I had planned on flooding the US Postal system with all 102 postcards before today but a massive storm had set its sights on our little hamlet and whacked us around pretty good.
While some of our neighbors had giant oak trees slam into their roofs and porches, we were lucky. We ended up losing three trees after they snapped in half but at least we didn’t sustain any damage to our house. Instead, we have enormous widow makers dangling from the treetops.
These split branches are easily a foot in diameter and probably only attached by the bark. One more big gust of wind and we fear they’ll come down. This in mind, we established a safety perimeter for the kids so they don’t get driven into the ground like a nail through butter should one fall.
Which is why it didn’t surprise me one bit that our 10-year old son, who is completely void of both memory and common sense, was out there tugging on the hanging branches in an effort to free them. Clearly, it was Darwinism at work, but we managed to get him back in the house before the hypothesis turned into a flattened proof.
After the storm, trees were blocking roads throughout town, the schools were all on lock down, emergency vehicles were screaming left and right, and our power went out thanks to an enormous maple tree falling and obliterating an electrical pole just around the corner from us.
As all humans tend to do following any sort of extreme weather event, the stories of what transpired were embellished more and more as the stories floated from neighbor to neighbor. What started out as a severe thunderstorm ended up a Category 5 Volcanic HurriTornadoQuake by the time the story reached the next neighborhood. Had it not been for the Channel 9 news crew, this might have evolved into an alien invasion.
I must say that it was pretty cool to make the local news after officials declared a State of Emergency. I’ve never actually been in one before and I could feel myself walking the neighborhood with a little more swagger. The sun was out, the quarter-sized hail was gone, and the frightening thunder clouds had moved on, but everyone enjoyed the bravado of now being able to stare danger right in its ugly face. Even if it was 25 miles outside town by now.
“Yeah! You BETTER leave!,” we all shouted with angry fist pumps.
I called our power company to get an estimated time of restoration and they returned with an estimate of 24 hours. Armed with this knowledge, we immediately went into survival mode and initiated our family emergency plan:
1) Eat all the ice cream.
2) Wing it.
As you can see, once we’re done with the ice cream we don’t really have a plan. I mean, we know enough to start eating all the food that may spoil and we know to light some candles, but what more is there really to do? For us, here are ten State of Emergency Do’s and Don’ts that worked for us (feel free to duplicate these in your own home):
1. Do eat all the remaining ice cream and popsicles as fast as you can.
While the potential for meltage is a big reason behind this, the most important reason is that power could be restored before you’ve had adequate time to take full advantage of the carte blanche gorging. Aside from birthdays, I can think of no other time when shameless ice cream gluttony is both socially acceptable and expected.
2. Don’t assume you have OCD just because you incessantly flip light switches as you walk from darkened room to darkened room.
I actually did this while looking for a flashlight because I couldn’t see into the cupboards. My brain processed, “Gee, the power’s out. I need a flashlight. I should probably turn the lights on so I can find one.” Over and over I did this.
3. Do be prepared to talk your children down from the ledge once they realize the xBox requires electricity.
It took about 10 minutes for the wonderment of a power outage to wear off in my kids. Once they realized that the only things that could function without electricity were either their brains or books, they walked aimlessly throughout the house complaining about how boring the world was. An opinion that didn’t change much when we sent them outside to gather fallen branches, leaves, and sticks.
4. Don’t let any yahoo with a chainsaw into your backyard.
Apparently, one of the giant trees that snapped is a Black Walnut and we’ve been told by several people that a tree as straight and as large as ours could fetch in the thousands of dollars if sold to a sawmill. Had I taken the firewood guy’s offer of removing the tree for free in exchange for him keeping the wood, I might have lost out on some more postcard money. Someone is coming to look at it this weekend, and should this cash bonanza turn out to be true, I’ll be taking a wind machine to the others in the yard.
5. Do invite friends and neighbors over for a community grill session.
Everyone has food they need to get rid of and summertime States of Emergency provide a wonderful opportunity for get-togethers. In many neighborhoods, you’ll meet people for the first time, even though they’ve lived kitty-corner to you since birth. Over the past two nights we’ve had a bunch of people over and I’ve grilled up everything from steaks, hamburgers, and hot dogs, to fish, shrimp, and vegetables. It was like an emergency pot luck but this time everyone had no choice but to bring the good stuff.
6. Don’t eat your pets. Yet.
During dinner I made the off-hand remark that I was glad people came with all this great food because I heard rescue dogs can taste a bit gamey. No one batted an eye, which leads me to believe that pet eating is an acceptable form of survival if done within the beginning hours of a blackout. Do your best to hold off in the event the power returns but it’s probably good practice to keep the seasoning salt handy anyhow. Should you go a few more hours without power, you’re gonna need a lot of it.
7. Do go to a hotel if your business depends on it.
As a digital media and print media designer, my life is tethered to a computer. If I’m not drawing pretty pixels or writing, our income stops. There are no sick days, vacation days, or afternoons off. Since I am my own boss, and since my boss is a real tightwad, our income is directly related to the time I spend tapping on this keyboard or sliding around that mouse. To make sure I could still work and honor deadlines, I took my business on the road and checked into the Hampton Inn.
8. Don’t take your 4-year old daughter to the hotel if your business depends on it.
Hypothesis? She’ll watch TV, color, and read books while I work. Observation? She dialed other rooms on accident, asked for endless snacks, begged for a dip in the pool, dragged me to the ice machine to fill our bucket (twice), complained that Dora the Explorer wasn’t available On-Demand, sidled onto my lap, and asked unanswerable questions about bears until my ears bled. Conclusion? I’m an idiot.
9. Do make sure your homeowners insurance is up to date.
The best time to call is before the State of Emergency is declared, but if you find that you are behind on payments, it’s best to bring your account current before asking to be transferred to claims. Fortunately for us, I was told that Autopay is still working like a charm. While we had no need to use them, it was nice to know that we could have.
10. Don’t stop with your own backyard.
We made sure to reach out to friends and neighbors following the storm. Whether by cell, on foot, or by car, it’s important to check in with those you know and love. After all, you never know when someone is going to have more ice cream than they know what to do with.
Fortunately for us, this storm swept through while we were enjoying temperatures in the mid-80s. Had this State of Emergency occurred in the dead of winter, it would have presented a far more dire situation. I can’t even fathom how much different things would have been. While eating all the ice cream would certainly remain the #1 priority, the rest of the list would get completely jumbled.
Depending on the temperature, it might be best to just go right for the pets. Whether we’re ripping into them like Tauntauns for warmth (a la Han Solo) or carving them into filets, I think it’d be nice to see them finally serving a purpose.
For those eagerly anticipating postcards, they are off and running! In all, I ended up writing, addressing, and mailing 102 postcards to eight different countries. That’s just awesome. Thank you for allowing me to invade your homes. And I apologize for the delay caused by the storm invading ours.