So, you didn’t hear from me yesterday — mind you, not that you had a problem with that — because I couldn’t get online for most of it.
On Tuesday evening a storm rolled through our area. It didn’t seem like a big storm to me. We’ve had worse, to be sure. We’ve spent an evening sweating bullets and making sure the children couldn’t tell how frightened we were because a tornado was sighted in our area. That was a couple years ago. I sat beside my daughter as she laid on blankets in the bathtub and grinned at me while my son sniveled into his mom’s shoulder in the laundry closet. This wasn’t anything like that. A little thunder, lightning occasionally, and then… blackness.
When the power goes out my son freaks. He doesn’t realize his eyes will adjust if he gives them a chance and it’s not pitch-black after all. He’s better now that he’s older but we can’t figure out where the fear of storms came from. Both my wife and I love storms and the more lightning the better, so long as it’s not taking out power. The MiniNess didn’t freak too much but I could tell she was struggling to hold it together.
The power usually doesn’t stay off for more than a few minutes or an hour in our area. I’ve lived in a location where the grid was so poor blackouts routinely occurred through the summer. I lived there from August to the end of October in 1998. During that time I lost power no fewer than four times. FOUR.
Here, though, the power doesn’t generally stay down that long. Until Tuesday night.
By nine o’clock I was falling asleep. The soft candle light and general gentleness of the storm sounds outside (things had calmed down a great deal by then) lulled me off to sleep. I set my alarm on my new, awesome telephone for my usual time (o’dark-thirty) and went on to bed. I expected to be awakened in the night by the lights suddenly coming on and the other appliances all kicking in. But that didn’t happen.
Around 5:00AM, I woke up to a dead-black house, still except for the sounds of my sleeping family’s rhythmic breathing and the mild breezes rustling the lush leaves and grass. The tender hiss of rain set a backdrop for the dark. I got up and something occurred to me — the pilot lights for the gas appliances are all electronic. If we lose power the pilots are out and, because of the safety feature in the hot water heater gas valve, if the pilot goes out the valve shuts off. I went to the hot water closet and listened.
No sounds, no rumble of gas jets pouring blue heat onto the tank. I went to the stove and turned on the burner. I heard and smelled the gas flowing, but no clicking ignition.
I picked up my phone and called my boss’s voice mail, explained what happened and how I wouldn’t be able to do much of anything until power was restored and went back to bed. I figured, surely by dawn. It wasn’t that bad a storm, for Pete’s sake. Surely by morning.
I rose at around 9AM to find nothing changed but the temperature outside. Thankfully the cool weather which triggered the storm in the first place settled over us like a wet blanket and a partially opened window is all we needed to maintain a comfortable sleeping temperature.
The next day I struggled with worry about when I should finally decide to give up on the idea of power restoration. My wife read about possible tornadoes and a microburst in other areas, and how as many as 431,000 had lost power. By the time she woke up and surfed the web with her phone, that number had been shaved to a meager 250,000 without power. Trees uprooted. 90 mph winds (that’s 144.841 kph for my Canadian friends). Places described as war zones with littering debris scattered over roads, yards, even trains stopped because of downed timber.
Wow. Seriously?! WTF happened? It wasn’t that bad a storm!… was it?
At 2:30PM all of us were starving. I was afraid to let the children eat what was in the refrigerator because I didn’t know how well it might have held up after sixteen, almost seventeen hours of being powerless. I almost cried thinking about all the groceries we had delivered on Monday and now, Wednesday, they’d have to be replaced. Another bill I don’t need and didn’t plan for in the budget.
I was herding the kids toward the car to go find out whether any restaurants were powered when the lights came on and the A/C fired on.
We were among the first twenty-five percent to have power restored. Three years ago, if this had happened, our luck would’ve been such that we’d NEVER have been in the happy, smaller percentage. (If you doubt this, check with my wife. 85% of the population stayed employed after 2008. Us? HA! You know how THAT turned out.)
We decided to make our meal a celebration rather than a necessity. We stopped, wrapped our arms around each other and said a prayer of thanksgiving, and offered one up for those still without power. Then we went back to our lives, and I even got to work from home. I caught up on everything I needed to do.
We feel so empowered now. Literally.