Chilling Effects

My employer had a mandatory shutdown the week of Thanksgiving; to get paid, we could burn vacation time. It was an interesting week...

First, I had Thanksgiving Dinner with my family the Friday before Thanksgiving. That was OK; though I had a migraine all day. On the way back, however, I suddenly became very photosensitive. Light was searingly painful - so I spent most of Saturday inside (and in the dark) with the blinds closed.

Angela & I went out for dinner; it was nice. It was starting to snow fairly heavily when I got home; the first snow of the season. The snow continued to come all night long. Just before going to bed, Angie & I knocked the snow off of a number of trees — that hadn’t shed their leaves yet. When we woke up the next morning, we had a good foot of snow. The power was out, and the snow was incredibly heavy and wet. It took two hours to clear the driveway, and that was with a snowblower. Many (if not most) of the trees in the neighborhood had limbs that had broken off in the snow. I have no doubt that the same would have happened to our trees had we not knocked the snow off the night before.

Power was restored shortly before noon. Over the next few days, the temperature dropped from a high of 55 or so to a high below freezing, and lows in the single digits. We then found that Angie’s mom had lost her power as well. Her power wasn’t restored (at all) until the next day. My mother in law went to stay at her parents until her power was restored. Angie & I went over to her house on Monday, and found that only half of the power had been turned on - 1/2 of the 220 V circuit - so only 1/2 of the outlets were working, and things like the dryer and the stove wouldn’t work at all. Her heater was rigged to use a working power circuit, to keep the pipes from freezing.

It’s a hard thing to get an electrician that close to Thanksgiving. It became even more important, though, when the other circuit failed entirely on Wednesday. An electrician looked, and found the entire meter and master breaker panel had to be replaced, due to damage caused by the power failure. So the temperature in the house started falling again. Angie and I stopped by the house on Thanksgiving, and found the temperature was quite cold - nearly freezing. My Dad then came by to look, and we found a generator that hadn’t been run in years. We decided to give it a shot - to our surprise, the generator, which hadn’t run in ages, started up easily — and in 15 degree weather at that.

We then hooked the generator up to the furnace again, and the house slowly started to heat up. After about 5 hours, the temperature was around 65 degrees. Since we didn’t want to tend the generator all night (and because the neighborhood is less than nice), we stopped the generator, put everything away, and locked up for the night.

Late in the afternoon on Friday, power was finally restored - the meter box and main breaker were replaced, and finally everything started working. So after nearly a week without power, my poor mother in law finally had power back and warmth in her house. It was bad enough she had to go through her first Thanksgiving without her husband, but the power had to go out too? Fate can be a jerk.

Saturday & Sunday there were additional snowstorms, depositing about eight or so more inches of light, powdery snow. This stuff is much faster to clean, on the order of 20 minutes instead of two hours.

I heard from my uncle, who helped with the Generator set up at my mother in law’s house; so now I know what needs to be done to “properly” hook it up. I’ll probably spend some time this weekend sorting out where everything is, so I can get the generator going much easier next time. My uncle also told me about a similar setup he has for his home (which I’m house-sitting). So I figure I’d better figure that out so that if/when the power goes out for a long period of time, I can start his generator and keep the house from freezing.