Thursday, January 17, 2019

Storms and Power

Don't get me wrong, I love snow, but not when it's heavy, wet snow that gets dumped on your 60+ year old fragile trees in your neighborhood - trees that are menacingly looming over sagging power lines, without snow on them. Wet snow always spells trouble. We tend to lose power about 3-4 times a year, most of the time it feels random and isolated - a downed power line that gets strung back up by KCP&L within a few hours. However, we have had major storms wreak havoc on our neighborhood over the past 20 years, three of which I can recall quite vividly.

In 2002, we had a major ice storm that dropped 2" of freezing snow and ice, knocking our power out for 4 days. Fortunately, this was prior to Sarah and I having kids, so we weathered the storm and survived, however it was on day 4 of not having power or a reasonable amount of heat (we have a non-functioning fireplace) that we seriously contemplated staying elsewhere. Ironically, we were pulling out of the driveway to watch the Superbowl at a friend's house, when the power was restored. We ran around the house flicking lights off an on, just for the sheer pleasure of watching the glorious magic of electricity in action.

In the summer of 2017, Kansas City was hit with a terrible summer storm, with gusting high winds that sheared limbs and ripped entire trees completely out of the ground, dropping them on houses, cars, and again on our flimsy above-grade power lines. Our neighbors across the street had their entire electrical box torn off the house and their entire deck destroyed by several falling trees - their backyard looked like a war-torn jungle afterward. That storm knocked the power out at our place for 3 solid days. After the second day, the house became very hot during the day (as it was summer and very humid). By the third night, Sarah and the boys found refuge with friends down south who were not affected by the storm. Mira and I decided to brave it in the house, which in hindsight, was not a good idea. The rationale was the prospect of trying to take care of Mira in someone else's house, without the luxury of her bed (changing, transitions, and lifting would be a nightmare), navigating her chair, and the food items we would have to lug around, just sounded like a daunting amount of work, thus we thought it made sense to try and sweat it out one more night. It was not pretty, with temperatures in the 90's in the house during the day. We did survive, just barely.
Fast forward to Friday night, where this latest snow storm left over 100,000 people in KC without power. We were one of the fortunate ones, as we only lost power for about 36 hours. Right after the Chiefs playoff game started about 3:30pm on Saturday, we went dark and it stayed out until Monday about noon, when power was finally restored to our block. Mira's teacher was not so fortunate - her lights finally came back on just yesterday. 

So how do you make it work with a non-verbal, non-communicative, non-ambulatory child with special needs? Well, fortunately we had a good friend who was at the Chiefs game who loaned us his generator, dropping it off around 9:00pm on his way back from the game. Had we not had the generator, we would have been in dire straits, as the temperature had already started to drop into the high 60's by this time. With the generator, we were able to run one space heater, a few lights, and the refrigerator. We stuck the heater near Mira's room, dressed her in 2 coats, and crossed our fingers that this particular outage would not be a repeat of 2002.
By the time Monday rolled around, the house had dropped to the low 50's and were starting to consider different options if the outage continued much longer. Fortunately, the kids could all go somewhere warm during the day - school. I think Mira was happy to get out of the house, although she was an incredible trooper throughout this whole ordeal - we still did our usual routine of racing and walking around the house, only having to dodge the smattering of electrical cords and surge protectors strung across the floor (see pic above) so Mira was really not completely out of her element. We had blankets across her legs with double socks at times to keep her warm. Her bottles took longer to warm up with hot water, as we could not run the microwave, but Mira did not seem to mind the extra wait time. 

I lost count of the number of times I had to run down to fill up the reserve gas can for the generator or how we had to play musical appliances just to make a cup of coffee, but all in all, it could have been so much worse. Monday morning I took some time off work to go on a generator hunt around town, which was pointless - no one had any in stock and no forecast of when they might have more in. We will be getting a generator of our own at some point, most likely after the next wave of snow hits this weekend. Yes, now that we are all trying to get back in a rhythm, the forecast for this weekend could potentially be a repeat of last Friday - we are expecting a combination of rain, snow, sleet, and colder temperatures starting tomorrow.

On a positive note, I had my last trip to northeast Canada, this week. As if the snow and cold in Kansas City wasn't enough, I had a scheduled flight into Halifax and a drive to Moncton from there on Wednesday, which I returned from this afternoon. Nothing beats white-knuckled driving in the snow, in the dark, with gusting winds, in January, for 2 1/2 hours through the backwoods of eastern New Brunswick. Is winter over yet?

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