The wind hit at about three in the afternoon. A stiff breeze that turned into a raging blast. At a hundred miles an hour, it tossed trees, tore off shingles, smashed roofs, and tangled wires into a massive mess that Pacific Gas & Electric took six days to unsnarl. In the meantime, a refrigerator full of food sat unused, the propane furnace was useless without electricity to the thermostat, matches were required to light the range, and no water without the water pump, no washing, no showers, or toilets flushing. So, there we were roughing it at the edges of civilization. In a normal year, let’s say without a pandemic, one would make reservations at the nearest hotel.
That may not have worked anyway because every PG&E employee plus ten was housed in the local hotels. So, we set about making the best of it. We drove down the hill to the local drive-through for breakfast and bought sandwiches at a grocery store, which we then ate sitting in our car in various parking lots, listening to the news, and charging our phones. We weren’t the only ones.
The wind tore chunks of shingles off our roof and deposited limbs with abandon. Our realtor recommended a roofer, he didn’t do repairs anymore. But at the mention of her name, he recommended someone who did and said to use his name with specific instructions on how to reach said roofer. That is why we are the only people in our area with our roof restored and not blue tarp dangling where trees bisected the house.
Now we have snow, eight inches of it, effectively snowing us in. Electricity is still up, our internet provider is not, but we have hotspots on our phones and a jetpack, and we can charge them without the car, so we aren’t without. No Netflix, or Amazon Prime, or… Thankfully we have a handful of prized DVDs.
What have I learned? That it would have been nice if our new fireplace had been delivered and installed before the wind hit. That we should have a generator and maybe a whole house generator like our neighbors. Listening to theirs humming away caused waves of jealousy. That Calypso Swale, of my thriller Saving Calypso, was savvy enough to have a peddle-charger to light her cabin at night. Having done the research for that book that takes place just northwest of where we are snowed in, you’d think I would have learned something about living off the grid. Because, when the power is out, you are really, really off the grid.
I did learn that if your freezer is stuffed enough, and your refrigerator door lined with cold wine bottles, and you don’t open either, you might make it six days without any loss of food. We’ll find out when we eat the jambalaya I made just before the power went out.
I’m not a stranger to camping or staying on an island without power or using an outhouse. In fact, I relied on that experience in writing my soon to be released book Booth Island. But losing power, when you have it, is a weird thing. First, you assume that the power will magically come on in the morning, then it doesn’t, so you think it will by 6:00 pm because it always has. Then you get into the bringing in buckets of rainwater to flush mode and doing anything to ease through the day. Should I have been writing? Yes, but my computer was on when the power went out, and my battery was dead. Dead. Dead. Dead.
With a book coming out, losing six days is a big deal. I’m behind on everything, including promotions, ads, and, well, everything. But here’s a preview of Booth Island:
My clothed body bumps off granite rocks as it descends into the frigid depths of a Canadian lake. A swirl of red drifts on the bubbles escaping my lips. I watch each pocket of air grow smaller as it ascends toward the surface. A concussion rams my hip against a cement post. I glance to my left. Another body bobs next to mine. Recognizing it, I reach out…
I woke with a jolt knowing I was out of my depth again. I chose to believe that was the message of the dream. The nightmare, really, had haunted me at random intervals since my brother, Roy, drowned at the age of seventeen. I was fifteen at the time. We had been a team.
Winter here, wind calm, jetpack working. All is good. Twelve inches of snow predicted for tonight.