Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ice Storm, Neighbors, Darkness . . .

I've been home since Monday afternoon with some version of sinusitis, laying on the couch taking antibiotics and decongestants and occasionally cruising the internet until it's time for another nap.

We had an ice storm here last night -- about an inch of ice over everything and maybe half an inch of snow. Everything looks lovely -- from inside. The local TV people kept telling us this afternoon that tonight would be seriously worse than last night and to not go outside if possible. I took them at their word. Many areas of the city were without power.

Because I work in a hospital I'm expected to be at work no matter the weather or conditions (though they do draw the line at risking your life to get to the office). Even though all I do is shuffle papers, I'm still expected to be there. So I felt a little guilty that I was home sick while all this awful weather was happening, and knowing how my co-workers were scraping ice off their cars and braving the icy roads. Plus you're never allowed to take sick leave during a weather or other emergency unless you have "proof" of illness. But I have the receipt from the doctor's office and my little cache of drugs as proof to anyone.

I was laying on the couch, not watching the TV that was on, when the power went out. I had already put the birds to bed, i.e., put the covers over their cages. I had my laptop in my lap so I used its light to make my way to the hall closet where I had put my big flashlight. Except that it wasn't there. I help my laptop at different angles to search but finally gave up. I found one of those cheap round battery-operated lights you're supposed to be able to stick on your walls, but they never worked long for me. But this one worked. And I did manage to find my Black & Decker SnakeLight, which I love.

Back to the couch I went, when I heard something crunching through hard snow across my front yard. Then someone began banging on my door. I took my little round disc light, opened the front door, and shone the light at the person there. It was a young black woman, her face nearly hidden in her faux fur hood. Was I okay, she asked.

I noticed the big truck next door was running and could see its tail lights lit. I assured her I was fine and then I asked if she was from next door. She smiled and said yes.

"Y'all leaving," I asked.

"Yeah, we're going to grandma's!"

"Have a good time," I said, as she crunched her way back to the truck. I could almost smell the popcorn and hot cocoa.

Our subdivision is completely dead without light, and many people leave when there's a power outage. So it was nice of the neighbors to ask about me. But it also made me feel approximately 2,319 years old. You know, the old lady in the neighborhood that parents make their children "check on."

Back to the couch, as befits an "old" person. I propped the light on my belly and read my way through my latest issue of The Sun (a magazine I highly recommend). Time passed.

An hour. Ninety minutes. The occasional snap and crash of a limb breaking under the weight of ice. Sirens. The sound of tires far off spinning on ice.

I had a blanket on the couch (again, like an "old" person would have) and I tried to map out what I would do if the temperature dropped into the 20s or teens. My entire house is electric. It was feeling a bit chilly but more like walking into a really cool room after being out in the hot sun.

Two hours.

My car is covered with ice and mired in hard crunchy snow. If things got bad I'd have to take my birds somewhere. How long would it take me to clean off and warm up the car? Should I call my vet's office or home now to reserve a space? Should I just wait it out? The temperature had hovered around 30 all day and my house is pretty well insulated, so I decided to wait it out.

Several years ago we had a horrible ice storm. Power out in my area for seven days; some other areas ten days. And it was very, very cold. I managed to get my birds to a pet store that was accepting animals and still had power -- my vet's office was overflowing by the time I realized the power wasn't coming back on. For two nights I slept at the hospital -- the first night on the floor of my office because I couldn't find a security guard to let me onto the floor where some beds were open; the second night in a room overlooking the emergency entrance. It was a bad storm and a bad experience for most of the state, and we all learned a lot from it.

Would I have to do the same thing tonight? Plus I was sick and being out in the ice wouldn't help matters at all. I had made my doctor swear that the antibiotics and decongestants would work in time so that I could sing at dress rehearsal Thursday night and the concert Saturday night -- this was no time to risk getting sicker if it could be avoided.

Two and a half hours. I finished The Sun and dug around the shelf under the coffee table for another magazine to read. I asked the birds if they were all right, but of course they refused to answer.

A flicker of light, darkness, then full power returned. And stayed. It's been back on for about 30 minutes now, and the heat pump is on in full force. It got to 61 degrees in the house so the birds were in no danger, and everything in the refrigerator is just about as cold as it was three hours ago, so that's fine, too.

It's still very pretty outside though -- all that ice coating all those limbs, shining in the street lights.

I'm going to bed, and I'll be leaving a little light on. Just in case.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Glad to hear that the power is back on. Hope you're feeling better soon!

Power outages are one of my big fears due to the lizards and fish.