Snowed In With No Power
By Mata H on March 02, 2012
It snowed recently - only a few inches of snow and sleet fell, but it had almost everyone I know thinking back to our last snowstorm: The Halloween Blizzard.
Back then, I was so cold that my eyeballs felt chilly -- even when I closed my eyes.
Image: Andrew A. Nelles via ZUMA Press.
Leaving the near warmth of my blanket-piled bed for more than five minutes required a major decision. Just how badly did I need to get some water...go to the bathroom...open up a can of cold green beans...root around by candlelight to find a few crackers?
Oh drat, my dog had to go out. Even she was crossing her legs, resisting getting out of bed. She kept giving me surreptitiously bad looks, but who can blame her? She didn't like having a chilly bottom any more than I did!
That was this year's Halloween Blizzard in Massachusetts. My power went out for SEVEN (count 'em, s-e-v-e-n) days and nights. I have a fuel oil furnace which is driven by electricity. I have an electric kitchen (stove/dishwasher/fridge), a nine-cubic-foot freezer full of autumn provender that I have patiently "put up" from the fall harvest.
I do not own a gas grill, camp stove or even a hibachi.
It started one Friday. The power went off during a big snow storm. I am a hearty New Englander. Big deal, no power for a couple of hours. I am stoic. That's how we are raised.
Okay, there is a foot and a half of snow. OK trees are falling left and right. We can deal with it. Our towns are ready for it.
But the power didn't come back on.
And it kept snowing.
I dug out the flameless, battery-operated candles. I found the flashlights. I located extra batteries. I unpacked the down comforter and my mother's handmade afghans. The snow kept coming. The power did not. Oh, well, I guess I missed the end of the NCIS marathon.
I took some fruit out of the fridge for dinner and grabbed an extra comforter. Fruit in bed. Gee, some tea would be nice. BUT, there is no way to heat the water.
I called the power company, something that would become a thrice daily ritual during the next week. They said they were "working to fix the outage in my area."
Successive messages over the next week on their recording were:
1. (Cheery tone): "We hope to get this repaired today. Please bear with us, as the outages are city-wide."
2. (Modified cheer): "It seems that this outage may be in effect for as much as two days."
3. (Weary): "We are doing all that we can, but certain areas of town may take three days."
4. (Pressured): "We are prioritizing the most heavily populated streets. Hopefully everyone will be up and running in a few days."
5. (Exhausted.): "This outage has lasted longer than we expected. Please bear with us as we try to get the city back online by .... with luck ...the end of the week."
Shortly after hearing the first message, back when I was still hopeful, I heard a huge crash next to my house. As I jumped from my bed to see what had happened, I realized that a falling tree had narrowly missed my property, and was extending from across the road to the opening in my driveway. I could not turn left on my street.
Then, WhooOoOoooosh! A tree to the left of my house fell, crossing the road. I was blockaded in on the right side, too.
No heat. No power. No exit.
All that existed across the street from me was a giant athletic field for a local high school. A field full of hip-deep snow. My backyard was full of snow, and fenced in with a five foot fence. Unless I was in the mood to lug myself and my dog through the mountains of snow, climbing fences as I went, I was stuck.
I was going nowhere. For a week. Did you know how cold you could get with no heat for seven days? I was lucky that the temperature did not stay below freezing for long enough to damage pipes. But I became a vigilant temperature-watcher.
Needless to say, I had time for that and more. Time takes on an entirely new character when one is alone, snowed in and without power.
Here are some helpful hints for y'all which I hope you never have to use. Some are fun, some serious. Take what is best --- toss the rest.
1. Depending on your family needs, think about an emergency generator. Small ones can be had for less than $400.
2. Consider how to cook. If you have a gas stove, great. If you have electric, consider alternative outdoor cooking means. Keep canned/boxed/packaged foods available that you can eat even without heat.
3. Know where your flashlights and batteries are. Have plenty.
4. I am loving these flameless candle things. I set a several of them up around my house. When there are no streetlights, TV light, room lights, it gets realllllllllllllly dark. It helped to have these set up as nightlights that could "burn" while I slept with no worry of fire.
5. Stock your pantry/fridge with things you can eat without having to cook them. While the idea of a refreshing salad in 35 degree weather seems somewhat less than ideal, it helped get me through. It was great to have some canned peaches on Day 5.
6. Wear a hat. You lose so much body heat through your head! I know I looked like a sex magnet, dressed in pink fuzzy slippers, a purple sweatsuit and a babushka, but I was cozy!
7. Get a plain Jane land-line phone. You remember -- they are phones that just plug into the phone company outlet. They do not depend on electricity. They are cheap. They meant the world when the power went out for a week. I suppose I could have dragged my frozen body to the garage, started the car and re-charged my cell phone, but that is one less thing about which I had to be vigilant. I have my land-line in my bedroom, always near. (My regular home phone is a six-unit satellite phone. But without electricity, that was toast.) I was not nearly as anxious as long as I had a way to communicate with the outside world.
8. Have some books around that you have yet to read, just in case. Keep them in a survival box with a notebook and pens. Think of ways to pass the hours. Play CDs on a battery operated device. Write actual letters to people.
9. Surrender to the reality. You cannot speed things up. Unless you know how to end snow. Or to climb power lines. I decided to use my time napping, meditating, talking on the land-line, cuddling my dog (who must be part heating pad) and occasionally praying for those I love. I spent time thinking deep thoughts, writing erotic fiction and fantasizing about hot soup.
What else did those of you who were caught in this or another power outage do? Any suggestions? How did you handle the long expanses of time?
I think the toughest part was not being able to shower. Technically, I had hot water. But actually, the idea of standing and shaking from the cold in an icy house, naked and dripping, left me with images of icicles hanging from any protruding part of my anatomy, my hair in dangling ice-covered tendrils and goosebumps the size of chicken eggs. It was not a good thought.
Of course, now, my fantasy of heaven has completely changed as a result of this chilly experience. Heaven is now a warm shower following by thick, nourishing, steaming hot soup with a cuppa hot coffee and maybe some cookies. It certainly pays to prepare.
What you put on your survival list for a snow-in?
Contributing Editor, Mata H. also blogs right along at Time's Fool