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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ike Sends Hurricane Force Winds to Central Ohio

Sunday night I just went through my first hurricane and didn’t even know it.

Because I live in Central Ohio.

Yes, Ohio.

In Ohio, we have a saying, “if you don’t like the weather wait a few minutes and it will change.” It should be the state motto because it sums up how often and how wacky weather events in our area can change from good to Bad and from Bad to Worse, and Worse to “Head for the basement! It’s a tornado!” We didn’t get such a warning last Sunday about the windstorm and its Category 1 Hurricane winds (very strange for us because we’re Tornado Country not Hurricane Country) that Hurricane Ike decided to share with the rest of the country after he battered the Gulf Coast. Thanks Ike, but that’s one gift that’s just not as fun to share, as say, a box of chocolates.

Why didn’t I know until much, much later that Hurricane Ike was going to send Ohio 75 MPH winds instead of the usual really freaking bad rain, wind, and thunderstorms that eventually make their way to Ohio after a hurricane hits the southern US? This, in a city where a weather forecast of frost covering the ground in winter will send most of our local weather people into predicting Armageddon? Where the local weather forecasters literally freak out and give out weather warnings, watches, and advisories like it was candy at Halloween when we get a piddly three inches of snow? So why didn’t I find out about the possibility of this high windstorm and what not to do (stand outside with the neighbors and talk about how bad the wind is blowing) until I was in the middle of it?




One reason. Football. Ohio State football to be exact.


Yes, football. On Saturday night I turned on my go to local TV news station for news on Ike and what we might expect locally once the hurricane dissipated when it traveled over the land and up into Ohio. This is one of the few times that the local news is more important to me than the national news. So what was Channel 4’s lead story Saturday night?


The score of the Ohio State - USC football game! (The game was still in progress at the time of 11 pm newscast.)



Obviously I have my priorities all screwed up because I thought that reporting on a hurricane in an area where officials warned people living in Galveston that if they didn’t evacuate that they could face “certain death” might be a little more newsworthy than
the state religion that is OSU football. Hmm… maybe this is why I always worked as an on-air TV writer/producer in the promotions department and not as a producer in the news department?

So Husband, Blitzkrieg, and I hung out at home Sunday night as high winds blew all around The Condo, blissfully ignorant about how bad things were outside. In our ignorance, we looked out of the window every so often, remarked how bad the wind was blowing, and wow - look at the little tree in our front yard! It’s almost vertical in the wind! Do you think our tree will snap in two? (Fortunately it didn’t. and neither did our neighbors. Let’s hear it for tiny trees that haven’t grown up into big trees yet – Yay!)

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A little later that night, I got a phone call from my father in law. He said that they lost their electricity and it might take a week to have the lines repaired. They live in a small town about 100 miles south of Columbus. He said their big concern was that if/when their city’s water tower runs out of water the city will be totally out of water because the city won’t have electricity to pump more water to the water tower.(Side note: I had not idea at the time that water towers need electricity to send water to small town residents. Later after thinking about it - it resulted in one of those “wow I could have had a V8!” forehead slaps.)

I told him that the guest room was theirs for as long as they needed it. He asked me if we got any storm damage. I told him not really. A Strip of siding blew off the house from a crossed the street. Our only casualty was that the storm blew one green tomato off our hanging tomato plant. (Does anyone have a recipe for fried green tomato?) Dad says he’ll keep us posted on whether they are coming up to stay with us or not and closes the conversation with, “OK. I got the message. We’ll bring tomatoes from our garden!” and hangs up. (Huh?????)
He called back several hours later to say that their power was back on and to cancel their reservation at Hotel Condo.
It wasn’t until halfway through the storm that I saw a TV report that said we were getting Category One hurricane force winds. Good golly Miss Molly! Their expert weather center advice: Stay inside. OK, I have no problems with that! (Of course this information came several hours later after I spent time outside clearing items off of our front porch and back patio so they wouldn't blow away.)

Monday morning is when I found out how bad the windstorm really hit Columbus. (Because finally all of the local TV news stations were reporting the windstorm story and not the football game story.) Here’s the lowdown (with some of my comedic observations thrown in because sometimes you just have to laugh when you’re faced with adversity):
  • Approx 40% of Columbus (business and residential) lost electricity due to the storm. They are predicting that it will take a week to restore power to all of those who lost it because all of the electric companies had to recall the 200 + workers that they sent to the Gulf region to help with Ike damage back to Columbus to fix Ike damage here.
1. I am very, very, very fortunate to be one of the few areas in town that have electricity (although I know how bad it can be to be in extended blackout because an ice storm took out my electricity for a week several years ago.)

2. I made phone calls to my friends to check if they had electricity or not (only one did) and offered up the spare room in our refrigerator to anyone who needed it to keep their food cold, our electricity to charge their phones/lamps/battery packs, and our weather radio and rechargeable camping lamp to anyone who needed it. No one took me up on the offer but all thanked me for the offers.

3. Husband’s office didn’t have electricity but fortunately does have a backup generator. He went into work on Monday but since we have electricity at home, and his position isn’t as mission critical as some of his other co-workers, he was asked to work remotely Tuesday and possibly Wednesday. In fact, as I type this, he’s on a work conference call to sort out how to keep everything up and running when most of the city isn’t.
  • It’s hard to find gas stations that are open because many don’t have electricity. (Not that we need it although there are many who are in much worse situations who do - like those who don't have electricity and must drive to the store to buy food to replace what has already spoiled in their refrigerators.) Those gas stations that do have electricity to run their gas pumps ran out of gas early in the day Monday. This is another reason why Husband wasn’t very upset about not having to go into work. He doesn’t have much gas in his car and his office is too far from the house to ride his bike to work. However, we’re within biking distance of a couple of grocery stores so we’re OK if we need to get milk, etc.
  • My place of work however has power and is open for business because I’m working from The Condo. Again, I am counting myself one of the very lucky few that have electricity at home.
  • AEP suggests that their customers’ report that their electricity is out not via the customer service telephone number because the phone lines are overloaded (they will get a recording if they try calling in) but via AEP’s Web site. Point of order: Am I the only one who realizes that if someone doesn’t have electricity running to their house that they won’t be able to connect to the Internet and use AEP’s Web site because their router (wireless or no) still needs electricity to connect their battery powered laptop to the Internet?
  • The noon local news broadcasts (all stations) were mostly a live feed of the mayor’s news conference about how the City of Columbus was dealing with the blackout, which businesses (a lot of them) and schools (all of them) were closed, and what citizens should do about food safety (frozen food will keep for 24 hours, refrigerated food for 8. After that, it isn’t safe to eat and you should throw it out or have a big neighborhood BBQ and eat what you can before it spoils), downed live power lines (stay the heck away from downed electrical lines!!), and about what to with the thousands of tree branches littering the city (bundle them with twine and put them beside your trash cans to be taken to a city facility to be mulched with your normal trash pickup.) A few irreverent thoughts race through my little head as I listen to the news conference:
    1.  This is good information that everyone that doesn’t have electricity should know about, but how can they? They don’t have electricity to power a TV!
    2. I’ve gone through a weeklong power outage. I know how much it sucks. I should do a blog post giving some practical advice on how to survive an electrical power outage. Then I realize, hello, the people that need the information the most won’t be able to read it on my blog because they don’t have electricity and can’t access the Internet.
    3. Oh, yes. File my brilliant idea #2 under “you don’t realize how much you count on something until you lose it.” In this case, that something is electricity. Now I realize why when my great grandmother was asked in a newspaper interview on her 100th birthday as to what invention she thought was the most useful one she experienced in her life time she simply said, “electricity.”
    4. I mention #2 to Husband, whereby he suggests that I write the post anyway but in such a manner that a concerned friend/relative/person that has electricity can relay the info quickly and easily over the phone to a person living without electricity. Good idea (and I send a little Thank You to the heavens for sending Husband to me at the right place and the right time in my life that I realized how wonderful he is and said yes to his proposal.) I’ll write and post on that later this week.
So that’s all of the news from The Condo. I realized that is post deviates a bit from my normal “how to” blog posts but I’m writing it as a public service to those family members and friends that I haven’t been able to talk with in person that Husband, Blitzkrieg, and I are all OK and that they don’t need to worry about us. Right now, we’re trying to focus on helping those around us that need it. I hope that if you’re able, you’re doing the same. If not, may I suggest a sympathy toast with a very appropriate drink for these (literally) dark times:
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Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Blackout Stout.

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