Thursday, November 6, 2014

You Survive A Power Outage Your Way, I'll Do It Mine

In December of 2007, we had an ice storm. Not ice. Not sleet. An ice STORM. As in an inch to an inch and a half of ice encasing trees, power lines, cars, playground equipment, roofs, grass, signs, gutters, and pretty much anything else but the streets. Weirdly enough, the streets themselves were relatively clear of ice covering. 


It was a Sunday morning, only a week before the children's Christmas program at our church. My daughter, almost 9, and I left the house to go to church, because we couldn't miss play rehearsal! As the streets were not ice covered, I thought it wouldn't be that bad. My daughter, however, was sure we were going to die, and I assured her it would be fine once we got out of our neighborhood. We crunched and slipped and slid across the grass to the driveway, and just as we got to the car, we heard a crack, crack, cracking sound.

"Listen," I said to Emma. "The ice is already melting and falling off the trees."

The next thing we knew, there was a tremendous CRASH, and a 25 foot tall tree across the street crashed to the ground. Had it fallen a few feet in a different direction, it would have landed onto the street and dangerously close to where we were standing. Emma immediately began howling, and we crunched back to the house and went inside to safety.

Within an hour, our power went out.

This was not good.

Our house is old (built in 1926) and drafty. It has 3800 square feet of hardwood floors with no carpeting. There is a gas furnace for each floor, but the blower needs electricity to work, so no heat. There are two fireplaces that were not usable (we were kicking ourselves that we had never done anything about that, but the remedy was very expensive). The house started to get chilly very quickly.

My husband called my in-laws, who lived on the other side of town, and when we found out that they had power, we headed there. Sadly, we had to leave our kitties at home, because my in-laws are not cat people (and one of them may or may not actually be allergic and I'll leave it at that). We drove the few miles to their house, creeping down the streets, avoiding fallen limbs. Their house was warm and had LIGHTS, and we settled in for a cozy stay. 

An hour later, THEIR power went out.

Their home was in a heavily wooded area. I went into an upstairs bedroom to look out at what the storm had done. It was a winter wonderland, if you could discount the fact that power lines were down all over town. As I looked out the window in the quiet of a house with no electricity humming through it, I could hear the cracking of ice, followed by the crash of tree after tree falling from the weight of the ice on its limbs.

My father in law built a fire in their fireplace. We cooked on the gas grill on the back porch. It was all campy and kind of fun. Fun-ish.

By the next afternoon, I was done, especially after I drove back to our house to check on the kitties. The house was very cold (we left water running in our bathroom sinks to prevent freezing). Per my dad, I poured antifreeze into the toilets. A thermometer in my bathroom showed it was 39 degrees in there. The kitties were curled up together on a bed of blankets in the basement. I went back to my in-laws home and told my husband I was out of there the next day and was taking the kids and cats with me.




My parents, who lived an hour's drive to the north of us, missed the ice storm. I loaded clothes, cats, and kids into the car and headed out. About twenty miles north of town, a chunk of ice fell off some power lines that crossed the highway and crashed onto the windshield and hood of our car. My son and I, sitting in the front seat, thought we were goners, but the windshield remained intact, and contrary to how it sounded and felt, there was no anvil-sized dent in the hood of the car from the impact of the ice, either. By the time we were thirty or so miles to the north, we ran out of ice almost completely. 

The kids, cats and I spent the rest of the week at my parents' house, warm and cozy. School was canceled for the entire week, as more than half the schools in the district had no power. While the power was restored at my in-laws' home late on the day we left (a perk of living near the two hospitals), our home was without power for 7 days.

Rumor has it that this winter could be very cold and wet. Should you experience a winter storm-induced power outage like we did, here are my recommendations for how to survive it:

1. Pack your bags, gather up your kids and pets and leave.
2. Before you walk out the door, turn on the water in a couple of sinks to prevent the pipes from freezing and pour some antifreeze into the toilet bowls. Better safe than sorry.
3. Go somewhere that has power, preferably a family member's home, where they have a familial obligation to take you in and keep you.
4. If the power goes off there, repeat #2.
5. Ignore your husband when he calls you an electricity whore.
6. Also ignore that everything in your refrigerator and deep freeze are defrosting, because there's not a thing you can do about it.
7. Stay in your warm, happy place until the power is restored at your own home.

May the warmth be with you.

This post was an entry for Mama Kat's Writing Workshop with the prompt:


List 7 ways to survive a power outage.

35 comments:

  1. I'm trying to think which would be more uncomfortable - a week without power or a week at my parents. It would be a close call.

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    1. No brainer: week at my parents'. The Sophie's Choice would be between the week without power and the week staying at my in-laws' house.

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  2. This is a very practical solution to a week-long power outage. I think my list would go something more like this:
    1. Whine
    2. Panic
    3. Fret about the food in the fridge/freezer. Briefly consider burying it in the ice outside. Realize this is stupid.
    4. Resign yourself to the fact that there is nothing you can do about it
    5. Stubbornly insist you'll stick it out in the cold house with blankets, candles, a fondue pot, and call it "fun."
    6. Realize that shit gets old real fast.
    7. Go to home of relatives who have power.

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    1. As long as you complete steps 1-6 within the first few hours, you'll be great.
      My eyes are entirely too old to read by candlelight. I'm a spoiled baby with an electric mattress pad. I'm blowing the joint as soon as I'm able!

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  3. Pardon me while I go find someone to fix our chimneys and get our fireplaces in working order...Our closest relatives are 2 hours away.

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    1. We still haven't gotten the chimneys fixed. They need stainless steel inserts at approximately $10 a foot. In a two story house. Not counting labor. Drive the two hours.

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  4. During super storm Sandy we lost electricity on the day at 4:30 pm - the wind was howling but we all kept entertained the worst part was not knowing what was happening - we kept seeing blue light in the distance - (actual transformers exploding) at night somehow we all went to bed - but I woke a few times checking on things - some point in the middle of the night we got electricity 15 minutes we got cable - aaahhhh! then woke up the snore next to me to tell and instruct him to see if anything needed to be shut off especially anything in the basement - LOL

    We were camp - my sisters came over - my sister's MIL stayed with us - but my parents were to afraid to drive the 45 minute ride not knowing what to expect (I think they were more afraid to leave their home)

    Stay warm this winter - hoping for a very mild winter :)

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    1. That must have been so frightening! We were in the Northridge Earthquake in 1994. We had phone service, but we didn't have power. We had to call my mom 1500 miles away and ask her to turn on the tv (it happened about 4 a.m. California time) and let us know what happened.
      Seems you escaped the worst of Sandy? I hope so! How long did your family have to stay with you?

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    2. truthfully I was not too afraid - (maybe a little) I think I became afraid more afterward seeing the devastation on TV - and realizing how lucky we were ...my sisters and friends came and went as they pleased warming up, recharging their electronics and feeding them too- they don't live too far. One sister at the end of the week had a scheduled vacation and left her MIL at my house for over two weeks ,Mimi could not have stayed at the house without electricity or heat. So I had the dog and MIL LOL

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  5. This resonates Hurricane Sandy for me. We were without power (and water) for 8 days. It was harder to be without water than electricity because I could light the stove with a match and we have a fireplace and wood burning stove for warmth. But flushing with buckets and no showers were tough. We kept 2 fifty gallon jugs of water close to the back door and a cooler with some water for rinsing hands. I did such a happy dance when the power came on. It happened two years ago and seems like yesterday.

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    1. Being without water AND power would really be tough! Because toilets. Was the weather hot after the storm? Hot and no showers would be pretty awful.

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  6. Sending warm thoughts your way!

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    1. Warm would be great! I think we've had our share of natural disasters here to last us quite a long time!

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  7. I am so glad that I don't have to deal with that in Florida. Everyone should move here. It's actually the best state according to FriendlessinFlorida.

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    1. What about hurricanes, though? Those aren't so nice.

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  8. Oh, turning on the faucets is a good tip. On the rare occasion that we lose power, it usually isn't too cold out (the last time we lost power was when some kids broke into a transformer, did something to it and blew it up...and that was in the middle of summer!) I'll keep that in mind in case we lose power this winter!

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    1. We lose power often, but it's usually only out for an hour or so (old neighborhood, old trees, old wires, squirrels who don't learn by seeing their friends incinerated in a transformer). I don't know if my dad was crazy about the antifreeze thing or not, but I didn't want to risk it and come home to find our toilets cracked!

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  9. I've never been in an ice storm. Looks like it can be a beautiful sight but very inconvenient. My biggest suggestion, as well, turn on all the faucets and let the water drip to prevent broken lines. The damage from frozen and thawing pipes can be devastating. I've had a few of those experiences.

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    1. They really are beautiful! The trees look like they're made of blown glass. Fortunately, this kind of storm doesn't come along very often. I can't imagine the mess of having pipes freeze then thaw. Ugh!

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  10. living in a rural area, we also have the habit of, upon ice or wind threatening to take down power lines, to fill the bathtub with water (we sit it out with the wood stove)…. the bath tub? no city water or city sewer where we are… toilets need water to function!
    thank you so very much of the reminder of the approaching winter fun!

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    1. Do you have a pump then? Power out = no pump = no water.
      Winter wouldn't be so bad if we got pretty snowfalls that stayed on the ground but never the streets or sidewalks or parking lots.

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  11. *grins* Electricity whore? Wow!

    Good plan though. NOT LIKING THE SOUND OF WINTER!

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    1. I know, right? Just because I wanted to stay warm!
      I will be okay if we never have freezing rain again. Do you get that in England?

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  12. Wow, an ice storm sounds like something to see...from a distance. Your kitties had the right idea. Find a warm place and hunker down. I have one tip to add to your list - always have your kindle charged or a good book handy.

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    1. It's a shame they're so awful for trees and power lines and driving and, oh, life, because they really are gorgeous.
      Panic sets in with our kids when the power goes out, for fear their phones will die.

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  13. My in-laws live in Tennessee and I can still remember my husband (then fiance) visited them that December and they also had an epic ice storm with the falling trees, no power, etc. I was grateful I opted to stay home with my family (for several reasons).

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    1. It's fun and campy for about thirty minutes and that's it.

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  14. I love your steps... especially #3 and #4 lol

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    1. I'm not afraid of being called a rat leaving a sinking ship!

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  15. we're all effed in the zombie apocalypse ;-)

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    1. Hopefully they'll find the freezers full of defrosting meat....

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  16. This also makes me think of Sandy. I was five months pregnant, with a two year old and we lost power for five days. My in-laws live about an hour away from us, and they didn't loose power at all. They didn't invite us up until day five (our power came back on the night we were at there house). That was not a fun week at all.

    I love items 5 though 7, scary how true they are. :)

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    1. Your in laws didn't even invite you over?! I am such a sissy that I can't last very long without electricity. I was never meant to be a pioneer!

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  17. We had an ice storm here too and trees were bending and falling left and right! It was really amazing to see, but we couldn't stay home either. Packed it up!

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