Going on 84 hours without power. Well, that’s not exactly true – 84 hours minus 20 minutes to be exact. We had power briefly on Monday night. They turned on the power in town and apparently we are part of the same grid. Which was great. Except when they turned on the power, they hadn’t yet cleared the massive oak tree still using our power lines as a hammock. So the police and utility trucks rolled in only to shut the power off, put up some cones and leave. That was two days ago. Tonight I came home to find a tree crew working on it. Their mere presence was uplifting. I should have known better, though, because once the tree crew was done we were left in semi-darkness awaiting the line crew.
First off, Connecticut was incredibly lucky. Irene was progressively downgraded and hit us as a Category 1. We only had a small amount of storm-related deaths. PSA: it is a bad idea to take your canoe out on a raging flooded river in the middle of a hurricane. There were some areas of massive damage (Cosey Beach in East Haven) but statewide it could have been much worse if Irene arrived as a Category 3 as initially advertised. We are much less flooded than New York, Vermont or Maine.
We were lucky too. A massive tree hit another massive tree during the height of the storm, and like dominoes they came crashing down only inches from the house. Yes, it landed in our pool and yes, it pretty much landed smack on my container garden. Combing through twisted tomato cages today I see nothing is salvageable. But you have to put things in perspective: I harvested all I could the night before the storm and no one was hurt. More luck came our way when we scored a $50 broken generator off of Craigslist. These things were going like hotcakes – less than 5 minutes and the ad would be gone. It was no small miracle that we were first on the list for this one.
We are also fortunate in that we have power at work. We can use the running water, the bathrooms and lights without worrying about generator capacity. I’m hoarding eight Chobani, two bricks of cheddar and a dozen eggs in the office fridge. This morning I brought my grinder, beans, and french press for coffee. Hartford has been largely spared so I can buy lunch. So while we have power and takeout and all the comforts of modern life at work, at the end of the day we have to go back home. Driving back toward home is like going into a war zone full of emergency vehicles and caution tape. Going back and forth between those two worlds in the same day is very, very strange.
Though New Englanders consider ourselves a hardy bunch, its becoming readily apparent that we’re not. Day 1 was fun. Day 2 it got a little old. Day 3 meant we were stinkier and crankier. But Day 4? Straight up surly. This is no longer fun. Entire contents of refrigerators are now dangerous. Our Governor told us to be without power for a week, but I don’t think everyone believed it.
People straight up suck. The price gouging going on around here? Incredible. Most of our local gas stations managed to spike their prices before the hurricane hit. We put our names on lists at several chain hardware stores trying to secure a generator. We got a call on Saturday morning telling us they had only one left… for $1800. Actual retail price is more like $900. There are no words for these people. When ice is in short supply, I bet the markup on frozen water is similarly nauseating. That said, some people do not suck. The UConn Women’s Basketball team is hosting a spaghetti dinner at our local high school/emergency shelter. You can have a hot shower, fill up with some fresh water, have a hot meal and meet the team (and Coach Geno Auriemma). My local breakfast spot bought me coffee when they found out how long I was without power. It really is all about the little things.
I’ve never had to consider wattage in our kitchen before. Come on – have you? Our stove takes too many watts for the generator, so it is out of comission. Same thing with our nifty induction burner. So we continue to cook on the Coleman stove. We use the generator for the upstairs fridge/freezer, chest freezer, kitchen lights and water pump (note not the water heater). We even got to watch a bit of news last night. It felt like cheating.
Thank god for Twitter. I never thought I’d say it. I’ve been getting more local updates via tweets than our town’s emergency alert system or NPR. I owe most of our info to a local Hartford Courant reporter. Who would have thought?
On Saturday I was #hurricanning like a lot of folks. I put up mixed squash pickles, pickled Italian hot peppers and marinated poblanos. I froze my chicken stock to act as extra insulation in the chest freezer. I prepped the last of the pickling cukes to ferment a la Well Preserved as well as my fresh picked green tomatoes a la Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking. I left watermelon and peaches whole instead of beginning pickles and jam. I discovered peaches keep for quite a long time at room temperature under a tea towel. The quickest to ripen are macerating on my counter with sugar and whiskey.
I really, REALLY regret not having pressure canned. I bought a used canner months ago, but have been lazy about getting it calibrated. Had we been stocked with ready to go jars of chili verde and shredded bbq beef I think I would have been far less stressed out. If we could live on pickles and jam alone, though we would be set.
Many people put water away and filled up their bathtubs. But we’re on Day 4 of life without power. People are running out. At this point, it largely depends where you are. Rural Salem and Sterling are still 100% out. We joke that eastern CT is forsaken, even though its not funny at all. As I finish typing this on the morning of Day 5 – now approaching 96 hours without power – our generator is keeping my chest freezer solid. Our dishes are piling up. Our house looks – surprise – like its been camped in. And I’m finishing typing this post on my smartphone. Though I am becoming increasingly bipolar – swinging from “I’m fine, I don’t know why everyone is whining” to “I swear if those m-fers don’t turn on the power tonight I am going to murder someone.” I am more and more aware of the shortcomings in my preparedness and I am going to make changes for the next one. So bring it on, zombie apocalypse. I’ll be ready.