Monday, August 29, 2011

The Irene Retrospective

So I'm still alive! I'm sure you were all extremely worried.

Sarah and I took Hurricane Irene seriously from the get go: shopping for non-perishables, wrapping bungie cords around the Crepe myrtles in our backyard, that sort of thing. Our friends, Tara and Mike, took things a bit more seriously, because they live in Queen Anne's County and they had to deal with an evacuation order. So come Friday night my house was temporarily converted into a refugee shelter / hurricane party.

Despite the circumstances (read: a honking great hurricane bearing down on us), we had a great time hanging out together, and I heartily recommend getting together with friends if you know you're going to get hit with a big storm. Super Mario Bros. Wii filled a lot of time before the power went out: we actually were about 40 seconds from finishing off Bowser when the storm finally cut us off. There may have been a bit of screaming at that point (don't worry, we'll get him one day).

This is a marked dinosaur/dragon thing.

We should have known it was coming. Saturday was pretty much all rain and wind as soon as we woke up. We got through most of the day on our supplies (pancakes, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches), but we did end up ordering Chinese food from the local Joy Luck for dinner, maybe an hour before things started getting nasty. They were willing to deliver in heavy rain and winds with a massive storm incoming, and for that I salute them (and tipped well).

Irene took out our power around 8:30pm. We ended up playing a couple rounds of Uno (which I was stomped in unmercifully), followed by a team game of Trivial Pursuit (during which Sarah and I stomped our friends unmercifully). At one point Tara left the room for a moment, and when she came back in Lina jumped on her leg in greeting. Tara may have screamed, which may have caused Sarah to scream, which may have caused me to shout a bit when she dug her nails into my arm. I didn't see Lina chuckle, but I assume it happened.

The following morning was damage control, which mostly meant cutting up tree limbs that fell in our yard. Queen Anne's County lifted the evacuation early on, and Tara and Mike said their goodbyes once they got their power back. We figured we'd have our power restored similarly quickly.

Oh, how wrong we were...

As it turned out, Anne Arundel County was one of the hardest hit areas in Maryland in terms of power outages. Only Baltimore had more outages (the city, but the county came in third). Our local power company, BGE, had prepared for about 500,000 outages, but we ended up with close to 750,000 throughout the state. So even with a few advantages (i.e. living right off a major highway), it was 48 hours before we got our electricity back.

The details of the outage are inconsequential, to paraphrase Mike Myers. Suffice to say Sarah and I spent a lot of time reading, keeping our phones charged up enough to stay on the grid (which involved cannibalizing my laptop's power supply), trying to get Lina to stop barking at nothing, and plotting a takeover of our neighbor's generator.

A scenario we narrowly avoided.

I strongly recommend the Mighty Bright clip-on Kindle light if you need a good flashlight, by the way. It lasts for hours and hours, is bright enough to illuminate a room, and can clip into place if you want to read something.

We gave up on sitting in the dark early this afternoon, and visited my mom's house to recharge our batteries, both literal and metaphorical. Also to get out of the stifling heat of our house, which is what happens when you have no power in August. By this point Sarah was constantly tracking BGE's press releases, local blogs and her Facebook friends to figure out when we'd get our power back, and we'd half convinced ourselves that we'd be powerless until Saturday (BGE's worst-cast estimate for the county - and if anyone actually reaches that estimate, you have my deepest sympathies).

Fortunately reality trumped the ironically evil hand of Bad Luck, and the power kicked in just after Sarah went to bed. She sat up to try to figure out how the fan was running, and was treated to the sight of me dancing for joy in the bedroom.

I'm scared it looked like this.

So the power's back, the house is nice and cool again, and the dog finally seems willing to sleep with both eyes closed. All things considered, we got off very lightly. We spent a weekend with good friends and family, played a lot of cooperative games, and ate a ton of junk food. If I'd remembered to go get booze before Irene hit (and if the power hadn't gone out), I'd have rated it a 10/10.

The missing ingredient.

And happily, it doesn't seem like I missed anything major on the Internet while I was (mostly) offline. Oh, wait...

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