Sunday, July 1, 2012

Surviving the Big Power Outage

Friday seemed like any other day, although the heaviness of the air suggested a storm approached. At ten, I went to bed with the dogs because they hate thunder. Vicki shakes with fear, and Rafferty cries. I had taken my first Jazzercise class in years, so sleep came quickly. I remember thinking how odd the wind and thunder sounded, but I told myself it sounded different to me because I'm up here in Northern Virginia, eight miles from the White House, and I'd grown accustomed to the storms over the ocean. I was vaguely conscious that the power had gone out, but I figured it would be back on soon.


I was one of the 1.4 million households in the metro-DC area hit by a derecho, a super storm system. When the dogs woke up at 6 a.m., I discovered the hallways of our apartment building were pitch black. Luckily, I'd checked out our flashlights as part of my organizing efforts a few days before. I grabbed one, put around my neck the lanyard with the little electronic device that "beeps" me back into the building, and started down the dark hallway with the dogs. Outside was muggy, but calm. The dogs did their business. I tried to get back into the building and discovered my beeper couldn't unlock the door.

I had my cellphone in my pocket, but the closest friend was an hour away. My husband is out of town. The mall is 1.1 miles away, but I had no money, and I knew the stores open at 9. Three hours away! Walking the dogs around to the front of the huge building, I headed for the "Welcome Center," the apartment office. Alas, the concierge had left. The place was vacant.

I started around the other side of the building, which is an entire city block in size, coming to the parking garage, and waved down a nice neighbor who was leaving. She volunteered her boyfriend to accompany me through the garage to a stairwell. You see, there were absolutely no lights in the parking garage either. After he left me at a stairwell, and I ascended it with the dogs in tow, I discovered I had no idea where I was, or if the buildings even connected. So I went back down by myself (with dogs) and wandered around in the dark in the parking garage until by pressing on my car keys, I found my car and oriented myself. Then I traveled up another set of stairs, down the dark hall, and into the apartment.

Yesterday was trying. The heat index was 110 degrees. When Vicki, my female Bichon, looked too hot, I gave her a bath. Later, I rubbed her tummy with cold water on a towel. I thought we were through the worst of it until the early evening came--and the temp spiked upwards for a while.

During this whole event, I tangled, using the street name here for my "string" or foundation. I worked incessantly on a large Zentangle design I hope to mount and put in our bathroom. See, all you need to create a Zentangle is paper and pen. And time.

I had lots of time.

This morning the power came on about 6 a.m. Cell service is still messed up. My husband and I can't seem to connect by phone. But oh, golly, am I loving the comforts of modern living!

Did you go without power? How did you manage?


Linda O. Johnston said...

My quite senior m-i-l experienced the storm and power outage in Ohio, Joanna, and wound up falling down some stairs. Fortunately, she's okay, but that derecho certainly has caused a lot of problems. I sympathize!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Yes, Linda, it's been pretty unsettling. Yesterday with the heat index, the temp got to 110 degrees. At two, I thought, "We're through the worst of it," but it actually got hotter until about 8 p.m.

Betty Hechtman said...

What a story, Joanna. It must have been a huge relief to get back into your apartment, even if it was hot and dark.

The heat must have been awful for you and your dogs.

Last summer I was in Chicago for days with a broken air conditioner when the temp was in the upper 90s. It was about as hot inside. Not comfortable.

The zentangle looks great and will always be a reminder.

Monica Ferris said...

I can't believe your building(s) didn't have battery-powered emergency lighting. We had a power outage in our co-op building and three volunteers sat down to guard our manually open garage door to underground parking - and another pair sat by the main entrance to let residents in. And the garage and hallways were lit by battery power.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Hey, Sisters. Betty, it was hard. I put cold clothes on Vicki because she's got a heavy coat.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Monica, they had an emergency power system, but it only worked for 12 hours. A classic case of thinking, but not thinking through all the contingencies. Also, they posted notes on the OUTSIDE of the main doors. If you were inside, in your apartment, you wouldn't see them--and to top it all off, the 911 lines in Fairfax County all went out of service. So there was no one to call if you needed help. It's really a blessing, and a comment on how civilized people are, that there wasn't all sorts of looting and crime.

christine said...

Having no electricity could usually cause boredom to most of us. This is because we are so used to electricity. Even candles cannot take the place of our lighting fixtures during power outages.