My heightened activity before Irene battered Virginia began about 5 days before she made landfall in North Carolina. I pulled our power outage supplies out of the garage. Extra flashlights, battery-powered lanterns, Coleman folding cookstove, batteries, weather radio (battery & crank) and various other supplies not needed for most other occasions.
We keep two Jerry cans (a of water for washing up, flushing the toilet and other things and a neighbor brought us one more. I went to the ultimate preparedness center, the grocery store, and bought 2 cases of bottled drinking water, canned goods, matches, extra pet food, newsprint, bandaging and tape, extra wine and a few odds and ends. We made a special trip to a store in the mall which is the only local purveyor of Godiva Chocolates and bought a large box of chocolates.
As the storm approached, I added books, magazines, booklights, etc., to my ever-growing nervous anticipation of how long we would be without power. Our usual wait is 4 days and I watched The Weather Channel frequently hoping that the storm at veered off to sea and would leave only wet and a bit windblown rather than soaked, wind scoured and without power.
My greatest fear was that of falling trees. During Isabel we lost 8 trees, I believe, though not near the house. I one of the huge oaks on either end of our house fell on our home, I believed we would be goners, or at least very injured.
The Thursday and Friday before landfall I began sending emails to clients and tweets to my tweeppl (you know what this means if your are a tweeter) community that if they didn’t hear from me it would be cause of the storm and probable power outage. Some replied that I was being melodramatic, if not whiney. I bucked up and put on a stiff upper lip, but quietly tried to warn some of my less hurricane experienced friends in the northeast to take Irene seriously, because it was clear we were all on the east coast, going to get a memorable visit from her.
Friday night we had a large turnout at our 15 year Charter Party for the Rotary Club of Prince George County at Luca’s Restaurant and nervously joked about it being an Irene party.
Saturday morning dawned as usual though shortly into the morning Irene made landfall in NC. As the morning progressed there was rain, increasingly gusty winds and a foreboding that all would not be well. About 1:30 p.m. I stretched out and decided to get a bit of rest before the full-blown storm hit. At 3:20 the power went out. We had ourselves well-organized so we just turned on the radio and followed whatever news reports there were about Irene.
I napped through the night on the couch wondering if we would hear a tree as it was falling and have time to scramble. Needless to say, no tree fell in our yard or on our house on that night of Irene. Jack and I stepped outside before daylight so he could air (Jack, is my Aussie) and it was clear the winds had dissipated significantly and within a couple of hours, for our part the storm was over.
Sunday was a day of relief that we had not injuries to our home, vehicles, family and pets. And it seemed our neighbors had been similarly spared though the neighbors on either side of our place were cut off from the road by felled trees. We helped one neighbor cut out and the other neighbor had cleared his tree before we could get to him to help.
Monday, day 2 without power, was still hopeful. My tweets were still coming over my Blackberry and my netbook still had battery life so we could check things out on the web. We learned that there was a Shower & Power at the middle school so we headed there to shower in the locker rooms and power up our cell phones, iPods and the netbook. I was feeling, OK, we are cool. We can deal with this.
Tuesday, day 3 without power, my husband traveled to Northern Virginia on business and headed to the land of AC, running hot and cold water, and television. I prepared to endure the experience. I did pretty well, except that then it was very hard for me to sleep. My backyard continued as my tidying up and cooking area. The two dogs and two cats didn’t know how to handle my sharing their space with them.
The next day, the fourth without power, I helped distribute cases of water to Prince George County hurricane citizens and got a bit too much sun, but felt it had been good for me to get out of the backyard.
In fact I had lunch with a friend in a restaurant and felt very 21st century again. That evening my neighbors across the road with a whole-house generator charged up my netbook. I think I’ll save this topic of generators for another post. I was very grateful and felt I could endure to the end, but hoped it would not be long before I had power again.
Thursday, I was much less sanguine about when the power would be restored to my residence and was pretty exhausted mostly from lack of sleep and a bit too much sun the day before. I also had contracted a pathogen which made my circumstances very unpleasant. That morning I took my car in for a brake job and a service and Shirley, the nice lady at Crossroads Ford, loaned me a Focus which meant I could continue to charge my personal DVD player, iPod (with movies) and Blackberry until I could get Xena back (yes, I name my vehicles.)
I stopped for breakfast at Rosa’s, washed up in the bathroom and headed home for another day without electricity. On the sofa I curled up my legs and continued reading “Slaves in the Family” by Edward Ball. Grayson, the gray cat, of course, curled up with me and we got absorbed in the quiet of the moment. About 10:01 we heard a beep, beep, beep indicating that some appliance, probably the microwave was coming on. We were both startled. I had left one lamp on and had unplugged just about every major and minor appliance in the house when we lost power, but when I saw the lone lamp on, I knew we had power, though sometimes that is temporary as the power people diagnose just where a failure exists. But the power stayed on and after a while I set about plugging everything in.
The weight on my shoulders lifted and I took a very long nap.
The next couple of days involved cleaning and repacking the emergency power outage equipment, doing my own “lessons learned” assessment and deciding what I need to add to our bevy of equipment to better last out the next outage. Our answer …have those nearby oaks cut down and putting the house on a whole house generator. Again, both items are due their own future in another post.
Signing off this post as “Glad I’m