Ice Age

treeonline4Note from Cyn:  I’ve been off-line for the bulk of the weekend attending to family issues.  I came to find out that many of my friends (and relatives) were deeply affected by the ice storms of the end of the week.  I can’t imagine being without power for days and days (and know some people who are still without power or heat or water) – I’m a modern gal with modern needs.  But Tru, he handles these things much better than I would.  And here’s his story (with some pictures taken by Mrs Tru!):

Winter of 2008 has barely begun, but it made its presence known in a huge way. Thursday night, driving back from western Massachusetts, the roads were getting slick and icy, but the temperatures were holding steady at or around 32 degrees F.

When I woke on Friday morning, the house was without power, and cold; very cold.

So we cranked up a fire in the family room, and began making preparations for survival. We keep plenty of bottled water, which would be good for drinking, washing dishes, and sponge baths. Much like a good deal of New Hampshire, there is a lot of well and septic systems. To use the loo, meant having water to allow the waste to properly drain.

So in the icy rain, I went outside, with gallon jugs to scoop water from the culvert, and then once back inside, sift it through cheese cloth to filter out particles. Five gallons and two frozen hands later, we had water for a lot of flushing.

treeonline3There was plenty of food in the house, and since we have propane for heat and cooking, we were no more than one match strike away from stove top cooking. So pots were placed on the stove, water heated for coffee and other essential needs and we were fairly ready to brave this outage for a little while; or so we thought.

As a recent owner of a 3G iPhone, I was able to go out to the Internet and assess how bad the storm was, and what the prospects were for restoring power. According to WMUR’s web site, more than 400,000 people were impacted in New Hampshire, but those were early estimates. I was also stunned to see that Friday night, the temperatures were expected to be in the low teens, and Saturday night, it was going to get into the single digits. As I searched more sites, it was clear that people in Maine, New Hampshire, parts of Vermont, Massachusetts and New York State were without power. WMUR also suggested that it could be several days before power would be restored.

Our concerns grew with the realization that plunging temperatures and no heat, the risk of burst pipes was real.

We do not have indoor kerosene heaters, which could be used in the basement to heat at the lowest level of the house, and on upper floors. We determined now was an opportune time to make the purchase, because a hundred dollars now could possibly save thousands later.

So we bundle up destined for the local home improvement center, and not out of our neighborhood got to survey some of the storms wrath. Our street empties out to a T junction. If you went left, three huge trees were resting precariously on top of the power lines. The third tree in the strand had ripped the transformer completely off of the utility pole and wires were resting on the ground. To the right, and our normal route to get out to the main roadway, lines were down everywhere, including a home where the electric meters were pulled completely off of the house. The owner was outside setting up work horses with red flagging on them, as the power lines spanned across the road. We maneuvered around the damage and were able to make our way to the main drag, noting several other areas where we had to proceed with extreme caution, as more lines were down.

icebeauty2Lowe’s, was a short drive from our home, which miraculously had generator power and was open for business. They had truckloads of bottled water brought in and were selling it for standard prices. Mrs. Tru and I were pleased that there was no gouging going on, and the supply was plentiful. So, we bought several cases as insurance, not knowing how long the outage was going to last. But the real focus of everyone who was there, including those before us, and I’m fairly certain those who followed, was to purchase some sort of heat source; it was going to get really cold and it seemed everyone had the same thought as ours. There was nothing to be had. No generators, no kerosene heaters, not even propane heating systems that are used for construction.

As we got into our car, we realized that the seriousness of this power outage had people scrambling for some kind of heating system. While our family room has a fire place, it is on the side of the house and any heat generated would not radiate anywhere near the walls containing water pipes. Our sense of concern grew, as it was clear that there were going to be hundreds of people scrambling for a source of heat. So we head down the road fifteen miles to a Home Depot, and the story there was the same. The man who was in the store said that other Home Depot’s throughout New England had all ready sold out of generators, or as many as could be sent from other parts of the country were on the way.

We stopped at a huge power equipment store, and they had assembled a waiting list for safe heating or power generating equipment, but could not say when they’d be delivered. We would number 43 on the list if we joined. So we headed back to the house, stoked the fireplace and began a search for a generator. I sat in my car, which kept supplying power to my cell phone, and discovered that Lowes, Home Depot and several power equipment suppliers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island had already sold out their stock. In Connecticut, Bloomfield, Hartford, Vernon and Manchester were depleted as well.

icebeauty1I called my sister in Fairfield, and she went to the local Home Depot and bought the last generator they had, had it loaded in the back of her sport utility and awaiting my arrival the next morning. It was 7:30 PM by the time we had gotten a system located and purchased. I would head down early the next morning to pick the system up, get it wired and operational before Saturday night and the frigid temperatures that were on the way. We would be okay.

That night, we had soup and sandwiches, and slept in the family room in front of the fire.

I woke at 1AM and the fire was barely going. It was cold, about 44 degrees in the rest of the house, and it was a daunting thought about what was happening. I re-stoked the fire and eventually fell back to sleep. Leaving the house at 6 AM, the full moon was still lighting the night sky, and to make my way down to the highway was eerie, especially against the frozen back drop of ice covered trees.

Twenty miles from home, a Dunkin Donuts was open, as were gas stations and the realization these people had not lost power. How lucky they are, I thought. Fueled up, a couple of cups of Joe and a donut, I’m on the way to claim my power source that will restore our sense of security. With the generator in the back of my truck, a spool of 10/3 Romex and a couple of five gallon gas cans, I’m on the way back to New Hampshire, out a thousand dollars, but not caring, as heat, light and running hot water are less than four or five hours away.

treeonline2By the time we off loaded, set up, wired and cranked up the generator, it was 12 degrees outside and dropping like a rock. The house was coming back to life as power began surging. The generator was noisy, but a happy tune to our ears. We kept thinking that this loud humming was a blessing, because we could wait out the outage for an indefinite period of time, running everything in the house, except the clothes dryer. And who cares about that? Well, not me. We have lights and are warm, and a shower was less than an hour from now as the water heater percolated to soothing temperatures.

As I looked out my window at the rest of the neighborhood, it struck me like a line drive off the side of my head; houses were all lit up, power restored to the neighborhood! The generator had run for all of an hour and a half.

Now some might think that this is funny, and in the way of odd circumstances and timing it was. After all this worry, all this concern, here is a waste of money and effort, and all we had to do was stick it out; we’d out last this temporary inconvenience. But the truth be known, it is the last thing I thought of, and frankly a reminder to how unaccustomed to hardship I really am.

treeonline1I noted on the drive back the convoys of utility trucks from Baltimore, Philadelphia, and others from whereabouts I did not know. They were coming to help us, and other affected areas. I’m amazed at how incredibly lucky we are to have utility companies from other parts of the country willing to come and help. I’m further grateful to know that these workers dogged through awful weather to restore my services to ensure our comfort. When I left New Hampshire yesterday morning, the trees were still as I saw them Friday. When I returned, they were removed, the roads cleared of debris.

At the same time, while understanding that frozen pipes were avoided, the realization that others may not be so fortunate. Here with Christmas on the horizon, the people who were impacted, still affected, may go for much longer without heat and running water at tremendous cost. I’ve not read a paper, or turned on the TV and frankly don’t know how much of the northeast remains without power. I can only imagine a demand for services from tradesmen, where people who are unable to afford the cost of repair are going to be in serious trouble. I’m lucky, but others might not be so.

One of the saving graces is that the weather is supposed to warm up, which eases suffering and I hope that’s the case.

Lastly, I cannot help but think how terrific people are when pressed to an emergency. We had offers of shelter, and other willingness to aid our need. I’m buoyed by that sense of community and caring. It is the best part of us, which is comforting and reassuring. It is that sense of a Christmas spirit that does not need come on one day of the year, but reveals itself in ways that are immeasurable, without benefit of a specific date to look forward to.

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