December 2007

We went to church on Sunday where there were still a lot of people staying due to the power outages.  Kinda strange although we never saw anybody.  There were curtains across certain hallways to keep us from wandering back there but they showed us a video made during the week.  Apparently everybody had about as good a time as one could have while being a refugee.  There were smiles anyway.  The service of music was excellent.

Other than that, not much is going on.  We’re all just waiting for school to let out, work to end, and Christmas to roll around.  We’re heading to Fayetteville on Saturday for Mel’s family party.  These are always great so I’m looking forward to it.

My birthday came and went yesterday without much fanfare.  We had a cake at the office and I met up with Mel and the kids at Ted’s Cafe Escondido after work which is a favorite of all of us.  Then I had another cake at home.

We don’t have a huge volume of stuff under the tree this year but it’s because each thing is pretty expensive and also small.  I have that lingering immaturity that equates size with quality and so I sort of miss the big pile of stuff under the tree even though the rational side of my brain knows that everything there is quality stuff.

My neighborhood – disaster area!

Originally uploaded by gregwest98
This isn’t my street but this one shows the situation more panoramically.

I thought of photoshopping it to make it look cooler but that’s pretty much how the scene looked: gray and bleak and with a raindrop on my lens.

Mel called about 1:30 to say we had power at our house.  W00t!  The house is warming up as I sit here.

Still no power.   Drat the luck.  The dog has the house to herself most of the day and all night except for our several-times-a-day visits.  She never wants to go out but I make her since I know that an “accident” is just around the corner if she stays in too long.  She’s a conscientious as any dog has ever been about the matter of relieving herself but sometimes I just have to lock her out in the yard until she produces.

The local WalMart is back open now which will allow everyone to replenish their stock of AA batteries.  Other than that, we are merely inconvenienced by having to go live in our inlaws’ extra bedroom.  I discovered (quite stupidly, I might add) that I have a GAS water heater; therefore, I have hot water all the time.  I should have remembered that.  If I had a gas stove, I could totally live in the house with little inconvenience other than loss of light.  That, by the way, is a HUGE inconvenience.  That house is as dark as a stack of black cats after dark so I guess I should keep a lantern around.

It reminded me of a day years ago when my parents experienced a week-long power outage and, being depression era people, knew how to dress warmly, cook over a wood fire, and read by an oil lamp (which they still had).  They lived quite normally although my Dad had the foresight to have an inverter around so that he got the battery out of his car and powered some electrical things for awhile.  He actually had two batteries so that he could use one and charge the other one with his car. Dad was good that way; he always had spare things around. I should have taken a lesson from them but, as I wrote above, I am not terribly inconvenienced.

My trees are not nearly as damaged as most and the word has gone out that all we need to do is put all the downed limbs on the curb and the city will pick them up when they can get to them (which may be a long time).  Plus my neighbors, who were dealing with their own huge collection of dead tree parts, dragged my one and only fallen limb off my yard for me while I was at work thus saving me the trouble.  I feel bad now for badmouthing them when they are gunning the motor on their derelict pickup trying to get it to run.

Huge numbers of people are displaced however and my kids are bored to death which, to me, makes for a situation tailor-made for volunteer work at one of the shelters.  Specifically, the one that is at my church.  I hope they go up there and do a little manual labor today or tomorrow and use their energies constructively.  They’ve both noticed that the TV during the day is pretty uninteresting and that all the commercials are clearly directed at unemployed people so they may be up for it with no coercion.

They said on TV that it may be a week before power is restored but that has always meant people in rural areas.  In the city neighborhoods we have generally gotten service after only a few hours but perhaps this time they really mean that it will take a week or at least several days.

The local weather people are totally blowing this all out of proportion.  Yesterday the temps were above freezing and although it rained all day and was really nasty, the above-freezing rain washed all the ice off of everything so things have dramatically improved as far as making power restoration possible.  All the roads are clear and almost dried off but the weather folks are still in the false-crisis mode of talking and telling us to stay indoors and watch out on bridges.  They’re losing credibility fast in my book.  I want one of them to come out and say “OK, everything’s cool now.  No worries.”

So here’s hoping that things improve today and they can open school back up so that my kids don’t have to put off finals until after the Christmas break.  That would stink for them to have to study during the break.

I haven’t written anything here lately since nothing of interest has been going on.  Evan is home now most of the time since marching band season has ended and although it’s been nice having him home, it doesn’t make for interesting stories.  But that all changed Sunday night.

Ice storm.

This happens about once a year – we have a snow storm or, rarely, an bit of ice and they close the schools.  We stay home and watch TV all day and then it’s over.  But I guess once a generation or so we get “the big one”.

We went to bed wondering if things would get icy and about 4:00 am I awoke to strange popping sounds.  I assumed that this was an electrical sound and sure enough, we had no power.  I can’t sleep after awakening to stuff like that and so got up and showered before the hot water in the tank (in the cold garage) cooled off.  Mel did the same.  We lit candles and wandered around the house learning to live without anything more than a little speck of light.  I learned that walking around with a candle in front of you like they used to do in movies is a dumb idea.  All you can see is the bright candle flame and your eye adjusts to it so that you can’t see anything else.  You have to shield it our hold it up above your head so you can see around you.  Since it was actively raining freezing rain outside, it was as dark as a stack of black cats so there wasn’t much to do except listen to the crack of tree limbs outside.

We’ve always known that the huge elm tree in our neighbor’s yard needed pruning but most people don’t want to invest in such preventive measures as that when they can invest in a big screen TV instead and get immediate satisfaction.  Today they’re paying for that lack of investment because at around 5:30 am, I heard a sickening cracking followed by a huge thump.  The first of their limbs had broken off and hit their boat parked beside the house.

As the morning wore on, I heard more and more of this.  The conditions were really weird; the ground temperature was above freezing and the air temperature was about 29 degrees so that the rain would not freeze onto the ground or roads but froze on anything that was above ground like power lines and trees.  And it kept raining.  Most people who normally park their cars underneath trees for the shade moved them somewhere else and were glad they did.

All morning long it rained off and on and all we could do was sit and listen to tree after tree cracking and dropping limbs onto this or that lawn or house.  By the afternoon it seemed to be finished raining for awhile and we took a walk around the neighborhood.  We had only been listening to a battery powered radio so we hadn’t actually seen anything except our own lawns.

Our neighborhood is a disaster.

No tree is unscathed and many are totally destroyed.  This happened south of here and over in Arkansas back in 2001 (I think) and I remember thinking that no tree would live to see another spring but most of them sprang back after a heavy pruning and I suppose the same will be true here but right now it looks grim.  Everyone’s lawn is full of limbs and branches and city crews are working 24X7 to get them out of the streets.  I have three young oak trees and in all the storms we’ve been through none of them has ever lost more than a twig but this time there are several larger limbs near the top that are broken.  Nothing has fallen yet though.

About mid afternoon, I discovered that I have a leak in the roof.  Apparently something about having ice on the roof (and some of it melting) causes a leak.   That’s just dandy.  I got up into the attic and put a bucket under the offending section and left it at that.  I guess I’ll deal with that later.  I guess that “tree trimming” will be the next big business opportunity for the next few months or so.

The worst part is that we have no electricity.  The house gradually cooled off throughout the day and we prepared to pile on the blankets.  I had heated water on the fireplace for coffee, oatmeal, rice and such.  We were preparing to fry some chicken when our inlaws called.  They live only a couple of blocks away and they had never lost power.  We immediately packed up and went over there because they had cable TV, internet, and a spare bedroom now that their daughter is married and moved away.  It was fun to feel self sufficient and all that but when we had a chance to get hot water we jumped on it.

About half of all people in our area are without power so it’s a widespread thing.  I stayed home because I have the vacation time to do so and so just got lazy but there are many that are pretty hard up.

I hope we get power back soon – teenagers are quickly bored with playing SkipBo and dominoes with their parents.  But I remember hearing of a long-term blackout back in the 80’s when my parents lived for about a week without power and quickly learned to cook on the fireplace.  They told stories of families all over town who learned to interact with each other again after years of TV addiction.  Later on, they spoke fondly of the long-term “campout” in their own homes where they all got to know each other again.  Hopefully that can happen around here too.

I heard they declared the state a “disaster area”.  I don’t know what that means but I expect I’ll find out.

This blog is configured to not allow the web spiders to index it so none of this stuff should show up on Google or any of the other search engines.  It’s not private though so the only ways anyone would possibly read one of these entries is one of the following:

  1. Someone could be a friend of mine and read it regularly (there are two of those).
  2. Someone could be pointed to it by one of my friends.
  3. Someone could randomly land on it while clicking the “random” button that WordPress gives everybody when they’re browsing.

Apparently someone at one point chose “3”  and landed on a random post of mine where I made reference to an odd-sounding name that I countered once back around 1979.  That random person had actually met the person and had the same reaction to her name.  He offered that she was a cool person.

If I ever needed a reason to be careful of what I write about on the internet, that would be a prime example.  I can’t imagine how unlikely it is to have that sort of connection made especially when one often tries to interest others in blog posts only to be unsuccessful. Statistics is a branch of math that many find hard to understand but occasions like this are good at pointing out just how random life can be.  Anyone who thinks that life could not possibly have spontaneously arose at random out of the primordial ooze would do well to consider occasions like this.

Kinda scary actually.  So once more I resolve to live my life in such a way that I never need find myself in a court of law.  And to be careful about what I write.