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Sunday, August 19, 2012

West Virginia Power Outage

Summer responsibilities have kept me from writing here lately and the following entry is long overdue.  Though late, It needed to be written and I needed to publish it as you will see.

Friday, June 29, 2012 started out good.  My sister, Mary and her husband, John, were visiting. It was hot, the car thermometer registered 102 degrees.  We all went to the Wells Inn in Sistersville for afternoon tea with Jeff's parents then just hung out in Mary and John's motor home, relaxing while sipping on a gin and tonic.  So nice.  We watched out the large motor home front windows as the sky darkened.  A slight breeze rustled the leaves in nearby trees. 

   We could see the storm coming across the Ohio River heading straight for us.  The winds picked up. The motor home started rocking. Garbage cans flew by followed by chair cushions and other unidentifiable stuff. Trees leaned, stretching their noses toward the ground.  The motor home rocked more as the electric went out. A nearby roof started coming off and then it was over. 
   We had heard to expect 50 mph winds though we later heard they were closer to 80 mph.  Jeff and I decided to go home to check on our own electric, having no idea the extent of the storm that would continue to roar across West Virginia through the evening, ignoring the usual barrier that is the Appalachian Mountains. Winds left West Virginia and went on across northern Virginia, through Washington DC. 
Waverly Road - this is one of many many fallen branches. By this time most were off the road.
Moving roughly across the land winds grabbed hold of trees, trampolines and whatever else folks had that wasn't well attached to something solid.
On our way home we had to stop three times for Jeff to clear our driveway of fallen limbs.
Neighbor's home. the tree destroyed a small front porch but left the double-wide home intact.
When we arrived things looked dark.  Yes, our electric was out. After he walked the length of our electric line Jeff's report was that at least three poles were broken. I quickly called Allegheny Power and reported the lines down. My call would followed by thousands of similar calls.
Across the river Ohio was in a similar predicament.  Our local ice cream and hot dog spot lost its shelter. Marietta, Ohio was shut down as folks were asked to stay home.
Cone-N-Shake in Marietta Ohio
     Cell phone towers were damaged. Those that weren't were stressed as residents all over West Virginia and Ohio used their cell phones.  Many of our land lines were done.  
By morning work crews were spreading across the land like a welcome plague of locust. Chainsaws and chippers were devouring fallen limbs at an astonishing rate but there were so many.  Neighborhoods and country hollows echoed with the high-pitch roar of sawing for everyone who owned a chain saw became part of the clean-up. 
Like many, we stayed home and concentrated on getting through each day. My ingenious husband soon filled up a large tank with city water, parked his truck at the highest point near our home and ran a hose from the tank to our outdoor cooking area which includes a gas grill, 4 gas burners and a sink. 
Another hose ran from the tank to our outdoor toilet.  We also had a shower that worked by gravity with water from a passive solar black plastic barrel that fed both the shower and sink.  Compared to many, we had it made.  A large shady porch and a good attitude meant that there was no need to feel uncivilized.
By day two, Jeff remembered that we had a small generator in our camper van.  We had seldom used it and knew it might not work.  After a couple hours of "tinkering" with it that loud "Chump-k-Chump" generator sound that I usually find extremely obnoxious. Not now. Now it meant that our freezer and refrigerator worked. We even plugged in a fan during meals and gave our electronic chargers a turn at the generator.   
     Everywhere generators were sold out and the gasoline that fueled them became valuable.  Without electric, pumps could not pump, ice machines could not make ice. Popsicles and frozen chickens melted on store shelves.  
     Most of us thought hard about our existence; about what was important. Food and shelter were high on that list but so were neighbors and family. Townspeople returned to the front porches that had comforted their grandparents and great grandparents. People visited (or met) their neighbors.  Without air conditioners, it was no longer so important to stay inside. Life was different and it wasn't all bad.
     Still, up on our hill were glad to see power line crews.
First it was a couple men to see what kind of equipment the job would take
Then came the big trucks. They brought three new poles.
But wait.  These aren't Allegheny Energy Trucks!  These trucks say, "Toledo Edison." It's a long way from Toledo Ohio to Waverly, West Virginia. Yes, Our state had been invaded by foreigners. Like a liberating army these "foreign" power workers were welcomed with open arms.  In particular, Toledo Edison not only fixed our lines but those all around Waverly and our end of the county.  
     These men had left their own homes and families to do a job that brought them to our homes and to help our families.  Everyone we met was polite, and quick to inform us of what they were doing; how long it would take. 
We thanked them as they left, that army of skilled workers who did what we could not easily do for ourselves.  
Our thanks didn't seem like enough.
And that is why I have written this blog entry.  It has nothing to do with my garden.  It has nothing to do with the woods or even about nature.  Well I suppose, actually it is nature.  This entry is about electrons; about how they travel back and forth along a tiny wire.  This blog entry is about carbon; old, compressed carbon. It is about diatoms that became oil eons ago. Oil that was processed and used to fuel the grill, the gas stove and the generator that carried us through the days after the storm and propelled the trucks of Toledo Power; the trucks carrying workers who drove across the land making things, once again, right.
 Thank you Toledo, Ohio for sending us your sons and fathers.  Thank-you for living without them for the weeks that they spent in West Virginia. Yes, thank-you Toledo Edison.  Thank-you for turning the lights back on.


TexWisGirl said...

so much we take for granted until we don't have it (good neighbors and handy strangers included...)

DeniseinVA said...

Out of the storm come the heroes, that's the truth. A real nice post to read, makes you realize what's important in this world, our family, friends and neighbors and those heroes who worked all hours to get us up and running again.

Nellie from Beyond My Garden said...

Denise & Tex, I agree whole heartedly

ksdoolittle said...

Mother Nature certainly has her dark side!! Excellent post. Glad everyone is okay! said...

Years ago we had same thing and out of it I met a lady name Chrystal and hubby Pete.

We helped them clear the branches for weeks.

To this day we are the best of friends.

Out of bad comes Good many times. In times like this. You get friends you never knew would happen. We have many friends now that were people we never knew.