A Tale of Two Power Outages

June 23, 2008 at 10:38 am Leave a comment

About six years ago, there was an extended power outage here at the Piedmont house. An early December ice storm knocked out power not only to this house but to surrounding towns and communities. It was a day or so before we could clear the driveway and road sufficiently to get out of the house. A transformer affecting only four homes (one of them ours) was a very, very low priority on the fix-it list and we ended up being without power for nine days.

That experience, in very many ways, led me here because it showed me starkly that the way I was living then was not the way I wanted to be living now. The Piedmont house is all-electric — so I won’t say the challenges of staying here would have been slight. But the fact is that virtually as soon as we could get the car (at that time a big SUV) out of the driveway, we went out in search of alternate lodging. It took a day or so to find those as many other people had the same plan.

One thing that sticks in my memory from that time is sitting around in that hotel room with the X (who was not X at that time) and the Kid and thinking — this is not where I should be. But I had no realistic alternatives to offer. I knew that and that was a whopping helping of shame and humiliation to digest as I sat there in the over-warm room.

I had not made certain that we had enough firewood stockpiled to get us through several days of heating solely with our fireplace. We did not have warm sleeping bags and warm clothing. We did not have any alternate way of cooking if we, for some reason, did not have use of the electric stove. We did not have the mindset to understand that being without electricity was just an inconvenience, not a catastrophe. I’m forced to admit (and I was forced to admit then) that at our level of preparedness, it was a catastrophe.

Last night, a hard-charging thunderstorm came through here and part way through the storm the electricity went out. I was IMing with a friend and the Kid was watching satelitte TV. It’s not as if we are “little house on the prairie” here by any measure. I tried to get a “power’s off” message through before the DSL shut down. The Kid wandered into the kitchen to announce that the satellite had gone out. I pointed out that all of the electricity in the house had gone out.

The Kid immediately went for a rechargeable flashlight that I keep plugged into an outlet in the kitchen closet. It must have gotten bumped from the outlet at some point because it had lost his charge. “Why not light a candle?” I suggested, pointing to a couple of dinner candles that were on the lazy susan on the kitchen table. So, we did. And we got out an oil latern and pulled out a board game.

In about an hour we packed up to attend intergenerational games night at our Quaker meeting. We were a couple of minutes delayed in picking up some friends on the way as the road I’d anticipating driving down was closed (I’m guessing by a downed power line).

We had a great time at games night and found the power still out when we got home. I showed the way in to the house with the little mag light flashlight I keep in the glove compartment. I pulled a big, battery-powered latern and set it up in the Kid’s room just for reassurance sake. We got ready for bed and I tucked him in. I came back out to the kitchen and talked with the DP for a while on my mobile phone before heading for bed myself.

The power ended up coming back on sometime during the night. So, I was able to get coffee with no fuss. That made me happy. But, I now have a camp stove and fuel easily accessible. The Kid and I now have warm clothes and good sleeping bags — right at hand. I never let our woodpile fall below about three full days of supply for heating. I figure in three days, I should be able to cut, stack and dry more from the dead wood surrounding the house. Are we prepared for anything? Maybe not. But I am no longer there. I am here.

Last night’s power outage was a non-event. And that seems good to me.

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Entry filed under: Piedmont.

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