Eighty Hour Outage

For about 80 hours my house didn’t have electricity, at least the organized kind from the electric company. One short, intense windstorm did it. As it passed through it blew open my kitchen door. I got out of bed to close it. A chilly experience. I also checked the front door. The wind was so strong that the pressure held it shut, even as I leaned my roughly two hundred pounds into the effort. No one mentioned a tornado, but considering the damage I saw days later, and the fact that the island was without power I wouldn’t be surprised that a series of micro-bursts hit us. 

The event was an exercise in coping, but this one was long, and gave me enough time to think about how I adjusted and didn’t adjust to a forced retreat to a low-tech life. I’ll probably write about it later, but decided to share the notes I started keeping when I realized we’d probably be out for at least a day. Eighty hours is longer than a day, and I learned a lot. I’m sure many islanders did.

Now, to prepare for the next weather system which is cold and clear. Some even got snow. Life dull? Ha!

  • Turning up the heat has nothing to do with sex. (under some conditions for some I am sure)
  • Tea rules! (easier than having to power up a coffeemaker)
  • Interested in new slipper socks (because every shoeless step can be a reminder to shop)
  • Where is that book? (the search for non-electronic entertainment, as long as electrons will move enough to power a reading light)
  • A day to reach the point that life is marginally re-arranged and can move on to relaxing (because motivations and incentives aren’t about long-term plans but are instead of maintaining a house, a food supply, water, warmth, etc.)
  • The quietest time – no generator – fireplace sounds, wind sounds, rain sounds (but open a door and be surrounded by generators rumbling, including the automatic ones in vacant houses)
  • So…this is the vacation I sought. (My apologies. The world made this happen because I needed a Big Hint to relax.)
  • Taking notes on paper (radical, and appreciating good paper, a good pen, and a good writing surface which in this case was a clipboard because I could carry it around as I did chores)
  • Looking forward to warmth (anticipation stretched out to days loses its romance)
  • Old PCs have their benefits (no internet required, and hopefully the battery lasts)
  • How many all-island outages required replacing equipment? It could all be new by now. (but it doesn’t work that way, but the thought comes to mind – alternative architectures?)
  • You know things are back to normal when the toilet seat is warm again. (at least in single-person houses)
  • Revising Christmas list: portable solar panels, mini-battery for electronics, big hurking battery for bigger things like a car, slipper socks (or win the lottery and go 100% solar, except for the slipper socks)
  • Replenish: cooking fuel, batteries, soup, candles (but candles are being eclipsed by LED lanterns)
  • Stereotype: fireplace, blanket, book, hip flask or hot toddy or both (‘hot’ emphasizes the wonder of a small butane burner)
  • The simplicity/complexity – same number of tasks but shifted motivations and incentives are clearer and more immediate
  • Hip flask (never used before during an outage but handier because there’s fewer glasses to wash, wear it in a pocket and warm the beverage)
  • Fancy ramen (miso ramen with mushrooms, then I added canned salmon, and nice!)
  • Days until my diary (was so busy that writing anything long was interrupted by the fireplace or phone alerts or battery management or investigating sounds outside)
  • Hours before a shower (became days, and very welcome when it happened)
  • Ukraine, Hurricane Ian (in comparison, this is an inconvenience, an important one, but there’s no shelling or massive storm surge)
  • Burner + solar + battery + freezer (important and simple things: burner was butane, solar was a magazine-size pair of panels to charge a battery, and the battery could charge a phone and a bit more, and the freezer was a styrofoam shipping container used to ship me a gift last year but handy to hang onto and chill and fill before the storm)
  • Friends (finally had a reason to drop by in case they needed anything, which was also an excuse to sit and chat largely uninterrupted)
  • Electronic beep makes me jump (After hours of low-tech luddite living I was startled when my phone went ‘beep’, so un-natural.)
  • Tick-tock clock and an old-style thermostat (because clocks existed before electricity, and bi-metal analog thermostats don’t need to be reset or adjusted for the time or need batteries, handy when the power comes back on, especially if you weren’t home to notice)
  • Old solar radio (part of the emergency kit, but maybe the solar panel is too old because it only lasted about five minutes)
  • Paper and pen (ah, the basics for writing)
  • Forced busy ‘vacation’ (sure, taking a hint and it is relaxing but that’s partly because I was so busy surviving to worry as much)
  • Confuses e-alarm (electronics and software, so easy to confuse)
  • Power! 80 hours without meant 59F by the fireplace, 48F in the back bedroom, which is better than 33F outside (my fireplace is inefficient, but it evidently works that well)
  • Septic Alarms (because as the power comes on alarms can get re-energized, and for a while it is paired with generator noise – both could be from unattended vacant homes)
  • Freezer inventory: only ‘lost’ a bunch of figs from my garden; checking sausage, fish, leftovers (almost everything in the freezer was still frozen, modern insulation and not opening the door and storing lots of ice blocks)
  • Room for Thanksgiving (Well, at least I’ve cleared out enough of the freezer to stock up for Thanksgiving dinner!)
  • Surprised by a beep + tea (reacclimating to technology coming to life, but it made it easier to make tea)
  • Revise meal planning (so much for plans, replan to use everything soon)
  • Didn’t miss much TV (but by the third night I was TV curious)
  • Takes off the hat (I wore almost the same clothes, including a hat I wore day and night. It took me hours to remember it was still there.)
  • Two hours after power returned the house was up 4F (but the computers and phones were already recharged, and I wasn’t surprised because radiant floor systems like mine have to heat the floor and hope the heat reaches the wall thermostat)
  • Normal diet/chores (reset life to normal by retreating from comfort foods, excuses to skip those chores because of other chores, shower up, be ready to re-engage with humanity)
  • Heat the house, the water, take a shower, do the dishes, do laundry (the order of my priorities based on hot water – and then chuckled at myself because the laundry load was for Cold and could happen as long as there was power. The dryer, however, created a cozy chore. Snuggle with clothes.)
  • What to write about? (The week has been interrupted. What am I going to write about for my blogs? I have an idea…)

About Tom Trimbath

real estate broker / consultant / entrepreneur / writer / photographer / speaker / aerospace engineer / semi-semi-retired More info at: https://trimbathcreative.net/about/ and at my amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0035XVXAA
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