Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hurricane Journal: In Search of Warmth

Early after the storm, my sister tried to persuade me to get in the car and drive to a hotel room in Philadelphia.  I resisted, worried about the cats and my home.  As word of gas shortages spread, I also fretted about keeping my gas tank full, since starting the car was one surefire way to charge my cell phone and get warm.  In hindsight, my anxiety about keeping the car fueled was unwarranted.  The tank never got below half and I can drive 400 miles on a single tank of gas.  But at the time, we saw gas station lines that had more than 100 cars and dozens of folks with gas cans in hand also waiting.  The concern didn't seem unreasonable.

On Saturday night, tired of the cold (the house hovered at just below 50 degrees) and fearing the arrival of early darkness (we turned back the clocks that evening), I had a melt-down on the phone with T.  She over-ruled my gas concern and persuaded me to pack up our electronics and laundry and hit the road in search of warmth and electricity come the morning.  That's exactly what we did on Sunday, November 4th.

On that late date, five days after the storm, I still couldn't drive any of my regular routes because of downed power lines and fallen trees blocking the roads.  When I finally got to the R-K family, who live in a county without gas rationing, I was able to easily fill my gas tank.  That experience renewed my confidence that it would all be okay.  The combination of adult companionship, electricity, warmth, and laundry facilities made for a lovely day.  Realizing that cold nights at home were much more bearable when accompanied by more normalized days, I immediately made plans to seek warmth for the Monday, .

JT and I waited until well after dark to head home on Sunday evening and as we drove into our neighborhood, we could see that electricity had been restored for some of the blocks in town, though our street was still electricity-free.  We would repeat that experience the next night as well and it was excruciating to get ever closer to home only to find our block bathed in darkness.  

On Tuesday, our third day on the road for warmth and our eighth day without electricity, JT and I went out to breakfast in the morning.  It was my birthday and I was determined to celebrate.  I voted and then we scored a birthday cake and headed to friends for the afternoon.  We had plans to make supper together, eat birthday cake, and watch election returns.  That evening, as Barack Obama moved closer to re-election, I got text messages from friends in town: We had electricity!  I called my answering machine to be sure (it's old-fashioned and operates with electricity) and when I heard my voice on the 4th ring, I was thrilled.  I didn't tell JT, figuring that he would welcome the surprise.  That evening, as we drove home, still more blocks in our town had electricity.  Just a few blocks from our house, well after 9 pm, we saw a half-dozen trucks from an Ohio power company still at work on the power lines.  JT, determined not to be disappointed, announced, "we probably still don't have power."

As we pulled onto our street, front-porch lights and street lamps seemed brighter than usual.  I looked over at JT and could see that he was in disbelief.  As we pulled into the driveway, we could see the cats in the front window.  Behind them was the light from the lamp I  leave on a timer.  JT said, "Oh, Mama," and we hurried inside to light.  We turned on the furnace and soon the radiators were creaking with warmth.  We settled on the sofa with mugs of hot chocolate and stayed up late into the night, bathed in light, warmth, and electoral victory.  For a day that began rather bleak and cold, it ended on a high note.  The next day would give me the opportunity to assess the past eight days.  And that's a story for later this week.

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