This is coming a bit late–most everybody has their power back by now. But I have a free moment to breathe, and I really have been hurting for something to scroll down the freakish zoot-suit-boogieing android post immediately below.
I live in the Connecticut valley, so the ice storm passed right over our heads without breaking a branch. There was a visible line on the sides of all the hills, at maybe six or seven hundred feet—a stark division between bare brown oak and black hemlock woods and a crystalline otherworld of steely, sparkling ice. Over the first couple days there was a rash of paranoid tree-felling along the street I live on, beautiful, perfectly healthy, centuries-old maples chainsawed into towering heaps of lumber for fear the next storm might bring them down and kill us all. I felt guiltily fortunate, hearing news reports about what had happened to people barely more than five miles away.
Then I had to drive up into the hills to the farm where I work.
It was unbelievable. There were miles-long sections of road where the top of every single tree on both shoulders had been sheared off fifteen feet up. Entire houses and yards were buried under fallen timber. National guard humvees rolled past with coal-gray chunks of slush clinging in their wheel-wells, utterly surreal against the frozen landscape. Dozens of electric company cranes moved in long, slow lines, surrounded by dead-eyed, frost-covered dudes in grey and orange.
On the dirt road that leads to the farm, a huge tree-trunk had snapped almost completely in half, fell across the road and got caught in branches on other side, so that I had to drive underneath its horizontal trunk, swerving to avoid the low-hanging brush and praying that the whole thing wouldn’t choose that moment to fall and crush me.
At work, they had been without power for six days. We operated on a little gas generator, switching off every few hours between powering the refrigerator and oven to the computers and fax machine. I learned how to work the generator: a horrible roaring gremlin, like a lawnmower engine off its wheels, loud and awful-smelling. It gave me a new appreciation for electric power—and a potent sensibility of its limitations. Running a small hair-dryer (for shrink-wrapping herbal tinctures) at its lowest possible setting was enough to blow out the generator in three seconds flat.
We had our christmas party by candlelight, huddled close to the wood stove in hats and coats. At four, when it got too dark to see, everybody packed up and went home.
The local home-supply megastore, which had only opened the week before after overcoming vehement community resistance (and which I’ve been angrily boycotting in the vain hope it will go away and the marshes and pasture it replaced will magically reappear) sold out its supply of generators in two days.
“This is what it’s going to be like from now on,” my boss said. “People can’t rely on the power company anymore.”
I felt sick. The implication is there—the cause of all this. And gas-powered generators aren’t going to be the answer.
So I went home and tried to make myself feel better by filling out my christmas shopping list with LED and CFL light bulbs and solar-powered cellphone chargers and worm-powered home composting kits. It hasn’t quite worked. Maybe it’ll help to blog about it.
Here’s some other stuff I would have bought for people if I could budget it:
- OLPC Laptop
- Tesla Roadster
- Home hydroelectric
- Wood stove with catalytic converter
- Residential wind turbine
- Vegetable oil conversion for diesel cars
I’ll shut up now.