Saturday, February 13, 2010

In which Margaret survives for three days without electricity in a blizzard

I drove to North Cape May ahead of the storm, on purpose, because it is so unusual for that area to get more than a few inches. I have rarely seen shovelable snow there, and I have known this house since before I was born. As this was a last-minute adventure decision, I didn't take much time to think about what I might need, but I tossed some extra candles, a candle lighter, warm sweatshirts and socks and easily-prepared food and baked goods into the car. I packed for Gladys the Sheltie, too, since she would be my blizzard partner. She had plenty of toys, food, treats and her little jacket that we call her barka.

The snow started right on schedule, and we watched in awe as it quickly covered the lawn and streets. The lights went out around 4:00 on Saturday. Snow was sticking to the window screens blocking any light from outside, and eventually it stuck to the window glass. In order to see what was going on out there, I had to open the door and peer out. Even with all the white snow it was incredibly dark outside because the bright streetlights were out.

I managed to light the gas log in the fireplace (the first time) for some light and warm. This involves going into the basement to turn a certain stiff valve with pliers and then turning a switch on the side of the fireplace contraption to let the gas out and then lighting the gas with the candle lighter. For a person terribly squeamish around fire and flammable gas (I will not have a gas grill), this was quite a feat. The house got colder each day and the number of blankets making up our hearth-nest grew to about six. At one point Gladys even got under the covers with me.

Cooking was easier because even though I had to light the gas stove the same way as the gas log, it seemed less threatening. However, the kitchen, being in the middle of the house, got dark early. My clip-on LED light and strategically-placed candles could not illuminate well enough to cook or clean up. I left everything I might need out on the counter for the dark time. One afternoon I made Rachael Ray's Zuppa Ossa Bucco (minus anchovies). It was delicious. Leftovers went out on the front porch in my snow-packed cooler.

I never did conquer the challenge of digging out. I made some nice paths in the thirty-inch snow from the front and side doors to the sidewalk, and the neighbor, Kevin, snow-blew the sidewalk. This made a great tunnel for Gladys to get some exercise (we call it the Glunnel).
It turned out very few people in the neighborhood bothered with sidewalks as digging out of cars was more of a priority for most. My car was parked on the street because we don't have a driveway at that house. Plows went by frequently and each time threw more boulders of icy snow into the snow fortification that separated my car from the icy street.
Over two days, I managed to clear a path to each car door
with the plan of clearing the snow away from the exhaust pipes on the third day. this way I could start up the car and sit in it for awhile with Gladys to take advantage of the heated air and seats.

I never got to this as Fred came down with a rescue generator and dug out my car as the house warmed. We were more worried about the house's pipes freezing than Gladys and me. The house had gotten down to the mid-forties--it lost about ten degrees each day. Gladys and I were warm as long as we stayed in our hearth-nest with a book.

I wore layers covered by the fuzzy blue (think Cookie Monster) robe Jeanne sent me for Christmas. That thing was blessedly warm, and sorry, but there are no photos of that. The borrowed generator brought the house heat back up to comfortable and gave me some electricity to charge my laptop, netbook and iPhone. I had sacrificed the laptop and netbook battery power to charge the iPhone, and was now down to nothing.
The next storm on Wednesday, the one that would turn out to be Snowmageddon for Central Jersey, would only blanket Cape May with (only!) six to twelve inches. The generator was going back to Central Jersey and I was preparing to break the news to Gladys that we were going to brave this one, too, when power was restored. I never packed up so fast--got back to Hamilton in time for Snowmageddon II: Central Jersey. Before heading north, though, we went south just a bit to shoot photos of Cape May City in the snow:


Jen said...

I feel spoiled to see so many pictures!!! Without electricity is absolutely no fun... ESPECIALLY IN A BLIZZARD! Been there done that! Yuck, but pictures are amazing!

Margaret said...

Yes, this was the adventure I was looking for, and more!

Jill said...

Wow, Margaret! It was great to read about your adventure rather than to listen to Brian and myself speculating on what it must have been like (which we did a lot of, BTW. We were especially curious about the 'no heat' part of it all.)

You appear to have been much better prepared than I ever could have been.


Margaret said...

At first the "no heat" was no biggie. But as the thermometer dropped lower and lower, it got harder to stay warm. Gladys agrees. Her shivering allowed me to agree to Fred's rescue--I hadn't seen her shiver since she was a puppy wearing puppy-fuzz. There was a shelter nearby that I could have gone to, but I wasn't sure they'd let Gladys in!