Friday, November 17, 2006

Emergency Preparedness 101

We last left our heroine in the throws of a nasty storm with no supplies, a whiny child, and coffee withdrawal.

"Jake, help me get the garage door open. We're outta here." My shoulder, which is prone to extreme pain when exerted, wasn't stopping me. The car in the way wasn't stopping me. Neither was that god-awful heavy garage door. We were getting outta that house and getting supplies. Pronto.

Jake pushed from the bottom while I teetered on a chair and pulled on the cord that is 'supposed' to easily move along a track to open the garage door, and we finally got it open (note to self-grease the chain on the garage door). Jake whooped and danced when the door finally lifted and we were able to pull the car out into the driveway.

With the main access into town blocked by a very large tree and power lines, we slowly drove out on a gravelly, potholed, dirt road towards town. Trees and power poles swayed in the wind, and the ditches alongside the road had become small rivers that looked ready to burst their banks. Jake began to panic in the backseat.

Concentrate on the road. Stay calm. Watch for trees and power lines.

"Jake, your job right now is to watch the power lines. Look for down power lines for me." I didn't need him to really, I just needed him to stay calm. It worked. Nose pressed against the window, he studied each power line carefully.
"That one is okay. I'm not sure about that one though, it looks loose." He calmed down as suddenly his mind was occupied with his job. We soon arrived into town and made for the closest store that would likely have all the supplies we needed. It was tempting to stay there with the lights and heat, but we had a mission.

"Mom! Batteries!" Jake tossed a package of 14 AA batteries to me. He began to slip back into panic mode, tossing whatever he could find into our cart. My hands on his shoulders stopped him.
"Jake. We don't need this many. Here, there's some candles. Get those. That smaller pack of batteries. Good. Now a flashlight. Where's the flashlights?"

The store was completely out of flashlights. Actually, they had flashlights, but before the storm someone had moved the entire section and put them away in the back, and nobody else knew where they were. So much for that. How silly that they be out of flashlights in this weather?

Once we gathered what we needed and paid, we hit the hardware store next. This time there's flashlights, but the selection is picked over. There are many other people in the store also buying lanterns, candles, and storm items. Jake is calming down now, but it's beginning to get dark out and we need to get moving. Finally with all our purchases in the car, we begin our drive home. Only....what way did we come? It's not a familiar route, and now it's twilight, rainy, windy, with trees on the road or swaying and threatening to fall. "Follow the traffic" a friend had told me...but the roads were deserted! Thoughts of being lost and stranded in the rain began to go through my mind as we took a few wrong turns and almost ended up lost. However, at the last minute my son's incredible visual memory and sense of direction came through, and he pointed me down the correct road.

At last. Home, now...maybe not a warm cozy home, but home with supplies nonetheless. There's something about having light that just seems to make everything better. Hubs arrived home shortly after, surprised that we ventured out at all.

"What is there to eat?" He rummaged through the cupboards. "Peanut butter? Crackers? Get in the car, we'll go out for dinner."

What readers really need to know is that our town is very small, with few places for dinner anyhow. Some other neighborhoods had power while we didn't, and we watched jealously as we passed by houses with lights and heat. In the middle of town our favorite restaurant was so busy that we were turned away and went to another just a few doors down. Heat. Light! Warm food! Piping hot, cheesy lasagna warmed us up as the poor wait staff worked hard to serve the crowds that showed up at their door. Friends and neighbors had filled the restaurants in town because a very large portion of us had no power.

"Hey. The rain stopped." Jake looked at the sky and by now, where stars were twinkling. The wind was still biting, but it looked like the worst was over. Later that night we sat by the fire and read by candlelight, shivering as we anticipated a long cold night. However at 10:30 pm, once I retired to bed and was in that place between asleep and awake, the power came on. At last.

Presently there are people who continue to be without power in our area, because there was so much damage from this storm. It continues to rain and is windy, and there is another storm forecast for Sunday. This time, however, we will be ready for it. While I may have scoffed somewhat at what I thought was overzealous emergency preparedness propaganda in the past, this storm really drove home the point that we were lucky. We very easily could have been in a position of being 4 days without power, and even water as there is a boil water advisory in some places. In the meantime we are staying safe, warm, and dry.

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