Eight days. Technically, 7 days, 20½ hours — the stretch of time we went without power due to last week’s freak winter storm. We were not alone: over 800,000 customers lost electricity in the state as heavy wet snow coated the leaves still abundant on the deciduous tress and brought down untold numbers of limbs and trunks that snapped phone and power lines as they fell.
The area took on the appearance of a war zone. Fallen branches lay everywhere, strewn across roadways and power lines. Temperatures dropped into the 30s at night. Thankfully, daytime highs remained in the mid 50s throughout the week.
When you lose power, unless you’ve got a backup system, you lose heat; you lose light, you lose refrigeration and the ability to make hot meals; you lose landline telephone service, TV and the internet. If you’re lucky, you might have a smart phone to keep yourself apprised of the news; but in the aftermath of this particular storm, even cell phone service remained patchy for days.
When shops and supermarkets lose power, foodstuff spoils. You can’t procure gasoline because the pumps run on electricity, so you might not be able to drive any distance for essentials, assuming you can find them. Chances are slim that you can warm up at work, because the workplace might be out of power as well.
If you’re lucky, you’ve got a gas can in the garage. If you’re fortunate, you might have a Coleman camp stove to make the essentials to survive: hot water for tea, coffee and instant oatmeal or soup. You might have a grill to cook meat, chicken or fish. You might have had the forethought to stock up on batteries to power your flashlight and transistor radio. If so, that is good; because that is the only way you can find out about local shelters, warming centers, soup kitchens, and community facilities where you can get a hot shower.
You lie awake under piles of blankets in the darkness, feeling the chilled air on your face, listening to the periodic fire whistles and police sirens in the night. You try, but somehow you just can’t settle. The worst is when you have to roust yourself out to dress in the early morning cold, then step outside to fire up the Coleman stove to boil water for tea.
You might spend the greater part of an afternoon hunting for a functioning service station, only to find that the lines are so long that even if you had the patience to wait, you would most likely run out of gas before you made it to the pump.
So your children scout out the region and find that they’re selling unlimited quantities of gasoline on the Mass Pike, at least an hour away. They take the gas cans and set out on a mission. Meantime in the back yard you drag fallen branches into piles and proceed to cut them up with your bow saw. It’s not easy work, but it helps to keep you warm — and it gives you something to do to make the time pass a little more easily.
Your children return with full tanks and gas cans. Your spirits lift a little. You celebrate with a pot of homemade chicken noodle soup heated on the camp stove.
That night the stars have never looked so bright. For once they have no competition from local sources of light on the earth, for all lies in pitch blackness below the clear cold dome of sky.
Eight days. Technically, 7 days, 20.5 hours — the stretch of time we went without power due to the after effects of last week’s freak winter storm that dumped close to two feet of snow on parts of New England.
As of this writing, 150,000 customers continue to wait for power to be restored.