I Survived a
3 Day Power Outage
By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet
On a dark, stormy winter midnight in California sierra, I walked outdoors into the cold with my two Brittanys. The front deck was covered with wet snow; the towering trees and wires amid me looked surreal and eerie because they were wilted with white powder. I shoveled the heavy slush off the deck to make it easier for the morning. At 7:30 a.m. I got out of bed and turned on the TV switch for CNN—there were no red and amber lights on the cable box. I flicked on the lamp—it didn’t work. “Power outage,” I mumbled. It was the beginning of the first day the lights went out at South Lake Tahoe.
Dog Night One
Instead of making a cup of fresh, brewed java, I resorted to trekking to the back house to borrow instant coffee from my sibling. A gas stove and heat were a godsend. I got my first news report from a neighbor walking her new young black dog. “The power will be out for days,” she shouted. Her words echoed in my mind. I tuned out her warning. Once back indoors I was thankful for having a land line phone. I called the police department. They assured me that the power would be restored by afternoon. A call to the power company dished out an automated message: “downed wires and trees in power lines.” I hoped for the best, but by dusk I went into survival mode and prepared for the worst.
First, I buried my premium perishables—milk, yogurt, cheeses—in the snow. Dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, and chamomile tea were my new friends. As I munched on the “granola girl” type foods, I got a move on. I gathered matches, candles, flashlights, brought in firewood—and fed my cat and two Brittanys, Simon and Seth. I was clad in a hooded sweatshirt and jeans and felt like a characters in The Day After Tomorrow doomsday film. But it was a cozy in the candlelight sitting by the crackling fire. Then, my mind raced. The filters nor did the lights work for my fish aquariums; my waterbed was another concern. It was good for one night—not two. I tried to read by candlelight but the challenge wasn’t worth the effort. I turned in at 11:00 p.m., and had a two dog night.
Dog Night Two
The next morning, like a Groundhog Day movie, the same (and more) inconveniences greeted me. The ice dam above the front door was back. The pricey work for a heating device was useless without power. The ice mound at the doorstep was accumulating ice again. So, I called the power company (again). More automated messages. No estimated time for power restoration.
A hot shower was on my agenda. I didn’t go to the resort indoor swimming pool (they did have power but they also had a flood of tourists). Without usage of my hair dryer, I ended up drying my long locks by the gas furnace. The warmth of the air reminded me that three comforters on my bed filled with cooling water weren’t enough. A quick trip to the store (they had power) and another thick comforter made me and my dogs smile. But news of scattered outages hit me, like a tornado, hurricane, or quake that hits one house and not another. It made me frown and think, “Why me?”
I felt isolated and cut off from politics, entertainment, world events, and weather reports. So, I called my geologist friend Jim Berkland in Glen Ellen, CA, for his forecast. He predicted a three day outage. At 8:00 p.m., electricity was restored. But, the scientist was partially spot-on. The cable company (my lifeline to the world via Internet and TV), was down. I felt disconnected and connected with my companion animals. I talked to both my cat and dogs to feel calmer.
In the morning, like a hungry raccoon I dug up my edible goods—but they were no edible. Each item was too frozen or off in texture. I abided by the saying, “When in doubt, throw out.” Sadly, I lost 150 dollars of fresh food. In retrospect, the good things, such as gas heat for warmth and phone, were good. I endured withdrawal without my computer, Lifetime movies, the USGS and NOAA web site. My lifeline to technology was restored and resetting. I read in our local paper that 10,000 residents on the south shore of Lake Tahoe were affected by the blackout.
(Reprinted with permission from Oracle 20/20 Magazine, February 2011 issue.)