My deepest apologies to you all for being MIA; my being scarce were for reasons beyond my control.
As some of you know, I live in Eastern Pennsylvania, and we have met our match in Mother Nature.
Last Thursday, which will be one week since chaos had began to ensue, I took the daughter for her flu shot. You’d think spending three hours at the doctor’s office (waiting, waiting, and WAITING - this lady takes literally an hour on each patient!) would be a forewarning of the holy hell that was about to arrive, pure insanity by the name of Winter Storm Riley.
After the doctor administered the flu shot + two other overdue immunizations, we asked her if there would be any side effects. To this, the doctor replied, “She may run a fever. But we’re likely to not have school tomorrow, anyway.”
We look out the window. The freezing rain had begun.
Now, this is a doctor whose office doesn’t even have the proper in-office apparatus to run strep or flu tests, so any throat cultures or flu swabs have to be done at another location, so that DOUBLES the waiting time in most cases. And she can’t even tell me what my kids have right then and there, I have to go to the lab, have the tests run, then go home and wait for them to call with results and a diagnosis. In what world is this even right????
On THAT, though, she was one hundred percent correct. The cancellation call arrived at night. The automated, monotonous message that my kids have grown to LOVE.
“This is a call from the Blah, Blah, Blah, School District. Schools will be closed tomorrow, March 2nd, 2018 due to inclement weather.”
Both of them high-fived each other. “AWESOME!”
Yeah, those are my two scholars. Sadly, they both inherited my hatred for school, although the son does well without trying while the daughter, more like I did, has to work a little bit harder to get the higher grade.
Anyway, we all sleep in on Friday morning, with the exception of J, who went to work for 7am. When she left, the snow had just been starting. Snow started early in the morning and accumulated quickly, along with some nasty winds that blew the snow around, making it pretty hard to see past a few feet ahead of us while standing at the front door. I managed to get ahold of the wasband via text and come to find out that his power had gone out around 11am.
We stayed inside the whole time; none of us were brave enough to go out and attempt to shovel; I say brave, my son will still say ‘stupid.’ Because, of course, to a lazy 17-year-old, to go out and shovel and then have your hard work erased by more fallen snow, was pointless. When it was time for J to leave work, I coaxed him outside, though, to attempt to dig out a spot for her to pull into. But the whole, ENTIRE time…
“Oh, man, Mom.”
“Ma, look, it’s really bad.”
“Look, Madre, the trees are swaying pretty hard…and I think the neighbor’s Sycamore just fell down.”
“Mom, you know, we’re going to die out here.”
I told him to cut out the dramatics, suck it up and shovel…he did. But he did also attempt to complain several more times before realizing that they had no effect on me. We managed to clear the “wall” plowed into the top of the driveway and we went back inside knowing we’d done the best we could.
Let it be known that J leaves work at 3pm. By 4:30, she still hadn’t arrived home. She texted to say she couldn’t get through the main road that she takes to get home. There are about three or four different ways to get home. Each path she had attempted to take was riddled with downed trees and power lines, cars were pulled over on the side of the road because they were either stuck, or also trying to plan out alternate routes. She said via text that she was going to get a bite to eat at Wendy’s which was open, and then she’d try a different way after she’d had something to eat.
I sat in the ‘worry chair,’ the same recliner I sat in when I let my son take the car. Yep, we all remember that chair!
Then, at about 5pm, our power went out, taking with it our heat and running water. For those of you who don’t understand that last bit, our well pump is run on electricity, so when there’s a power outage, there’s absolutely no running water. Toilet-flushing is not possible unless you're a survivalist and have about a dozen gallons stored somewhere in the house, reserved for such catastrophes. And apparently, no internet, either.
“Oh, my GOD!!!! My internet isn’t working!” The daughter is screeching now, likely because her bestie’s face is now frozen on her iPad’s screen. “Mommmmmyyyy! There’s no WIFI!”
“Okay, we’re just going to have to wait it out, kiddo,” I’m still sitting in the worry chair. Where the hell is my better half?? I could just envision her being stuck and getting nowhere, it’s not a pretty thought at all.
“You see?” the son is looking out the window, “It doesn’t even look like we shoveled.”
He was kinda right. I couldn’t even see the path we’d shoveled for J. And daylight was beginning to run out, and we were soon to be welcoming darkness for an unknown period of time.
I lit some candles, using whatever little light was left in the house. I also fired up the fireplace, as that’s operated on propane, in hopes of conserving the heat we had circulating around the upstairs portion of the house.
The son stated he was bored out of his mind (because, really, when there’s no power, cable or internet, what is there to POSSIBLY do?) and retired to his room, stating that I should wake him up when the power comes back. The daughter too, went to her room and said she was going to TRY to sleep.
At about seven, J walks in, cold, pissed off and wet. Apparently a 30-minute commute had taken her FOUR HOURS, and had she found herself unable to get home, she would have gone back to work. Thankfully, though, she made it home before having to resort to returning to her place of employment.
After wifey had changed into comfy dry clothes, we went to daughter’s room to get her, then we dug out board games and a camping lantern we had lurking in the garage. We ate ice cream for dinner/food since that’s usually the first thing to go in a freezer with no power. We ate chips. Anything we could possibly eat, we ate. Many laughs were shared, especially during a game of LIFE, where J was the big winner and daughter and I retired with about a hundred grand apiece. We played another board game with the son who came upstairs around nine, in search of a snack. Got to say, he wasn't happy to see that his nap didn't fast-forward enough time where there was no power.
"We don't have power yet?"
"Yes, darling, we're sitting here in the dark and cold because it's fun. Should try it, sometime."
We played another game called "Sliders," where we had to knock each other's pegs out of play, tally up points and be the first to reach a certain number. Then, after a couple more hours, I turned off the fireplace, we all put on hoodies and I was in my bed before midnight! J had work early, so she was snoring within minutes.
Y'all know about my issue with lights - well, as my room was PITCH BLACK without a single light being on for me to cover up, I left the house phone uncovered, just in case I woke up in the middle of the night. If, at any point, I were to open my eyes and there was a little red light on, then I'd know power had returned.
The little red light never appeared. I could kick myself in the ass for thinking about that too much in place of sleeping.
J left for work early, while it was still dark. I got up out of bed as soon as I saw the first signs of daylight. No power. No running water. House was CHILLY.
The first thing I did was go outside and begin to shovel the mess Riley left us. Both of my kids remained dead to the world. I didn't mind, this time. I needed a little ME time, I needed to think, I needed to busy myself. I, too, was suffering internet withdrawals and missing being able to connect with others. I was worrying about the food in my fridge, food that I knew I'd soon have to throw away because we were more than 12 hours without power and the fridge was no longer cold when opened. After I'd been shoveling for about an hour, I woke them both up and told them that if they came out and helped, we could attempt to get out of the house and go in search of water jugs (for the toilets, which by now STUNK to high heaven), hot food and cell service.
I think it was the 'cell service' that got them to move. The son came outside and helped me shovel a path from my car to the end of the driveway. In the process, I pulled a tree branch a little thicker than a baseball bat in diameter, off the roof of my car, close to the top of the back passenger door. There is a small dent from where it landed; I suspect it flew off a nearby tree and my car was, unfortunately, in its path. It's not major damage, so we heaved the branch into a snowbank and carried on.
We went to town, and my son took a number of photos of the devastation. Driving through my local town was terrifying. Traffic lights were out in most of the areas without power. Thankfully, the locals were as nervous as I and people were, for the most part, considerate and everyone was careful. A lot of "go ahead" hand waves, lots of open windows, blinking headlights to warn of upcoming road obstructions, which there were TONS of. To be on the safe side, we took the route J had used the night before to come home from work and no matter where we turned, there were downed trees, some rested atop the power lines, some lines completely down, some telephone poles only five to six feet off the ground, some debris completely blocking off a lane. Total chaos. It took me roughly an hour to get to a part of town that normally takes fifteen to twenty minutes to get to, but boy, did we get a look at all of Riley's aftermath in the process. I am going to ask my son to send me some of the pictures he took with his phone; as I was behind the wheel and slowed down in many areas, he took the opportunity to photograph some of the mess.
We found a store selling water (and they were rapidly running out, too!) and I bought ten gallon jugs. Then, we went to Wendy's, which was packed. Lots of folks were without power and water, so this was the eatery of choice, being easily accessible and convenient. Took us another hour to order and eat our food. Then, we were back in the car, charging all our phones and tablets.
"Shall we go home and see if the power is back?"
Sadly, our power was not back. House was getting colder and colder by the hour. My five cats were VERY confused. The poor things were huddled together, at least the ones who could stand each other.
Rather than give a play-by-play of the last five days, I'll just mention the highlights, or this nightmare will NEVER end.
The wasband drove an hour and a half away and bought a generator from New Jersey. By the time evening rolled around, my two kids were relocated to his house (and it was also his time with them so I wasn't gypped any of my time) where he now had limited power and running water. Of course, the wasband was also kind enough to invite J and I to go stay over there until OUR power came back, but we politely declined. Many reasons, but the two main ones were simply there is NOTHING short of chaos every time we're there, and we didn't want to leave our pets alone in a cold house without any heat source overnight.
By the way, yes, we do need a generator, and as I told my godchild (wasband's youngest) the other day, it's going to be what I ask Santa Claus for, come next Christmas. That, and a snowblower. I just don't have the funds to invest in one right now.
J and I relocated all of our food onto the back porch. The milk, eggs, mayo, Ranch dressing, bags of cheese, other containers with leftovers and other perishable foods, all plopped into the snow. I filled a cooler with snow and threw other stuff in there. Fortunately, my freezer contents were still hard as a rock, so I wasn't worrying about those, yet. But, in the meantime, some things were salvaged. I was also able to fire up the propane grill and make us some meals out of whatever had defrosted. We had to eat a lot of stuff cold, but it was better than letting anything go to waste.
J insisted we move our queen sized mattress into the living room so that we could sleep in front of the fireplace, which is what we did until last night. You can imagine what a NIGHTMARE this was for me; the living room is VERY sunny in the morning. Oh, and trying to sleep in a room shared with five nocturnal feline companions who will use your ass as a springboard isn't easy, either. Needless to say, the first morning, I woke up as soon as the sun came up. I WAS still tired so I managed to fall asleep for several minutes at a time before I got up and got ready to go back into town, because that was going to be the only way I could connect with anybody. Still no power, no running water, no service. J and I planned at least three trips to wasband's house to borrow a shower.
We ate a WHOLE lot of pizza. We ALMOST went to dinner at an actual sit-down place but the local restaurants were ALL packed - power outages for this long has left MANY people defeated and hungry. Rather than wait hours for a table at a nicer, popular restaurant, we settled for local pizzerias.
Both of our diets have gone out the window, at least for now.
We had bowling on Monday night. A lot of the people we bowl with live in areas nearby. Areas without power and running water. The alley certainly smelled like everyone's ass.
Power went out on Friday, 3/2 at 5pm. It was finally restored on Tuesday night, 3/6 at 8:30pm.
FOUR days of this crap!
But that's not even the end of it. We were actually at wasband's house, (eating more pizza, taking another shower) when the neighbor texted me those three BEAUTIFUL words:
"The power's on!"
J and I said our thank-yous to the wasband and his wife, and we flew home. Turned on all the faucets. "Water! We have water!!!" The cats are even more confused now, because J and I are running around like headless chickens. We checked all the lights. "YES! They work!"
"You go flush the toilets upstairs, I'll get the one downstairs!" I swear to Merlin, the house was starting to STINK because of those toilets!
We ran into our first problem when we noticed the oil burner wasn't running and the house was beginning to . There's a button on it that you press to get the thing going again, but for some reason, it wouldn't start. It actually did once, but then turned off and refused to turn back on, which means - no heat or hot water. We did have water, just would be ice-cold until we could get the boiler running.
"Well, it looks like we're sleeping in the living room, again," says J...one more night of relying on propane, but we at least had working electricity. Which is good because yesterday (Wednesday) we were planning to meet Winter Storm Quinn (the next one!) and there were some people, including the wasband, who still had no power. I had been hoping and wishing all day long that ours would be back because by now, we're DEFINITELY low on propane! He does have the generator and they are warm and comfortable for now. I was just glad that my fridge was running now, and before we had another foot of snow dumped on us, we transferred the food from the porch back into the fridge, praying that we didn't lose power again.
Anyway, we ran the fireplace one more night. While the power was on, it was still SO cold in the house, particularly the lower level where there had been absolutely no heat or activity in five days.
Yesterday morning, we went around the corner to the fire station, which we discovered was an ideal and close-by location to get cell service, and we made phone calls during the 'calm before the storm.' Managed to get the oil burner guy over and there is good and bad news here - the good news is, he managed to get the boiler going. The bad news - we need a new one, and SOON. The way he described it to us was - the exhaust motor was not present and the exhaust wasn't venting properly, the unit was old, for him to fix it this time was like putting a band-aid over a stab wound - we didn't know how long this 'fix' was going to last. And, so...we consulted with our bank accounts and we have an appointment to have a new boiler put in on Friday morning. Even badder news - it's going to cost us almost SIX grand to replace the whole system, because the previous owner of this house put the boiler through a BEATING. He's also the asshole who probably took the exhaust motor with him when he moved, along with the doors and floors. I mean, WHO does that?! I don't even need to ask if people are truly that indecent, because I know they certainly can be.
Yesterday, we got about six to eight inches more of snow. Power stayed on, sans one 'hiccup' where lights were out for a couple of seconds and then came back on. Additionally, I lost internet and cable a couple times. Figured I would update this while it was back, not knowing if I'll experience another outage in the next few hours or days to come. I don't want to say I'm back when things are still quite unstable but I can safely say I'm 'semi' back. I'm here when I can be, I've been conserving energy whenever I can, although I don't think that stands a chance against a downed tree. Thankfully winds aren't as strong today, so maybe this Pennsylvania town can begin to recuperate.
I'm hoping we can, too, I think we'll feel better once the oil burner is installed on Friday morning.
So, that's the long-overdue update for now.
I'll be back when I can with another!
Love to all.