Last Wednesday, my nephew graduated from high school and I drove into DC with my son to be there. My nephew is an Eagle Scout and did very well in high school, so we are all proud of him. Afterwards, we went out for a late lunch and had fun hanging out and talking with family. My brother has 3 kids and they’re doing great. I hope my son turns out half as well!
After eating, when we went outside, it looked like a storm was brewing, but we didn’t need umbrellas to get back to our cars. But by the time I got to the DC beltway, about 10 minutes from the restaurant, it was raining hard. There were sheets of water coming down and visibility was quite bad. I drove thru one of those puddles they tell you that you should never drive thru because you can’t see the pavement -- and understand why people are inclined to do so. It was on a ramp and the car in front of me had just gone thru it safely. I got thru safely, too, as you might surmise! I could tell how deep the water had been when the previous car went thru and if the road had fallen out from under it or if the water had gotten a lot deeper in that time, I believe I would have seen that.
On the beltway, I was in quite a backup; eventually, passed a tree that had fallen onto the beltway and had blocked the two right lanes. Traffic was a little better for a while and I drove out of the storm or the storm blew on past -- or maybe a little of both. Traffic was still pretty messy; google traffic maps showed more red than anything else in the DC area! It turned out that wasn’t the only tree that landed on the beltway and ramps.... I passed about 8 places where there were police cars out -- and there weren’t any around that first tree!
When I got closer to home and had gotten out of the storm, I started down a rural road which is the shortest way home, wondering if it would be passable since it’s very wooded much of the way. I was hoping that perhaps the storm had been as bad in our area, but I only got about a mile down when I found cars turning around. It turns out there was an electric line down and across the road, so we had to turn around, too, and take a longer route home. Altogether, the drive that would have taken maybe 40 minutes normally, took about 2.5 hours that day, though to be fair, rush hour traffic alone could have made the drive over an hour.
At the last corner, the lights were out and there were police in the road directing traffic and I realized the power at home was probably out. That's not good for me because I need power for my cpap machine. Our power is normally very reliable as the lines on our street are underground. I do have a backup plan, though. My son went was in cub scouts and I went with him on a camping trip a few years back (to the left is a picture from that trip), and I had to use batteries to sleep then -- no power outlets in the tents! For a long time after that I kept them charged faithfully and had used them after the remnants of hurricane Isabel knocked our power out for three nights.
But at some point, I had stopped keeping them charged and so had only half a backup plan Wednesday night when I got home and found the power was indeed out. So, I called the power company and tried to get some idea of when it might come back on. I was tired enough to want to sleep right then but knew it’s a bad idea. I didn’t find out much from the power company. The phone system allows you to report an outage but only tells you if the outage has been verified. They have a website with an outage map that has repair estimates, but there were too many dots representing outages for me to figure out which one was ours before our backup batteries ran out and I lost the internet.
So, I was home, in the dark, amazed there was so little we could do in the dark, without electricity. I guess I forgot what we did after Isabel. It’s amazing how dependent we are on electricity! I thought about reading, but I didn’t have enough light. I really wanted to go on to sleep but couldn’t. The power had gone out when none of us were home, at about 2 pm, and the battery backups had run down a lot before we had returned. We have well water which is powered by electricity, so we were conserving water -- first step is to turn off the valves that fill the toilet tanks. We have enough water in the tanks downstairs to last a while for drinking and the like, but not if we flush with it! We keep water in plastic bottles in the basement so we can flush as needed. We had not been as careful after Isabel and had run out of water way too quickly.
Well, I needed to recharge those batteries, so I wondered where. Obviously, nearby neighbors would not be able to. My brother’s in the area (obviously) but rather too far away for this. So, I called the local fire station. Their power was also out but they had a generator going. I asked if they knew when the power might be back on, but they didn’t. So, I asked if they knew where I could recharge my batteries, and they said I could bring them to the station. So, I loaded my batteries, cables and charger in my car and set out. On the way, I stopped where I saw a repair truck pulled over on the side of the highway to see if they could tell me when the power would be restored. They said four to five hours which would be after midnight, at best. So, I took the batteries on over to the fire station and set them up to charge. I had been worried about the batteries sitting too long, but they started charging immediately. So, I left them there with a sticky note on them so someone wondering about them would know why they were there. A couple hours later, I went back and they were fully charged. So, I was able to sleep with my cpap like usual that night; praise God!
The power came on about 1 am; just as predicted by the repairman. I slept the rest of the night on the batteries, though, in case the power was not steady. I did turn on cpap humidifier and slept a little more comfortably the rest of the night.
So, ended that long day...
The next morning, I tried to re-charge the batteries; they wouldn’t charge at all. So, that was either the last gasp of the batteries or a miracle they worked at all! In either case, I am thanking God they worked! I bought new batteries today, so I should be ok for the next power out. And I only need to charge these once every 6 months!