We interrupt our regularly-scheduled blog post for this important update on recent events.
On Tuesday night, January 24, Mother Nature decided to put one over on us in the form of a rather nasty ice storm. All through the night, the wind howled like a freight train, and the freezing rain coated everything in sight with about an inch of solid ice. Trees bent and broke under the strain, and anything that wasn’t nailed down found itself relocated quickly.
By very early Wednesday morning, everything looked like this:
Needless to say, we were without electricity. Considering how strong the wind had been, the fact that we still had a roof, windows, and various other parts of the house is nothing short of amazing. But I digress.
So, no power. Time to go into assessment mode.
In my house, no power means several things. Firstly, since we have our own well (and pump) and we are not connected to municipal utilities, we have no running water. Secondly, even though we have a wood furnace, the blower motor is still required to keep the heat moving from the chamber to the rest of the house, or you run the risk of burning out your furnace in a very short amount of time. So, no heat. Also no refrigeration, chest freezer or lights. Sigh. Let the battle begin.
First and foremost, we needed heat. Luckily, the temperatures were pretty mild for the
next few days, not really dipping below -8°C (17°F). Within a very short amount of time, Mike had the generator up and running out on the deck. However, we quickly discovered that we had only one can of gas. A quick run to town left us worried, as we couldn’t find a gas station with operational pumps, the power outage was that widespread. We returned home with fingers crossed that the gas we had would hold out until the power came back on, either at our place or the gas stations
With a couple of extension cords run through a slightly opened window, our furnace was now operational, so we stayed warm. Through a continuous juggle of unplugging one to plug in the other, we also managed to keep both the fridge and the deep freeze going. And thankfully, by Wednesday night, power had been restored to a couple of stations so we were able to replenish our gas.
Water was going to be another matter. Since the generator and extension cords were at the full capacity that we were comfortable with, we decided it would be prudent not to try to wire the pump into the generator as well. Instead, we gathered what jugs and containers we could find and hauled water from a friend’s house who was connected to city water. This would be done several times over the next few days.
So one of the few issues remaining was being able to cook. Luckily, we were prepared without even realizing it. Over the last year or so, we have been slowly and steadily buying items for Lonestar and our Grand Adventure. Among those items happened to be a portable camp stove that runs on small cans of butane. With an extra can, we were able to cook small, quick items for the first couple of days. However, the cans don’t last that long, and once they get so low, they are something less than useless. By this time, power had been restored to most of the businesses in town, but a hard search revealed that every store had been sold out of any and all sorts of heating/cooking fuels. Not a can to be had.
Lonestar to the rescue once more. Since there was no actual cooktop in the trailer when we purchased it, we had been on the lookout for an RV stove that we could permanently install.
Last summer, we found a gently-used 3 burner stove/oven for a very good price. With the help of a borrowed propane tank, Mike had the stove hooked up and going in no time. We even tried out the oven with a frozen pizza. It worked great. (And before the comments start, we were also very careful to keep the room well-ventilated while using the stove. Safety first.)
In the meantime, with the help of a power bar, we managed to keep phones and computers charged and the modem plugged in. Oddly enough, we didn’t lose our Internet. Although the beeping of the low battery indicator on the connection panel in the basement damn near drove me to drink. At least until we found the silence button. We found Facebook to be an invaluable source of information as to relief shelters and services operated by the city, and where the power trucks were currently working. Also, kudos to all the big-hearted people who opened their re-energized homes to those who were still cold and in the dark. You are special people.
So we weren’t hungry, we weren’t cold and we weren’t losing our groceries. However, with no running water for showers…well, let’s just say we were giving each other lots of space.
Using a trick we saw on YouTube, we set up a wash station at both the kitchen and bathroom sinks using laundry soap containers. These are the ones with the push-button spouts built in. By positioning the spouts over the edge of the sinks, we made a tap of sorts. At least it made it easier to rinse dishes and wash your hands. Still, a sponge bath with room temperature water can only do so much, and is not terribly enjoyable.
Great opportunity to try out the USB-powered shower we’d picked up for the trailer. We heated the water on the stove top, and charged up the shower pump. Setting a container in the tub, we adjusted the hot water with enough cold to make it comfortable, and each took our turn. It worked great! Decent pressure, very easy to use, and we each had a hot shower using the equivalent of a large stock pot full of water. OMG, did it ever feel good to get clean again! That and a hot cup of tea improved my outlook immensely.
So we lost power at 6:10am Wednesday morning, and didn’t recover it until 7:40pm Sunday night. As I’m writing this, there are still a few hundred people in the city who haven’t had their power restored yet, mostly due to things like masts ripped from houses and such.
But props must be given to the hard-working and dedicated people of NB Power who have been toiling non-stop since the whole ordeal began.As well, many thanks to NS Power, who traveled the long way to come and help. I’d hate to think how long it would have been if these people worked only eight hour days and called it quits.
Also, a big “Job Well Done!!” to Miramichi’s newest mayor, Adam Lordon. Action was taken immediately, and information and updates were available often and at regular intervals. You handled an extreme and largely-unexpected crisis with efficiency, compassion and wisdom that seems far beyond your years. We couldn’t have asked for more.
And lastly, my admiration and over-whelming gratitude to my wonderful husband, Mike. Your mechanical aptitude, knowledge and creative thinking are what got us through this last week. Each time I say “we did” in this article, you know I mean “Mike did.” I was just a sidekick, and proud to be such. Pay attention ladies. This is why you pass up the arrogant quarterbacks and self-absorbed hockey jocks in high school and hook up with a gear head or wrench monkey. They’ve always got your back, and the sports scores won’t help you when the chips are down.
So overall, while it was still a lot of work and inconvenience, we came through five full days without power in relative comfort. I lost a few large limbs off of trees in my yard, but no damage to the house or cars, no frozen pipes, no lost groceries, and no divorce lawyers. We had a few quiet evenings at home, remembered how to play Crazy 8’s, and even binged watched old episodes of the Six Million Dollar Man.
I’d say that’s one for the win column.
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