Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Being Powerless

So here's the whole story.

Saturday, 4:30 AM

I woke up to howling wind and driving rain. A few minutes later, there was a spectacular flash of light outside my bedroom window, then all was pitch black. I turned my head towards the alarm clock and there were no glowing red numbers. We knew this storm was coming and that power outages were expected, so I rolled over and figured it would be over in a few hours, and I'd wake up to a blinking clock.

7:15 AM

I groggily got out of of bed, as I'd slept only a little here and there after the power went out. There was still no power, and I went downstairs to find Dad drinking coffee from water he'd boiled on the barbecue. He offered to make me some hot chocolate and I gratefully accepted. We quickly got the milk out of the fridge so we could have some cereal.

8:00 AM

We all needed showers, so Dad told us to take "Sea Showers." That means get wet, turn the water off. Soap up. Turn the water on, hose down. In and out of the shower in as little time possible. We had very little hot water left, as it is heated electronically rather than by gas.

I managed to have a warm shower and take very little time. I did not condition my hair, as my conditioner has to be rinsed out and I didn't want to use all the hot water.

9:00 AM

Exhausted and not just a little cranky, I got in my car and set off through the still-howling wind to Mervyn's. We had no cell phone service and all of our phones were cordless, so I had no way of calling the store to see if they were even open.

9:15 AM

Mom and Dad following me (they wanted to do a bit of shopping since there was no power at home), we encountered a block on Paradise Bay road, where electricians were fixing a wire. We gamely turned around and found another way out to the Hood Canal, on Teal Lake Road.

I called Mervyn's on my cell and told the lady in the office that I might be late, might not be. "But I'm on my way." She put a manager on, and my phone promptly lost all signal and ended the call.

9:30 AM

I finally steer Rosie the Protege onto the Hood Canal Bridge. A huge gust of wind startles me and my intrepid little car, but we made it across the long span without being blown into the water.

9:50 AM

I finally arrive at Mervyn's and check in with the lady in the office to let her know I made it okay. She tells me that the power went out a couple of times but is now back on.

10:00 AM

I clock in and make my way to Home Fashions, grumbling to myself all the way that I'm exhausted, sick and should be allowed to go home right now. And why the hell do people respond to a major storm by shopping?!

6:00 PM

After a fairly fast-moving shift, I clock out and get ready to go home. Call Mom and Dad (who bought a proper phone that is not cordless so we can communicate with the rest of the world) and find that the power is still out. "I'm getting some dinner...shall I get some for you, too?" "Yes, please, that would be great."

I picked KFC because:

1. It was on my side of the street.

2. It had a drive-through.

3. It was the first restaurant I saw.

I waited in the drive-through for about 15 minutes, marvelled at the crowd inside the shop, and got three chicken dinners to go.

6:45 PM

I exited the Hood Canal Bridge, happy to be on the Olympic Peninsula and so close to home after a long day. Knowing that Paradise Bay Road is probably still closed off, I drive up the highway with plans to turn on Teal Lake Road, which will take me straight to Port Ludlow.

6:50 PM

I missed the turn for Teal Lake Road. No problem, just up a little ways is Highway 20 (also known as Beaver Valley Road), and I am very familiar with this route, as it's the one I take to Chimacum every day for school.

6:55 PM

Ahh, there was the turn for Beaver Valley Road. I hopped into the right turn lane and...encountered a bunch of cones and a sign saying, "Road Closed."

7:00 PM

Beaver Valley Road being the last road into the PL area that I know of, I am starting to wonder where to go. I can't see anything (pitch black), and there are headlights shining into my face every 10 seconds. My response? Breakdown.

I started to cry, then whimper. Soon I was talking to myself. "I just want to go home! I don't know where I am! I can't see! I can't turn around! Where am I? I just want to go home!" Endless litany of self-pity and panic.

7:10 PM

I found a road that says it leads to Port Townsend. I can find my way home from Port Townsend. Sniffling, I turned onto this road and started to drive. I was still panicking over finding my way home, but at least I knew I was heading somewhere familiar. I had a few signal bars on the cell phone, so I called home and sobbed to Dad, "I'm okay. I'm lost. I think. I'm heading towards Port Townsend. I'll be home soon."

Dad chuckled and said, "Okay...are you alright?"


"We'll see you in a few minutes. Drive carefully."

7:20 PM

The road I was on came out at a four-way stop in Chimacum that I drive through every day. I could see that there were lights on and my hopes came up for Port Ludlow. I made my way through Chimacum to Port Hadlock, and then home from there. I was no longer in a panic, but I was still exhausted and teary.

7:30 PM

I finally pulled into our darkened neighborhood and let myself into the house. Dad greeted me with a hug and Mom got us all set up to eat. There were candles and oil lanterns lit everywhere, and Dad gave me a flashlight to go upstairs and get my pajamas on.

9:30 PM

Still without power and completely exhausted, we all went to bed.

Sunday, 7:00 AM

Still no power. That's 24 hours and change.

Dad walked into my room and went straight for the storage room that is behind it, telling me as he walked by, "I've got us a hotel room at the Inn at Port Hadlock."

He and Mom left by about 8:00. By 9:00, I was there, too, for a hot shower and a hot complimentary breakfast. The shower was heaven. Mom and Dad had errands to run and things to see to at home, so I had the room to myself for a while after breakfast.

10:00 AM

Happily showered and suddenly siezed by terrible cramps (it's swell being a girl), I popped three aspirin, put my jammies on again, and curled up on one of the beds with ESPN's pre-game coverage on.

1:00 PM

By this point I was feeling better and needed to get to Silverdale. I went to Target for a few things, then to Taco Bell. By 2:30 I was enjoying Nachos BelGrande and a Dr. Pepper in the Mervyn's break room. I had a battery-operated radio with me to listen to the kickoff.

4:00 PM

I clocked in to work and headed for the truck bay area. I took the radio with me and turned it on so we could listen to the game. I spent five hours unloading the truck, cheering for the 'Hawks and groaning about their defeat.

9:00 PM

Clocked out of work and got on the road.

9:30 PM

Arrived home. I had decided to sleep at home for privacy (and to reassure our freaked-out kitties) and go to the hotel in the morning to shower and get ready for work.

As I drove into Port Ludlow, I saw lights on in the North Bay (not our part of town). They had their power back, but it went out again.

Monday 7:00 AM

The front door opened and I heard Dad call out, "Meg, it's me!" I asked how he was and he replied, "Uptight." This was the time we started to realize that Puget Power was giving everyone the runaround. "Power will be back by noon today." And no power at noon, after we all waited expectantly.

He opened the fridge and started tossing stuff in the garbage.

I got up and gathered my duffel bag and toiletries bag. Got on the road and had a nice shower at the hotel, followed by a nice breakfast.

10:00 AM

Walked into the main office at the school to find my well-rested colleagues manning the front desk. They never lost power in Port Hadlock and Chimacum. I had decided that this day would be a perfect day for a video. I borrowed one from the elementary music teacher and made it through my one-hour choir class with minimal drama. The kids were actually quite sympathetic to my plight and similarly distressed that the Seahawks had lost.

10:30 AM

I borrowed a colleague's laptop to check my email and do a blog update, in case anyone was wondering why I'd been so quiet these last few days. The update wouldn't post for some reason (so I posted it today from home) and the school network blocked me from reading my Yahoo email. Gah!
11:00 AM

I left voice mail messages for Heather and Melissa, complaining about the power situation, and telling them I'd email as soon as possible.

1:00 PM

I arrived at home to find Mom in her recliner with a down blanket on her lap and a fleece blanket wrapped over her head and shoulders like a hood. Dad arrived home from a haircut shortly after me, and we all settled down to relax and read. I dozed on the sofa (or thought I dozed; Mom told me later that I was snoring!) for a few minutes and then we went back to the hotel.

7:00 PM

A representative at the power company had told Mom that the power should be up at 7:00. After a lovely dinner at the Inn at Port Hadlock, we drove back home to see if this was, indeed, true. It was not. Everything was still pitch black.

I had thought I might sleep at home again but by now the house was freezing, and Mom and Dad convinced me to spend the night at the hotel. At home, I grabbed a couple of my comfy pillows and we set off back to Port Hadlock.

9:00 PM

We were all exhasted, so it was lights out and earplugs in. I slept like a baby, only waking up once, at about 4:00, and only for a few moments.
Tuesday (today) 7:00 AM

I woke up again at 7:00 or so, to hear Dad telling Mom, "I just ran into Tammy [a neighbor]. She says the power's been back on for a few hours now."

Dad went home to check this out, turn the power back on in our house (he had turned it off at the reccomendation of another neighbor so that the surge of returning power wouldn't blow out our computer and TVs), and to feed the cats. Mom showered and I read for a little while before dragging myself out of bed to shower.

9:00 AM

We had our last hotel breakfast and gleefully rejoiced with other "Port Ludlow Refugees" that we could finally go HOME.

10:00 AM

I arrived home to make up some quick worksheets for my kids to work on while finishing the movie we started yesterday. I pressed the button on my garage door opener and let out a bright, happy, "WooooHooo!!!" when it opened. I danced through the garage, chanting, "We've got power, we've got power!"

I turned on lights in my perma-dark, windowless bathroom, and gloried in the computer coming on. I ran hot water over my hands and laughed with total delight. Hey, you go without power for three days and then try not to be a total maniac when it comes back on!

1:00 PM

I arrived home from school and had my first pot of tea since Friday (glorious!). The house is finally back to 68 degrees, Millie hasn't left the "Sweet Spot" under the hot lamp, and the kittens are thrilled to have us back.

The noise of the TV isn't bothering me, and I've read all 21 new emails that were waiting for me in my Yahoo account.

Now it is time for me to sit down with a book and relax. I am still absolutely exhausted, and the stress of the last few days will take another day or two to subside. But it will.

4:01 PM

I posted this update.

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