Al Gore is responsible for this. He taunted Mother Nature. Consider this her memo: Don’t Presume to Know What I Have in Store.
Here in Fairfax County, we thought we were prepared. I had purchased enough milk to last our family of five for a week. We had plenty of food. As the blizzard raged Friday night, we were tucked comfortably under blankets in the family room, watching a movie and observing the snow blowing sideways past the windows. The only interruptions to our comfort were the obligatory trips to the (decreasingly visible) driveway for Cali, our ten-week-old puppy.
It was around the 3 a.m. trip that the power went out. I hadn’t worried enough about that possibility. Though we often lose power due to summer storms, and occasionally if there’s ice, snow has never left us dark before. But this is no ordinary storm. This is Al Gore’s blizzard. My husband opened the garage door manually. We fumbled with flashlights to find Cali’s leash and get her safely in and out. Then it was back under the covers until 6 a.m., by which time the house was pretty cold and Cali needed to go out again. One of the kids took this trip. The snow was about ten inches deep, but the storm showed no signs of abating.
When the ambient temperature drops below 50 degrees, door handles send a chill down the spine, and we won’t speak of bathroom experiences. A warm drink can make all the difference, but our cooktop is electric, as is the oven. All was dark and inert. In good pioneer spirit, we lit a fire in the fireplace and used a stainless-steel pan to boil water. Those silicon oven mitts have never done more useful service! Pour the boiling water over the (thankfully previously ground) beans, et voilá! — hot coffee. Slightly smoky tasting, but hot. The world is righted. Repeat procedure for the kids (yes, my teenagers drink coffee).
Our water heater uses gas, so we could at least wash our hands and faces in warm water. Unlike our less fortunate neighbors, we have county water, not well water, so the lack of electricity didn’t shut down our water supply. But actually taking a shower, only to emerge into near-freezing air, didn’t seem appealing. We plugged in the one corded phone we keep for such emergencies. Dominion Virginia Power estimated restoration by 11 a.m. Thinking of Sisyphus, we started shoveling. Now there were 13 or 14 inches. We helped dig out the cars stranded near our house.
At 12:30, the power jumped to life, then faltered, then came back on. Rejoice! There was a rush to power up everything we could — laptops, cell phones, Blackberrys. You could have read by the light of the charge brigade. I threw a turkey breast and some potatoes into the oven and dashed upstairs for the shower and (bless you, Dominion Power!) the hair dryer.