Shifted Geography

Hello, friends. I’ve missed you. Oh, how I’ve missed you.

It’s not common knowledge that Ohio, USA lies in hurricane territory. But it is. Yep. You heard it here first. For my non-American friends who might be a little rusty on their geography, let me refresh your memory. And for you natives, in case this hurricane business is a revelation to you, this lesson is for you as well.

Here, then, lies the great state of Ohio:

Ohio

Here is where hurricanes typically bash our sovereign soil:

Hurricane

Ike was one of those hurricanes this year. He came, he saw, he kicked a lot of American coastline ass. However, he really sucks at geography, because he somehow thought it would be a great idea to hit OHIO.

Ike, you really should have consulted AAA, or possibly even Mapquest, because I think you went a little bit out of your way from Galveston, Texas, to get here.

Total Estimated Time: 22 hours 13 minutes

Total Estimated Distance: 1389.32 miles

Normally, a hurricane would not be a problem for me and my neighbors, not even one the size of Ike. We often get rainy remnants of tropical storms. Usually, though, they are quite fizzled by the time they reach us. At worst, we get a heavier-than-usual thunderstorm. Maybe we’ll have some atypical wind. Maybe we’ll just watch CNN and feel sorry for the poor saps along the coast. But we never have to anticipate serious fallout way up here in the Midwest.

Not usually.

Sunday night was a strange and foreboding night. There was an almost-full moon out.

Coming Storm

I don’t know why I felt compelled to sit on the porch and take pictures of the moon and clouds, but I did. I also don’t know why I felt compelled to fill up several jugs of water and put them downstairs, but I did that, too.

It was very windy outside Sunday night. It wasn’t raining, but the wind was so strong it blew dirt and dust at your eyes and made them all squinty. And it was surprisingly warm, which made the strong wind kind of surreal. I took lots of spooky moon pictures. I took pictures of the trees blowing about, too, but I’m a nerd like that.

Around 8 PM, just as I was trying to upload said pictures of said spooky moon and blowing trees, we had a little power surge in the house. My computer rebooted itself. It happened again a few minutes later. Then the power went off for good. And when I say for good, I mean until just today for good.

The power goes out here often enough that we didn’t think much of it. I got a flashlight and helped the girls go downstairs to the basement where we feel much safer during storms and high winds. We got snacks from the cupboard and sleeping bags out of the closet, and pretended we were camping. It was quite amusing, actually.

The wind lasted until about 10:30 or 11pm. My husband did the Brave Man Of The House ritual of going outside during the storm to see if there was any damage to our home. (Because, you know, he’s going to get up on the roof and fix things in the middle of a windstorm.) He also took a drive around the block to see what was going on in the neighborhood. There’s not much you can see in the middle of the night, even with a spooky almost-full moon, but he went. He’s brave like that.

Once the wind died down, we figured the best thing to do would be to just go to bed. Without electricity, there’s not much else to do in the dark.

In the morning, we were astonished at how much debris had fallen in our yard.

Blowdown

Some of it was really, really big.

Giant branch

Lost branch

The girls and I picked up some sticks and cleaned up as best we could.

O2 picks up

S4 picks up

Stick Patrol

Then, since we didn’t have any power (which meant, of course, no internet OR coffee – urgh!), we got in the van and went to get some emergency supplies. Along the way, we noticed more big branches, some of them hanging on power lines.

What Happened To Our Power

Some of the branches were pulling down power lines AND blocking roads. Bad, bad branches.

Downed Tree

Here, we had to turn around. No worries, though. We found an alternate route.

What we did not find, however, was coffee. The Dunkin Donuts in town was out of power, too, and thus it was closed. The drive-through-only one by the freeway was also, sadly, un-electrified and unopen. But the new one on the hill, two towns over, was open for business.

I stocked up, just in case.

Coffee Run

With coffee and bagels consumed, we were ready to deal with the important issues of the day. The first was to find some ice for our freezer and for the cooler. We also decided to get some disposable diapers (eeeek!), because I wasn’t sure just how long we would be without power and unable to wash dipes. That had the potential for being horrible on many levels.

There were many others who also decided to stock up on emergency supplies, too.

Emergency supplies

At home, we consolidated the freezers, put the important stuff from the fridge into a cooler, and iced everything down. And then my camera batteries died, so I decided to keep a little journal so you, gentle reader, could hear all the excruciating details of my rather dull couple of days amazing survival story of several days without electricity or water.

Hey, there’s not much else to do when you’re used to wasting a lot of time handling a lot of important business online.

Here go the highlights.
Monday AM. Still no power. This isn’t all that bad, just uncomfortable. Even though I have a percolator that can go on the gas stovetop, I don’t have a way to grind coffee beans. So close, but yet, so far. I don’t have email or the internet (or telephone, or TV, etc). I have to be pretty frugal with the cellphone battery since there’s no way to charge it in the forseeable future.
Lots of trees down everywhere. Some roads are closed. The local school is closed today, and possibly again tomorrow. I won’t know, since we don’t have a TV or radio. Good thing we’re homeschooling.
Monday PM I’m going to have to make some decisions regarding the fridge and freezer. Not everything will fit with the ice we’re going to have to add. Guess the ice cream’s first to go. Come on, kids, do your part and help me eat this stuff. Daddy will be very proud of us.

I gave S4 a rather simplistic explanation of what was going on. Basically, I told her that the wind had blown so hard that some of the trees fell over onto the wires that carried our electricity, and until the trees were cut down and the lines fixed, we wouldn’t have any power. She says, “Maybe we can get some glue that says ‘Electricity Glue’, and we can fix the electricity with that. Then we can get some Tree Glue and glue that tree back together so it’s not breaking the electricity. We can do that each time.”

Tuesday AM It’s now Day 2 without power. We’re getting over the initial discomfort and finding new ways of doing things. My biggest problem now is the lack of water. I have enough drinking water in the fridge, but we’ve used up what was in the well accumulator and can’t flush the toilets anymore. So I got a couple of buckets from [our neighbor who has city water] this morning. But water is something we really ought to plan for in the event of an ongoing outage. Fortunately, we still have gas service and I can cook, heat water for dishes, etc. Other than the well pump and freezer, the electricity is really quite a luxury.

Tuesday 11AM The BILs brought over a small generator to run our freezer for a while. It has an extra receptacle, so of course I plugged in the computer! But I forgot- no router, no modem. Ergo, no Internet. Almost as bad as having coffee beans and no grinder. (Almost.) Hey! I can grind some coffee beans for tomorrow, at least.

Is it irony or foreshadowing that the library reserve book I picked up on Saturday is Gene Logsdon’s Homesteading?!

Tuesday Noon Adjusting to lower power isn’t that bad after all. The thing I keep craving, though, is the internet (and coffee). I think it’s because I’m lonely here, even with the kids around. The Internet is one place I feel connected (pun intended), and it’s been a hard break to make. I hate the phone as a rule, but find myself wanting to call people all of a sudden. I’m sure we humans were never meant to live in these small, isolated units. Speaking of people, I nearly forgot that A is coming over today! We’ll order pizza and pretend things are normal.

Tuesday 4pm I’m scrounging for potable water to can the tomatoes with. They’re going to rot if we wait any longer, and there’s no telling when the power’s going to be back on. There’s a little bit of ice left in the ice maker! That means our freezer trick is working. I can use some of this to do the canning with. Hey, at least there’s no good excuse now for not wiping out the freezer compartment. Melted ice cream smells really bad after a couple of days… ewww…

Tuesday 6pm Broke down and called the electric company to see what our status was. Had to waste valuable battery wading through voice-activated, overly-friendly automated system. It did not help in the least bit that the voice was male. I still wanted to choke him. Finally got a person named “Unique”. Had to suppress strong urges to make ridiculous comments about that. Asked if she had any idea when we could expect power to return. She said, “a few days”. Not what I was looking for. Ugh.

Canned 5 quarts of tomatoes, though. Used the last of the water, but made clever multiple uses of it before finally dumping it out. Even used the hot water from the canner to wash dishes afterwards. Look at me and all my resourcefulness.

Tuesday 7pm Feeling sorry for myself. I’m the one who thinks camping is actually fun. I’m the one who earnestly tries to reduce our family’s energy uses, to grow my own food, to put things up for emergencies. I’m the self-reliant one. So why, then, do I have to suffer without electricity for THREE DAYS (and counting)?!?! WHY DOES MCDONALD’S HAVE POWER AND I DON’T???

Tuesday 8pm Sun setting on the third evening without juice. This really isn’t terrible, but the lack of water has me nervous (and stinky). I took a shower at my in-laws’ yesterday, but it’s worn off. Hubby went to Home Depot to get some electrical parts; we’re hoping he can get the generator hooked up so it can run the well pump, which doesn’t have a nice, easy receptacle. Girls, if you ever decide to get married, please choose a partner who has some skills – and whose skills complement yours. I can’t really hook up a generator, and my husband can’t really make soup out of the pantry. Together, though, we kick ass.

Wednesday AM It’s interesting to see how different people are handling this situation. Some of them simply make do, like the elderly couple across the street. Others try to make things “normal”- our other neighbor has been running a generator 24/7, and his house is ablaze with lights and sound. Still others avoid the situation entirely. Across the street, the kids have been staying at their mom’s apartment (parents are divorced, but the kids normally live with the dad). I personally think that’s a missed opportunity to teach them some valuable lessons, including resourcefulness and self-reliance, but that’s just me; and I really shouldn’t talk since I’ve been driving to get coffee in the mornings.

We are sort of adapting in place here. We do have a generator, but until last night, all it’s been used for was to bring the freezer to temperature (about an hour) once a day. We had to get some water, though, so last night we ran it for another hour and took showers, got the kids a bath, flushed toilets, and filled up the kitchen sink. I replenished the drinking jugs and washed dishes, then ground some coffee for the stovetop percolator. For a little while, things seemed very normal- we had lights on, water running. But when the gas was used up, we let the generator die. It was a little hard to hear it sputter, see the lights dim and flicker, and then watch everything just go out. It also didn’t help that the neighbors behind us have power and have turned on just about every light in their house. But we got our little battery lantern and some storybooks, and the girls snuggled into bed with us for some cosy story time.

Reading with headlamps

I was sort of glad the power was still off last night.

I was also very proud of myself for canning 5 quarts of tomatoes while the power and water were out! Percolator coffee is very good, by the way.

Wednesday 5pm Put up 3 quarts of diced tomatoes, the last of what my MIL gave us from her garden. Gave our next-door neighbor a bucket of grey water so he could flush toilets (they’re on a well, too). It sounded like they won the lottery when he walked in the door with that bucket.

Gathering candles & lanterns, getting ready for dark. What a luxury, to burn candles for scent instead of light. (Or is it the other way around?) I could get used to this if need be.

Thursday 12:30 AM Power is back on. I’m less excited than I thought I would be. Instead of hopping online or turning on the TV, I went back to sleep. LIfe will be more complicated tomorrow, I thought.

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6 thoughts on “Shifted Geography

  1. wow. that’s just, wow.

    we don’t have a basement. I’m a bit jealous.

    it looks like you live in a really interesting kind of place. the whole tree & neighbour thing you have going on there.

    i love S4’s solution to the whole problem. With the glue. lol.

    glad you’re back
    xx

  2. I’m so glad you recorded that! I think you managed very well! I have no idea how I’d go in a similar situation. I started planning an disaster kids a few years ago and never got past writing the list. Shame on me!

  3. No shame, E- maybe this is a gentle reminder to work on your stash a little more! πŸ™‚ I sure learned a lot, and this definitely got me motivated to beef up our emergency kit, too.

  4. This was SUCH A GREAT ENTRY! Very entertaining! I’m so impressed with your attitude and resourcefulness — I could definitely learn something:) And I did! We, too, are now on well water and I didn’t realize I could save water in the basement so that we never get stuck & unflushable again. The WORST part of no electricity, beyond a doubt! I can’t believe my husband didn’t tell me this, cause he knows EVERYTHING & I bet he just didn’t even care. ACK! Canning tomatoes like a pioneer woman is so far beyond my abilities — oh my goodness.

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