And then Mother Nature comes along and bitch slaps us but good.
Friday night, June 29, 2012 was a quiet night. I was headed to New York City the next day (to see the play Harvey with Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory) so I stayed in and went to bed early, around 10:30. I was just drifting off around 10:40 when I heard the wind pick up. And then lightning started flashing. And not just regular lightning; a LOT of continuous lightning. And then it started raining. Pouring. Actually, deluging.
The lights flickered. "No way," I thought. "It's like 100 degrees outside. I need AC." Cue the power going out. And as as soon as the lights went out, the fire alarm went off. I immediately assumed the building had been struck by lightning, since the fire alarms had never before gone off the other times the power went out. I jumped out of bed, threw on some clothes (all by the light of my cell phone) and went into the living room. And then I got a good look at the tempest outside. It was like a hurricane, and my response was basically, "you have got to be kidding me. They want us to go outside in THAT?"
But I sucked it up like a good girl and started down the (16 flights) of stairs. I made it down to floor 8 when the alarm turned off. Ok, great. Back up the stairs and into the non-air conditioned apartment. The rest of the night was...uncomfortable. I'm on the top floor of my building and as you know, hot air rises. It also took me a few hours to calm down from the adrenaline rush of the alarm and stairs fiasco.
In the end it turns out I was one of the more fortunate ones. I spend almost the entire day Saturday in NYC so the loss of power wasn't that big an inconvenience. It still wasn't on when I got home at 12:30 that morning, but I just went right back into the car and headed to Mom's house, since she was kind enough to let me crash. The power was restored as of 3:00 in the morning on Sunday, and the AC kicked back in Sunday evening. A lot of people had it a lot worse--going until the middle of the week before getting power. Let's just say that Pepco has a lot to answer for.
So what caused this? According to The Washington Post, the storm in question is called a derecho. Apparently they occur about every four years in the DC area, but trust me when I tell you I haven't seen a storm like this before. It came out of nowhere, developing only hours before it rushed into DC. Blah blah jet stream above a "heat dome" blah blah, point is, the storm developed in the Midwest (OF COURSE) and tore through DC creating winds above 70 miles per hour. I think I heard somewhere that it was the worst damage DC has ever had outside of a hurricane or tropical storm. Exciting! Except, you know, not. I think the current death toll from the storm is something like 17 people, mostly due to being hit by falling trees. Ouch.
Like most storms, the people I know weathered this one none the worse for wear. A lot of people lost the contents of their fridges and freezers (my freezer survived since the power was only out for 30 hours) and I didn't end up having to huff it up the stairs at all. So, count me among the lucky ones.
Still, it doesn't mean the whole thing didn't suck. In fact, I had a truly epic meltdown on Saturday night when I got home and saw the lights were still out. Let's just say the words "bullshit" and "this is not the third world" were bandied about. I know feel kind of ashamed of my reaction, like I said, a lot of people had it worse, but it just goes to show how we come to rely on our electrical grid for the most basic of comforts. As soon as those lights go off, it's like civilization shuts down.
So I guess what I am really saying is start preparing for the zombie apocalypse now. Because when the lights go out, you're not going to know what to do when your cell phone batteries run out, the radio stations shut down, and you are all alone.