After an unusually heavy rainy Tuesday evening, the fluorescent light over the kitchen sink started blinking.
"Uh oh," said Kim, who was loading the dishwasher. "I think we need a new bulb." I flicked the light switch several times, which is how I test my lights, with nothing happening. I thought about checking the circuit breaker, but then, somewhat retroactively, everything else demanding electricity in the house quit.
Then I did what everybody does in these situations: I went outside.
Slowly, one by one, neighbors appeared from their doorways. "Is your power out, too?" we asked each other, with myself taking some comfort in knowing that it wasn't just me. It was all of us.
Until my neighbor from across the street pointed to one of the maple trees in my front yard. "You know one of your branches came down, right?"
|Somewhere in this picture there is a fallen limb about to be let go...|
"I'll call the city," said my neighbor.
A few minutes later, one of the city's cherry picker utility trucks appeared. I walked up a block to see how extensive the outage was, and it was everywhere. Even a stoplight at a nearby intersection was out. The grid was in complete disarray.
Meanwhile, a small crowd gathered in my front yard, looking at the fallen branch as a slight, unfinished rain continued to drizzle. I was feeling oddly guilty even though this was clearly out of my hands. But it was my tree.
Another utility truck appeared. The two drivers got out and held a discussion in the middle of the street. I thought one of them pointed at me, but maybe it was just my imagination. A third utility truck briefly appeared, then headed back up the road.
One of the drivers from the mid-street conference, who had the cherry picker on his truck, hopped in the bucket and raised himself up to the broken limb. He revved up a small chain saw and started carving the offending limb, taking care of that issue. Until then, I wasn't quite sure how I was going to get rid of that branch, but apparently, city taxes do the trick. Thank you, neighbors.
Still, there was no power. I suggested to Kim that we get in the car, drive around to see what other damage there was, stop at the store and get a few items, and maybe we'll be back on the grid by the time we return.
So we did all that. We were gone maybe 20 minutes, and as we headed back, I saw that the stoplight that was out earlier was now working.
"I think we're back on line," I said and saw lights glowing in my neighbors' windows.
I later found out that another branch had broken off from a tree several blocks away and apparently it was the culprit. The lines on my side of the street — where my limb had fallen — are telephone and cable lines, while those across the street are the power lines, with something like 75,000 volts coursing through them. The limb up the street had fallen on the power lines.
Many kudos to the city utility workers. The whole episode took about an hour, from my neighbor calling the city to the return of our power. The food in our freezer was not going to defrost. My ice cream was not going to melt. The beer was going to stay cold.
Life is good.