Our power finally came back on this afternoon, much to our relief. This was a particularly nasty interlude, since our phone went out shortly after the electricity, which meant that we were truly cut off. If a medical emergency had struck, there would have been no calling 911 — we would either have dug the car out and driven away from here, or not.
Before you tell me about cell phones: yes, we have one. The only problem is that they don’t work in our neighborhood. Our corner of Beyond is so far from the cell towers that signals can’t be detected out here.
What laid us low this time was not the snow — there was significantly less of that than predicted — but rather a deadly combination of mixed climate change, in the following sequence:
|1.||Five or six inches of wet snow fell in absolute stillness, which allowed it to layer itself beautifully along every branch, twig, electric wire, and pine needle in this part of Central Virginia.|
|2.||Four or five hours of steady rain. It wasn’t freezing rain at first, although towards the end of the rainy period it did start to freeze. But before then it soaked the snow thoroughly, making it heavy. None of the snow dropped off the branches, it just turned into slush where it lay.|
|3.||Over the space of several hours there was a dramatic drop in temperature. The slush froze on all the branches. Several more inches of snow fell. And then came the killer:|
|4.||Blustery winds, lasting through much of the night and into the next day.|
Throughout the rest of the night trees crashed onto the roads and power lines. I’m not sure if they made any sound — there may well have been no one there to hear them — but there were electric wires a-plenty beneath them. And so the lights went out.
Our telephone went out later on. I’m not sure why — around here the phone lines are buried until they reach the residential right of way — but our whole neighborhood lost its landlines.
The first night wasn’t so bad. We weren’t caught unawares — we had filled the bathtub and several big pots with water in anticipation of an outage. The temperature stayed in the upper twenties (ca. -2°C), so the house was still in the mid-fifties (ca. 13°C) in the morning. Chilly, but not deadly.
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Our house is heated with a heat pump, and Dymphna’s asthma prohibits a wood stove. Several years ago we used a kerosene heater when we lost our power, but that, too, emits mild fumes that can affect asthmatics. Now we have a handy little propane burner, which gives off virtually no fumes, although it generates carbon monoxide and does need to be vented. So that morning I cracked a window and fired it up.
We got through that day (Saturday), but we didn’t have enough bottles of propane for a long siege, and that night it went down to 11°F (-12°C). By morning it was rather frigid in the house — not cold enough to put a skim of ice on the bathtub, but very uncomfortable.
So I spent several hours getting the car dug out (an Odyssey in itself) and high-tailed it to Lowe’s, where I picked up eight more tanks of propane. Thus we were able to stay fairly warm up until bedtime, but the outside temperature dropped to 8°F (-13°C) last night, so the house was very cold this morning. I was considering another trek to the city for more propane this afternoon when the lights came back on.
Lights, heat, and — praise Grid! — the pipes didn’t freeze.
So now we are slowly returning to normal. There were several hundred emails waiting for me — hi, everybody! — and I notice that John Murtha died, the Dow dropped below 10,000, and Kim Møller, the renowned proprietor of Uriasposten blog, was attacked and injured by AFA goons in Denmark. More than that will have to wait until later, although I will post a news feed tonight if I possibly can.
As far as blogging is concerned, this was a lot like going on vacation, except that we were much colder and smelled really bad by the time it was done. And we didn’t even get one of those souvenir crystal paperweights with embedded palm trees to help stimulate a fond recollection of our sojourn in paradise.
Oh, by the way — we’re expecting several more inches of snow, starting tomorrow and going through Wednesday.
I’m ready for Cap-’n’-Trade. How about you?