Well! I have had an eventful week. “Eventful” in this context means “terrible, mostly.” But then again, depending on one’s perspective, maybe it means just “eventful” and even a little lucky.
So last Saturday some thunderstorms were rolling through. Artie was responding in his usual way, which was to hide in the basement. I decided to go down to hang with him whilst watching some TV. I went ahead and checked the weather and saw this:
(Scary full time lapse video here.)
An actual, serious tornado was about five miles south of my house, and heading our direction. The weather guys in the TV station building were retreating into their basement, so I figured, hmm, I ought to do the same. I told K she needed to do the same, and we scooped up Bea and headed downstairs.
When it passed through it honestly didn’t seem that bad. Windy and rainy but passed quickly. I was watching the neighbors’ hanging plants and they were swinging around but didn’t even get blown off their hooks. We lost power, but it didn’t damage the house at all. Rain continued for a while but we went back upstairs and it was mostly bright out. But I was hearing on the radio that there was some serious damage to downtown and to some other spots. I thought we just go lucky and it passed a bit south of us.
Turns out that was exactly it: we were lucky. Just two blocks south a huge tree was uprooted and crushed a neighbor’s car. A mile south there was serious damage to lots of trees and a small college campus. Just northeast of us a trailer park basically got wiped out. A few kids were killed. Yikes, really. It went right by us and all we lost was power. There was some real devastation in town and some people here suffered real losses.
That was the scary and very sad, real part. On a less serious note, and what will eventually be amusing over time (NOT YET THOUGH) is that K’s parents were on their way down from NY to visit. We called them as the storm was coming and told them what was going on and to be careful. They ended up driving the whole way in the rain and arrived to a house with no power. Welcome! We were already planning go out to dinner so we were able to just do that, and guessed we would have power maybe later that night. It was hard to sleep–we kept thinking it might come back on at any minute. We were about 60 hours off.
Some of the neighborhoods around us got power back quickly, but we were in a pretty messy pocket, I guess. We still had running water but with an electric water heater we were without any showers but cold ones. Sunday we’d planned to do some landscaping work with the help of K’s dad, but feared getting too grimy before going out later that night, so we just relaxed instead. We’d decided to go to a Durham Bulls game, which would feed us dinner and get us out of the house for a while. There was a pretty touching moment of silence for tornado victims before the game and I felt really lucky to be there with my wife and family enjoying a beer, contemplating what abysmally bad-for-me ballpark sustenance I would consume for dinner, and being no more inconvenienced that being without power and unshaven or bathed. It was overall fun, although tempered by the Bulls getting absolutely beaten down, as well as being driven nuts by the family seated in front of us (they consisted of three kids who did not hold still or sit down for three complete hours, an increasingly drunken bellowing dad, and an exasperated mom).
By this time we were aware that the power company was having to do major repair work. They reported that numerous lines and pieces of equipment were missing. Not down. Missing. We had been given an estimate of Tuesday night for power restoration. So we spent another night in the dark but at least this time I had no expectations about when it might come back on and slept fine.
Monday we weren’t planning on going anywhere. I was going to grill dinner (with fire! I do not require any of your fancy social trappings to cook meat!) and K’s parents were planning on staying in a hotel so they could shower. So we went ahead and got grimy with landscaping work. We headed over to the hotel…but wait! Are the traffic lights back on? This was unexpected. We headed back to the house and there was power! No need for hotel! Glorious power! Lights! Air conditioning! Refrigeration! Hot showers! I waited all of ten minutes for the latter and got in an unsatisfying lukewarm dousing. But it was good enough. We started getting dinner together. And BAM, the power turned back off. This was not met with good moods or continued optimism.
I went out to resume the original grilling dinner plan. It felt like something post-apocalyptic. I heard sirens. Helicopters were flying over. A few neighbors were standing around their yards. The charcoal was giving me trouble. Morale was not good. I got an update from the power company that a traffic accident had taken down the power lines. Seriously, really? We lost power for two days, get it back, and then a traffic accident wipes it right back out? I found out later a truck on the highway had managed to snag a power line. How this happened is a mystery. The power company blamed the truck for being too tall. Seems weird, though. You’re telling me that in the preceding years of the highway and power line existing, no vehicle had ever been quite that tall? It didn’t add up. What does make some sense is that our power had just been restored, then this happened. Stands to reason that some mistake was made with a cable and it was left too low. I suppose the workers have been putting in some long hours, but sheesh. It not only gave us just a taste of power then crushed us again, but it snarled up highway traffic during rush hour and they had to replace a bunch of equipment again.
K’s parents had planned to stay until Wednesday morning but when we woke up without power again Tuesday, they decided it was best to bail and head home. We didn’t know if it would be 12 minutes or 12 hours until we were online again, so we blessed the decision and saw them off. We promised that next time there would not be a historic natural disaster before their visit and they would be allowed to take showers.
The thing is, you can live without power, especially when you know lots of others around suffered much worse losses, especially when surrounding neighborhoods have it, and especially when you have water. But it’s decidedly inconvenient. More problematic, the simple fact that you have no power and are off your routine hangs over you like a soggy blanket. Once can’t really just not think about it. When you’re not used to losing power for more than a few hours, it’s a real pain to lose it for close to three days, which is where we ended up. It came back on around noon. We didn’t wait long to take hot showers, but waited a while to dare resetting the clocks or buy any food to put in the fridge again. (We lost probably a few hundred dollars’ worth of food in the end since we had to throw out most of the contents of the fridge and freezer. Most devastating was the loss of our pot pie leftovers from Saturday night’s dinner. Sniff.)
So also, we picked the wrong week to start our bathroom renovation. No really, they showed up 43 hours later to demolish an entire room and replace it. When we came home Thursday to a house full of dust, and again didn’t have hot water (thanks to a broken shutoff valve we discovered after using it that morning), it did not improve our moods. I had already spent Wednesday and Thursday in a fog from stress and lack of good sleep. BUT…everything’s fine. Contractor fixed it Friday morning and we actually have a pretty normal weekend going. The house is in a little disarray but we have a second bathroom to use during the renovation and at least we have power.
The cats actually are more stressed by the renovation. (Well, they don’t like strangers either, so didn’t enjoy K’s parents being around.) Turns out the power being out has zero effect on a cat. We were jealous.