Things I Learned During an 18-hour Power Outage
I live in North Texas, and way back in February (or last week, as I’m writing this for an April column), an historic winter storm swept through our area. I was glued to the latest weather news, be it online, on TV, on the radio, or on a weather app on my phone. I highly recommend you have at least one local weather app on your phone—very convenient and helpful.
Our local electric authority—and I’m still not sure if that’s Oncor, ERCOT, or angry magic pixies—was warning us that they would be starting “rolling blackouts” which were to last anywhere from 10-30 minutes, and to call this special number that no one will answer if your power is out more than 45 minutes.
I was reading on NextDoor that my neighbors on other streets were not getting their power back after 45 minutes. Hours passed, many many hours passed, and they still had no power. Our electricity was still on at the time, but I was becoming concerned.
Then our turn came. While I was getting ready to prepare dinner, our power went out. I had high hopes of it coming back within 45 minutes. I was still hopeful 2 hours later. After 17 hours, I was crying into what little power was left on my cellphone, texting my cousin (who very generously offered to brave the icy roads to come get me). It was 40-degrees inside my house. It was below zero outside. I was wearing double to quadruple layers just trying to stay warm.
After 18 hours passed, our power finally came back on. My first stop was the furnace’s thermostat. My second stop was the coffeemaker. I sat, sipping my hot coffee in the path of a heating vent, until I was warm enough to cook a pot of potato soup. It was just an inexpensive package of dry soup mix, nothing fancy, but it sure warmed the body and the soul.
I did learn a few things during my ordeal:
—Wear loose layers. I was wearing a blouse, covered by a flannel shirt, covered by a fleece jacket, covered by a knit ruana. It looked awful, but it kept me from shivering.
—Wearing two pair of pants helped keep me warm—but going to the restroom was a chore. Plan ahead—don’t put off a restroom visit.
—Keep an eye on the pets. I kept my little dog by my side, and she had her own little fleece blanket. I checked her often to make sure she wasn’t shivering.
—Some rechargeable USB-powered devices can be used to transfer their power to another device. For example, I had a little rechargeable hand warmer I was using to keep my hands and face from freezing, but I drained some of its power into my cellphone when I needed it. Same with my MacBook.
I also have plans for the future:
—I’m looking at portable cooking stoves (one element) that can be used indoors. Similar to those caterers use. I only need one. Of course, a little percolator is a must-have for this household. My current cookware will work just fine.
—I’m definitely buying a second hand warmer… maybe a third, too.
—We had a number of power banks fail, so a couple of those are on the list.
—I need to keep a ski mask or similar in the same drawer where we keep the gloves and ice scrapers. Of all my body parts, my face was the most difficult to keep warm.
Of course, we probably won’t get another crazy winter storm like this for another 10-20 years, but I am not going to be caught off-guard again.
Oh, and one week after our frigid misery…it was 70-degrees. Gotta love Texas weather.
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