For residents of Southeastern Michigan, Wednesday, March 8, 2017, will be a day long remembered. Weather forecasters had been predicting a serious wind storm, with sustained winds of 25MPH to 35MPH to last for some 6-7 hours, with gusts of 50MPH expected. Well, they were a tad off! The wind storm lasted about 12 hour, with sustained winds of 30-40MPH and gusts near 70MPH. Basically, just shy of a hurricane. Around 6pm EST, the news was that some 600,000 customers had lost power. Meaning 600,000 electrical meters. By the time the storm subsided, some 1 Million ′customers′ were out of power. Over 9,000 power lines had been knocked down, including hundreds of utility poles. There were fallen trees everywhere. The worst, however, was still to come, as temperatures began dropping from 60 degrees Wednesday morning down to the teens by Friday night.
Wednesday began normally for me. I had watched the weather reports and knew things were not going to be good. In my neighborhood, we often loose power when the wind tops 30MPH. So, I wrote and posted my article quickly. Around 10am, I could already hear the wind howling outside. By 11am, I finished up my work and shut my computer down. After lunch, I had a nervous nap. By 3pm, I was preparing for disaster. It came at about 6:45pm when my lights went dark.
Mind you, I am not a well person. I have congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, COPD, asthma, two bad legs with open wounds, etc. I am very much dependent on all of the benefits of modern technology. Especially electricity! Like any urban area, Detroit is a technological island. Maybe rundown a bit, but still only really livable when one has electricity, natural gas, and water. Not to mention communications and transportation services. When these systems breakdown, large numbers of people suffer.
And suffer I did! Wednesday night without power was not too bad. Temperatures were still in the low 50s to upper 40s. I had my emergency lanterns and portable radio. I still had gas to cook food with and hot water. However, I discovered quickly on Wednesday that my emergency Tracfone was nearly dead. Thursday morning, the major utility companies, DTE Energy and Consumer Power were reporting the wide spread damage. The estimates were that some 2 Million people were out of power and that power would not be restored for most people until Sunday night. Worst yet, the temperatures were dropping fast.
By Thursday afternoon, I was wearing as much clothing as I could. A couple of shirts, a hoodie-sweater jacket and a winter coat over that. With my cell phone dying, I started to panic and made several final calls. Luckily, my older brother responded and came to my rescue, taking my cell phone with him to recharge at his house. I was still committed to remain where I was, since I had a scheduled nurse visit Friday morning to change the dressings on my legs. On top of that, I was also expecting a delivery any day of my monthly supply of protein powder. I wasn′t going to let that sit on my porch unattended.
Thursday night was very difficult. Whatever heat remained in my house was gone. The temperature was now in the mid 20s and I was shivering throughout the night. At times, I would boil a pot of water to generate a little warmth, as well as make hot chocolate using my remaining supply of protein powder. Sleeping was very difficult. I always enjoyed movies like ″Scott of the Antarctic″, and now I was literally living the role. Falling asleep during such conditions could lead to death. But, the periodic hot cocoa helped me make it through the long night.
Friday morning, my brother returned with my cell phone fully recharged. He also provided me with some nice stadium blankets to add to my comfort. Not long after he left, my nurse arrived. Even Nurse Jeff, a Canadian fellow, thought it was pretty damn cold inside my house! The good news was that the utility companies were bust on the job, working day and night, to restore power. About half of those who had lost power Wednesday were back on line. So, I was confident that I had a good chance of getting power restored sometime Friday. It didn′t happen!
Friday night was absolutely dreadful! The interior of my home was frigid. Outside, the temperatures were as low as 13 degrees. By Thursday night, I had my water faucets dripping away to help prevent the pipes in the basement from bursting. On Friday night, I was very worried that even that old trick might not succeed. When my brother visited me in the morning on his way to work, we discussed my plan of action. By then, every hotel and motel room in the area was occupied by storm victims. The Red Cross and other organizations had set up some 70 relief centers were people could stay warm. I considered that option, but decided to tough it out. Late Friday night, however, I was staring to think that was a huge mistake!
In my younger, healthier days, I loved winter! Ice fishing and other outdoor activity was fun. I remember one time when the temperatures dropped below minus-60 degrees with the wind chill factor. I was outside like some mad fool, loving every minute of it. But now, things are different. As I struggled to survive Friday night, I could feel some minor chest pains near my two leaking heart valves. My whole was shivering like a bowl of Jello. My teeth were chattering uncontrollably. But, somehow, thanks to my prayers to God and several mugs of hot protein cocoa, I managed to survive the night.
Saturday morning was not much better. As dawn broke, I was still in desperate trouble. My package arrived early, and I managed to bring inside the heavy box of protein powder. I was hungry. While I could still cook food, I was eating smaller portions. It was so cold inside my house that whatever I cooked went cold within a few minutes. By noon, the temperature was barely 20 degrees. The good news was that only about 243,000 people were still without power, so the odds of mine being restored were getting better. Over 3,000 people were working 16-18 hour shifts, braving the bitter cold to fix things. About half were from other states who had driven here Wednesday to help out.
Around 3pm Saturday, I was nearly at my wits end. Then, suddenly, the power came back on! Hallelujah! I cranked up the thermostat to 80 degrees and my furnace ran continuously for about the next 7 hours. By 5pm, I started taking off clothing. First was my winter coat. By 7pm, I took off my hoodie sweater jacket. After a hot dinner, I nodded out for some three hours. When I awoke, I was stiff all over. Every muscle and bone in my body was aching. I dialed back the thermostat to 75 and slept for another 6 hours. After a quick breakfast Sunday morning, I slept again for an extra 2 hours.
I don′t know how close to death I actually came, but it was pretty darn close in my book. Even one of my neighbors, who does my grocery shopping for me, told me Sunday that he was pretty scared, too! He didn′t think he could make it another night. I still had to take it easy all day Sunday. I was achy all over and my health prevented me from being too active. Even today, this morning, I am still doing things in short stages. I can barely function for more than 5 minutes before needing to sit down and relax an hour or so. The bad news, another damn winter storm is hitting us! This time with snow on top of more high winds. Things are not going to settle down around here until Thursday. Maybe! I hope to be back tomorrow with some political rants, perhaps previewing the speech by President Trump in Nashville Wednesday night. If I′m not back, then you′ll know that my power is out again. By the way, there are still some 45,000 people who are still powerless this morning. Most are individual homes which suffered from tree falls and such. So, say a prayer for them!
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