Wednesday, November 7, 2007

power down, part I

Sunday morning we woke up with no power.

This wasn't surprising, as Post-Tropical Storm Noel (known to his friends down South as Hurricane Noel) had hit the Maritimes the night before, brandishing winds between 90 and 180 km/h, and heavy rains amounting to, in various places, between 30 and 90 mm. We were warned to be prepared for the storm, to have emergency supplies, and to be able to last 72 hours with no electricity, worst-case scenario.

I had filled three big jugs with drinking water. We'd readied the flashlights and the kerosene lamp. We moved the two deck chairs in and secured garden things like buckets. Then we hunkered down with the excitement that comes before a storm. Late that night, the storm hit; the winds howled, the rain came down in buckets, and we were safe and cozy inside, though our sense of safety was heightened by the unknown, the real possibility of danger.

So we woke up Sunday morning, safe, ready to investigate the storm damage. No power, but we'd expected that. Mum called the NS Power hotline to report the outage, and a recorded message told her the power would be back on Tuesday at noon. After a bit of a panic, we decided that was probably worst case scenario, and the power would come on Monday at the latest.

We went for a drive, along one side of the bay and then the other. The winds were still fairly high and the waves on the lake made it look like the open ocean. Trees were toppled here and there, some on power lines, so we had to drive slowly. In the village itself, the power was back on, as it's on a different power grid, so we were able to get hot beverages at the cafe, where we met some of our neighbors doing the same, and then made our way back home.

Later that afternoon, Monty came over for dinner, a chicken Mum had roasted in our propane-fueled stove. We talked and reported news, and when it began to get dark around 5:30, we lit the kerosene lamp and a few candles, and played cribbage. Mum was glad she'd bought herself a small headlamp, as it made it easier to do kitchen chores in the dark, and freed up her hands. Of course, in order to do the dishes, she had to heat up water on the stove, but at least we had water. Our well has enough gravity to feed a slight trickle of water to the first floor sink, by itself, but others weren't as lucky -- their water is pumped out of the well by electricity alone.

Even later, I brought out a can of pennies I'd had for years and always meant to roll, and set to work while Mum and Monty talked. Before I knew it Mum was counting the pennies out into piles of fifty, and Monty was rolling them along with me. I said, "I'll take you guys out for coffee with the money we roll!" Later we realized we rolled enough to pay for a whole large pizza -- over $20 in coins, mostly pennies.

Then Mum brought out two bags of fresh grapes from Monty's property, and we set to work once more, picking the stems off, then squishing the grapes with our hands and a potato masher. Having no power felt like a novelty that would end soon, like a not entirely unwelcome trip into the past. I remarked that if we were on an old-time Cape Breton farm, there'd be an old person or two rocking in the background, and I would probably be married with a couple of kids. Somehow I was glad it was only a fantasy.

By the time it got to be ten 'o' clock, I was beat and ready for bed. In order to brush my teeth, I took a mason jar of water upstairs, for dipping the brush in, and cleaning it afterwards. But I still turned on the taps out of habit, even though nothing came out. Then to flush the toilet, we had to bring buckets of rainwater upstairs, taken from the ever-handy 50-gallon barrel that collects water from the eaves, which we then poured into the tank. The inconveniences made themselves clear right away, although the novelty hadn't worn off yet.

My bedroom was chillier than the rest of the house, since it's in the basement. But it wasn't too bad, and after I climbed into bed wearing long johns and wool socks, I was soon toasty warm. One day without electricity was do-able, and over!

To be continued...

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