Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Knocked Out

I’m a day later than I normally am in this resurrected blog. Blame April.

When I was a kid, I remember hearing that the Inuit people of Alaska and Canada had something like 50 or 80 different words for snow. On Long Island, we had one word–snow, and two types: good packing snow, which you could make a good snowball with, and bad packing snow, which you couldn’t. Over the last 20 years of living in middle New York, I have developed a much better understanding of the types of snow that can fall and I can tell you that eleven inches of January snow that falls when it’s five degrees out is a lot better than eleven inches of April snow that falls when it’s thirty-three degrees out. Kids would love this snow on Long Island, you could make some awesome, and dangerous snowballs out of it, but it’s awful to shovel and it’s worse for trees.

The winter storm warnings were rolling in over the weekend, and I’ll admit I kind of pooh-poohed the whole thing. Hoo, boy. I woke up at 3:33 on Tuesday morning to find that the power had been out, but was back. There’s an old clock radio on my night table that was flashing, I think maybe the power had been back on for maybe an hour. I used my wife’s cellphone to change the time before going back to bed, but I was thinking about all the things I needed to do for this very busy work week and slept fitfully. Woke up again later in time to hear the Catbird leaving for her 6am starting time at work, found my clock again flashing, and again reset it. While making coffee in the kitchen the lights dimmed. Computers, refrigerators and the heating system turned off, the light in the kitchen pulsed a sickly yellow glow, then went off completely a minute later. The cause? The eleven inches or so of super heavy, wet April snow.

Did I ever tell you about the book I wrote? It’s called Powerless and it deals with a family that finds itself living in a situation without power. So, yeah, power outages are always a little weird for me now. The last time the power went out it was back maybe three, four hours later, which is a long time, but is mainly an inconvenience. On Tuesday, we sat, and we sat, and we sat. The Catbird never made it to work because the roads were a mess, and she abandoned the car at a convenience store and walked home. The convenience store could not pump gas or run any transactions that weren’t cash because they had neither electricity or Internet. We had no phone service of any kind, because we have no landline. Which also meant we couldn’t even call the power company and get that automated voice telling us how many customers were out in our area or when they thought the power would come back. So we were in the dark, literally and figuratively.

These kinds of situations do make you think about the number of things we have no control over. Landlines are pretty reliable when the power is out, provided you’re not using a cordless phone that needs a working wall outlet to charge it up and power the base unit. Cellphones? Not so reliable in my neck of the woods. Radio? Heh, we don’t even have a battery powered radio anymore (though on Wednesday morning, I got in the car and turned on the radio, and the stations in Oneonta were all blaring static. Uh, oh.).

I think that’s the thing that makes these situations worse: not having the ability to communicate, to get any kind of information from any sort of reliable source. I’m not a prepper, I don’t have crates of food and water and batteries and heavy weaponry stored in some underground bunker, but I do think it might be a good idea to invest in a radio again. Of course, if things really hit the fan that might not do any good.

Wow, that’s a cheery thought. The good news, at least, is the power came back yesterday, we were ‘only’ out for about 32 hours (estimates originally had restoration at 11pm tonight, so yay to the crews who have been working hard under difficult conditions). Now I can try to get myself back fully on track.

What’s the longest power failure you’ve endured? How did you cope with it?

3 Responses

  1. Glad to see you back online, Jeff! I skimmed through the other posts to catch up.
    Congrats on Powerless!! Sounds great – but not what we want in real life!

  2. Thanks so much, Jemi, it’s good–and strange!–to be back after so much time. Definitely not what we want in real life!

  3. Longest power failure? Probably when Ike came through Dayton. Yeah. A hurricane. In Ohio. We lost power for nearly 24 hours. My daughter’s area, longer. Lots of food spoiled, but nothing damaged. So that was a blessing.

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