Bob and I grabbed some breakfast, and we headed outside to do some more work with the chain saw. The objects of my interest at that point were two hemlock trees on the east side of the driveway. One was dead and needed to come down, and both were (there’s a theme here) way too close to the utility lines. Also, in the ten year plan that involves the addition of a detached one car garage; those trees will have to go anyhow. Again – no time like when the lines are de-energized!
Have you ever noticed that trees are bigger on the ground than they were in the air? That was a much bigger tree than I realized.
Bob’s dad doesn’t understand why we cut down a perfectly good pine tree, but honestly I’m really happy to have it gone. It’s much more open at the top of the driveway now, and only now that it’s gone do I realize how kind of claustrophobic it was before. I’m finding that I’m getting happier and happier as we push the trees further back from the house. There actually IS such a thing as too many trees. But I digress.
While we were out, we heard from one of the neighbors that there was a tree crew on the next street down! Gloriosky! I asked Bob if he wanted to walk down and see, and he agreed.
That was the point when I realized just how close to the edge I was running – when the sight of a bucket truck and a guy with a chain saw on a stick makes you feel euphoric – that’s not a good sign. We stood and watched for a while – I kind of wanted to see them take down the big birch tree that had uprooted onto the lines. I’d been driving under it twice a day very nervously, so it was a relief to see it coming down in chunks. Then we turned and walked back. There was a panel truck in the driveway of one of the houses we walked past, and I got all excited until I realized it was some sort of private contractor rather than one of the utility companies. I didn’t let it kill my tree crew buzz, though. What I was *really* hoping for was for that crew to come up our street, and maybe – just maybe, I could convince them to at least top those two pine trees for me. I knew it was unlikely, but if you don’t ask, they can’t say yes.
We got back to the house, and I suggested lunch – I actually felt hungry for the first time in days. I guess hope does that to you. But for some reason as Bob headed inside, I decided to walk around the side of the garage. Now, one of the things that happened in this storm is that a large portion of the state of Connecticut got a crash course in who is responsible for what on the side of their house. For instance, the neighbor that lives behind us had half an oak tree (thankfully not one that we own) fall on her power lines. Rather than the tensioners popping off or the lines coming off the pole, *her* lines just ripped the entire electrical mast off the side of her house. In the midst of all the madness, she had to find an electrician to come repair all that damage before CL&P would even think about reconnecting them. I, like many people, had been under the impression that CL&P was responsible for all that stuff on the outside of the house, and I was responsible for all the stuff on the inside of the house. Not so. CL&P actually posted a handy diagram to help people figure out if they needed an electrician or not. Of course it was posted on the internet, so I don’t understand how they thought people were supposed to see it if they DIDN’T HAVE ANY F*****G POWER…
Ahem. Sorry. Still a big, red, candy-colored button.
*I* got the article surfing the news at work. Because frankly, all I had been capable of for most of the week was obsessively monitoring the news and checking the status of Burlington, Bloomfield, and Farmington (I was really worried about my co-worker) on the outage map every fifteen minutes. It was sufficiently informative that I brought it home for Bob to read and to file for future reference. Actually, I’m going to put it here too. For one thing, I’ll be able to find it again. For another thing, it’ll make the rest of this story make more sense if you’re not intimately familiar with your utility connections. I am. Now.
I’d been feeling pretty good about that all week – the one thing that went right for us was that we didn’t have any actual *damage* to our infrastructure – stuff just needed to be pulled back up at the pole and then turned back on. I had spent a bit of time patting myself on the back about that, to be honest. So I strolled around the end of the house, looked up at the utilities…
and saw that the service wire was in fact NOT attached to the clevis. Additionally, there was a random wire sticking out of the weatherhead and not attached to anything else. And the mast was looking a little… pulled. This was the point when the entire damn week came crashing in. Normally, my reaction to this would have been to go inside and get the diagram, then come back out with it and diagnose the situation. Instead I came completely unglued. All over Bob, naturally. After all, he IS the person who told me that he’d checked the house and everything was fine. It hadn’t occurred to me to check his work – I took it at face value. I didn’t quite have hysterics, but wow was I in bad shape. Basically I was staring at the specter that we could see a line crew in maybe… hours? and that they might not hook up my house because we had owner-serviceable damage. But what was really unhinging me was that we’d had SIX DAYS to address it, and hadn’t, because he hadn’t looked closely.
Bob was the hero of the day though – what I hadn’t noticed on our walk, but he had, was that the panel truck we’d spotted was an electrician’s truck. So he walked back down there and asked the guy if he could come around the corner and take a look when he was finished. So lo and behold, a little while later, an electrician and his assistant came up my driveway and took a look. The verdict? Everything that was disordered was CL&P’s responsibility. Apparently when the limb came down on the lines, it popped the tensioner off of the clevis, and the ground line pulled out of the weatherhead – according to him, not a big deal. I can’t even express the relief. I made sure to ask for a business card. You never know – I may need an electrician someday (like when we run the lines to the sub-panel in that detached garage.)
We went inside for lunch, and Bob picked up the phone (such a relief to have the phone back.) The next thing I knew he announced “Pack your bags dad, you’re going home!” He’d pinged his dad’s number to see if the answering machine would pick up. It did, which meant that the power was back on up there. Bob took his dad home, and I? I took a nap on the couch. Charlotte napped too. It was an interlude of sublime pleasure. When I woke up I got out the bottle of Simple Green and the paper towels and I scrubbed out the fridge. It was the first time I had been home when it was light to be able to do that. I swear that my fridge hasn’t been this clean since it was delivered. When Bob got home – we headed back to the office for dinner. That was a downer – going in to the office on a Saturday is *never* enjoyable. I did get to check the CL&P outage status map though.
Sunday morning I actually managed to sleep in, but it also brought us back to dependence on the woodstove – there was no longer enough pressure left in the tank to pressurize the boiler. It left me feeling a little guilty and self-indulgent running the generator just for some lights, but it was so NICE to have lights. I was having a very difficult time getting started, and was curled up in a chair with a book. I can’t remember what Bob was doing, but I thought I heard voices. I turned and looked out the window, and there were two men in fluorescent vests and hard hats coming around the side of the garage and walking down my driveway! I shoved me feet into slippers and ran after them. There were line trucks on my street! I caught up with them at the bottom of the driveway, and grilled them about the house – my fear was that I was going to have to convince them that the damage we had really wasn’t my problem. My fears were groundless. They assured me that they’d be able to get our lines fixed with no problem, and they were hoping to have the neighborhood energized sometime that afternoon. I was *giddy.* I ran up the driveway, killed the generator on the way by, and ran in the house yelling “Get your shoes on, there’s a line crew from North Carolina in the driveway!”
I put my boots on, and we piled outside as the guys came up with a ladder. I offered to move things, they insisted they were fine. Until their ladder came up grossly shorter than the peak of our garage. Then they tried going up to the eaves and climbing the roof. That made me unhappy, but it didn’t last long – the guy on the roof was unexcited about our 1’ to 1’ pitch. Very good for shedding snow – and for shedding linemen. I offered our extension ladder, but they declined. As I think about it, they’re probably also unexcited about trusting homeowners’ ladders of unknown sturdiness, and my dad pointed out that linemen generally don’t care for aluminum ladders. Their solution? “We’ll just bring the truck up.”
Those of you who’ve been to the house and seen our driveway in person understand my shock and awe. Under normal circumstances, this would be spectacular. With the lines hanging low, it was beyond imagination.
Let me tell you, these guys were good. While I scrambled to get *everything* out of the way of the truck (trash cans, the generator, random wood,) they crept up the driveway. When they got to the lines, the little skinny guy went clambering all over the top of the truck and the bucket, hauling three lines up and over anything they hung up on, until finally the truck came out from underneath them and they pulled up tight to the garage, deployed the braces, and started suiting up.
Things I never thought I would see:
Once he was all done up in the gloves that go up to the armpit and cross across the shoulders, he maneuvered that bucket up and around the corner of our house, and started working on getting everything reattached. It was interesting to watch. Again, if you’ve actually seen our driveway, you know what a tiny little piece of open sky there is in front of the garage (because of that damn oak limb…) It made me even happier that we’d cut down that hemlock – it gave them a little bit more maneuvering room.
The big guy up in the bucket attached a rope to the distribution line and to the clevis, then tossed it down to the little skinny guy on the ground (who couldn’t have weighed 90 pounds soaking wet) – who then wrapped it behind his butt and pulled the line up to where it belonged. The guy in the bucket clipped it onto the clevis, commenting “house knobs ‘r bigger up here,” reattached the ground, and reversed the ballet to ground the bucket back on the truck. At that point I realized that the crew supervisor had wandered up our driveway to find out where one of his trucks had disappeared to, and I looked down to realize that there were a whole *bunch* of them up and down our street. They were pretty much just going house to house and getting all the infrastructure hooked up (and I imagine in a few cases they were cutting houses loose from the street if their equipment was too damaged.) After a conversation that I couldn’t follow because I don’t speak North Carolinian (or chewing tobacco,) they reversed the process of getting the bucket truck *out* of my driveway.
While they were bringing the bucket down, we had let Charlotte come out and watch – what three year old doesn’t love big trucks? She was delighted, and did her best to charm the line crew. Personally, I couldn’t stop grinning. We wandered down the driveway to see the rest of the crew, and they were really blitzing our street – there were two line trucks (one with an extra pole along – just in case, you know,) the supervisor in pickup truck, and a tree crew. As far as I can tell, the tree crew drove up the street, drove down the street, and kept going. There was nothing they deemed sufficiently problematic to stop for, so I’m still stuck with my pine trees. Oh well. Unfortunately, the woman whose house we nicked the electrician from had followed the crews up OUR street in order to yell at them about CL&P. It was profoundly embarrassing – seriously lady, these guys are from Pike Electric in North Carolina. They have NO connection to the CL&P call center. None of it is their fault, and they’re a long way from home to help us out. Shut your trap and say “thank you.” Sigh. As they pulled out, Charlotte waved to all of them – not all of us are ungrateful.
After they left, we kicked the generator back on, and went back to what we were doing. A few hours later, I was taking a break from whatever I’d been doing when the generator kicked off and the lights went off. I figured it had finally run out of gas. Then a moment later the lights came back on, but the generator noise didn’t start again. Wait, that must mean… could it mean… it does! The power was back on! WOOHOO!!!
I closed the fridge up (I’d left it open to air out,) and while Bob went downstairs to plug the well pump back in (we’d unplugged it to protect it from any surges – that pump is 33 years old. I didn’t want to take any chances.) I did what I’d threatened to do. I turned on every damn light in the house. Okay, I exaggerate a little. I didn’t turn on the lights in the closets. But every other light was on. Then I flushed all the toilets. Two or three times. Each. After a little while, I plugged the electronics back in, and just for shits and giggles I turned on the tv. I didn’t expect anything – the cable line was hanging at about nose height – my nose. To my shock, we had cable! Then I went downstairs and opened the chest freezer for the first time since we had lost power. It wasn’t good news. It had been full to the top, so I’d been fairly hopeful, and there was a bag of ice in the very top, which I figured would be a good indicator.
There *was* still ice in the bag, but I would estimate that it was half melted. Everything was very cold, but it was also very pliable. I made an executive decision that food safety needed to take precedence, and trashed it all. When I got to the bottom where the Omaha steaks from my brother were, I was very sad. But when I picked them up, they crunched! They were still full of ice crystals, and they were each sealed in their own little plastic coffin. So I brought them upstairs, and we grilled them and ate them over the next few days. They were really yummy – I’m very glad I didn’t have to throw them away. Everything else went though and, like my fridge, the freezer is now as clean as it has been since it was delivered.
Sunday night I got to watch the news and take a hot shower. It felt like a luxury. It felt like the modern world. It felt good.
I wasn’t quite ready to restock the fridge though. That’s part of the recovery part of the story.
Oh yes, there’s more.