Tuesday, September 16, 2008

And the darkness continues

Around 1:30 PM on Sunday we lost power at our house. It was astonishing, the sun was shining but the wind was fiercely blowing (later news reports clocked gusts at over 75 mph). The trees and debris blowing around were something you would see during a sever thunderstorm. No rain, no thunder and no tornado just the steady wind. Four hours later when the wind stopped, they entire town was without power. The electric company was swamped with calls. In the Cincinnati area, over 800,000 homes were without power. In Dayton, over 225,000 homes were without power which was further exacerbated by the fact 700 electrical contractors had been sent to Texas to help out with relief efforts for Hurricane Ike.

The situation here was something we’ve never seen before. If you live anywhere near tornados, you are used to seeing bursts of high winds associated with severe thunderstorms but the duration is relatively short. These winds lasted all day and were constant. Trees were felled throughout Southwestern Ohio. The governor declared a state of emergency with nearly 1.9 million people without power. Schools closed yesterday and today due to the power outages. Food was spoiling in refrigerators in supermarkets and cafeterias. Gas prices soared as people descended on those stations still with power looking to fill up. My daughter and I walked around out town Sunday night. It was completely black, only the occasional candle lit homes. The only ambient light was provided by the numerous vehicles out on the roads (I have to ask, where were you all going?).

The weather on Sunday was created by a unique combination of a cold front come from the Northern Plains encountering the remnants of Hurricane Ike. The one-two punch re-energized what was left of Ike to produce the strong winds. The events of the last days made appreciation how devastating a full-blown hurricane must be like. It really looks like a major outbreak of tornados ripped through Southwestern Ohio, yet except for the high winds it was a rather typical September day.

I’m typing this on my laptop, which I recharged at the office. Oil lamps are producing the only light in my living room. The refrigerator has been purged of all its contents. I don’t know when we will get power back at the house, some estimates go out to the weekend. Fortunately we have a gas stove and water heater so we still can cook and have hot water. Some communities weren’t as fortunate, the lack of power also shut down their water treatment plants.

Once the events of this week become yesterday’s news, I will be looking to having a back-up generator installed in the house to power the furnace and refrigerator. A back-up generator had been on my list of improvements but just had not gotten around to it. That will change here shortly. The other emergency supplies on hand for disasters worked just fine although batteries do run out quickly with a entire household using flashlights and battery-operated radios. Water wasn’t a problem (this time). If we had to have this happen, this was the perfect time with mild temperatures. I can’t imagine what would have happened if this occurred during the middle of winter.

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