Thursday, January 29, 2009

Two Dog Nights

After my lighthearted post on Tuesday about how most area winter storms are exaggerated, but the one predicted for later that day juuuuust might be cause for concern, things began to get bad. Really bad.

In a move uncharacteristic of myself, I did take a few precautions before the onslaught. I placed a supply of diet coke in a cooler and located my flashlight. I have a store of candles and nearly a case of drinking water on hand, as well as batteries. My pantry is more than well stocked for just me and my dogs have plenty of food. I figured I was ready.

Freezing rain that fell for hours on Tuesday eventually left everything coated in at least an inch of ice. I, along with 90 percent of the area population lost electric power by the late afternoon. At time like these, one of Paducah’s greatest sources of beauty, its trees, morphs into its worst enemy. Heavy branches coated with ice, some gigantic and many stories off the ground, began to give way. And they did not let go quietly. Beginning Tuesday afternoon and then throughout the night, many of these overburdened drastically sagging branches gave way with mighty snaps that sounded like gunshots closely followed by the sound of something hugely dangerous crashing to earth. With these branches went many of our precious power lines. I am an AT&T cell phone user and, near as I can figure, the service was obliterated beginning late Tuesday afternoon.

I spent probably the scariest night of my life on Tuesday, huddled in my bed in the cold dark, snuggled up with both dogs for warmth. With ninety pounds of snoring canine and several layers of clothing, I was actually quite warm. It was impossible to sleep, however, with the cacophony of menacing sounds raging outside throughout the night. After each incredibly loud SNAP! and ensuing crash, I had to cringingly wonder, was THIS the tree that would come through the roof and possibly obliterate my house and/or me?

Thank the sweet Lord I am a reader. I read like a maniac by flashlight, first “The Wonder Spot” and then “The Brothers K”. I have the ability to almost completely absorb myself in the pages of a good novel and this talent has served me well over the last few days. Once the horrendous snap/crackle /crashing stopped for the most part, by Wednesday morning, I buried myself in these books in my cold, dark house. Unable to receive calls either in or out, I somehow still received (but could not respond to) some texts from a concerned friend that, as time passed, became more and more the only bright spot in a very dark situation.

Thankfully, my water supply and plumbing continued complete with (praise baby Jesus) HOT water. Thus, as I told everyone at the office when I arrived today, I am possibly the cleanest person in all of Paducah having warmed myself in glorious steaming splendor in a scalding hot scented bath every chance I got. Since I am a person who frequently bathes by candlelight, at those times in the bath, I could almost imagine it was a normal day and thus was temporarily almost completely relieved of the dark freezing burden of my situation.

By this morning, day three of powerlessness, I awoke knowing I had to get out of the house or go cold, dark, stark raving stir crazy. My cell phone had completely lost its charge and, with no chance of even a text message from the outside world, it was time to make a move.

I cannot tell you the feeling of relief that washed over me once I figured out how to raise my garage door sans electricity. My trusty Subaru roared to life blasting life giving heat from its vents and I was soon on the road feeling more alive than I have in quite some time. The devastation that met my eyes, however, was truly startling. I don’t think my photographs adequately convey the extent of the damage. Power lines sag or are completely on the ground absolutely everywhere. Trees bowed in half are a common sight and the ground is littered everywhere with fallen branches. At every open gas station, lines snaked for sometimes a mile in each direction, filled with people desperate to purchase generator fuel as well as to gas their tanks. The few open grocery stores were completely mobbed with people. It was like the apocalypse, I kid you not. I soon learned none of these establishments were taking anything but cash since the storm had knocked out all credit and debit card machines.

To be continued…

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