When I told the girls that it was going to be a little more windy and maybe rain a lot on Sunday due to the hurricane that had come ashore in Texas, I had no idea what was in store. In fact, until the power started flickering and I looked out to see the glider swing in the backyard upended, I wasn't even aware that the winds had arrived.
Around 4:00 yesterday afternoon, the power flashed sending the girls racing up the stairs from the basement screaming at the top of their lungs. "The lights just went off and on, Mom!" They had done the same in the living room, knocking off the tv I had just switched on to see if there was some kind of storm warning alert. It took a few minutes to get the set back on, and the weather channel listed nothing - no storm warnings, no wind advisories. Not satisfied with that, I was just tuning in to a local station when the power went out for good.
The girls were happy to be the bearers of the flashlight as they went into the basement and brought up puzzles for Malaika to work on. Adia and I sat on the couch and worked our way through her I Spy book. I made some calls and found out that our friends in the area had power, but it went out while I was talking with her on the phone. Friends on the west side had returned home from an outing to the zoo to find the large tree in their back yard split and half of it fallen. During the course of the storm, the other half fell and took the power line down with it. Our minister had made it to the church where the power was still on, but since my car was in the garage and I wasn't up to fighting to get the door up manually, we decided to stay home.
We are blessed with a wall of windows in the living area of our home, so we didn't really feel the lack of lights. The house was eerily quiet, broken by only the beeping of the battery back-up for my electronics - a wise addition as, in this situation, it undoubtedly saved the thousands of images on my external hard drives. It was warm and humid outside and without the air conditioning running the house warmed up a little more than it would have otherwise been. But we were comfortable.
As the twilight descended, I cracked open the refrigerator and made a round of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner. The girls topped their meal off with applesauce. The wind died down a bit and I went out and fastened the cover on the grill most securely and tucked the chairs tighter around the table on the deck. The girls didn't argue about getting into their pajamas before it got too dark upstairs. And they found little flashlights on their belt-clip radios.
By 7:30 they were ready for bed. I don't know if it was the excitement or the novelty or nerves, but they both went right off to sleep as though it was much later in the evening. I spent a little time by candlelight talking with my mom and reading some of my coursework for church. But it was early when I blew out the candles and went to bed, too.
The power returned sometime in the middle of the night. I heard a beeping that I thought was the battery backup coming back on. When I got up to investigate it, I found that it was the alarm system panel in the bedroom, so I silenced that and went back to sleep. The cell phone rang twice early in the morning - once when my friend called to reschedule our meeting for this morning because her kids were home from school as well and once when Kindercare called to say they would be closed due to the power outage as well. I heard Malaika stirring about the time of the second call, so I scooted down to her room to tuck her back into bed, tell her there was no school today, and warn her off going in and waking her still snoring sister. The kids slept until after 9:00 a.m.
We were lucky. None of the trees in our backyard were broken or uprooted. Just down the street, several trees lay on their sides with the roots on the wrong side of the ground. Chain saws buzzed all afternoon. We went out and filled a plastic garbage can with sticks and branches and pulled a pile of larger branches around the side of the house on a tarp to await next week's yard waste pick up. The clean up took us about an hour. The only casualty was the glider swing - the frame was wrenched apart and the swing seat unhinged.
Adia and I ventured out to the store in the afternoon while a friend stayed with Malaika at the house. The store was open and operating under emergency lighting. There was no refrigeration at all. The freezer blocks sat cordoned off with yellow caution tape. We picked up two loaves of bread, some applesauce, and toilet paper and Adia was able to complete her Girl Scout homework assignment.
After dinner, the girls played in the backyard with the neighbor kids until bath time. After reading to them, they both went right to sleep. I waited up for the news. A category one hurricane (minus the rain) had passed through on Sunday. Winds ranged 75-80 mph. That explains the one branch I pulled out of the ground this morning. It was sticking up, but when I grabbed it, it wasn't loose. In fact, I had to give it a good yank as it was buried in the ground a good few inches.
There will be no school again tomorrow. The news reported that some places are looking to get power back by Sunday afternoon. (It's Monday night as I write this.) There is an ice shortage and residents are encouraged to conserve water. News cameras showed large trees down all around the area, with numerous of them falling into homes. At least one man was struck and killed by a tree outside his home. My friends on the west side were still without power when I talked to them this afternoon on the phone.
We are fortunate. I prepared last night's dinner for the girls tonight. They both got baths. For good measure, I backed up the images on my external hard drive. As I head off to bed now, I will say a prayer of safety for those who remain without power, without food and water. Tomorrow will be another quiet day as the city recovers from the hurricane.
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