Thursday, September 1, 2011

Surviving Irene

I would hardly say that Irene hit us hard. It was more like a glancing blow that left a noticeable and sore bruise for a few days. Yet in the midst of those days, it seemed frustrations from Irene would never end. No power, no fresh food, no working kitchen, no Internet, no TV, no hot shower, no ac. There was a growing list of annoyances and inconveniences that Sunday night I wasn't sure I was ready to cope with.

But let me back up. Hurricane Irene came through Hampton Roads Saturday afternoon. Amidst reports of evacuations, downed trees and rising floodwaters, my roommates, husband and I spent the mostly uneventful day watching TV. Around 11:30 we settled in to watch one last movie before heading off to bed. By then the rain had mostly tapered off and it felt like Irene had passed us by, leaving our area relatively unscathed.

And then there was a huge boom, followed by a flash and then the everything shut off. We were left in the dark wondering where we had moved the flashlights after thinking the hurricane was over. Then we poke our heads outside, flashlight scanning the area, and we spied this:

We weren't really sure what we were seeing either. But having cops for neighbors meant we were hustled back inside and without power we all just headed to bed. When we woke up Sunday morning and surveyed the damage, we realized how lucky everyone was.

What fell was basically the top half of a neighbor's tree. It was literally as long as my car and the half that used to be connected to the tree was probably almost a foot thick. If it had blown the other way, the neighbors would have had some problems. And despite losing power, if the power lines hadn't have caught it, it could have easily smashed into Moriah's car, which had been parked right across the street from it.

Anyway, Sunday was the worst day. The post-hurricane weather put the temperature in the nineties and there was no breeze. By the end of the day I was cranky from the heat and while we had purchased cookies and goldfish, we hadn't realized how much you crave a hot, complete meal until you don't have it for a day. Luckily I had brewed an entire pot of coffee on Saturday and had saved the leftovers in case power went out. Sunday morning I managed to have an iced coffee, using the last of the soymilk before it went bad and some of the ice we had purchased in an attempt to save some of our groceries in a cooler. That night we went to Cheddar's for dinner. I had a Monte Cristo, and for the first time I ate the entire thing since it wasn't like I had somewhere to stash the leftovers.

As far as Dominion goes, Sunday came and went with little more than the appearance of cones to mark the disaster area and keep cars from driving right over more branches that had fallen in the road:

That night the house was so hot that we pitched a tent and slept relatively well in the 60-degree temperatures. If only the neighbors didn't have the loudest generators in the world, I might have gotten more than two hours of sleep.

Monday came and went with multiple visits from Dominion and city trucks, but nothing happened. By the sixth truck, we gave up on having power. Luckily Monday was cooler than Sunday and a breeze had left the house so comfortable that I was beginning not to care that we didn't have power. I spent my day reading the backlog of newspapers I had piling up from the weeks when I was too busy to read them, a textbook on magazine writing for work and I almost finished "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto" by Michael Pollan (which is excellent and scary, by the way). That night we played Magic (a geeky card game) and I didn't miss the Internet, the TV, the microwave or the ac. I mildly missed the kitchen, but we grilled out that night, so it almost felt like fun. What I desperately missed was the hot water heater. I had taken cold showers all weekend and I was yearning for hot water.

In the end, we slept in the tent again and were woken up at 7 a.m. on Tuesday by chainsaws. And when we looked outside, we saw this:

Yes, miracle of miracles, the tree was finally down. But there was no Dominion truck in sight and that's when we realized we still didn't have power. I took a cold shower. I made a peanut butter sandwich for work. And then I went to work, still bemoaning the lack of power. The kitchen was beginning to smell and we were all afraid to open the freezer or fridge in fear of what we might find growing in there. For us, the story ends with good news. By 6 p.m. or so on Tuesday night, we had power, glorious power. Others still don't. And I am sorry to say that some aspects of having power annoy me. Like the fact that instead of hanging out and talking, we've reverted to watching the TV constantly. Except me. I can't seem to bring myself to watch a single show. But that'll change. I hear I've missed two episodes of Eureka in the last week and a half. And don't get me started on episodes of Design Star, Master Chef and Hell's Kitchen.

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