Blackout!

My husband said it was because I was vacuuming. I thought it was because we had the air conditioning running for the first time this summer. At 3:40 yesterday afternoon we lost power…as did a million-plus people in Southern California, Arizona, and Mexico.

I read that it was “operator error” and more may come out about it, but the event was unprecedented here and was an interesting exercise in where new technology has taken us.

Not that far.

First, we polled the neighbors. Yep, not just us, and someone came home and told us lights were out across town. We dredged up a runs-on-batteries radio and learned just how widespread the outage was…and quite a bit of fear-mongering from the DJs and callers-in. “Unnerving” and “scary” were among words they threw around. Didn’t feel that way at our house…though our family of four was all home at the time. We have two landline phones and the dh was able to call his folks and know they were okay too.

Two friends of Son1 came by on bikes and we invited them for dinner such as it was…beans and weenies (since we have a gas cooktop), a big salad, and a bag of potato chips (we took a trek to our grocery store hoping to pick up some steaks, but they’d closed). We ate by candlelight and the kids switched from news to football on the radio. (Son2, big on fantasy football, was hoping they’d postpone a non-local game since he was going to have to miss it! Of course that didn’t happen.)

Most interesting/frustrating was that our cell phones didn’t work. We suspect it was the high volume. The radio told us to stay off of them but tweet and text, which we couldn’t do for several hours. Our landline phones were without a dial tone after a while too. I think that was the only thing that niggled at me…feeling like we had no ability at one point to contact “the outside.”

But of course we had friends and neighbors all around us. Everyone checked on everyone else. When our cell phones started working again, our neighbors across the street contacted us from their vacation home in Mexico and told us how to “break into” their house so we could help ourselves to the food they feared would spoil in their fridge and freezer.

By midnight we had power again. But I’m an early riser so I was already asleep and woke up around 2 am to discover Son1 gaming on his computer. All was back to normal, I guess. No school today, so the dh (a teacher) will be home. Think I’ll set him to scraping candlewax off the kitchen countertop.

Any interesting stories from the last time you lost power? The dh wants to buy a generator now, though this is the first time we ever lost power like this and it’s unlikely to happen again!

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13 Responses to Blackout!

  1. Helen Brenna says:

    Leave it to a guy to use this as an excuse to buy some piece of equipment! lol

    When I was a kid, I used to love power outages from storms and such. You’ve got your parents taking care of everything, right? Such an innocent time. When my kids were little, heading to the basement during tornado warnings was always a little bit exciting. There was always a mad dash to grab the cats and the blankies. Even as an adult, I never worried much about power outages as we’ve never been without power for more than a few hours.

    Nowadays, though, it seems my first thoughts run to some kind of catastrophe. A terrorist attack, or the like. My innocence is gone. Makes me sad.

  2. kris says:

    we’ve been pretty lucky of late. haven’t lost power the last few times there have been outtages in the area. after an earthquake, hurricane irene, and the storms this week that resulted in lots of flooding in the DC area, I’m ready to close out the natural disasters for the rest of 2011!!!!

  3. We rarely have any kind of scary event here in SoCal. Even earthquakes last for just a few moments. People in other parts of the country are much better prepared than us!

    I’m with you, Kris, no more natural (or manmade) disasters!

  4. Kathleen O'Donnell says:

    We had a bad blackout in August of 2003 and it took out many Provinces, All of Ontario, Quebec and I think part of Manitoba, plus parts of the US.. We had no power for nearly 24hrs. I live in basement apartment, so it was lots of Candles. But that goodness is was early August where it was still light out at 9pm..We had no cell service either. But I also have a land line. But now, all my phone ore cordless, so it the power goes out, then all the phone do to.. I think I sould get and extra phone that is not conected by electricity, just in case..
    I was lucky that the landlords had a gas stove. At least I could boil water for tea. I always keep bottled water in the house… just in case.

  5. Ain’t technology grand? Futuristic novels that have the robots getting smart enough to turn on us are scary enough, but the real world is even scarier. They don’t have to get smart. They just have to be penny wise, ultimately leading to pound foolish. How many times in the last month have you run into a cashier who can’t do what she needs to do because “the computer won’t let me”?

  6. Oh, Christie, our best blackout event happened years back when an ice storm pulled power lines down all over the place on the morning of a party we were having that night for Tami Hoag. It was her first time hitting the New York Times Bestseller list. Frantically trying to cook and clean without power was bad enough, but Clyde was determined to paint the stairwell to the basement–he’d convinced me that he had to have a pool table to entertain writers’ husbands for the event. Stairwells are dark, but that doesn’t deter the cowboy. Tami and then-hubby drove up from southern MN and checked into a nearby hotel that was without power, which complicated checking in and showering up. House was cold and dark until about 1/2 hr before go-time. But cold and dark are two things Minnesotans know how to handle. A good time was had by all.

    Lois, (Case in point–wonder if her internet service is back online yet) do you remember that party? Remember the entertainer a couple of our friends hired to drop in and warm things up?

  7. Leanne Banks says:

    Christie, I lost power for 5 days last week due to the tropical storm. It was hot, so sleeping on the second floor was difficult. We did purchase a generator, but there’s a bit of a learning curve with that. Cords everywhere.:) Our power goes out every few months on a regular basis and I. Hate. It. We once lost it right before Super Bowl, so I packed everyone up (along with our Super Bowl food) and we stayed at the Amerisuites (which did have power!). We’re planning to hire an electrician so that we can hook up the generator to our fuse box. That way, we won’t have the cords all over the house and an open window for the generator cord. I discovered that having a generator makes me feel a little less helpless and that’s a good thing!:)

    It sounds like you handled your lack of power great!:)

  8. You and Clyde were such troopers for that party! I was actually vacuuming because we have family coming into town this weekend…luckily we have power again.

    When we went to the store for steaks last night (and discovered they were closed) we did remember to bring cash with us, assuming they wouldn’t be able to take our debit cards. But I wonder if they would have been even able to give us change…likely not, which is probably why they shut their doors.

    And we did happen to have some cash…though often I walk around with less than a dollar in my purse. A good reminder to me to stash some mad money away for times when ATMs won’t work. The other problem people encountered last night was that the gas stations couldn’t pump gas…

  9. Leanne Banks says:

    A couple more things about generators. They are super loud and it sounds like you have a lawn mower running in the room right next to you. You have to be very careful about carbon monoxide poisoning. The generator should be at least ten feet away from your house (NOT in your garage) and the exhaust needs to be pointed AWAY from your house. Sounds simple, but a couple who had a generator the appropriate distance from the house had the exhaust going into their crawl space and they had to be taken to the hospital for CM poisoning. — Leanne’s safety lesson for the day.:)

  10. loisgreiman says:

    Woohooooo! I have high speed!! And who cares if it costs a million dollars a month because all I can get is broadband (besides me:)

    And yes, Kathy, I remember the entertainment well. Still makes me laugh.

  11. kylie brant says:

    It’s amazing how dependent we are on being powered and wired. What do you do when it gets dark? I try using a flashlight to read but that makes my eyes hurt!

  12. Kel says:

    This isn’t the first blackout I’ve been in but it was the longest. I’m a trans plant from nor-cal and we have blackouts when really bad storms come in, or when the temp. gets above 105 but the power was never out longer then 2 or 3hr or even less. Even when we had the rolling blackouts back in 2001 they did not last as long as this. But it did give me the chance to meet the people in my apartment complex. We all BBQ in are small court yard and swam in the people. I did my home work at one of the table by lantern light even though my class for to day got canceled. And there was a lot of ice cream overdose going on. Put we had fun an now mother nature has turn on her AC and I don’t have to turn on mine just open the window.

  13. Quilt Lady says:

    A couple of years ago we had an ice storm that left us without power for a week. We didn’t have any back up heat or anything. After a couple of days we was able to borrow a karosene heater, which made things better. We even went to Walmart just to try and stay warm, and was able to eat at McDonalds, for some reason they got their power back first. I learned a lot from this, now we have a karasene heater stored and some back up lanterns in case it ever happens again. With the heater you can at least heat a can of soup on it.

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