Some thunderstorms are louder than others, but regardless of decibel count, they will get your attention eventually. It was Monday, the 26th of August, the heat index had finally dropped from 110° or thereabouts, and the rumbling was ominous and becoming more so. About 9:25 I decided I didn't want to risk the hardware, and powered it down. Just as I was pushing the appropriate button on the power strip, the lights went out, and they didn't come back. This may take a while, I thought, and turned the torch, such as it was, on the thermometer in the bedroom. Seventy-seven point nine degrees Fahrenheit: not really comfortable sleeping conditions, but it's not like I had any choice in the matter.
Tuesday morning, still dark. Same temperature, so at least things hadn't started to get worse. Neither the sysadmin nor I had lights, but for some reason the office had been spared. He went in; I begged off, on the basis that while I could disconnect the garage-door opener, I couldn't lift the actual garage door. Being old and decrepit is a disadvantage anyway; being old and decrepit and stuck in the darkness is horrifying, and after a couple of pitiful tweets, a friend offered to fetch me and haul me somewhere I could function.
This proved to be more problematic than either of us had anticipated; my most recent emergency refuge, the Hilton Garden Inn at Northwest Distressway at May, stood open, the parking lot atypically bare, the electric power nowhere to be had. I know my neck of the woods well enough to direct anyone to the nearest hostelry, but the nearest hostelries were either just as dark as my house or crammed to the ceilings with people making similar escapes. The nearest place that had both power and available rooms was the Tru by Hilton, just opened this summer about two miles up the Distressway. Traffic lights being hors de combat, that two-mile trip took almost half an hour. My rescuer was piloting an actual electric car, a first-generation Nissan Leaf, so long waits meant no diminution of fuelstuffs. We pulled into Tru a little past two.
Now Tru is marketed toward people about half my age or less. Fortunately for me, the millennials in the target market are unwilling to spend much, and Hiltom charges accordingly: $85 a night, plus tax and more tax. This wasn't even slightly gouging, and it was about $20 cheaper than I remembered the Garden Inn as being. I duly signed up for Hilton Honors because of course I did, and betook myself to the fifth floor. Those millennials are neither old nor decrepit, so I looked askance at the bathroom facilities. (The walk-in shower I could negotiate easily enough; the actual toilet proved a bit trickier.)
Shortly after getting settled, I got my first phone call, from a Tulsa number I did not recognize. It turned out to be the counselor on the suicide-prevention hotline I'd spoken with around midnight; she said she was just following up. "This can't last too long," I told her unconvincingly. There were about 110,000 homes without power; I recalled that the last time I'd had to be rescued, during an industrial-strength ice storm, there had been about 300,000 dark-as-a-dungeon residences, and many of them, mine included, had been restored within 36 hours.
OG&E has a little application called System Watch, which gives you something of an overview of just how bad things were. That afternoon, they'd gotten the count down to somewhere around 95,000. At the time, this didn't strike me as slow progress. My rescuer sent up dinner via DoorDash, and I settled in for the night.
At least I was better equipped, technologically speaking, than I'd been in previous years. My tired little flip phone had given way to a proper, albeit old — but still supported — iPhone. And my ancient laptop, the estimable Toshi the Road Warrior, had been replaced last year with a budget-priced HP with Windows 10, a two-generations-ago processor, and a meager 30-GB solid-state drive. It would be stressed to its limits, as Microsoft had updates to dispense, and there was no place to put them. I threw away everything that looked like Candy Crush, and managed to open up about 20 percent of the drivelet.
Not much happened on Wednesday, except that I received a text message to the effect that power had been restored. I duly reported this to my boss, who said he'd check on the way to work. He discovered rather quickly that "restored" was clearly the wrong word. Day Two at Tru was booked, and things didn't get much better.
Came Thursday. By now I was about a step and a half beyond frantic. Maybe half of the outages had been cleared; just after 4:30 I got a notification to the effect that four of us — four, fercrissake — were down. Do I stretch this to three days? Stretch acquired. I was still uneasy, if not precisely bored. And so I left a DM on Twitter to someone I thought I needed to talk so: "Please call me." Which she did. It killed most of TV prime time, which I didn't much want to watch anyway. Give me a line to a friend any day.
Someone in the neighborhood, I discovered from Nextdoor, wrote to Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper and asked "How long can this go on?" The reply was swift: they expected everyone to be back on by 5 pm Friday. I prepared myself for Day Four, and woke up Friday to enough thunderboomers to knock out 4,000 more homes. I wept, briefly, then called the front desk.
The real restoral notification came in at 12:42 am Saturday, 100 hours into the ordeal. I had gone to bed about an hour before, and System Watch was showing four hundred and odd. I felt just as wonderful as you'd expect if there had been 110,000 out and they triaged me to somewhere around Number 105,580. Checked with rescuer, and I got home just before noon, with a bad case of chest pains, which all week had left me the hell along, and a dozen or so things to pitch from the fridge. (Monday night is when I usually place my grocery order; obviously I hadn't.) And the hotel bill came to $417, which even now seems remarkably low.
So with all this scary stuff finally behind me, I have lots of gratitude to express, especially to this guy who saved my bacon. Again.
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Copyright © 2019 by Charles G. Hill