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Sunday, December 15, 2002

Weather just doesn't happen here. At least, not real weather, with thunder and lightning and gale-force winds and pounding buckets of rain. Here in the Bay Area, we watch weather like that on the national news.

In last night's happy little entry about the wonderful weather, I noted that the power had stayed on despite the storm. It was written and ready to upload when suddenly I was plunged into total darkness and total silence. That was about 9:30 pm, but I fully expected the electricity to be back in time for the ten o'clock news.

It took me 45 minutes to make the first call to the utility company. PG&E has an outage line, and I have the number pasted on my one and only phone that doesn't run on electricity. The recording described an area that might or might not include my house. Assuming it did, the news was that their crews would be on the scene to assess the damage as soon as possible. Check back, the voice told me, for frequent updates.

There isn't a lot to do in the dark, even with candles and a flashlight. For some reason I still turn to KZST during an emergency, even though they never seem to have any information to provide. It's just "Sonoma County's favorite radio station," as they remind us over and over. KSRO is more of a news station, but I can't take their canned talk shows with people babbling about home repair, finance problems and wayward husbands.

So when the lights go out I tune the portable radio to KZST and listen to soft rock. Music 'til dawn. Nothing but love songs, all night long. That's how the voices of Whitney and Mariah have come to symbolize disaster to me.

Meanwhile, I was still checking with PG&E and getting the same recording. I began to realize that they didn't care about me, they had abandoned me, and it wouldn't bother them at all if I sat in the dark forever.

I scavenged the kitchen for something to eat, but I couldn't cook anything, so options were limited. I tried reading by flashlight, but there's no really comfortable way to hold the light for very long at a time. I did get through a couple of chapters, but I was also worried about batteries.

A lot of the time I just gazed out the windows at the storm. I saw that at first there were no lights anywhere around me, but after an hour the area to the south seemed to have been hooked back up. I thought I saw some light in the west, but it could have been car lights. To the north and east (Santa Rosa proper) there was nothing I could see.

When the thunder and lightning started, I positioned myself at the loft window to watch. We rarely get this kind of show, and it was entertaining for awhile. It also might explain what I'd earlier thought was a thump on the roof. That could have been the first clap of thunder.

Eventually I fell asleep in the recliner. At 1:00 am I called PG&E one last time, got the same message, and crawled into bed. I was absurdly hopeful that by morning the power would be restored. It was still dark when I woke up at 6:00 am, so I made another call. The message had changed. "We are aware of your outage," the voice said, "and our crew is expected on the site by 12:01 am, December 16."

Gosh, thanks, I thought, that's only eighteen hours from now!

I went back to bed and slept until 11:30. This time when I called they said they expected to have my power restored by 12:01 am, December 17. I didn't believe it, though. I think that was just a worst-case projection, to keep me from complaining if I was without power all day Sunday and Monday. Not that anything's going to keep me from complaining, of course.

If there's a life-threatening emergency, PG&E recommends calling 911. So that's my choice, wait for the power company to fix things on its own schedule or get the emergency service system involved. Out here in the country, there's no running water without electricity. No shower, no shave, no flushing of the toilet. That situation wouldn't be life-threatening for a few days yet. I do have drinking water, so it could have been worse.

After I got out of bed, I called Mom to let her know the situation. Of course she invited me to spend the day with her, but I don't really mind the daytime in a powerless house, as long as I can keep enough clothes on to stay warm.

I spent the daylight hours reading and writing, and trying not to think about a Monday work day with no computer. Besides, to leave the house I'd have to get my car out of the garage without the electric door opener. That would mean wading through the flooded garden to the side door and pulling the overhead door up by hand. At this point, too much trouble.

I haven't been alone the whole day, which is good. Mom popped over this afternoon with some hot coffee and a happy meal. (Well, it made me happy.) And my landlord swung by on his way to rent a motel room for the night. He said he'd tried to buy a generator to run the well pump, so that at least we'd have running water, but the stores are sold out. I also had a comforting call from my friend Jeannie in Florida, checking up on me. It was good to hear her voice.



The landlord was here at 3:00 pm. Not five minutes later, I heard the fax machine whirring to life. The next sound was the furnace clicking on. I was back in business! For how long, there was no way to tell, but as soon as it was warm enough I hopped in the shower. I always appreciate a hot shower, but never more than today.

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