Each autumn in the DC area, it seems we face a crisis. First 9/11, then the sniper, and this year, it was Hurricane Isabel. Thankfully, this was least by far the easiest of the three.
How prepared can you be for a looming crisis? I know I’m not the world’s most prepared person. I’ve always chuckled to myself upon I hearing my neighbor’s generator start up during a power outage. It even lights up his doorbell button (since he’s an electrician, I guess that’s to be expected!). And I have to admit I was skeptical and sat on the sidelines watching the Homeland Security panic, with the frenzied buying of duct tape and plastic sheeting.
But this was no ordinary storm. It had been predicted for weeks (in fact, we had been hearing all year that this would be a wicked hurricane season, which has indeed been the case thus far). So, I was determined that I should be somewhat prepared.
Beyond the obvious concern for my family and our collective well-being, my primary worry is over my sump pump. Without it, we might as well be living underwater. Naturally, following our last major hurricane, and after ever major storm, I promise myself that I’ll get some sort of backup power-be it a battery or a generator-to carry me through a power outage. Needless to say, I still hadn’t gotten one. And, during the week leading up to the storm, I couldn’t find one anywhere.
I did get a couple of small rechargeable marine batteries and a power inverter, but to no avail. Not enough juice to start up the pump! So, on to plan B-a battery-powered drill with a small pump attachment. Hey, at least I had a plan B! And I could use my batteries and power inverter to keep the drill charged up, at least until the batteries ran dry. At which point I guess I’d be knocking on my neighbor’s door begging to rent some time on his generator. Well, the good news is that we really didn’t get that much rain. And luckily, our power was back on in about 24 hours. No damage whatsoever. Another bullet dodged.
On the morning after, we went for a walk to survey the neighborhood for damage. A lot of downed trees, but mostly only minimal property damage. I was truly amazed at how many trees had come down between houses, and next to cars, but without hitting anything.
The fine folks at our local Starbucks had flung open their doors and hooked up a generator to their drip coffee maker. They were handing out free coffee, one cup to a person. With most of households in our area still blacked out, I thought this was a wonderful gesture of community goodwill. You can picture my chagrin at the audacity of some of the "patrons" (remember we’re talking "free coffee" here!) who actually complained when they couldn’t get their specialized lattes!
And, it’s plainly obvious that our electrical infrastructure needs an upgrade. This was the second major storm in a month in our area, and some houses had been without power for a week each time. Why are we still stringing power lines on ugly poles anyway? Is it really that "cost-prohibitive" to bury the lines, given the expense of constantly patching things back up? In our urban areas and denser suburbs, doesn’t it make sense, over 10 or 20 years, to do that? How this gets done, and how it gets paid for is another matter.
I honestly think that the storms and other crises we face help to remind us of our own mortality. They send a strong message that it’s time to stop and take a break. Well, it’s all over now, and things are nearly back to normal. I’m off to go buy that generator!