According to a local station, “Winter Storm Alfred was one for the record books! Not ONLY was it the worst October snowstorm on record (the old record at Bradley International was 1.7" of snow in October of 1979), but it is also responsible for the GREATEST power outage in state history (surpassing the recent record from Tropical Storm Irene in late August). About 831,000 customers lost power at the peak. The number of outages was due to the weight of heavy wet snow sticking to trees, branches, and power lines …combined with a gusty wind. Since the storm came so early, foliage was still on many trees and this only compounded the problem”. Unfortunately, the response of the our main light and power company was awful and totally unreliable as to when we were to receive our power back. That is a whole other story not worth discussing!
At first, I thought a light snow would be beautiful on the foliage. After I leave Vermont after foliage season, I usually have a good three weekends, sometimes more, to follow the color in my state. This sequence obviously, was totally off for this season. The storm worsened and the first night, the trees were snapping and falling and crashing everywhere. No one had much sleep with the power lines breaking, transformers blowing out every few minutes and sirens screaming all night. It was unbelievable and surreal. I, along with most of the neighbors and friends, thought the trees were coming down on our homes any minute!!! I said my prayers! It worked! Very few homes were destroyed by toppling trees in my town. Why they chose the roads and back yards, I’ll never understand.
The next morning, when I looked out my windows, the scene was like out of a disaster movie. My property in the back was devastated but thank goodness, there was no damage to my home. My garage was impaled and my trees brought down surrounding fences and the property of neighbors. I could not even see the grass in my back yard. I kept looking out of my window thinking it was a bad dream! Really, I didn’t know where to start because of the danger of going outside. Power lines were live everywhere. Some burning and smoldering. The first day was ok because the house was still warm. On the positive side, the best part of all, was that I got about 9 hours of sleep a night!!!! I had no electricity, hot water or heat. So it was off to bed early under piles of comforters for a long slumber! There were two parts that were not very pleasant. The darkness came at 6:15 p.m. It made for a very long night. There's only so much reading by flashlight that one can enjoy. The worst was waking up in the cold and dark with icy temperatures in the house hovering around 44 degrees! And getting dressed (ugh) in cold clothes! Yowzah! I finally figured out to put my clothes under my blankets at night after a few days!!! Isn’t this what farmers do????
The key to dealing with nine, almost ten days of power outage, was preparation, organization and determination. Thoughts of Vermonters’ resilience in coping with Irene helped me through the disaster in the coming days. Complaining and whining were useless after the first few days, but I have to admit, I did my fair share! Ultimately, I had to take care of myself and pet. When I got home from work (where I charged cell phone, got warm, etc.), I organized my flashlights and lanterns, clothes for the next day, and checked on the outdoor coolers filled with food and drink that I put snow on to keep cold at night. I had to improvise and keep focused! I also made a safety check around the entire house to make sure nothing scary was going on with the pipes, furnace and hot, or rather “cold” water heater. I was really worried about frozen pipes but the days were warm and for that we were very thankful! The gas lines at the stations were unreal. Lines galore. Folks waiting for hours in the first half of the outage and running out of gas sitting there. I had one scary moment with an 1/8 tank left and with no gas stations available due to closures or ridiculously long lines, but with a tip from a co-worker found a station in another town and was saved! Talk about anxiety!!!! And, I was able to shower each day where there was a generator going and also gas for hot water!
But manage for nine plus days I did. Many of my friends and neighbors left the state or moved in with relatives further away with power. But I continued to go to work and kept myself from thinking too far ahead. I took one day at a time. By the end of the ninth day however, I didn’t think I could go another day and was thinking of leaving Connecticut to another state. I was almost in tears. BUT, miraculously, at 8:10 p.m. Sunday night, the 6th of November, the power came on. I was in shock! (No pun intended). At first, I didn’t know what to do! Little by little, I started to plug things in but not too many. Paranoia about losing power again was always in the back of my mind. The funny (strange) part was that when the lights in the house came on, I still had my flashlight on where ever I went! I think I was so afraid of losing what power I had!!!! Or maybe I had “lost” my mind at this point, who knows! Actually, I think delirium was starting to creep in!
I truly learned a lot from this experience, mostly about myself. That I can deal with things I never thought I could do. That I can be very self-sufficient and can do very well without my amenities: my beloved shower massage, internet, hot food, hair dryer, microwave, frig, etc. etc. etc. Maintaining basic needs were of utmost importance. Keeping connected to others by phone (land line or cell) for an hour or so each night was vital. My friends, family members and neighbors were there to help me in the recovery end. For that I am forever thankful. And thankful for all the out-of-state utility workers as far away as North Dakota, Ohio, Canada, and the UP of Michigan to name just a few, who came to Connecticut to assist in the disaster. Finally, a special thank you to my friends on this foliage forum who have been concerned about me the last couple of weeks! You are the best!
So writing this narrative has been quite cathartic to say the least. My yard is perfect now - not a branch or twig in sight. It feels like summer outside today. Reminders of the storm around town are slowly disappearing. School reopens tomorrow. Few lives have been lost. I’m back to some semblance of normalcy - whatever that means - and although we lost power for a few hours yesterday (pretty unnerving), we are on the mend here. Many are still without power in Connecticut and entering their 10th, 11th or 12th day but there is an end in sight. For you Moms out there, I liken this labor, an ordeal with an awesome end in sight! My power coming on was like giving birth!!!!
I’ll never forget this. But maybe I am really ready for a reality show? You never know with me! I pray that we don’t have any ice storms this winter. But I am prepared AND ready!
The full moon is shining bright tonight in a clear sky with summer-like temperatures.
Life is good.
Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. ~George Eliot
If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .
Your difficult experience along with numerous others reported throughout the Country, serve as reminders we need to "prepare for the worst but hope for the best " by periodically updating our personal emergency kits and emergency plans.
Thanks for representing this important reminder Ct. Wish you many pleasant days ahead!
Carol: thank you once again for your sincere offer to drive to my home with hubby with a generator and for being such a good friend!
Mark: thank you for your kind words. I hope you become a regular here on the forum! Your photos were wonderful!!! To get a generator or not to get a generator. That is the question. I think preparedness is so vital for everyone. It certainly taught me a lesson. Mother Nature can swoop down with the unimagineable at any moment, in any season! It is good to think ahead!
Phil: Yes, this city girl did fine. Once I got past useless complaining the first couple of days, I was more focused on the long-term. Especially when I heard the "couple of days" was going to be more than a week. I thought I better get into survival mode! Well, since I lost three or four weekends of leaf-peeping here it was the end of foliage season for me. But I AM booked at my inn for next year so that's a given for 2012! It is strange to see my rakes and snow shovels still lined up one next to the other so soon!
mmvt: This was a real jolt to the system. A true learning experience. I got a kick out of your "hunting and gathering" phrase! No, I don't want to ever go through this again but I think mentally I'll be able to deal with the loss of power a tad better. Thanks for the kudos!
Andy: Cheerleader for the forum? That's such a compliment. Thank you and thanks for thinking of me. I do love this forum!
Aspen: "Periodically updating our personal emergency kits and emergency plans" that is the key! I'm not sure how often folks do this but one never knows when you will need to experience a weather event. So unpredictable! Thank you for your kind words for pleasant days ahead. This week has been so gorgeous, it's good to feel the warm sun on my face and then go inside my house and be WARM TOO!!!!!!
Nebraska: So good to see you back on the forum. Thanks for checking in on me. Sorry about your wife's surgery and that you also did not make it to VT a second time in a row. I hope you plan on coming in 2012. It would be nice to meet somewhere and I know you love King Arthur's Flour. So perhaps we can meet for lunch! I will check that website you posted as well. I don't feel quite relaxed yet and some good soothing music would help! Please stay in touch on the forum!!!!
Still a ton of storm damage to see everywhere. The loss of beautiful trees is enormous and heartbreaking. Oaks hundreds of years old which were town icons and of historical preservation are gone. A large percentage of the leaves have fallen; the loss is glaring to say the least. This is the first year I am hoping the leaves fall fast, very fast, because if we have another snow event here in the next week, it would be a repeat mess. There are lots of full canopies on the trees in many areas and that would spell trouble.
One preparedness note: I kept 2 or 3 land line phones throughout my house besides cordless. Had an extra spare stashed away that no one wanted. One of my neighbors tossed out all of their land line phones and used cordless everywhere in their home. When the power went out, the cordless phones were useless and their cell phone batteries were running low. I gave them my spare and they were thrilled because many of us still had phone service on the land lines. Just another thought on keeping "old" technology handy. I let them keep it for any future events we might have.....