Power Outage Redux
Posted by wendiwendy
I’m not really sure why I woke up early Wednesday morning. I tend to toss from side to side throughout the night, because although I prefer to lay on my right side, it makes my hand fall asleep if I stay that way for long. So instinctively I turn to that side, my hand falls asleep and it wakes me up, and I flip over to my left side. It was during one of my instinctive turn-to-the-right-side moves when something seemed not-right and my eyes flew open.
I stared out into the darkness, trying to figure out why I felt so freaked out. After a few seconds I realized it was really dark, no light at all from my alarm clock or the nightlight that shines into the hallway from the bathroom. Then I realized the room was feeling hot and a little stifling; the fan was off. I sat straight up and said, “Oh CRAP.” The power was out.
I figured my movement and voice would wake Dave up, but he stayed soundly asleep. I got up, put my glasses on and started wandering around the house, trying to find a flashlight. Dave usually keeps one by his computer, so I checked there first. I was fumbling around in the dark, trying to feel for the flashlight, and I couldn’t find it. Then I realized we also keep one in the bathroom, so I grabbed my cell phone (which was on the computer desk) and turned it on as I walked back to get the flashlight.
There were no outage alerts on my phone; I shone the flashlight at the wall clock and saw that it was a little after 3:30. I was starting to wake up a little bit more, making it easier to form coherent thoughts. I checked outside; no storm, no rain, no evidence of any earlier storms. The skies were clear. I checked the neighboring houses; across the street they had power, but the houses whose backyards met ours were all dark. Of course, in the middle of the night you would expect that, but I know one of our neighbors always keeps his back porch light on all night and his house was dark.
I had a vague memory of adding an app for our electric company to my cell phone last summer, after the three day power outage (in 100 degree temperatures) that we suffered through. I checked my phone and sure enough, there it was. I clicked the app button and prayed it wouldn’t ask me to log in, because I had no idea what my log in info was. Luckily it went right through and I could see my account information. I tapped the Outage button and was informed that they had no record of an outage in my area, so I should check the circuit breakers. At this point I realized I was going to have to wake Dave up.
I have to confess that I hesitated, wondering if I should just go back to sleep and not bother him. In the past, I’ve woken up and realized the power was out and then just went back to sleep, figuring it would be back on by morning. After last summer, though, I have no faith in the power company anymore. I also had no idea how long the power had been out, and I was starting to worry about the food in our fridge.
I patted Dave on the shoulder and he flew straight up in bed. He was just as confused as I was when I first woke up, but he shook it off pretty quickly when I explained that the power was out and we were being advised to check the circuit breakers. He ran down to check, came back and shook his head. The circuit breakers were fine. I started to report the outage while he went outside to see if he could find any lights on nearby.
For some reason, I kept my CIs off the whole time we were doing this; I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to put at least one of them on. I relied on Dave shining the flashlight under his face so I could read his lips.
After I sent all the information through the app, I got a notice saying that 25 customers in our area were without power and they were going to send out a crew. They estimated the power would be back on by 5:45 a.m. Dave was gathering candles (one of the benefits of making our own candles…we always have a bunch of them on hand!) and I started lighting them. Since we didn’t really trust the 5:45 timeline and we also didn’t know how long the power had already been out, Dave decided to bring up the generator from the garage.
This was the first power outage since we bought the generator. When the power was out last summer, you couldn’t put your hands on a generator for miles in every direction; they were either sold out completely or only had the very high end (and out of our price range) models. After everything got back to normal, the first thing we did was buy a generator. This was our chance to see if it was worth the money.
Dave hauled it up two flights of stairs and out onto our deck. We plugged in the refrigerator and one light, and let the fridge run for about 30 minutes. (The generator was loud so Dave didn’t want to leave it on for much longer than that.) Since it was already 4:45 at this point and he normally gets up at 5:00, Dave decided to stay awake; I crawled back into bed. When I woke up around 8:00, the first thing I noticed was that the power was still off. (Of course!) I checked my phone and there was a new estimate saying we’d have power back by 9 a.m.
What a difference this was compared to last summer! Well, last summer we also had to contend with the oppressive heat and humidity, but the main thing is that we had no generator. We knew by the afternoon of the first day that all the food in our fridge was ruined. This time, everything went like clockwork. Dave moved the generator under the deck, where we could hardly hear it. It kept the fridge going, as well as our modem, wireless router, laptop and computer. Even when they changed the status at 9 a.m. and said due to ‘severe conditions’ (?!) they now had no estimate for when the power would be restored, and they were requesting additional crews and equipment, I still didn’t worry. It was so nice not to be a nervous wreck, and to have access to more information because we had the computers. My cell phone is very, very limited in what it can do, so it was a relief to be able to pull up the outage map and see the more detailed explanations.
All in all, the power was off for about 7-1/2 hours that day. There was some kind of problem in the underground electrical cable that goes through our area; it affected just our street and the street behind us, and I have no idea what caused the issue. They had four or five huge trucks and they worked in the yards on either side of us (each of which has a transformer) until the afternoon. Even once the power came back on, they were still out there working for hours. At one point, the power went back off after it had been on for about three hours; I freaked out and Dave reassured me that it was probably temporary, while they switched over to the new cable. Sure enough, about five minutes later, everything whirred back to life again.
In the middle of all this, we were watching ominous weather reports. All the reporters were claiming we had perfect weather conditions for tornadoes and derechos (a derecho is what caused all the trouble last summer). I was really sure we’d get the power back on just long enough to have a huge storm come through and knock it back out again. The storm clouds gathered and we did get some storms, but nothing major. I think, though, that the universe was feeling a little feisty that day because when I checked email before heading to bed Wednesday night, I found a message from Paperback Swap telling me a book on my wish list had been accepted into the system.
And what was the book, you wonder?
Into the Storm: Violent Tornadoes, Killer Hurricanes, and Death-defying Adventures in Extreme Weather.