On Saturday afternoon, October 20, we were enjoying a particularly brisk and breezy autumn day. It was a partly cloudy day, with blue sky peeking out between bits of fluffy clouds. The weather report tells us that the wind is out of the northwest at 29 mph...
It is due to this last fact that it wasn’t terribly surprising to discover that the power had gone out. I was, in fact, involved in taking the window A/C units out of the upstairs bedroom windows - today’s high of 46°, and a week ahead with highs primarily in the lower 50’s suggested it was probably safe to do so - when we noticed it. Specifically, I had removed the unit from the window in LB’s room, and LB went to turn on a light - this a decorative thing, since the bright sunny day, combined with our prodigious volume of windows, made artificial light unnecessary - only to find it unresponsive. We tested a couple of other items, again to no avail, and then heard the tell-tale beep from the battery backup units that make it clear: no power.
What a power outage means out in these rural parts is that virtually nothing works. The incoming electricity off of the grid is your energy source for all of your daily life. Folks who live in a town or city will not be as familiar with this phenomenon. For example, while the power being out means that you cannot watch TV, and that you’ll need flashlights or something similar to see around the house at night, other components - things like water supply - are likely working just fine.
But here, the water comes from a well, served by a pump run on... you guessed it: electricity. This means no glass of water from the tap, no shower, and the number of toilet flushes limited to what is already in the tank (that’s exactly one, for those who may be unaware). It means no water for cooking or coffee as well, but that point is moot, because the stove and coffee maker also require electricity.
It also means no heat. While our furnace uses LP for fuel, the blower that distributes the heat throughout the house requires electricity to spin. That this is October and not, say, January, means that we could certainly be in worse shape in that respect. We have heavy blankets enough for all to ward off the chill, and it won’t get cold enough yet to worry about the pipes.
Other things have changed, however. I am writing this on an iPad in the middle of said outage. The iPad operates on a battery, of course, which will operate e device for several hours before running down. To extend that, I have it and my iPhone both plugged in to one of the aforementioned battery backups. These devices are designed primarily to keep older computers from shutting down suddenly when the power vanishes. They do a remarkable job of this, but they also retain power after this task sufficient for several charges of mobile devices. This means that we’re in good shape for connectivity to emergency services and for personal entertainment.
It’s a bit of a contrast from my youth growing out here. Then as now, the power going out meant being cold and it being dark at night, and it meant having no water. But the landline phones back then operated on their own, independent of ComEd, and we sought our entertainment through more rustic means. Then I’d be reading a fantasy novel or comic book on paper to pass the time waiting for the TV to be available again.
And of course now, I’ll likely be reading... well, a fantasy novel or comic book on my iPad to pass the time...
So maybe things haven’t really changed that much.