Hurricane!

Posted By BrokenClaw on August 29, 2011

Unlike the earthquake of last week, Hurricane Irene was fully anticipated this weekend. We made all the necessary preparations — fresh water, nonperishable foods, gas in the cars, propane for the grill, LED flashlights, candles, lighters, a cooler full of ice, two bathtubs full of water, a basic corded telephone — and we had all of our electronic devices (I think we have eleven of them) fully charged.

Like everyone else, we kept a constant watch on the weather forecast. In our family natural disasters have an additional dimension, because I am always on emergency call at the hospital, and my step-daughter is a captain in the local Ambulance Corps.

As predicted, the storm’s effects first reached us around noon on Saturday in the form of light rain. (The 1:05 Orioles-Yankees game had already been postponed. The game was a makeup game from a previous rainout of April 22. I’m still holding our four tickets, but that’s another story.) The rain changed intensity throughout the afternoon, but by early evening it was quite heavy, accompanied by strong winds.

Our electricity flickered a few times, just enough to be annoying as we waited for the cable TV boxes to reboot each time, but the electricity always came back on. By midnight, when the hurricane was at it’s nearest point to us, the winds were very strong. I poked my head out the front door periodically to see if there was any flooding on our street, but it was still clear. Around 2:00 AM, the cable TV went out, so I decided to go to bed.

I got up Sunday morning to find that the storm had passed. It was still breezy with a few sprinkles here and there, but we had suffered no appreciable damage, just a soggy lawn and a few small branches down. It seemed as though we had been spared any consequences of the hurricane. Such was the case until 11:59 AM. That’s when the electricity went out and stayed out.

I’m not trying to make our situation sound tragic, but this was our experience. I know that lots of other people have it much worse. It’s August, but the temperature is comfortable without air conditioning, and we still have water — no hot water, but water for all the necessities. We plugged in the corded phone and verified that we could get calls in and out.

For lunch, we made hamburgers on the outdoor grill. We broke out some board games in the afternoon and played Monopoly, Bupkis, Jenga, and Guesstures. That was fun. We have two portable radios in the house, so one was tuned to the Orioles game, and one was tuned to a music station. I made a jug of sun tea. I also finally read that book on Pennsylvania German Fraktur that I had picked up last year.

By now it was obvious that the blackout affected, not only our town, but much of the county, and there was no way to know how long it would last. Tomorrow’s opening day of the school year was already postponed. We had avoided opening the refrigerator, but eventually we had to decide what food to move to the ice chest.

As twilight fell, the lack of electricity hit harder.¬†For lighting, we lit a jar candle in every room. It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas… But no TV, no DVDs, no video games, no Internet. No Internet!? The laptops were charged, but of course the modem has to have power to connect. My Incredible phone has Internet access, and I could have used it to watch videos or listen to audio broadcasts, but that would put an unnecessary drain on the battery. Nevertheless, I am still able to charge my phone using the adaptor in the car.

As I write this narrative on paper by candlelight, the electricity has been out for twelve hours. It’s an eerie darkness in the town — no street lights, no traffic lights, no business signs, no porch lights — with just the faint glow from a window here and there. Solar powered walkway lights look like they lead nowhere. The occasional passing auto lights up the street momentarily, then it’s back to darkness.

Tonight’s sky is cloudless. Without the normal ambient light of the town, the Milky Way has never looked so brilliant from our front porch. The darkness is supported by uncanny silence. Crickets and the far-away drone of a generator provide the only background noise. The silence is broken every thirty minutes, or so it seems, by a siren.

We heard a rumor earlier this evening that they expect to have our power back on by 2 AM. With apologies to those still in the dark, I hope so.

Update — The electricity came back on, with a hiccup, at 1:03 AM.

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