and just use battery powered Ever Ready units.

    Some years back many “tactical” flashlights were made that used 123 type batteries. The batteries and LED bulbs produced very bright illumination in a small package but these days the batteries are expensive and hard to find. I think that lights powered by double or triple A batteries that you can find anywhere are a better choice.

    1. Check garage sales and whatnot for Coleman products…all the parts are available for repair, if needed.

  14. A headlamp leaves your hands free so you don’t have to set your light down. If the headlamp won’t work with your hat, wear it around your neck or your wrist.

      1. Absolutely! Just be careful about looking at people when you talk to them.

        Even the cheap ones are quite useful…

    1. There are headlamps that are designed to clamp on to hat brims.

      I have one with 3 LEDs I picked up cheap at the local Meijer store that slides right onto the bill of my CERT hard hat. More than enough light to handle any close in task that requires both of my hands.

  15. Redundancies are the way to go.

    Electricity is great, as long as it works, but it’s expensive.

    NG is also good and cheaper than electricity. But it’s pipeline is vulnerable to earthquakes, landslides, and errant backhoes. (and politicians, as it turns out)

    Wood stoves and oil lamps are reliable but need a commitment in labor and/or expense.

    The green wienies hate carbon. The pols here are trying to outlaw all carbon based energy in new construction and push everyone onto electricity. You can see where that will lead.

    My Step Daughter and her husband are completely off grid. Their nearest electric power line is 2 miles away. They rely on a combination of propane, wood stove, 12 volt wind, solar, and batteries with a diesel generator back up. I actually envy them.

  16. Those Coleman liquid-fueled stoves are the real deal. I bought my first one way back when I was a Boy Scout. 30-some-odd years later, it disappeared to I don’t know where, so I bought a new one…got a dual-fuel model this time (think that’s the only type they make now, but they were new back in the ’80s). Unlike most of what Coleman sells nowadays, I’m fairly sure these are still made in the USA as well.

    They sell two different 2-burner stoves. (There used to be a 3-burner as well, but I think that’s been discontinued.) Your post shows the smaller one (model 424). I’d recommend getting the bigger one (model 414). It’s not that much bigger (not like the Camp Chef), but it’s equipped with more powerful burners.


    In cold weather, they can be a little bit tricky to start (try to preheat the generator tube with something), but once they’re going, they keep going. I’ve taken mine camping when there was snow on the ground.

  17. TWENTY DOLLARS? Too beucoup. Head to horror fraught and buy a half a dozen (or a dozen) of these.


    $5. Keep a couple by the bed, toss one in the trunk, etc etc. I haven’t drained the batteries on one yet after having them for about a year (not that I’m using them hard) and I buy AA batteries in 100 packs from Amazon anyway. (I also have rechargables that I can recharge from one of my solar panels.)

    1. Those are GREAT. And buy them on sale. $4 or so for the small ones, $10 for the bigger ones…

  18. If you are looking to use propane heaters inside, pick up a Carbon Monoxide detector to go with it.

    Modern heaters have a lot of safety features but better to have redundancy on warning systems.

  19. About eight years ago we started making improvements to our emergency preparations. Growing up in New England I experienced hurricanes and blizzards that caused power outages and several other problems.

    We got head lamps recently. These can be pricey Black Diamond and other manufacturers or cheaper. We got a three pack from the hardware store that provide plenty of light for sufficient time. Using a headlamp leaves your hands free to cook, set up a stove, read a book. The ones we use take AA or AAA batteries.

    We checked out REI’s garage sales what lets you buy second hand gear at cheap prices. Often these yuppies bought pricey gear and didn’t like it for some reason so you can get a steep discount on good gear that works.

    That coleman stove is a winner. We bought one when a local Coleman store was closing. IT takes multiple fuel types. A wind shield can be made from all sorts of material. A cheap tarp from Harbor Freight will work well. Grab some bungee cords or better yet a roll of 550 paracord.

    We picked up a couple of camping lanterns that are small from REI for short money.

    I bought a Power Tac Hero flashlight. It is super bright 1000 lumens and lights up to 300 yards or so. I is rechargable, can be used to recharge a cell phone and has multiple settings. THey don’t make it anymore though.

    I keep a Surefire Z2 in my coat pocket. been running well on two C123 batteries for 18 years. Many bright pocket lights can be had very cheaply now.

    You might want to look into a power supply like this:
    https://www.amazon.com/DBPOWER-18000mAh-Portable-Starter-Charging/dp/B01D42TYFC/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=power supply jump starter&qid=1614187278&sr=8-3

    You can use that to jump start a car, recharge computers and cell phones etc.

    Our next move is to get a generator and keep some gasoline on hand. We can rotate gas by putting it into the car or truck as needed.

    We used to have two cats so I kept the cat sand buckets. Buckets can come in handy especially since they have lids. We have a well pump so we lost water when we lost power. The buckets with lids came in handy for getting water for cooking and running the toilets.

    A couple of wool blankets and/or sleeping bags can be a help too for keeping warm.

    Keep some canned foots on hand too. Maybe even buy MREs and such. Most disasters last a few days so we try to keep a months worth of shelf stable foods on hand. During one outtage we found out that we really don’t like Dinty Moore Beef Stew so we finished up what had on hand or donated it to a food bank and we don’t buy it anymore. Spam light, canned vegetables and fruit (home canned or store bought) can provide filling meals as needed. we tend to like coffee so I bought a hand coffee grinder and a french press so we can stay civil during a power outtage. Also, this stuff can be great for car trips, picnics and camping.

    The Survival POdcast and mormon websites are good resources for preparing for disasters. Backwoods Home magazine is a great resource.

    Edit to Add: We also keep a kerosene lamp, candles, kerosene and a few spare wicks in the house. They’re old school but you don’t have to worry about power to charge them or batteries. THey’re also very cheap.


  20. check craig’s list for stuff, usually in the camping section. You can find some good stuff pretty cheap such as camping stoves, lanterns etc.

    Check out military surplus sites and stores for jerry cans etc.


  21. 1. Absolutely true. LED’s have totally changed the flashlight environment. I’ve been pretty satisfied with the cheap LED lanterns from Harbor Fright….especially when you can buy them on sale. Bright, batteries last a long time.

    Speaking of batteries, buy cheap, store them in the freezer. Lithium battery prices (AA, AAA) have come down from cranial aneurysm levels to merely a bit more than alkaline: They also last longer in storage and in use. Recommended.

    Also recommended are headlamps, or as my wife called them, dork lamps…until she started using mine. Cheap rayovac from WalMartians work just fine, even for abusive search and rescue uses. Having a hand free is priceless.

    2. Not surprising your BUTANE stove was inadequate. A well known problem for mountaineers. Recommend either / or propane, or a Coleman white gas stove with a propane adapter like this: https://www.amazon.com/Coleman-Gas-Stove-5430-Regulator/dp/B000646U3Q/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3ME0TFZMPX9PL&dchild=1&keywords=propane+stove+converter+coleman&qid=1614195090&sprefix=propane+stove+conver%2Caps%2C530&sr=8-1
    The advantage in a propane conversion is that it burns cleaner, and the propane will store forever with minimal risk in fire.

    3. Extra comforters (cheap ones, walmart or amazon) are pretty handy to hang over doors and windows for insulation. Also fireplaces if you have any.

    4. And of course, proper clothing. As the Canukistanis say, it’s not too cold, you’re just not dressed warmly enough. Which doesn’t help too damned much when your neighbor is raining down upon you.
    Hook up a 1# canister directly, or a 20# tank with a hose.

  22. Last year, did some prepping with the covid scare at the beginning. Was also looking at power outages and stuff as possibilities (still are no matter the situation as Texas just showed us). Found a great propane stove/oven combo at Costco that runs on propane small bottles. Bought it for about $200 CAD and then shelled out another $25 for the adapter to hook up a large tank. Haven’t needed to use it yet but it’s there. Can’t find it now but they are out there.

  23. As a long-time low grade prepper and a lifelong camper I more or less have everything in the comments with multiple redundancy. Like the Russian military, I never throw anything away so I have older lower tech stuff around in profusion. Couple of things I didn’t see mentioned are an MSR multifuel stove that will run on anything liquid and flammable including fermented fruit juice. I also have a small stove that needs a D-cell battery and some solid fuel. Charcoal, sawdust, scrap wood, pine cones. Basically a water heater but good for freeze dried food and coffee/tea. If worse comes to worse, I can retreat to the camper which has propane and solar with all the appliances including it’s own generator.

  24. Something I’m surprised I didn’t see mentioned. A solar-charged battery pack, like the Jackery or Goal Zero. Good for charging everything up and running a few low-draw items, and you can recharge them in about 8 hours on a sunny day. We’re planning to start overland camping this year and one of those will power everything we’ll have with us.

    Headlamps are absolutely worth their weight in gold. I got a couple of mid-priced ones at REI — small and lightweight but they put out a ton of light and are USB-rechargeable. I will be changing out my white gas 2-burner Coleman stove for the propane version this year, and my white gas lantern is still going strong, but has been relegated to secondary status and as a non-necessity-but-pleasant-to-have deal at campsites.

    Since I happen to enjoy spending a few days at a time living out of my Jeep I’ve gotten good at packing what’s needed and each camping trip I take I refine my must-have/wanna-have/don’t-need list down even further.

  25. I have that coleman stove.

    And three actual jericans filled with non-ethanol laced 87 octane, with GRC fuel stabilizer added.

  26. Another vote for the Kelly Kettle (Hobo Stove, Ghillie Kettle). Hot water quick and can double as a warmer.
    Cleaned out plastic milk jugs placed over the top of a cheap LED flashlight will diffuse the light and brighten up a small room.
    Never underestimate the power of a candle. Four tea candles and a clay flower pot can heat a small area for 4-5 hours.
    Check out the 6v batteries at Harbor Freight or Big Lots. I’ve gotten them as low as $1.99. The standard ones are made up of AA batteries (usually between 24-32 in each 6 volt battery). Just pry the top off and cut the wires.
    Rescue blankets are great to have around as they don’t take up much space and when used with a decent sleeping bag, will keep you toasty warm.
    I cannot oversell the value of a rocket stove. I understand they may not be practical for apartment living, but if you have a deck or a back patio, they make a little wood go a long way. Here is a pic similar to one I had my brother the welder make a couple of years ago. Probably have $20 in it.
    Lastly, start downloading prepper videos to your iPad or tablet. I probably have 1200-1500 by now, on everything from getting water from a well with no well pump, to building a beer can solar heater. You’ll be surprised how fast they add up!

  27. Good things to think about, Kim. I echo the sentiments above regarding rocket or hobo stoves. You can use just about any combustible material for fuel. If you can scrounge twigs, you have fuel enough to cook a meal or boil water. (https://www.silverfire.us/survivor-rocket-stove-p10)

    I like Mag Lights, and I used to keep one of the larger D-Cell ones in my truck. I’ve since stopped that, as I’ve had several where the batteries burst inside the aluminum tube. Hot temperatures inside the vehicle seem to contribute to that. Just something to think about.

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