When The Power Is Gone
By James Donahue
There is a strange unexplained effect experienced in the home
when the electricity suddenly stops flowing. It isn’t exactly a silence. But the building feels almost “dead.”
This is because our bodies, which are electricity charged, sense the electricity flowing through the wires of the walls.
This writer and his family have experienced long periods of time
when the electrical service to our home has been interrupted. If often happens after a violent electrical storm, or when some
truck slams into an electric pole, or perhaps an animal gets caught in a transformer and shorts a few key circuits.
Once my family and I went 14 long days without power following
a winter ice storm that pulled down not only the electric wires but even many of the poles servicing homes in two or three
counties of the rural area of Michigan where we lived. It was a long hardship attempting to live in a cold, dead house without
heat, lights, or even the pump to provide running water. We rented a portable generator to pump water from our basement because
our sump pump did not run. All of the food in our deep freeze and refrigerator was spoiled.
Imagine then, what is happening throughout the Midwest and along
the Eastern Seaboard following the terrible storms with 80-mile-per-hour winds that toppled trees and cut power lines to millions
of homes and business places. Electric crews are working long hard hours trying to restore power during a record-breaking
heat wave with temperatures in some areas rising to over 100 degrees.
We Americans have grown up depending on electric power to do
virtually everything for us. When the power goes off, we are left almost helpless. Some of the elderly, the sick and handicapped
may not survive this kind of heat unless they get help.
This is the scenario: The homes are dark. There is nothing operating.
Refrigerators are quiet. There is no television to watch. Only the battery operated radios are giving information as to how
severe the situation is and how long people must wait for the power to be restored. People who live in cities with community
water service will have running water in their pipes for a few days. Once the water tower is drained, if the town doesn’t
have an emergency back-up generator to operate the water pumps, the water will stop flowing.
Hospitals are operating on emergency back-up generators. But
they only have fuel for so many hours. After that, more fuel must be found. And that means trucking it. The trucks may not
be able to run, nor will cars, if the gasoline stations are unable to pump gas. This storm spanned hundreds of miles, so trucking
fuel could involve long trips to nearby states.
Nobody is going to work. There is not only a lack of gasoline
to get to and from the job, but shops and offices are also dark. Everything is dark, quiet, and there is deadly heat building
in all of the buildings. The heat builds in the brick and concrete of the office buildings and so it doesn’t cool much
after the sun goes down. Houses also are heating, but if they are made of wood, the heat buildup may not be as severe. If
people can get windows open during the night, they may get some relief before the sun rises again.
Without power the old land line telephones are not working. Cell
phones are working as long as the batteries last. Once the batteries die replacement batteries are almost impossible to find.
The stores are dark and empty. Nobody is there to sell batteries, food or anything else.
Traffic lights may not be working. Streets may be blocked by
fallen trees and power lines. People don’t dare go out. The only place to get cool is in the basement. Without light
it is dark and uncomfortable down there.
Towns struggle to provide emergency shelters for people, especially
the elderly, who are forced out of their darkened electrically powered apartments. To remain in them would bed to stay in
unlivable death traps. Some of the newer apartment and office buildings were designed with windows that do not open. The unwritten
assumption is that the grid would always be on and the rooms would be electronically heated or cooled.
America has become so dependent on electricity that lengthy shut-downs
of this service may have a more severe impact on us than we ever imagined. And as the world goes through even more extreme
climate changes, major storms like this, and the loss of power, public services and even food and water may become common.
If you haven’t experienced such a disaster as yet in your
neighborhood, perhaps it is a good idea to start preparing for it. Store up some bottled water and food. Get a battery operated
radio. Store up flashlights, candles and possibly even a small portable electric generator.
If you want to see what living without electricity feels like,
flip the main breaker on your house electric service box and find out how long you can live comfortably without the power
we have grown to take for granted. One thing about it; life becomes very quiet without electricity. It is a great time for
thought and meditation.