Hurricane Diaries, part 7: World of Wonders

Welcome to the final installment of The Hurricane Diaries! You read that right! Our power has been restored just in time for tomorrow’s nor’easter to throw some trees and loose branches into the power lines! But I’ll take it!

We woke up around 6:30 this morning at my dad’s. We didn’t sleep too well; the bed was a bit uncomfortable and the dogs weren’t happy about the new, smallish space. Ru kept getting up and clacking around the guest bedroom. We showered, took the dogs out, and then drove home.

The house was forty-eight degrees when we walked in. And that was why we stayed at Dad’s last night. It was about 25 degrees last night, and there’s no way we could’ve kept the stove going enough to keep us warm without going through all the wood in the accessible part of the shed.

While I got coffee going up in the kitchen, my hands held right above the kettle for warmth, Amy cleaned out the ashes from the stove, so I could get the fire going again. I was afraid that another few nights like that would lead to burst heating pipes, since we can’t circulate the water in them without electricity.

Once I got the fire started (it was a bit difficult this time, but maybe it was just my impatience and exhaustion), I left Amy in charge and drove down to the polling station to vote. I promised my presidential vote to whichever candidate would show up and get my electricity back, but they seemed more focused on Ohio. I didn’t mind.

There was no line, so I got home quickly, got my things together, and headed out to the office. On the way, I decided to gas up the car, although I still had half a tank. I pulled toward the Valero station on 17 S., but there was a line about 15 cars long to gas up. Then I noticed that the line was for cars with their gas-tanks on the left side; the right-side lane was all clear, so I veered into the gas station at maybe an 85° angle to the line of cars, pulled up to the island, and got filled up in no time. I think the attendant was a little indignant that I didn’t have to wait. Poor Cherki.

Much of the work-day consisted of trading stories about the storm and its aftermath. Some of my coworkers never lost power, while a few others are still without. The owner of our company only got his power back on Friday, but he had a generator to keep light/heat going. Apparently, some people in the office were speculating that I would be so bored by a week without power that I’d go back to drinking. I hadn’t, but I probably would have started in on the whiskey if it got much colder.

Around 10:00 a.m., Amy texted to let me know that a repair truck was outside by the downed line, but hadn’t begun work. One of our neighbors was talking to the workers, and they told her that we’d be back up online today. I scoffed, but hoped. Also, I put in a call to the firewood delivery guy I heard about the day before at the fireplace store, to get a cord of seasoned wood out here tomorrow.

An hour later, Amy texted me a photo of our dining room pendant light shining. I cheered loudly. A passing coworker asked, “Got your power back?”

A little later, she posted a photo on Instagram of the truck and its boom lift as they repaired the line: Sending a HUGE thank you to the crew from McConnelsville, OH for coming out to this freezing town to restore power. #GratitudeMonth

I was excited and relieved, but part of me stayed skeptical. It’s not like I didn’t believe my wife, but I felt like it wouldn’t be real until I saw the lights on for myself. A little later, she posted a picture of the upstairs thermostat with the temperature creeping back to livable. I started to let myself get a little giddier.

As the day wore on, I grew impatient to get home. I took a short lunch and rolled out around 4:30. I drove up our street, looking at house after house, smiling more broadly as I saw each dining room light or front-porch lamp. I was expecting Amy to light up our place like a Thomas Kinkade painting, but she didn’t go overboard. She was downstairs, putting our flannel sheets in the washer to get the smoke smell out of them. We smooched in celebration.

So it looks like it’s over. The nor’easter doesn’t sound like it’ll be too terrible up here, and we’ll have enough wood after tomorrow to get the stove going for a long time, if necessary. We’re making plans to get a tri-fuel generator (gasoline, propane, or natural gas) that can patch into the house’s power, so we can be covered next time this happens. It’ll cost a couple grand, but I think it’s a better idea than spending $400 on a generator that can run a couple of appliances but needs gasoline all the darned time. (And we’ll turn off the main before turning on the generator, so as not to blow a fuse out on the street.)

In the past week, Amy & I talked about how this’ll be one of those events we remember for years, but how likely is that? In some respects, it’s already fading. My anxiety about losing the fire, or killing us with carbon monoxide, or starting an inferno with the ashes, etc., etc., wore me down pretty severely. When I told Dad about the firewood delivery contact, he said, “Why don’t you just go out back of my house and use the chainsaw? There are dead logs all over the place!”

“I’m suffering from sleep deprivation and cold, Pop. I’d rather pay $200 to a guy than lose my foot in a chainsaw accident, thanks,” I told him. Until I got the news today, I was pretty grim.

So what remains? What memories will I hold? The smell of smoke, of course. The tree of Damocles. Radio silence, courtesy of AT&T. The fire climbing up the dead power line. The early nights. The rosary of the hand-crank flashlight. The Walking Dead emptiness of the neighborhood. Amy tumbling and hurting her knees when the first morning when Otis lunged at another dog during our walk. My blackout beard. The kindness of neighbors. Sitting in the public library, recharging maybe a half-dozen devices and reading. Reading Sebald, reading Davies, missing Seattle. Writing all these posts on an iPad with a keyboard stand.

Now that we have power, I could’ve written this on my laptop or my Mini, but decided to stick with the iPad for one last post.

3 Replies to “Hurricane Diaries, part 7: World of Wonders”

  1. I, too, greatly fear chainsaws & won’t use one! Glad you got your power back. I just got mine back, but have too much plaster dust from illegal construction in my place to sleep there. Actually have to move out! But I must say, temperatures in my place never dipped below 42 or so–25! If you didn’t have a stove, you’d really be in trouble. After Sandy, I’ve decided the US runs on optimism–because we surely have no backup systems!

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