Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Lights Are Back On!

     I was going to write a post discussing how B and I worry about our failing memories, and the risks we all face in developing dementia and even downright Alzheimer's. But ... I forgot.

     Okay, sorry, bad joke. What really happened was Irene, which came washing through here on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. We lost our electricity, phone, internet connection. I was out of business.

     I was petrified that all the water would turn our backyard into a big mudslide and carry it down the driveway, taking out our old, crippled stone wall with it. Miraculously, the stone wall held up. We lost a little real estate, but nothing more than a half inch of topsoil.

     I also worried about the two big maple trees in the backyard that loom over our house. When we moved here four years ago we had the one closest to the house taken down, and the other two trimmed and wired. Well, thank you Taconic Tree Care. Those two trees stood tall through the storm.

     But New York State Electric & Gas didn't do so well. We lost power around 5 a.m. on Sunday. We knew it was bad when we called up the emergency telephone number. Usually, when the power goes out (as it does fairly frequently around here), there's a recorded message giving an estimate for the time when the power will be restored. It's typically a couple of hours. But over the weekend the message simply confirmed the power outage, admitting there was no estimated time for restored service.

     Luckily, the weather turned nice by Sunday evening. It wasn't winter, so we didn't miss the heat. And it wasn't hot either, so we weren't sweltering without our a/c. But there was the problem of water. Not too much water; too little.

     We live in the exurbs, and even though our house is less than half a mile from one of the reservoirs feeding New York City, we have no piped-in water service. Instead, we have a well. And a pump. And no water if the pump doesn't work. Once the water tank runs out, the house is dry. The situation allows for the washing of hands, the brushing of teeth, and a few flushes of the toilet. No showers.

     We do have a rain barrel which was plenty full. That came in handy by Monday night. We got out our buckets, filled them up, and kept them by the toilets to refill the tanks.

     We broke out the candles and the flashlights. B has a hat with little LED lights in the rim -- perfect for lighting up the page. So she spent a lot of time reading books. I borrowed her battery-powered laptop, which worked just fine with ambient candlelight.

     B's son went off to work on Monday morning. He works at a bank in town, and the downtown stores were first to get their electricity restored. B plies her trade at the town library, which had no power on Monday, so she had the day off. I spent the day hanging out at our local upscale grocery store which has a seating area with power outlets, allowing me to recharge the battery on the laptop. At one point I took a break and went over to Panera's, which offers wi fi access along with the power outlets.

     B and I went out to dinner Monday night. As we ate B made plans for her anticipated day off on Tuesday -- a trip to the mall, some time at the laundromat, and she wanted to shop for the new refrigerator she's hoping to get.

      Tuesday morning dawned another bright sunny day. Still no power. B and I went up to the diner for breakfast. Alas, on the way home her cellphone rang. Power was back on at the library. She had to go to work ... with no shower, for the third day.

     I spent another day commuting between the grocery store and Panera's with a small crowd of like-minded laptop users. Around 4 p.m. I went to my sports club and did a workout while watching TV (which I hadn't seen for three or four days). I also took a nice long hot shower.

     B got home and we decided we'd better cook something out of the refrigerator. As the odor emanating from behind the refrigerator door proved, there were a couple of hundred dollars worth of slowly rotting food in there. We fired up the outdoor grill and cooked some salmon and hamburgers from the freezer. They were defrosted, but still cold.

     After dinner we drove to a local cafe for tea and dessert. We deserved it! The place was mobbed with powerless people, suggesting a kind of a party atmosphere. But on the way home, I finally started complaining. I was tired of playing the pioneer. Yeah, it was a big storm. Lots of trees were down. But everyone knew it was coming. They should have been prepared. And NYSEG had three days of perfect weather to get those power lines back in operation. What were they doing?

     The big housing development out on the main road was still dark. A bar on that stretch of road had its lights on -- I assumed the owners had a generator, giving them enough power to run a refrigerator and a beer tap.

     We turned the corner into our neighborhood. Was that a light? No, those people on the corner have a generator. Wait ... another light. Then as we came around the corner we saw our front porch light was on, and the floodlight by the garage. "The lights are on!" B shouted. "The lights are on!" I chorused.

     So I apologize for my grousing, NYSEG. Good job. I know there are people in our area who still, on Wednesday morning, don't have electricity. Others are pumping out basements. Still others are cutting up tree limbs. I wish them well. And the people in the Catskills, who suffered some bad flooding. And people in Vermont got it bad. And plenty of roads in New Jersey are still closed. Not to mention all the people in the Carolinas.

     But I'm sure glad we have our power back.

     If I can remember, I'll post that piece on memory in a few days. Meantime, for those who might be interested, I wrote a piece for the U. S News & World Report website, picked up today on the Yahoo! finance page. Take a look. Thanks!


Towanda said...

It sounds like you all were very well prepared for the outage. I always think first of the refridgerator's goods when the lights go out.

Anonymous said...

You need to get a generator, sir. We've got one. Can't live without it. Figure out what you need to run the fridge and some outlets and take the plunge. It'll be the best investment you ever made. said...

I missed you and thought it might be the storm. Fortunately, we only caught the edge of the storm,and electricity was fine. Laundramats can be handy at times, and rain barrells. Dianne

MerCyn said...

Great article on Yahoo! The big guys get all the breaks - kind of like buying at wholesale prices while everyone else pays retail.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Glad to hear you made it through the storm without major damage, Tom! It can really be inconvenient with no power for days. We experienced that at our home in L.A. after the Northridge quake in 1994: no electricity, gas or water for a week. The shower I took when the utilities were restored was one of the most blissful of my life! Thank goodness that wall and the trees held firm and you're getting back to normal.

Douglas said...

Glad you made it through and were only inconvenienced rather than suffering damage to your house and property or to yourselves. We are a bit more used to these problems here in Florida so usually have generators on hand (I have one that will provide enough juice to run the fridge, the ceiling fans, a few lights, and even a computer or two... but it won't run the AC). Haven't needed it since we got hit by Wilma back in 2005 when we lived in West Palm Beach. Oddly, none of the hurricanes (3 in 2 years) knocked out our power for more than 36 hours. We were also on well but had an in ground pool for spare water to flush the toilets. Had a couple of friends whose power was not restored for two weeks, though. They had it rough.

Dick Klade said...

Good to know you're OK. We had a three-day outage (caused by lightning) a few weeks ago. Fortunately, our son who lives down the street has a generator. He alternated running it at his place and ours to keep freezers and refrigerators going. We didn't lose a thing, except some sleep when he made the switchover in the middle of the night. I'm a believer now. A generator purchase is on top of our list.