Friday, July 6, 2012

The Power is Out: What We're Learning

It's Day 7 of not having electricity.  Baltimore has been treating us so well!  (That was sarcasm, for any Sheldons out there.)  In 2009 we had "Snowpocalypse" (or "Snowmageddon" if you are of that school) when in snowed so much they wouldn't allow non-government vehicles to be on the roads and we lost our power for a few days (however I also got six snow days off of school, so I wasn't complaining too much), then last summer we had an earthquake (some of our pictures are still hanging crooked from that...don't judge me) and a few days later Hurricane Irene hit us and we were without power for 3.5 days.  Then last Friday (June 29) we got hit with some kind of freak storm and we have been without power ever since.  In a heat wave.   And it's very humid, which I think is the WORST THING EVER!  If you know me even a little you probably already know that because I complain about humidity all the time.  Anyway, our power company keeps giving us times that the power should be back on, the first being July 4 at 12:30 in the afternoon.  Then 10:30pm.  Then 6:30pm the next day.  Then nothing.  Then 4:00 today.  And now it's set for 6:30pm tomorrow.  Kelly and I don't believe them anymore.  We have also almost given up hope of ever having electricity in our home ever again...or at least until we move at the end of the month.  At the rate we're going, that might really be the case.

So, since I am now an expert at living through a heat wave (100+ degrees outside four 5 out of the 7 days so far) with no power for a whole week I will share ten things we learned.

1.  Some things you should definitely own in case of a power outage or emergency:
-flashlights (or even better a lantern; see ); at least one per person so you don't always use the buddy system in your own home.
-candles and matches in case your flashlight dies
-a cooler
-ice packs or a lot of ice in your freezer for your cooler
-car charger for your phone
-food that doesn't need to be refrigerated or cooked, because even if you have a gas stove, in the summer you will NOT want to turn it on, and eventually all your food in your fridge will go bad.  And if you need to evacuate, it's easy to take with you and eat on the go. Also, make sure you have adequate food and water stored in your house, and necessities like soap, basic first aid stuff, and TP in case of an emergency, because the grocery store could be closed or cleaned out. When snow is forecast here, the first things gone at the store are bread, milk, and toilet paper.  Also, we are lucky because we found out that some people in the area don't have water or electricity!
-books to help with boredom
-something to cook with if you don't have a gas stove, especially if it's winter, or businesses around you are also out of power so there's no where to go get groceries or go out to eat.
-it's always good to have warm clothes and a giant warm blanket on hand, in case you're left without power in the winter.
-lots and lots and lots of batteries, especially extras in the right size for your smoke alarm and flashlights.

Story time:  our smoke/carbon monoxide alarm's battery has died twice since the power went out.  Those things go faster than you think when it's entirely reliant on the back up battery instead of electricity.  The first night we had to go get a 9-volt battery at 3:45 AM because the thing kept chirping and we couldn't sleep.  It turned out to be a good thing, though, because we were able to get ice before there was a run on the bank, which leads us to the second thing we learned:

2.  Get ice early.  We actually learned this lesson in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.  When the power didn't come on on the second day, we got worried about our food going bad and I went to 9 different places trying to find a bag of ice.  I was lucky to get the very last bag at the gas station I stopped at last.  This time around the power went out at about 11PM on June 29, and we got ice at 3:45AM on our battery run.  The next day most places were running low or out, and the day after that there was none to be found.  Unfortunately, when you get ice the first day, and there is no ice after that to replace it with, after 7 days, all your food will be bad if the weather is very hot.  Case in point:

Although our power's not on yet, I cleaned out the fridge because it was as warm inside it as outside it and had been for a couple days, and things were stinking!  Even our pickles went bad.  That's how hot it got in our house.  And don't worry, I scrubbed out the whole thing after I took these pics.

3.  This one is only for summer, open all the windows at night.  If it is still too hot, sleep next to the one that gets the most breeze.  It's the only way we are still alive.  If you are in a super hot/humid place like Baltimore that doesn't cool down at night and you are on the top floor, go ahead and leave all your windows open all the time, otherwise it will be even hotter inside than it is outside, also you will not be able to breathe.  Seriously, the air feels heavy out here and even worse inside with no circulation.

This was our sleeping situation, next to our screen door out to the balcony.
The baby gates by the window is to keep Libby from scratching the screen since it was installed brand new with the new windows on Tuesday.  Libby sits on our mattress during the day when she's not sleeping under the couch, which is where she's been spending the majority of her time as you can see below.

4. Again, only when it's really hot, block direct sunlight coming into your house.  We actually are moving in a month and the windows were scheduled to be replaced in our apartment this week, so we had to take down all our curtains, which would have done this job pretty well, but such is our luck.  We have a tree that shades the windows into the main part of our apartment, but nothing over the window in the bedroom, so we are keeping that door closed and try to not go in there, because it is at least 15 degrees hotter in there than in the rest of the apartment.  In the living room we have vertical blinds that block the light pretty well, and in the dining room we set our air mattress against the window during those hours when the sun is coming in.  This tip and the last one when I said to keep your windows open all day in certain situations are kind of opposites, so we experimented and figured out what worked best for us.  We kept the window open, but for a few hours when the sun was coming in blocked the light and then as soon as the sun passed overhead opened everything back up again.

5.  If you can, buy a battery-operated fan.  We only managed to scrounge one up yesterday evening, and it made all the difference.  When I walked into Bed, Bath, & Beyond and saw one left, I knew God saved it for me (sounds dramatic, but that's how it felt when I saw this little beauty waiting for me).  We actually slept last night, and this morning we agreed it was worth the cost of the fan and the 8 D batteries it took to run the thing.

My new best friend--tied with Kelly.

6.  A lantern is so much cooler than a flashlight.  It lights up 360 degrees instead of only where you point it. It has a hook so you can hang it on things.  It has feet so you can set it down and use both hands and it doesn't roll away.  Ours is made by Black Diamond and takes 4 AA batteries, and those lasted for 4 days, so keep your extra batteries handy, those sell out almost as fast as ice.

Our lantern, which Kelly's brother Ben gave us for Christmas a couple years ago.  THANK YOU BEN & HOLLY!!

See how we hooked in the shower?  P.S. get used to cold showers.  I have.  Kelly hasn't.  Guess who smells better. (Just kidding about the smell!  However, while I can take a quick normal shower, Kelly takes forever trying to wash his hair without the water touching anything but his scalp, and basically sponge bathing to keep out of the direct line of fire cold water.)

7.  Make sure you have a cooler.  They also sell out as fast as ice.  Fortunately we already had one, but during our quest for a fan that lasted about 6 days, we heard a lot of people asking for coolers and a lot of store employees saying there weren't any left.

8.  Don't live on the top floor of your apartment building in a summer outage.  I know you can't help this (neither could we) but I'll tell you ahead of time, it sucks.  When we get about half-way up the last flight of stairs, it's like walking through a wall of hot hot air.  I've never experienced anything like it in my life, except maybe the opposite version of walking into a restaurant freezer and feeling that super dramatic change in temperature from one step to the next.

9.  Find out where there is electricity and air conditioning and spend the hottest part of your day there.  If you have work, this is one of those rare times when you'll actually look forward to going there.  If you are on summer break like I am, find places you can loiter in air conditioning without getting in trouble like the mall or go to the movies or explore stores you always wanted to go to but never had time.

10.  Know ahead of time places with WiFi and outlets available for you to charge your computer if you don't have a smartphone (I don't.)  Out here Panera, Dunkin' Donuts, and Barnes & Noble are currently acting as second (and third and fourth) homes for me and Kelly.  I have discovered Panera has the most comfortable seats, best access to outlets, and the best food, but it's awkward to stay there very long since it's a restaurant, and also go after 2pm to get a seat with an outlet.  Barnes & Noble is okay to stay at for longer amounts of time, and you are not obligated to buy food first.  Dunkin Donuts is open the latest, but you will need to buy at least a donut or they'll probably give you dirty looks.  I haven't tried not buying something first, so that's only a guess. We've figured when to migrate from place to place.  For example, I started this post in Panera over lunch, and am now finishing it at Barnes & Noble with my new friends (I get more everyday) who also don't have power at home. 

Bonus tip: when you pass 5 trucks from your power company on your street and all the people are inside of them sleeping, take a video and narrate with the temperature,  how long you've been out of power, and general venting about your feelings on the situation. I tragically didn't think about this and Kelly told me I should have done that when I told him about it later.  For the record, it was 101 degrees and the power had been out for 6 days by that point.

So if you ever lose power for 7 days and running, go to Barnes & Noble and check out some tips from a survivor, albeit a whiney one.  Also, if you have a cat, don't try to move it to the coolest part of the house, because it will just run away again.  At least if your cat is as dumb as Libby.

**Update!  Our power came back on Friday night!  It was so hot we went to a late movie and when we came home as we were driving up to our apartment we saw the outdoor lights of our building were on!  At first we both just thought "why does this look weird?" and then at the same time we realized the power was on and did a seated-and-still-driving-happy-dance, which may or may not have included some happy crying and nearly jumping out of the car while it was still in motion and then running up three flights of stairs to our apartment so we could turn the light on. So, we all survived (except for all of our refrigerated/frozen food, minus three kinds of Tabasco (I don't know why we had three kinds, we just did), soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, an unopened jar of relish, an unopened jar of capers, and a Costco box of York peppermint patties...yes, all the Yorks are deformed now, but still edible.  I'm sure we could make some kind of meal out of that right?).

Also, at about 3AM Monday morning we woke up and the power was out again.  Kelly called the power company and they said it would be on by 6AM, but it's kind of hard to trust those guys!  Neither of us could get back to sleep because it was such a horrible feeling, knowing we had just gotten it back and had replaced a bunch of stuff in the fridge and now it was out again. When we got up at 6:30 the power was still out and I was on the verge of tears, but as Kelly was getting ready for work the fan in our bedroom turned on around 7, so there was much rejoicing. And the power's been on since then, so hopefully it doesn't go out again, or one of us (probably Libby) is going to need a padded room and a straight jacket.

Other than being terrified of the power going out again and an empty refrigerator, the only lasting effect has been forgetting to turn on both the hot and cold water.  Weird right?  When the power was out, we both just turned the hot water handle in the sinks and shower, but it doesn't work so well when the water heater is actually working!  We've both been surprised by too-hot water when we're washing our hands, or getting a gulp of warm water when we're expecting  cold.  Who knew you could get so lazy about turning on the water taps?


Georgia said...

Poor Libby; Poor, poor Kelly; Poor, poor, poor Dani!

I feel so bad for you three and the other 1.6 million people who are still without power in various places along the eastern seaboard.

If those bums in the power trucks don't have your electricity turned on by tomorrow, they deserve the wrath of Dani and her mother and usually I wouldn't wish that on anyone!

Love you guys! Thanks for the great tips. I think I will print out this post and put in with our 72-hour kit!

Laundry said...

Poor Dani and Kelly... Prayers are with you. Really hoping your power comes back on soon!

Also, would you mind if I used this in a "why we should prepare ourselves now for emergencies" shpill? (I spelled it like that cause that's how I said it in my head. lol!) I have to give one next week. I won't use your names. I'll just say I have friends...etc. And then use just bits and pieces from your post. I hope that's ok! let me know on FB if it's not1