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Unlit, Unheated…and Unhinged

November 8, 2011

Three nights. That’s my limit. I now know that three inky black nights fitfully sleeping in an unheated house in 30-degree temps are all it takes to nearly push me over the edge.

I learned this during the Great Pumpkin Snowstorm that plunged my neighborhood and millions of others throughout the Northeast into forced experiments in pre-electric, pioneer living two days before Halloween.

Pioneer living? So I exaggerate a little. But a few days of daytime indoor temperatures in the 40s, followed by evenings illuminated by candles, flashlights and a single lantern and capped by frigid nights, bordered on primitive conditions for someone who didn’t inherit the camping gene.

On one of those nights, while buried beneath three blankets, a bedspread and a down comforter, my head covered with a stylish knit hat, I tried to drift into sleep by imagining that I was slumbering outdoors in a rustic lean-to. There was a time when I did enjoy that experience, especially when it was part of a backpacking trip in the Rocky Mountains or some other awe-inspiring locale. But it was hard to convince myself that I was spending a night at Glacier National Park when I could hear an emergency generator chugging away next door, keeping my neighbors toasty.

The day of the storm, I watched as the unusual Nor-Easter picked up speed and snow accumulated rapidly around my warm, well-lit house. What fun! My husband and I grabbed our cameras to capture the novelty of slush-covered patio furniture and impatiens flowers still blooming in our window box.

At one point, the lights flickered off and back on, lulling me into (wishful) thinking that we had dodged the power outage bullet that had already struck many areas of Pennsylvania and New Jersey that day. But at 8:06 p.m., the bullet made its way to my town and my very leafy neighborhood.

I decided against taking a chance with our long-unused fireplace, which tends to suck all the warm air out of the room instead of heating it up. But I did have a kind of Duraflame log — Diego, our husky orange tabby — to help keep me warm.  And I was able to stay connected to the outside world and listen to music, thanks to my emergency radio.

We were lucky in a few other ways. Because a mushroom-shaped tank that regulates water pressure is located nearby, our water pressure remained strong. That meant that we didn’t have to resort to melting snow to flush our toilets. And we discovered that if we cranked up the temperature gauge on our gas-powered water heater, we had plenty of hot water.

Nevertheless, before our power was restored about 2:30 p.m. that Tuesday, I avoided returning to my gloomy, chilly home as long as I could. I went shopping (of course) and to my health club, which ran out of hot water at one point because of all the members (and nonmembers) who showed up to take showers.

While watching the evening news at the gym one night, I heard an anchor report that some area residents had been “literally paralyzed inside their homes” because downed trees had prevented them from leaving their darkened properties. Literally paralyzed?? I had no idea that loss of electrical power could cause brain or spinal damage!

Another reason to be thankful. After all, I don’t live in that neighborhood…

© Janice Leary and My Point Exactly, 2010-2017. Unauthorized use  of this material, including original photographs, without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janice Leary and My Point Exactly with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    November 8, 2011 5:08 pm

    Being a fellow New Yorker and having lost my phone, TV and internet services for six days, I enjoyed and identified with your charming account in this post. I must say, I particularly admired the picture of your little buddy Diego.

    • November 8, 2011 9:46 pm

      Thanks so much. I realize that my experience pales in comparison to that of people who lost power for a week or more, but it still was rough! As for Diego, he really earned his keep during the outage…

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