Fifteen Hours Without Power

Tuesday morning I took off for the second of a four day RADAR certification class. Myself and two others headed down knowing that our area was expecting a pretty big snow storm that was supposed to start that afternoon.  While we were at a much lower elevation and almost an hour away, all it did was rain. My wife though, updated me on the snow situation.  It started long before we were done for the day. 
By the time we finished training that afternoon,  and climbed back to out mountain town, several inches covered the ground.  I settled in for dinner and watched the snow come down with the family.
Then, at around 6:30…..we were plunged into darkness. Complete blackout.
We quickly gathered candles and lit the house. I shambled out to the road to make a cellphone call to the power company, texted one of my training partners, and shut down the cell to save the nearly dead battery. 
The biggest problem with no power…was no heat. And we were buried in snow so we couldn’t go anywhere either. I dragged the futon mattress into the living room, and with a blanket, sealed off the hallway and bedrooms to keep any remaining heat from being dissipated by the drafty portions of our aged home.
Then I headed out to shovel out the driveway. 
Somewhere around 8, I see a glow in the sky down the road. It flickered through the trees, and I hoped it was the power company.  But something was amiss…the flickering was random, and familiar. It was a fire. I headed out in the storm to investigate,  and found a power line had been torn from a pole by a fallen pine bough, weighted down by the heavy, wet snow. The line sputtered, popped, and buzzed in the middle of the road, throwing sparks, flame, and steam as it rapidly melted the snow around it. My fire scanner indicated that the fire department was on its way, so I went back and shoveled some more.
Somehow, my wife managed to put the boys to sleep in the living room amid a pile of blankets and pillows. Outside, the only light I had was an eerie orange glow to the south east, the lights from the nearby ski mountain as they happily blew snow onto the slopes.

I dont remember what time I came back inside, but around 11:30, the power flashed back on, but lasted only a few moments before blacking out again. About that time, a truck from the power company went up the road. I dressed and went out again to shovel more, and to hail the truck and see what was happening.
About now, I realized that the pine trees were reaching their capacity to hold snow. The stillness of the night was interrupted periodically with the sounds of large branches breaking under the strain. The power truck came back down, and the driver told me they were still working on it. I went back inside and dozed off.

Something woke me at 4am. The plow maybe. There was a new orange, flickering glow through the trees to the north. A second power line down on a tree, burning. I slipped outside and started the car, hooking my phone to it to charge as I shoveled. For laughs, I called the power company’s automated line to check the estimated time of restoration,  and was shocked to hear the recording tell me that there were no service interruptions in the area, that power had been restored at 11:30PM. I followed the prompts to report a new outage.
I was astonished a few moments later to get a phone call BACK from them, just so they could tell me “no, we fixed that.”
I informed them that we were still out. I told them I had checked my breakers. Oddly, the house next door to us had power. I also told them that I had two little kids who had been without heat for going on 10 hours.
The power company then told me “well, nobody else has reported it.”
To which I mentioned that on a dead end road with 7 houses on it, we were the only full time residents,  and I would have been amazed if anyone else HAD called them.
I was told they would send someone to look at it.

At this point, I begin to think of new plans for the day. This third day, Wednesday,  was the practical portion of my training course. If I wanted to certify, I HAD to go. I finished digging out the car, went back inside, and began to pack gear, and make plans for my wife and boys to go to my parent’s place.
Amazingly, my wife rejected the idea when she woke up, and we were still fighting about it when my ride came to pick me up at 7am.

On the road,  and fuming that my wife had opted to stay in a house that now required sweatshirts and blankets to stay warm, rather than evacuate, I texted the day shift worker to drop in on them and see how they were doing while I was out. I also called the power company again. The automated voice said there was a known outage effecting two people. Estimated repair time….9:30am.

Somewhere around 9, the messages rolled in from the fort. Power restored.  A 15 hour stretch with no lights, heat, hot water, or even radio (dead batteries) in the middle of a major winter storm was over.

image

A look up our road.

My wife gutted out a frozen home with two feisty, anxious little boys, and I went to training on only snippets of sleep, to be fueled constantly by coffee throughout the day. Even as I write this, three days later, we are exhausted. My schedule hasn’t stopped since then. My wife sleeps on the couch as I work the mobile app to write this. There is a small break tomorrow,  I dont report for more training until Monday, so I hope to get up early with the boys and let the Mrs. Sleep a bit. She’s earned it.

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