As some of you have undoubtedly heard, last week Northern Alabama (aka: where I live) was hit hard with tornadoes. Something like over 200 tornadoes tore through the state just on the first day. Two were F5s.
I was at work when the power went out and since it was near the end of the day, I headed home. Blackouts are not uncommon here, when you get as many thunderstorms as we do, it's easy for a line or local area to get knocked out. But I was a bit surprised to find that our house, 25 minutes away from my office and on another section of the grid, was also down.
At that point, we knew there had been tornadoes, we knew it had been worse elsewhere, and we knew the power was out. We didn't know much else and it was only slowly, over the course of the next few days, that our local radio station would break bits and pieces of news.
The power was out due to the lines out of a local nuclear reactor being down. 5 counties were dark and it was expected to be 2-3 days. 5-7 days. Up to two weeks. Before power would be restored.
We got by just fine. I had recently filled up my car and had a full tank of gas, the hubby had over half a tank. We had bought batteries for our emergency flashlights a month or two ago and we were able to scrape together enough AAs to power the weather radio. We had a decent stock of dry goods and a little propane grill and a bottle and a half of propane. But more than anything, we had each other.
No matter how inconvenient not having power was, that's all it was, an inconvenience. My husband is safe, my cats are safe, my home is safe. Our "storm damage" was laughable--a large branch knocked down in the back yard. A few thick sticks driven jarringly into the soft ground. We never lost water and while cold showers are not fun, they beat no shower at all.
Instead of feeling miserable and cranky, I just felt profoundly grateful. We grilled, took bike rides, and went for walks. I took advantage of the daylight hours to study in the sunroom while my hubby read next to me and the cats sunned themselves. At night, we lit a candle, set up our homemade reflector and played Gin Rummy or read books. We bought a few extra things at the stores, which were running off generator power. Cat food. Macaroni and cheese. Lots and lots of bread.
We even stumbled across our local Verizon store, one of the first stores with a generator, which had set up "charging stations" consisting of surge protectors and card tables. Their generosity allowed us to charge our cell phones and reach out to the world again. To return the anxious texts of friends and family. Check emails. Touch base with the office.
Our power came back on in the wee hours of Monday morning. My office is up and running though my husband's is not. Yesterday, most of the traffic lights on my commute were up. Today, they all were. We are making slow and steady progress. We are warned that some areas will be without power for up to another week. Clean up has begun. Various volunteer groups are collecting supplies and organizing crews. City officials hope to lift the dusk to dawn curfew tonight.
This is the beginning of a very long road for some, a road of recovery and rebuilding. For us it was but a brief pause in the everyday hustle and bustle. And so I am left feeling grateful for our safety, aware of our privilege, and awed by the fierce generosity of my community.