If you don't live in the greater Cincinnati area, or are not close with someone who does, you are probably unaware of the State of Emergency: Blackout 2008. It seems, to some, that things like stock market collapse and commuter train accidents are more interesting and/or important. The fact is that Hurricane Ike plowed its way across the United States from south to north like some kind of Sherman's March. It attacked Cincinnati on Sunday in the form of strong winds, resulting in great numbers of fallen trees, flying debris, and downed power lines. At this point, I believe the power company has returned power to about 60% of the population. At one point on Sunday, more or less everybody was without power. The crews that were sent to help in Houston (I'm sure you've heard of their power outages) were called back to help here.
I, personally, was without power for nearly 36 hours. This is what my building looks like:
I have learned quite a bit, and would like to share some observations and advice:
1. Go, right now, and be sure that you have unscented candles. When you're trying to muster up enough light by which to read, you will not want to be surrounded by "Beach Walk", "Creme Brulee" and "Evergreen", etc. simultaneously.
2. Eight month old puppies do not understand where giant puppy head shadows come from.
3. If you do not have traditional phone service, do not use your cell phone to access the internet and chat for hours at a time unless you have a car charger for it. (Corollary: if you need a car charger, purchase one when you have more choices than the local cell phone store where you will pay the absolute most anyone has ever paid for a car charger.)
4. McDonalds is always open. (At least, that's what I choose to believe, and I was not proven wrong.)
5. My water heater is incredibly well insulated. I had been without power for over 12 hours, and I had enough hot water to take a shower Monday morning, wash dishes, and still had some warm-enough water to wash my face Monday night, after nearly 30 hours without electricity.
6. I wish my refrigerator was made by the company that made my water heater.
7. It might not be a great idea to eat two yogurts for lunch after having one for breakfast in an attempt to eat up the food in the refrigerator. Just let it go.
8. It does not take a large puff of wind to blow out a tea light candle. A small poof will do, and be less likely to send small and flimsy containers of melted wax flying across your living room.
9. The peace of mind of a crank-able radio/light source is worth every penny. This is mine. I was able to listen to the TV bands (only valid until February, I suppose) and use the light without worry of dying batteries. I can also vouch for this product's good battery pack life. I keep it plugged into the wall, and I didn't actually have to crank it at all, and I used it for a good part of the time I was without other source of information or audio entertainment.
All-in-all, I had a relatively painless 36 hours, aside from the stinky candles, because the weather was good, I had a renewable source of light and radio, and I had some food (and not too much food rotting in the refrigerator). I didn't need ice, I had running water, I'm not responsible for taking care of any damage to my property. But it was certainly an adventure none-the-less. One that continues in much greater degree for many.