I’m usually a pretty big advocate for not taking things for granted, especially in today’s cushy world of electronics, gadgets and comforts that the average household didn’t have, even just 50 years ago. For example, it’s a common assumption that any given household will have working internet. And heaven forbid that it NOT be high speed! But as early as the 1990’s, internet access wasn’t common place in most households and even when it was, you had to ensure a random family member didn’t pick up the phone to gab with their friends when you were 99% done downloading your favourite April Wine song using dial up. Thanks a lot, mom!
My point is, there are certain household resources that we take for granted because they’ve been around forever. Such as electricity. It’s hard to imagine a time when working power wasn’t an option within a household. And of course the power always tends to go out at the very worst of times, such as heavy thunder storms and in the dead of winter, practically always at night. The latter is what we had to deal with yesterday morning when our power was out for over nine hours…
The winds started up on Wednesday evening, a howling precursor of what would soon be coming. We had enjoyed a few days of reasonably mild weather, so I should have assumed a storm would be coming. My wife and I had spent some time on our respective computers once our boys were in bed, and we decided to hit the sack around 11 pm in order to get a decent night’s sleep. Little did we know that sleep would not only be evasive, the weather would go a long way towards being the cause. By midnight, we could hear and feel the house shifting with the heavy winds and blowing snow. At one point, I drifted off to sleep for a brief period, only to be woken in total darkness.
Just to clarify, our house is never totally dark. We have iPads, phones and devices that usually provide some level of ambient light, even in the worst of circumstances. But not this time. this time, the bedroom was pitch black. My wife was also awake, and we discussed the fact that power was out. My phone had a decent charge and an alarm was set, so I wasn’t overly worried about waking up late. And I foolishly assumed that power would be restored within an hour, maybe two. Because that’s what usually happens when you live in a large city. Shame on me for assuming they’d be on the ball…
Despite the howling winds, inclement weather and what sounded like the north side of the house collapsing, I managed to fall asleep at some point and awoke at 6 am with my alarm. Now we’re at yesterday morning. I noticed that it was still pitch black and nothing was powered up. Great. So we’ve been at least six hours without power. This meant quite a number of things. It meant no hot breakfast foods, no coffee and no heat in the house. I grabbed my Cadillac of flashlights, one I had purchased for work. That puppy can light up an entire room when pointed upwards at a ceiling, so I got up and started my morning routine in the dark. Easier said than done.
The first real issue was that the power outage meant that our furnace had not been providing heat to the house for the past six hours and the temperature inside the house was sitting at 16 degrees Celsius (61 Fahrenheit). Just as a comparison, the average walk-in refrigerator sits at 7 to 10 degrees Celsius (45 to 50 Fahrenheit), so it was pretty chill in the Cook household, and not in a fun way. I kept assuming power would be restored anytime, so I started tracking down candles to provide ambient heat and light until it did. Turns out that all I had were the tea lights shown in the photo above.
I started getting Nathan’s school lunch ready, since I had no reason to believe he wouldn’t be attending school. Luckily, making a tuna sandwich, cherry tomatoes and a granola bar require no power and could easily be stuffed into his backpack without issue. Since there was literally no sound in the house, Baby Alex felt the house shift and people moving around and decided to announce his presence with a raucous cry. Both boys were up and confused as to why it was still dark. I had to hold a flashlight while Nathan dressed in the dark while bitching about being cold. Then we came out to the kitchen/dining area.
In the interest of safety, I had my wife and the boys stay in the dining area to prevent injury from wandering about a dark house, then set about lighting candles in the kitchen, dining area and living room. My MacBook Air was still sitting at 100% battery life since it keeps its charge ridiculously long, and I was able to keep the boys entertained with some old episodes of “Gargoyles” that I had on my hard drive. The boys ate a light breakfast of dry Cheerios while they watched cartoons. Except for the dark, it was a manageable morning. I decided to grab a space heater and set it up in the dining area to provide a bit more heat, but my pre-caffeinated brain neglected to realize the heater would need to be plugged in.
When the 8 o’clock hour approached, I got Nathan all dressed for the outside and command-started the family vehicle. There would be no walking in this weather on this morning! We drove the quarter-kilometre to his designated bus stop where we listened to the morning news on the radio and heard reports of felled power lines, damaged homes, light poles collapsing and even a local bank on the south side of the city that had caught on fire. The situation looked pretty grim, despite the storm front being done and the sun starting to come up to a mostly clear horizon.
By 8:15, my wife texted that Nathan’s school bus was still parked at its compound, making it over ten minutes late in picking him up, much less being in our general area. By 8:22, we made the judgement call to make it a snow day and simply bring Nathan home, despite transport notices telling us that school buses were running. I offered to run to the corner and grab hot coffee, since we had no option for it at home. As soon as I was outside our immediate neighbourhood, everything was lit up and businesses were open as usual. Of course. Go figure. I grabbed a couple of Tim Horton’s coffees and started driving home, contemplating how I would entertain two small children without the benefit of light and/or devices.
At 8:35, my wife texted that the school bus was now running and was in our neighbourhood. I replied that we’d go sit at Nathan’s bus stop for a short period and see what came of it. Nathan was thoroughly pissed, as he assumed he would get to spend the day at home. Tough break, kid. If that’s the worst fate you suffer in life, things will be pretty smooth for you. Suck it up. We parked at his bus stop and by about 8:40, our bus came to a stop facing the wrong direction. The bus driver was slightly lost as he was new to our area and the street signs were all covered in sticky snow. I had to take a few minutes to describe where certain streets were, and he explained that our usual bus driver had refused to drive his route that morning. Nice.
I got home with hot coffee to a sleeping infant curled up on my wife’s lap and some daylight starting to make an appearance within the living room. The power popped back on at about 9:20, putting us at a bit longer than nine hours without electricity. It got me thinking about how much we take something common like electricity for granted, and just how much we actually depend on it for the smooth running of our household. It also woke me up to the fact that I need some resources in the event we’re ever caught without power for this long or longer during winter conditions again.
Having emergency candles and more than one bright, fully charged flashlight is an important step. Another is to have a rechargeable charging unit for your cell phone. Even if a cell phone is not a “necessity” per say, having the ability to contact emergency services should it become necessary, is. Warm blankets and even rechargeable heaters can be handy, as well. Luckily, we always have SOME food that doesn’t require cooking that we can lean on, but you want to ensure you have adequate water and food stores in the event you’re without a heat source for longer than you can wait. ☯