Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?


It’s that time of year when the leaves are falling, the days are getting shorter and it is getting cold outside.  I never really liked this time of year because I am an “outdoor” type of person and I get cabin fever being cooped up inside all the time.  Lots of people love winter, but I prefer spring and summer.  I remember two years ago we had an ice storm that left much of the area without power for days.  LP and I were only without electricity for three days, but those were the longest three days of my life.

It was around the 27th of January, 2009, and about four o’clock that morning I woke up to silence.  Anyone who knows me, knows I cannot stand silence, so I have always slept with a fan running to block out the faintest noises that can be heard during the night.  But that morning, all I heard was my own breathing.  I looked over at my alarm clock and it was dead and that’s when I realized the electricity was out.  It was still dark so I knew it wasn’t time to get up, so I laid there for a few minutes trying to go back to sleep, but without the sound of my fan, it was no use.  After tossing and turning for a few minutes, I decided to go ahead and get up.  I went to the refrigerator and grabbed a Diet Dew and sat down on the couch in the dark.  It was cold in the house, so I figured the power had been out for a while.  I got up and went to the window to look outside.  It was pitch black so I couldn’t see anything.  I went to the utility room and got a flashlight and went to the bathroom so I could find my watch.  It was only 4:15 and I knew I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep, so I went back to the living room and sat down and drank my Diet Dew.

For almost two hours, I sat on the couch waiting for the electricity to come back on.  I was hoping it would come on just long enough for me to get ready for work, but it never did.  Every now and then I would look outside, but I couldn’t see anything.  I even opened to door and shined the flash light outside, but I still couldn’t see anything.  About six o’clock LP got up and we both sat there in the dark for another few minutes and then it began to get daylight outside.  LP and I went from window to window looking and we couldn’t believe all the ice and all the tree limbs broken from the weight of the ice.  I immediately thought about our pine trees in the back yard, so I went to the back door to look out.  And, sure enough, one of the tops of the pine trees had broken off and was covering the ground.  Everywhere there were fallen trees, limbs broken and they were all over the road and yards.  Concerned that a tree or limb had fallen on the house, I put my shoes on and grabbed my gloves and a coat and headed out the backdoor.

As soon as I stepped outside, I slid and my grabbing a column on the porch is the only thing that kept me from falling.  After I gathered myself, I carefully stepped onto the driveway and my feet slipped out from under me once again and I managed to grab hold of the column once again to keep from falling.  There was ice everywhere and on everything, and ice was falling from trees and ice was cracking and trees were cracking, so I decided that I had better get back in the house.  I managed to slide back to the porch and back into the house without killing myself.  LP lit the gas heater in the hallway so we would be warm.  We had no idea about what was going on because we couldn’t watch the weather nor did we have a battery-powered radio; so beyond our little neighborhood, we had no clue of what was going on.

We did know the highway department had been preparing for bad weather and they had been salting the roads the day before.  LP and I both had four-wheel drive vehicles, so we were hoping the roads would be in fairly good condition.  Although the hot water heater had been off for a few hours, the water was still warm enough for a shower.  LP took a quick shower first and then headed off to work.  After LP left, I showered and got ready for work.  It was about ten after seven when I went outside to start my truck and, once again I slid off the porch and slid around to the driver’s side of my truck. And wouldn’t you know it, the damn door wouldn’t open.  And when I pulled as hard as I could on the door handle, my feet slid out from under me and I went sliding half way under the truck.  Now, that hurt.  I like to have never gotten out from under that truck, and, I promise you, I cannot recall another time when the ground was so slick.  I remember thinking, “I’m not sure work is worth all this trouble.”  After I did manage to get up, I slid around to the passenger’s side and open that door.  I started the truck and skated back into the house.

I waited about thirty minutes for the truck to warm up, then I locked the house up and skated back to my truck.  There was still ice on the windshield so I took an ice scraper and while I was concentrating on my footing, I started chipping away at the sheet of ice.  Just when I was about finished chipping, I heard something that sounded like a machine gun and it startled me so bad, I ducked and almost fell again.  I looked in the direction of the noise, and saw my forty-foot pine tree falling onto another one of my pine trees and breaking each of the branches one by one.  And the pow, pow, pow sound continued until the tree finally hit the ground.  Then I heard the cracking of a branch that was much closer to me and fearing for my life, I jumped into the truck; turn the windshield wipers on and threw the truck into reverse and took off.  Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck by the time I got to work.

When I got to work, I thought it was kind of strange that there were only two vehicles in the parking lot.  I was about thirty minutes late, but evidently I was much earlier than my coworkers.  I parked right at the front door and I walked into the office and to my surprise, the power was out.  I walked through the lobby and stepped out into the production area and it was pitch black.  I yelled out, “Is anybody here?”  I heard a man’s voice say, “Yes, I’m here.” and then I saw a beam of light coming toward me.  When it got closer, I could see it was my boss and he was holding a flashlight.  He said, “We don’t have electricity and from the reports on the news, we could be without power for days.”  He said he was gathering some things to take home to work on, and he suggested that I may want to do the same.  I shook my head no and said, “No use in me taking anything home.  I don’t have electricity either.”  After a few minutes, I told him goodbye and to be careful going home and I walked back to my truck.

I really didn’t want to go home because of all the falling trees and no electricity, but the roads were so bad I didn’t want to take a chance on getting stuck in a ditch or wrecking, so I went back home.  After I got home I picked up a book and started reading, but the sound of trees limbs falling and ice cracking kept breaking my concentration so I gave up on reading.  Then I started thinking, “What if the power doesn’t come back on today?”  By then, it was ten o’clock and it would be dark at four, so I started thinking that maybe I should start preparing for a night of no electricity.

Since we had no form of outside news, my first priority was to find some source of getting up to date news on the weather and the surrounding areas.  I did have a radio that would run on batteries, but it was at work.  I really didn’t want to drive back to work, but I certainly didn’t want to drive thirty miles to buy a new radio either.  So, I grabbed a flashlight and I went back to work to get my radio.  This time there were no cars at work, and once again I pulled right up to the front door.  With the help of my flashlight, I found my way to my office and got my radio.  On the way home, I noticed that the Dollar Store’s lights were on, so I pulled into their parking lot.  I went inside the store and bought some batteries, some candles and some matches.

When I got home, I put the batteries in the radio and turn it on and, believe me, it was the sweetest sound I had ever heard.  Then I proceeded to put my plan into action and get prepared for an evening without electricity.  I strategically placed candles all over the house.  There were five candles in the kitchen, four candles in the living room, one candle in the bathroom and two candles in the bedroom.  I went to the utility closest and got our camping gear tote out and started going through it.  We had three small cans of propane, so I took one can and attached it to the lantern.  I took the extra flashlights and made sure they worked.  Now that I was sure we would have plenty of light, I thought about what to do next.

In an emergency situation, you always need food, so I thought about cooking.  How can we cook without electricity?  Well, we have a gas stove, but is has an electric ignition.  But, then I remember how Dad used to light his stove.  He would turn the gas on and strike a match to start the flame on the burner.  So, I tried that, and it worked.  Okay now we have a way to cook, but can we see to cook?  So I took a bungee cord and attached it to the big camping flashlight and hooked it to the stove vent and let it dangle over the stove.  I tested it and it worked perfectly.  By this time my confidence was building and I was so proud of myself for my quick thinking and my quick action.  The only thing left was hot water, but the only thing I could think of was to boil the water, so that’s just what we would have to do.  Anyway, I was hoping the electricity would come on soon, but it didn’t.

LP got home about four o’clock that afternoon and was quite surprised of my accomplishments.  I must admit, even though we didn’t have electricity that night, we made the best of it and had a really good time.  One night was okay, but the next day came and still no power and I was getting a bit antsy.  I listened to the radio that morning and my work had been canceled again due to the power outage, so I stay home and inside all day.  I was bored to death.  If you have ever been without electricity, then you know there’s not a whole lot you can do.  It was around noon and I was thinking about the power outage and then I thought, “Crap.  What about the freezer?”  I opened the deep freezer and the food was still frozen, but I knew it wouldn’t be long before the food would start thawing.  It was still about twenty degrees outside so I decided I needed to start moving the food outside.  But where outside?  We only had one large cooler and it wouldn’t hold all our food, so I thought and thought.  Since my truck had a bed cover and a top, I decided to put all the food there.  I covered the truck bed floor with a sheet and put all the food I knew we wouldn’t need in the back, and put the items I knew we would use in the front for easy access.

Did I tell you that I was bored to death?  Well, I was.  No work, no television, no computer, no internet, no nothing.  Most of my neighbors had left their houses to stay somewhere else. So there were no cars going up and down the road and no kids outside playing. The only entertainment I had during the day was watching the little finches scrounging for food from the frozen bird feeder.  When LP got home from work that afternoon, we set up a card table in the living room and dug out a jigsaw puzzle.  We soon discovered that it’s not easy putting a puzzle together by candle light so that only lasted about an hour or so.   As I recall, we went to bed about eight o’clock that night.

The next day proved to be the same.  No power, no work, no neighbors, no nothing.  It was about three thirty that afternoon and I had decided that we should go to a hotel so we could have a hot shower and so we could at least watch the news, and then I heard a noise.  It was the sound of a truck coming down the street.  I ran to the window and I was so happy when I saw the electric company’s truck pulling into my neighbor’s driveway.  I grabbed my coat and my gloves and went outside and walked over to my neighbor’s house.  The driver of the truck noticed me walking towards him, so he started walking to meet me.  I told him we were still without power and I was wondering how much longer we would have to wait.  He told me we should have electricity within the next hour, and sure enough, we did.  I was so happy to have electricity I had every light in the house on.  As soon as LP would turn one light off, I would turn it back on.  I don’t know what we had for supper that evening nor do I remember what time we went to bed. But, I do remember having a hot shower and watching T.V.  And I slept to the sound of my fan all night long.  😛

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