Blackout!

This past week I have been reminded how ridiculously dependent I am on electricity.  I know now, after being without it for 72 hours, that I could never have been a pioneer.

Thursday morning there were some crazy tornado-style winds in our area. My boys and I were late for school and we were picking up a couple of extra carpool kids that morning so we were rushing more than normal. When we got to the school it was crazy. All of the students and teachers were huddled into the lunchroom because the power was out.

Luckily my son’s kindergarten classroom has a bunch of sunny windows so he had plenty of light and heat in his room, but other kids didn’t have it so good. Some parents picked up their kids early and brought them home where they were safe and warm.

Around 10:30 a.m. I was still debating on going and picking him up from school when the power went out in our home.  Luckily I hadn’t showered and washed my hair yet because I would have ended up with frozen stringy locks.

Having the power out was kind of fun at first. It was nice to get a break from electronics. We all know how much I love when my children watch television.

My 3-year-old and I played games around the house and then used a match to light our gas stove to cook a macaroni-and-cheese lunch. That’s when it hit me that I had a 1 p.m. work meeting and I was planning on sending a document via email right before to review during the meeting. Unfortunately my wireless Internet doesn’t work without power.

No problem, I could head to McDonald’s and take advantage of their WiFi. Right? I grabbed my little one and we headed out to get in the van. But our van was in the power-operated, motor-opening garage. I still haven’t figured out how to unhitch the motor in order to open the metal door manually.

It was now 12:25 p.m. In a panic I ran to my next-door neighbors to see if I could borrow her car. Luckily she was home and gave me her keys. I ended up driving a couple of blocks to another friend’s house, which still had power, in order to send the email before my meeting. Crazy.

I have forgotten how easy it is to turn on to my computer, log on and use the Internet.

I stayed home the rest of the afternoon and couldn’t have gone anywhere if I wanted to. I was a little nervous about some of those Kindergarten classroom windows being blown in, but I just had to trust that my son’s teacher would make her students’ safety a top priority.

The power was still out at 5:30 p.m. when my husband got home from work, so we decided to go stay at his parents’ house. Unfortunately, we only have two toy army flashlights that my boys got at a birthday party a couple of months ago. For some reason all of our other flashlights and lanterns have burned out or broken — probably because my children like to play with them and wear them out. So we searched and packed in the dark.

Luckily my in-laws live 30 minutes away, in another valley that wasn’t affected by the wind. We were able to stay cozy and warm in a house large enough to have beds for us to sleep in. And we had lights and Internet.

My husband went to work Friday and my boys and I stayed up at my in-laws house. It ended up being a nice day where we played and hung out. It was kind of a relief not to be home and worried about the usual duties I have there. I was able to get my work time in, but I didn’t have to worry about my house being clean or the errands I needed to run.

I don’t know how many times I called our power company over the course of the next three days. I practically have their phone number memorized. I called two or three times a day to get an update on our power situation.

I set up an automated service to get a call when our power was restored, and I got a call Friday afternoon that told me I had power. So we were planning on going home.

My husband stopped by our house on his way home from work that night, but we still didn’t have power. I was discouraged, but hopeful it would come on any minute. Little did I know it wouldn’t come on for many more minutes.

Saturday there wasn’t any progress. We stopped by our house in the afternoon before running some errands. The thermostat said 48 and I could see my breath.

We threw away our egg nog, milk, a bunch of leftovers and more from our melted refrigerator. Our chest freezer in the basement was still really frozen so we left it untouched and crossed our fingers it wouldn’t be another 48 hours before it was hooked up to power again.

We packed up another night’s worth of supplies and clothes, this time we were smart enough to do it in the day light, and left to do some Christmas shopping and activities. When we stopped by our house afterward, around 8 p.m., the lights were still out.

This is when I started to get really discouraged. I know it sounds dramatic, but I actually wondered if we would be able to ever get power again. We found out that there were only eight people right by us who were affected.

They wouldn’t come out and say it on the telephone, but I knew what that meant. The power company wasn’t going to bust a move to fix a pole in my backyard that would only help eight people. Not when they still had clusters of 100s of people who were without power. We were going to be last.

Sunday morning I called for another update. Still no power. Then about 15 minutes later, one of the other seven powerless homeowners in my area called my husband. He said that a crew was trying to get into our backyard to fix the pole, but they needed to tear down our fence. Since we weren’t around to give permission, they left.

They needed permission? I was just on the phone with the company and they didn’t say one word about my fence.

We asked our neighbor to please tear the fence apart so we could have power restored. Why the power company didn’t call us for permission, or ask for it one of the half dozen times I called them, I’ll never know. I was pretty mad. I know they had my cell phone on record somewhere. If they really wanted to get back there, they would have been able to contact me.

Once the fence was down it was easy. We went home Sunday morning around 10:30 a.m. and the crew had driven into our backyard and was up on a lift fixing the line. Our power was back up and running by the time we came home from church.

It was a crazy 72 powerless hours. But my family was only one of about 55,000 customers who initially reported power outages. We were lucky to be able to drive to a relative’s home close by to stay safe and warm. It’s never a bad thing to spend some extra time with family. It was inconvenient for us to be out of our usual surroundings but not traumatic by any means.

My parents live less than 20 miles away from us and they had it much worse. A giant pine tree in their back yard crashed down early Thursday morning, narrowly missing their home. Their house was safe, but the tree took down a major power line and they had a live wire downed in their back yard.

The tree fall also caused the wires to tug out from their home and they had to pay an electrician to rewire their home before their city’s power company could even come and start fixing their power.

My dad bought a generator in the summer when he saw a really good deal. We all teased him about it. But it came in handy when things went dark.

This experience has taught me to re-evaluate my emergency preparedness plan. I have plenty of food storage, but unless I have a warm place and an easy way to cook it, it won’t do anything for me.  I’ve also decided I need to get some more flashlights and possibly a lantern. It’s really hard to do anything when it’s a blackout.

I’m going to make a list while this is all fresh in my mind of things I need to buy in case of another emergency. I’m going to start by asking Santa Claus for a generator.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lana Schow
    Dec 09, 2011 @ 14:09:20

    Crazy!! I have been wondering what happened because I knew The Tubbs were out of power too! I saw Travis’ mom and McKay at Wal-mart today. McKay was talking so good and actually remembered me! It was fun. 🙂 Anyway…glad you have power again!! Oh and I have your thumb drive…let me know when you’ll be home and I can drop it off. 🙂

    Reply

  2. Elise
    Dec 13, 2011 @ 16:18:22

    You weren’t the VERY last in line to get your power restored… that’s the spot they reserve for those (like me) whose downed line only affected one house. We totally went generator shopping while our power was out. They’re about $1,000. Needless to say, we didn’t get one. Not yet.

    Reply

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