by Robert Morrison
September 1, 2011
Did that 12-foot limb from the oak in my back yard actually fall on my head when Irene blew through? I have never before agreed with an editorial in the Washington Post. This time, though, I have to agree with them: the Washington regions utility companies deserve kudos for the way they handled the hurricane/tropical storm.
Yes, if youd been watching the Weather Channel, youd probably figure that the Battle of Armageddon would be childs play compared to the punch Nature had in store for us.
For nearly a week, the TV stations hyped the coming hurricane. By the time the storm actually hit, Irene had been downgraded to a Category One tropical storm. Still, she was bad enough.
Did I mention we had an earthquake last week, too? Say, how come they dont name earthquakes the way they do storms of wind and rain? Let me suggest to the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey that they name earthquakes for Al Gore, Prince Charles, and some of the planets more famous Greens.
When the earthquake came, I was at work in Washington. In the days approaching the tenth anniversary of 9/11, we may be a bit apprehensive in the nations capital. Remembering that Sec. Janet Napolitano was looking out for us was not necessarily reassuring.
Once wed figured out wed been hit by Nature and not terrorists, it was better. But cell phones soon proved useless. It was a good time to remember prayer. Praying for your loved ones comes naturally when you do it every day.
Days later, the storm knocked out power to some 750,000 people in our region. My neighborhood in Annapolis became truly neighborly with the power outage. The lights were out barely five minutes before Gordon, my next-door neighbor, was knocking on our door. He offered to let us plug in to his generator for the fridge and the sump pump that keeps our basement dry. And each morning before dawn, Gordon would be there, politely informing us hed have to go down for a half hour to re-fuel the generator.
John lives several houses away. Before this, wed only waved, but in a friendly way. We respected his privacy. Now, John swung his big SUV around the cul-de-sac, offering to get gas for each of us to power the generators. He refused all our attempts to reimburse him.
I wish I could say that storms and natural disasters always bring out the best in people. Our married daughter reported that her new neighborhood in Virginia was quite friendly, with most folks bringing their grills out onto front lawns and making a cookout of the food that wasnt going to stay refrigerated once they lost power.
But as she ventured forth to find ice, it wasnt too good to see the woman leaving the local Wal-Mart tightly grasping the last eighteen bags of ice in the store. Hunting for a Laundromat for two hours when youre pregnant with twins cannot be much fun, either, but at least it gives you a chance to re-charge your cell phone.
People are supposed to understand that when you come to an intersection and all the traffic lights are out, you should take turns entering. When one heedless fellow in a truck just barreled through at 55 mph, our normally quiet and reserved daughter yelled out: HEY, ITS NOT YOUR TURN! For the next hour, she was treated to her 2 12 year old repeating Its not your turn! at the top of his voice. It shows us how little ears are always listening.
Some merchants rose to the occasion. Our daughter reports that a young woman at Starbucks took pity on her when she arrived, somewhat bedraggled after hunting ice and a Laundromat. The coffee lady came to her table with a special cookie treat for our grandson. Their local Panera stayed open throughout the storm. Our loved ones joined the throngs that sought their only hot meals there. With long lines snaking out the door the morning after the storm, the Panera staff worked the line, taking orders and cheering harried diners.
Our Annapolis home suddenly became a strange place in the dark. Going to early bed by candlelight, my wife and I had to take care to avoid tripping over extension cords. We slept in back rooms. The neighborhoods many generators made the place sound like the starting line at the Indianapolis Speedway.
When, after four days, the power was finally restored, we rejoiced. It was like finding that lost coin. Some 3,800 utility crews had descended on Anne Arundel County from all over the country. It reminds us that we are connected to each other by more than just power lines. It is also a reminder of how blessed we are to live in the United States, where access to electrical power is the norm, not the exception.
Historic Annapolis Foundation wants us all to be proud of our 320-year old city.
I am proud to live in a town where George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison shaved by candlelight. But Id prefer shaving by the light of an historic incandescent light bulb. Thanks to BG&E, and may God bless the hard-working crews who labored through the storm and through the nights to bring back power to the people.