Friday, November 2, 2012

An Ounce of Prevention

You wouldn't think we would need to be overly concerned about a hurricane. We live in the mountains, after all, hundreds of miles from the coast. Maybe some wind and rain would make it to our neck of the woods, but nothing to worry about, right? My first inkling of Sandy's dire forecast came from my sister. We were both planning to visit my dad and his two sisters (all past 90!) from Sunday to Tuesday, but she chickened out when her local newspaper headline screamed that a "MEGA-STORM" was headed for Virginia. After her phone call to inform me she was staying put at home, I turned on the TV to see what all the fuss was about. The forecast was sober indeed, calling for not only a hurricane but a blizzard as well. Good grief! I decided to shorten my visit to a day trip, making sure I was back home before all that weather made it inland.

Drastic weather is becoming more and more common these days. Reminders of last summer's derecho storm are still around. Some folks say we're in for a rough winter since the Good Lord downed so much firewood!

Although we were without electricity for seven long, hot days after that storm, we didn't have any damage to houses, vehicles, or farm buildings. We were luckier than thousands. However, trying to charge neighborhood refrigerators and freezers and well pumps with portable but heavy and temperamental generators in 100-degree heat turned out to be a daunting task.

 We didn't want to go through that again, so we bought a new generator...a big one!

Our friend, Phil, who came to our rescue after the derecho, continued to help us out long after he went home. He found a good, used whole-house generator on EBay, negotiated with the seller, had it shipped to his house in South Carolina, and then personally delivered it to us here in Virginia! 

It took a tractor to move our purchase into place (it weighed around 600 pounds!). Robin had already prepared a "pad" of cinder blocks and gravel and dug the ditch for the gas and electric lines. A week after Phil delivered the generator, the gas company sent a crew to install a big propane tank and hook it up. That took two or three men and several hours.

Then, a few days later, the electrician spent a very long ten-hour day getting it all wired up to the panel box in the house.

It turned out to be quite a project, but it put our minds at ease to have it all done before winter weather arrived.

This new addition is a propane-fired generator that comes on automatically whenever the power fails. We heard it start up around 11 p.m. Monday amid the some of the worst wind we've experienced here. Besides the strong steady wind, there were gusts that slammed into our tin roof, making it sound like a very loud bowling alley up there. Needless to say, it was not a good night for sleeping! One blessing we always count when the wind blows is that we cut the big maple tree before it fell on the house. I doubt it would have survived either the derecho or Hurricane Sandy.

Our power was out this time, not due to downed or damaged lines near our house, but because of problems with a transmission line miles away. Just a couple of mountains to the west, almost three feet of snow fell when rain from Sandy collided with cold north air. We had no snow here, but it wasn't far away. Thankfully, we were without power only two days this time. However, we hardly missed it! The generator worked like a charm, humming along and supplying our whole house with plenty of juice. There were a few lights and outlets that didn't work, and I'm not sure I could have done laundry, but everything else was business as usual. The well pump and hot water heater, refrigerators and freezers, stove and microwave, and furnace never missed a beat. We were warm, clean, and well-fed through it all. What a blessing that was! So different from the stress, worry, and hard work that followed the derecho. Another reason we made this investment was to "love our neighbors as ourselves": Carter came for a hot supper and Robin's boss's wife and son came for hot showers. I even got used to the motor running constantly outside our back door, so much so that when power was restored in the wee hours of the morning and the generator turned itself off,  the silence woke me from a sound sleep.

Although the generator put a dent in our savings account, it was well worth it, and we're thankful we could afford it.  We didn't think we would need it quite so soon, but you know what they say: "One sweet ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!"

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