The late afternoon storm didn’t amount to much at first. The clouds were black. A few short showers brought the goats in from the pastures.
Thunder and lightning sent the cats hiding. The garden needed watering and the noise made false promises.
Breezes arose. These became wind. The trees began to sway and whip back and forth. Roaring filled the air.
Inside the house all went dark and quiet. The electricity was out.
After the wind blew itself out, we went out to inspect the damage and make plans for cleaning up. Leafy twigs littered the road. Branches hung from tree trunks or littered the ground.
Then we looked out along the creek. The electric lines descended from the pole to the ground. Sycamore trees were lying across the creek and creek bottom. Cleaning up would be a major job.
Further down the creek a sycamore had snapped off about five feet up. The tree had blown across the creek and slammed into an electric pole. It snapped off at the base and both now lay on the ground.
Electric lines snaked along the creek along the tractor road. The top of the next pole had snapped off. So had the top of the next pole. Over two hundred feet of electric lines lay on the ground. I went in to call the electric company.
Phones and Electricity
At one time phone lines were up on the electric poles. That changed years ago now when the phone company put fiber optic line underground. The line does have electricity running through it but is not part of the electric grid.
The phone was still working.
This was Saturday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend. We didn’t know it then, but 85 MPH winds had ripped through town downing trees, snapping electric poles and tearing up buildings. Other out of town areas had the same winds leaving destruction behind. We aren’t the only ones cleaning up storm debris.
The cooperative phone line was busy.
Rural areas don’t have regular electric companies. The houses were far apart so no one wanted to put up all the lines spending lots of money for little in return. Cities and towns had electricity. Rural areas didn’t.
During the Great Depression, the federal government passed a law allowing rural areas to form cooperatives for the purpose of bringing electricity to these farms. Those in a coop area are member/owners. Even with this, electricity took a long time to get to parts of the country. I substitute taught at an Arkansas rural school where electricity didn’t arrive until 1967.
I tried off and on that evening but didn’t get through. The phone wasn’t working in the morning.
Doing Without Electricity
Generators are popular items around here. We don’t have one. The electricity is rarely off long enough to be a real inconvenience.
When we lived up North, we had a generator. I found out then that the electricity from it and that from an electric line are very different. The generator puts out little power surges which can damage or destroy some appliances – think computers.
A friend has a generator. She told me something went wrong when her husband turned it on. It sent an electric surge through the lines frying the surge protectors, even starting a fire in one. Her refrigerator no longer works.
We didn’t have electricity up North and live fairly simply here in the Ozarks. We got out the candles.
Kerosene lamps are used in the movies. We’ve used them. They do give off more light than a candle. They are also fussy.
The kerosene must be the right kind. The wick must be the right length. Any excuse is good enough to smoke up the chimney which is glass and breakable. It gets hot quickly, is slow to cool down and will shatter if touched with cool water when you try to get the soot off the glass.
The soot is another story. Fine. Black. Sticky. Messy. Hard to wash off. Streaks.
Candles are easier.
It’s nice to watch a movie in the evening. I like writing on my computer. We can live without these.
Books take no electricity. We have lots of books.
Flushing the toilet wasn’t hard. A couple of buckets of water from the rain barrel worked fine.
Candles worked for putting light into dark rooms.
My stove uses propane – gas – so cooking wasn’t a problem.
The refrigerators warmed up. The frozen food thawed but I had used much of it up for space to put more over the summer. The refrigerators needed thorough cleaning anyway.
The chickens don’t mind milk to drink.
Life slowed down. It was nice to have such quiet. There was plenty of cleaning up to do to keep us occupied all day.
Did I miss the electrical conveniences? Most of the losses were more annoyances than tragedies. One I did miss a lot: running water in the kitchen.
I had caught rain water in clean jars to use in the kitchen. I’ve lived without running water and know how to make it last. I’m spoiled.
Putting food into a saucepan and turning the tap for water to cook it in is so convenient. Washing off that dirty bowl or plate or utensil or hand as I go from task to task preparing a meal is so convenient.
Perhaps if the electricity was off longer than three days I would miss it more. But the three days without running water was frustrating.
After the flood, the creek had washed out several trees which had fallen. After the microburst [seems to be similar to a small tornado with no funnel cloud, not touching the ground but following a definite path], a swath of trees is left uprooted or snapped off.
Looking at the mess is disheartening. Cleaning up the mess will take months.
One ray of light is the store of firewood waiting to me cut up and hauled in. We do heat with wood.