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Column: Coping without electricity

Electricity is one of those things you don't think too much about. That is, until you're without it. Believe me. We went without it for 32 hours after the June 19 thunderstorms.

I'd heard about the many storms the night before -- even woke up as the heavy winds blew through our neighborhood -- and I knew there were thousands of homes already without power from that storm. And knowing more were blowing through Friday evening, I decided to play it low key and just stay in the basement with the pooch. Just in case.

I turned on the TV, flipped through the stations. I found a rerun I liked, so I settled in on the couch. It was 7:30 p.m. or so. But then the weatherman broke in to tell me storms were heading our way, and heading our way fast.

It took about 20 minutes before Direct TV lost the signal. By and large, I like Direct TV. Except that it always seems to crap out in snowstorms and thunderstorms, just when I really want to be able to see the radar of weather coming in. But that's another story.

Once the Direct TV went dead, I figured it was time to start charging batteries. I found my cell phone cord, I found the chargers for both computers, and plugged all three into outlets. I figured that if I was going to be cut off from the outside world, I wasn't going down without a fight.

Well, my fight lasted about 25 more minutes. At 8:15, the lights flickered once, and flickered twice. And then went out.

By the light of my sort-of-charged cell phone, I made my way upstairs to find candles, a lighter and flashlights. I opened a new book and settled back on the couch. I read for about half an hour, until I decided I might as well take advantage of the situation, blew out the candles, and settled in for a nap.

I was still napping on the couch when The Beau came home from work around midnight. Having had a nice 2 ½ hour nap, I was A O.K. to stay up and play cribbage by candlelight for a couple of hours.

I don't know I've ever really appreciated daylight like I did Saturday morning. It was only about 12 hours into our power outage, but it was great all the same.

As soon as I got up, I started formulating our back-up plan. I turned on my cell long enough to check with my sister-in-law in Hastings to see if they had power. I emailed my mother to let her know we were taking over their house -- my folks were on vacation -- and, more importantly, their refrigerator and freezer.

It turned out, ours was the only block in our neighborhood without power. A neighbor figured out we'd lost our power because the winds had blown one wire over another between poles in our alley. Which then prompted The Beau and the neighbor to try to throw a piece of wood high enough to knock the wire down. It didn't work, and the wood landed on the neighbor's garage roof. Game over.

We tried to hold out at home as long as possible. I checked the frozen meat around 3 p.m. Saturday, and it was starting to thaw. In the flurry of half an hour, I had the refrigerator and freezer cleaned out and packed up. We had the dog in tow and we headed to Hastings for the night.

One of the first things we did when we got to my mom and dad's was to plug in all of our phones and computers again.

We returned home around noon on Sunday, just us and the dog. The food stayed in Hastings. No electricity. The wires were separated, but still no electricity. Then the Xcel truck came, a fellow got out, tapped the pole with some kind of long-handled gadget, got back into the truck and drove away.

I checked the lights in the back entry. Nothing.

"Nooooo!" I cried as the Xcel man left.

Frustrated, we went to my niece's swim meet for a couple of hours. It was sometime around 2:30 p.m. on Sunday when another neighbor called to let us know the power had come back on. We headed back to Hastings, retrieved our food, and came back home.

On my way to work that following Tuesday, I heard there were still something like 13,000 people without power. They were in their fourth or fifth days without it. And I felt really, really bad for them.

On the up side, since I had an empty refrigerator and freezer, I seized the opportunity to clean them out good before putting everything back in.

Ironically, Sunday night, about five hours after the power came back, The Beau built a bonfire in our pit. I decided to cook over the fire. No electricity needed.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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