Thursday, January 18, 2007

Fun with Electricity

This is a long story which I believe is much more interesting to the person having experienced it (me) than to anyone hearing it. And besides, if a picture is worth a thousand words, a little snippet of video is worth millions.

So let's keep it to a timeline:

0230 15 January
Freezing rain has been coming down for a few hours. Inside my house, awake, watching a movie and doing some needlepoint, I hear a BZZT and see a faint orange flash through the window in my front door. After unplugging everything in the house, I go outside to investigate. That's when I see the two downed wires on my driveway, flashing, crackling and carrying on. I call 911.

0245 15 January
With the presence of mind to grab my digital camera and put it into video mode, I am standing in the turnoff section of my driveway, waiting for the fire department and documenting the zap-and-smoke show. That's when this happened:

Yes that's me and my rarely-heard yelp there. My two favorite comments about this video are "You sound really cute when shitting yourself!" and "I've never heard you sound so innocent." Aww.

0248 15 January
The fire department arrives, stops at the end of my driveway with floodlights trained on the pole and my driveway, and sits there. For about 6 hours. I come in and out of my house during this time, in the freezing rain, hoping someone will come and tell me something. No one does. I return to my house, change into dry clothes and attempt to nod off in the 50-degree living room. It doesn't work. Until around...

0830 15 January
After I finally doze off for a minute, I'm awaked by what sounds like a harsh alarm clock buzz. My first thought is that my power is back on and my alarm clock is going off. Then I remember I don't have an alarm clock, and I'm on my feet at a run. Something new is going on. I step outside with my camera once again, to this:

Those of you who have been to my house should recognize this as the view from my front door, a post I was reluctant to leave. Realizing the fire truck was no longer at the end of my driveway, I make my third call to 911. "Where did my truck go?" I ask the dispatcher. "I show them at your location," she tells me. "I'm looking right now... they're not here." "Oh, well, hang on, let me call them. ...pause... Apparently they had to go for gas. They've been there for six hours." "I'm well aware of that. I've been here, too." Which is how I also knew that the tree now lying across my driveway had not been there the night before. It didn't break -- it simply toppled out of the ground at the roots.


I still have no idea what it was going on at that pole, but it took until noon on Monday for the power company to show up and do something about it. In the meantime, the lights in my house which were on soft dimmer switches were flashing like in a haunted house. Oh, and a fireman finally greeted me at my door, telling me that I should stay inside with the door closed. At 4pm that day, I was finally told it was safe to leave... Although that was easier said than done, with 4 trucks in my driveway. Taking matters into my own hands, I cleared some downed branches and drove across the far side of my yard to get to light and warmth.

Miraculously enough, when I got home Tuesday night, my power was back on, and the electrical, telephone, cable and fiber optic communications lines (whatever those are used for) had all been restrung. Of course, there's an entire tree's worth of hastily-chopped, frozen wood in my front yard... But at least I can finish my needlepoint.

Saint Mary of the Ice Storm

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