Coming back to the power outage

When we came into our house after our vacation, we found that our technology fast was continuing.  We had no electricity.   We came back to the great power outage of 2012.

We had heard people talking in the airport before our connecting flight about the big storm–the straight winds of over 80 miles an hour known as a derecho  (Spanish for “straight,” as opposed to a tornado, meaning “turning”) that hit the country, knocking out power for millions in the D.C. area.  When we drove into the small town where we live, the first stop light was out, but then the others seemed to be working, as were the lights in shops and the loudspeaker at the Little League park near our home.  But when we unlocked the door and walked into our house, we stepped into a blast furnace.  No air conditioning, no lights, no kitchen appliances, no internet.  The landline didn’t work either, which usually doesn’t happen when the electricity goes, and our cell batteries were running low.

What to do?  We were weary of hotels, but surely many of them would be without power too, and the ones that were functioning were surely full.  We called our power company to report our problem and see how the repairs were coming, but the animated message could give no estimate of when electricity might be restored.   I got on my smart phone and learned that repairs could take not hours but days.   We resolved to just try to get some sleep in the sauna that was our room.  We sat out on the porch until it got dark.  Finally, we got sleepy and went inside.  To cooler air!  To the humming of the refrigerator!  The lights came on!

Our electricity was out for only about 24 hours, and we missed most of it.  We lost some food, but we had drawn our supplies down anyway for our two weeks of vacation, so that wasn’t so bad.  There are  about 600,000 people in the area–one out of three electricity company customers–who still don’t have power, so I both sympathize and empathize with them.

So now, despite our fun time in the woods, I now hail the electronic era as a great blessing and have learned not to take it for granted.

 

Power outages drag on in D.C. region; officials fuming at utility companies – The Washington Post.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Tom Hering

    We had something similar hit us here in Central Wisconsin last Summer. 70 mph straight-line winds; lots and lots of trees (big trees!) uprooted or snapped mid-trunk; power outages for 24 hours or more in the middle of a heat wave. My city looked like it was checkered with little war zones, every few blocks in every direction. Utility workers are heroes equal to police and firemen, as far as I’m concerned, and I made sure I told them so.

    Yeah, electrification is the dividing line between the world as it is now, and the world as it always used to be. You learn this real quick when your whole city goes down.

  • Tom Hering

    We had something similar hit us here in Central Wisconsin last Summer. 70 mph straight-line winds; lots and lots of trees (big trees!) uprooted or snapped mid-trunk; power outages for 24 hours or more in the middle of a heat wave. My city looked like it was checkered with little war zones, every few blocks in every direction. Utility workers are heroes equal to police and firemen, as far as I’m concerned, and I made sure I told them so.

    Yeah, electrification is the dividing line between the world as it is now, and the world as it always used to be. You learn this real quick when your whole city goes down.

  • Cincinnatus

    My family, in Southwest Virginia, is still without power after over 60 hours thus far. Could be several more days before they get it back. It would be so bad if a) record-breaking heat and humidity hadn’t accompanied the outage, b) gasoline stations, grocery stores, etc. were not all shut down, and c) the water weren’t going to be turned off soon because the sewage treatment plants are also without electricity.

    On the other hand, I’m a firm believe in the notion that people aren’t generally neighborly unless they have to be (i.e., that true localism is only possible in cases of necessity). Technology keeps us apart. Sure enough, my parents have reported spontaneous cookouts on the grill with neighbors and other uncharacteristic events–the sort of things that are strangely absent in our modern lives.

    When they finally got their landline phone back last night, they hadn’t even heard of a “derecho” before. Nor did they know that anyone had died in the storm. Nor did they know that the storm stretched all the way to New Jersey. They didn’t know anything that was happening beyond the borders of their small town, really.

    I think that sounds wonderful. A life disconnected from the technological frenzy of modernity. Sure, it has its downsides, but even though my own power isn’t out, I’m reminded of what we’ve lost.

  • Cincinnatus

    My family, in Southwest Virginia, is still without power after over 60 hours thus far. Could be several more days before they get it back. It would be so bad if a) record-breaking heat and humidity hadn’t accompanied the outage, b) gasoline stations, grocery stores, etc. were not all shut down, and c) the water weren’t going to be turned off soon because the sewage treatment plants are also without electricity.

    On the other hand, I’m a firm believe in the notion that people aren’t generally neighborly unless they have to be (i.e., that true localism is only possible in cases of necessity). Technology keeps us apart. Sure enough, my parents have reported spontaneous cookouts on the grill with neighbors and other uncharacteristic events–the sort of things that are strangely absent in our modern lives.

    When they finally got their landline phone back last night, they hadn’t even heard of a “derecho” before. Nor did they know that anyone had died in the storm. Nor did they know that the storm stretched all the way to New Jersey. They didn’t know anything that was happening beyond the borders of their small town, really.

    I think that sounds wonderful. A life disconnected from the technological frenzy of modernity. Sure, it has its downsides, but even though my own power isn’t out, I’m reminded of what we’ve lost.

  • Cincinnatus

    It WOULDN’T* be so bad if…

  • Cincinnatus

    It WOULDN’T* be so bad if…

  • http://daybydayathomeaway.blogspot.com Ewe

    My parents live in Fort Wayne, IN and they lost power Friday night and still do not have it back and do not expect it back until Wednesday. There were 78,000 in just Fort Wayne area without power. We received a short e-mail from them on Saturday when they got to a place with power. Now we wait until they get power back to hear from them again. I would be very worried if we hadn’t received that e-mail that they were ok.
    I was very upset with the e-lists I am on and the other online media complaining that some of their major sites like Netflix instant download and Pinterest and a homeschooling forum being out for one evening. Yes, we live far away and didn’t realize there was a storm causing this when the complaining started. But being without Netflix for one evening is nothing compared to those that have NO power for days and days.

  • http://daybydayathomeaway.blogspot.com Ewe

    My parents live in Fort Wayne, IN and they lost power Friday night and still do not have it back and do not expect it back until Wednesday. There were 78,000 in just Fort Wayne area without power. We received a short e-mail from them on Saturday when they got to a place with power. Now we wait until they get power back to hear from them again. I would be very worried if we hadn’t received that e-mail that they were ok.
    I was very upset with the e-lists I am on and the other online media complaining that some of their major sites like Netflix instant download and Pinterest and a homeschooling forum being out for one evening. Yes, we live far away and didn’t realize there was a storm causing this when the complaining started. But being without Netflix for one evening is nothing compared to those that have NO power for days and days.

  • Orianna Laun

    We were without power for about a week a few years ago when an ice storm hit in November. We had phone and hot water, but no stove, no refrigerator. It also became unusually cold for our area after that storm with actual temps around zero. We were happy to go to work where there was light and heat! Our ancestors were certainly more hardy than we.
    I have much sympathy for all those without power.

  • Orianna Laun

    We were without power for about a week a few years ago when an ice storm hit in November. We had phone and hot water, but no stove, no refrigerator. It also became unusually cold for our area after that storm with actual temps around zero. We were happy to go to work where there was light and heat! Our ancestors were certainly more hardy than we.
    I have much sympathy for all those without power.

  • Joe

    We lost power for a week a few years ago. We have a gas stove so we were able to cook. I think it was one of the best weeks I have ever had with my family. We played board games and read by candle light every evening. We have incorporated the family read aloud into our regular routine.

  • Joe

    We lost power for a week a few years ago. We have a gas stove so we were able to cook. I think it was one of the best weeks I have ever had with my family. We played board games and read by candle light every evening. We have incorporated the family read aloud into our regular routine.

  • Joanne

    It’s the hot humidity that saps you. If you had a small generator that only kept the refrigerator and the ceiling fans working, that would get you through a lot of the misery. We hurricane folks do this storm thing about every ten years. Many people here have gas generators now. You should see the choices, from whole house with air conditioning, to very little.

    But, as I said before, our buildings are built now for the available technology, not the nature of the place where we live. We live in little sweatboxes, that we make very comfortable with electricity and machinery.

  • Joanne

    It’s the hot humidity that saps you. If you had a small generator that only kept the refrigerator and the ceiling fans working, that would get you through a lot of the misery. We hurricane folks do this storm thing about every ten years. Many people here have gas generators now. You should see the choices, from whole house with air conditioning, to very little.

    But, as I said before, our buildings are built now for the available technology, not the nature of the place where we live. We live in little sweatboxes, that we make very comfortable with electricity and machinery.

  • Joanne

    I had a dream. I’d move up into the hilly woods into an old house with porches, large windows that also open at the top, transomes over every door, high off the ground on brick piers, and an attic fan and ceiling fans on the porches (screened). I’d sleep every night listening to the sounds of nature and distant neighbors. Then the need to see doctors, imagers, hospitals, clinics, made living in town the reality of retirement. We are perfectly located and built-out for the modern, medically dependent retirement. Wut fun?

  • Joanne

    I had a dream. I’d move up into the hilly woods into an old house with porches, large windows that also open at the top, transomes over every door, high off the ground on brick piers, and an attic fan and ceiling fans on the porches (screened). I’d sleep every night listening to the sounds of nature and distant neighbors. Then the need to see doctors, imagers, hospitals, clinics, made living in town the reality of retirement. We are perfectly located and built-out for the modern, medically dependent retirement. Wut fun?

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com John

    Welcome back!

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com John

    Welcome back!

  • P.C.

    My daughter is on the phone as I type telling my wife that, just a few minutes ago, she finally got power back at her house in Arlington. Since she had returned on Saturday from leading 70 middle school kids on a mission outreach in TN she loved the peace and quiet afforded to her without all the normal everyday noise that we take for granted due to the TVs, radios, A/C, etc. The electricity was out over 48 hrs. She slept in the basement where it was cool for two nights and said it wasn’t too bad.

  • P.C.

    My daughter is on the phone as I type telling my wife that, just a few minutes ago, she finally got power back at her house in Arlington. Since she had returned on Saturday from leading 70 middle school kids on a mission outreach in TN she loved the peace and quiet afforded to her without all the normal everyday noise that we take for granted due to the TVs, radios, A/C, etc. The electricity was out over 48 hrs. She slept in the basement where it was cool for two nights and said it wasn’t too bad.

  • helen

    Have you got anyone sleeping on your living room floor?

    We happened to be on a grid with a hospital or something of the sort, so our power came on relatively quickly after hurricanes in Houston. (Two days?) [The critical entity had emergency generators for the short run.]
    But we had some young friends, whose apt. was down for a week, come to spend their evenings with us after work.

  • helen

    Have you got anyone sleeping on your living room floor?

    We happened to be on a grid with a hospital or something of the sort, so our power came on relatively quickly after hurricanes in Houston. (Two days?) [The critical entity had emergency generators for the short run.]
    But we had some young friends, whose apt. was down for a week, come to spend their evenings with us after work.


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