Monday, December 28, 2009

No Electricity - No Christmas Lights!

I never saw this one coming. Then again, I'm not a meteorologist. I'm also not convinced that the ones who are necessarily graduated top of the class!

"Isolated patches of icy, wintery mix, but rain in most areas."


An ice storm with 60+ mph winds!

It started on a quiet Christmas Eve. Hubby and I were slated to go to church when the cold icy rain began around 7:00 pm. Sure enough - it would seem that the "isolated patches of icy, wintery mix" had somehow settled on top of our house.

Given the situation, 32 degrees and falling temperatures, we decided to remain home. Alas, I was all dressed up with nowhere to go. Awhile later while sitting at the computer, a sudden loud bang plunged us into darkness. Through the window, eerie blue arcs of light emanated from the humming transformer.

Hmmmm... (I mean hummm)... this cannot be good?!

I'm thinking we should not expect the electric to magically return anytime soon. Simultaneously, we lost the land line. Without power to run the electric well pump, there was no water.

I called the special 800 number to report power outages. Thus began night #1. We lit the oil lamp, and a few of the emergency candles. Earlier in the evening, in a moment of premonition (more than the weather man had), I raised the temperature in the bird room a bit.

At the time of the power loss, the outside temperature was 29 degrees. With the oil lamp producing a dim light, we lay in bed listening to branches crashing around. Having had a tree fall on the house once during bad weather, neither of us was about to fall asleep so fast.

The wind howled through the trees, and we began 'reminiscing' about our 1992 Hurricane Andrew experience in Miami. When a stiff wind blows, I cannot help but feel some of the same anxieties that I experienced during that awful, devastating storm.

The temperature in the bedroom fell slowly overnight. We have a fireplace, but it is worthless as it sucks all the warm air out of the house and replaces it with cold air from outside. It only warms whatever is 3 inches from the hearth.

We broke out the extra blankets and hunkered down under the warmth of the covers falling asleep around 3:30 am. Christmas morning, we woke up to an 1/8 inch ice that melted fairly quickly. But the wind had knocked down trees and made a huge mess of the landscape. We were not surprised the power was still off. The biggest holiday of the year, and some who had lost their power the previous week in the snow storm had still not been restored! We weren't expecting to see a truck pull in the driveway.

We have 3 weeks stored water for drinking and flushing, at least 3 months of food and a coleman propane camping stove. The camping stove cannot be used for a heating source as it is not safe around the birds. But - it serves a critical function: coffee!

Hubby made coffee for Christmas morning while I checked the bird room for the first time. 54 degrees. Better than I had expected. The birds greeted me with their usual chirps and activity. All seemed completely normal for them. As you know, I keep the bird room temperature between 60 and 65 in the winter. With them being acclimated to these temperatures, 54 degrees was not a substantial drop. The question is - when will it come back on, how cold will it get, and weighing the stress of packing them up and moving them against the cooler temperatures.45 degrees was the number in my mind. There's no magic to that number - it was just the number I've always had in my mind as the bottom line - given their acclimation to cooler temperatures, it being a short duration, and in a completely draft-free room. But I've never had to test that theory. Unfortunately, the sun refused to show its face on Christmas, and the room only warmed to 52 degrees.

I called the electric company a second time, as they have a recording that provides 'updates'.

Computer: We are aware of the outage in your area. We do not know what has caused it. We have no estimate for restoration time. (Should I call them to tell them that it was caused by the ice storm and wind the previous night?) Well, they are the professionals...

But... about Barney and his issues! You knew this was coming!

Have you ever heard a dog's teeth chatter? He is apparently not a cold weather dog or much for camping adventures. If we expected him to keep us warm, we would have to quickly move to Plan B. He jumped in momma's lap and pretty much remained glued to me until his ordeal came to an end! I gave him a 100% wool sweater I made but inadvertently shrunk... I think he loved it!

(Did I just hear her say I loved this? Do I look like I'm loving this tacky autumn design? Thank goodness they didn't make me wear it out in public when we went for our morning and evening walks!)

Christmas day wore on... and on.... Hubby wasn't interested in playin' scrabble with me (obviously, he knows I would beat him... again)...

The second night, the bird room fell to 48 degrees and our bedroom fell to 45 degrees. Again, no signs of stress in the birds. They didn't miss a beat. They chirped away happily and were extremely active while Barney whined and fretted! My poor little baby... momma spent a lot of time cuddling with him in the bed under about 16 blankets... fortunately, hubby got a 'snuggie' for Christmas from my sister, and it kept me and Barney very warm! :D

The day after Christmas - still no power. I was relieved that the birds have been acclimated to lower temperatures. Had they been accustomed to temperatures in the 70's, I would have had to be concerned about a drastic drop in temperature. However, I still had to keep an eye on the thermometer, an eye on them, and somehow be prepared to make a decision if I should carry on or pack them up. Which would be more stressful? We were now 2 days into them pretty much remaining at 50 degrees round the clock. My inconvenience and discomfort was nothing compared to my concern for them. And I had to limit my trips into their room during this time so as not to let any warmth out into the cold hallway.

I did have a couple of fall back plans to consider before packing them up and moving them to a friend's house. The budgies would probably not be terribly affected by that, but Coco would be quite affected. Making hot water bottles out of mason jars was possible, but impractical given how quickly they would cool at the low temperatures. More practical would be using sheets to build a fairly large make-shift 'tent' in the bird room in which we could all sit in and our body warmth would increase the temperature in that area. This would not require moving them into travel cages but simply tenting off their forts and hubby, Barney and I moving in with them.

Another option I considered was placing them in travel cages and using the mitten warmers (little packets that produce heat once opened) inside towels packed at the bottoms and around the sides and tops of their carriers. Those packets produce warmth for 8 to 10 hours. It was my theory that a number of these wrapped and placed around the cages and inside our large tent was certainly an option.

Mid-day on Sunday the troops arrived!

How many trucks does it take to restore power to the mountain top home? Three trucks and lots of men!

The third truck was the biggest one of all!

I think I may be in love with that stranger up on the electric pole!

Those are the prettiest hard hats I've ever seen!

Aahhh... heat!

The birds did not miss a beat the entire time and I was so proud of them. They ate, played, flew, chirped (and yes, screamed) to their hearts content!

However, the outdoor temperatures did not fall below the mid 20's. I had a couple of fall back plans, and this time there was the ability to get them off the mountain. That may not always be the case.

So - we made the decision that a small generator capable of running a heater for them and a light or two would be a wise investment. I'll sleep better knowing we have that in place....

You have your own generator, Coco?
Have I told you how lovely you look in green today ? !



Goldielover said...

Always a good idea to have a generator when living in a rural area, Robin. My parents have a place in a very rural area, and when the power goes it can stay down for days. They have one that is capable of powering the freezers that hold months worth of food, some lights and of course the coffee maker. Saved our bacon last year when we got whomped by a small tornado, that's for sure. Anyways, glad you guys weren't down for too long.

wolfgirl1987 said...

What an ordeal! So glad you are all warm again!

We too keep our house cooler, as we both prefer cooler temperatures and want to be sure if the heat ever did shut off for any reason, we and our birds would be able to survive for a few days with little complaints

louara said...

Oh my goodness, poor you! I know how anxious an ice storm can make someone. We had a horrible one here back in 1998 and were without power for three days. That's when I learnt about hot water bottles. Placing them alongside the bottom of a cage with a sheet draped over it will keep your bird toasty warm. If you are unable to boil any water you can take some from your hot water tank.(open the valve nearest the bottom of the tank-slowly) The water should stay warm in there for at least 48 hours.
Good to hear you all survived the ordeal. Even Barney's fashion statement! A generator is a wise idea, you'll never regret having it.

Arlene said...

That is quite a story. Really too bad it all happened at Christmas though. I'm glad it wasn't any colder up there.

I know that as much as Barney complained about that sweater he was happier than a fly on sugar. He was probably wishing you had another one for him to wear.

Well you all survived it without any casualties and that's the main thing.

Anonymous said...

Glad all went well... We have a small Coleman genny we got at Home depot for 350.00 It will run the fridge TV & some lights.. About the size of a small cooler & not to loud..We use it for the Camper & it will run the air cond, so it would run a few heaters easy... Come on out to the banks it going up to 35* today....

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