Monday, September 13, 2021

Lights Out

It happened last night after I was already ready for bed.

I was in the smallest room with my iPad, reading Divided We Fall, when the house went dark. A glance over my shoulder at the frosted glass of the window behind me showed no light to the north side of the house, so whatever it was had got us and the Democrat Next Door, which probably meant our whole side of the street.

Bobbi came padding down the hall from her bedroom with a flashlight in her hand, disappeared into the kitchen, and came back with an LED work light that she reached in and hung on the wire towel shelf over the door. This was thoughtful of her, because while the iPad was providing enough illumination to finish my business, it was less than ideal.

Her footsteps headed off toward the front of the house, and she called out that the houses across the street were dark, too.

This was kind of a big deal, because the two sides of our street are coming off different feeds and, in the dozen-plus years I've lived here, I can't remember both sides of the street being without power at the same time.

I went into the kitchen and looked out the back of the house. The houses across the alley were dark and, more ominously, there was no light through the trees from the houses beyond them. There was skyglow to the west, but it was distant, and nothing to the immediate southwest where the Fresh Market and the restaurants around 54th and College would be.

My cell phone was getting (No Signal).

That's bad.

First things first, this wasn't a situation I wanted to be padding around the house in slippers and pajama bottoms in, so I pulled my jeans and shoes back on and holstered up. While I think that a WML on a private citizen's carry gun is normally about as useful as a kickstand on a tank, we were in the one circumstance that made me glad for the TLR-7 on my FN 509 Compact.

The house is, of course, hip-deep in flashlights, but with my pants back on, now I had the EDCL-2T in my pocket again. 

While of course the cordless handsets on the landline were deader than disco, the old Western Electric 300-series on Bobbi's desk still had dial tone, so we had that for comms. She checked a handheld ham radio, but other than a couple of bored guys talking about the New World Order depopulating the world with microchip injections, there was no talk of cataclysm, so this wasn't world-, state-, or even city-wide.

Bobbi wondered if her Amazon groceries order had arrived.

I stepped out on the front porch and looked around with my handheld Surefire. The neighborhood had small puddles of illumination here and there from solar decorative lights (the one mounted on the south wall of our house was quite bright) and the neighbor from three doors up wandered over and confirmed he was without cell reception.

Distant sky glow was visible in all directions, but no bright light sources were visible as far as could be seen up or down the street or through the trees in any direction. This was a large outage.

In order to save batteries in Bobbi's LED light in case this was an all-nighter, I popped a green Cyalume lightstick and hung it up in the bathroom. I also had an old two-pack of red lightsticks, and so I hung one in the living room in the front of the house and put one in the kitchen window on the backside of the house. Just making sure the place looked obviously occupied.

By this time, my phone had managed to find a lone wavering bar of signal, while Bobbi's (on a different service) was actually pulling pages, albeit slowly. It showed a massive outage, with us near ground zero.

Eventually the lights came on, sometime before midnight, after a bit over two hours out. Bobbi's groceries arrived, and all was well. Local TV station reported the cause on the morning news.

Our only real worry during the whole affair was that utility companies are running mighty lean these days, and the damage from Ida probably has replacement parts and spare manpower stretched to the limits. As it is, things got put right relatively quickly.

Fortunately, we had plenty of light, but I should probably freshen my glowstick stocks.