While I was scrolling through news on my smartphone and enjoying a hot cup of coffee at 8:42 a.m. Saturday, the house suddenly fell into silence. Pacific Power customers in the Philomath vicinity lost their electricity — reportedly because of some sort of substation problem.
The power wouldn’t come back on for more than seven hours.
Sitting down here at my computer on Saturday evening to get caught up on some work, I now realize just how much I depend on electricity in daily life.
The first decision of the day had to be whether or not to go ahead and get the week’s groceries. I had been planning to make a run to Corvallis at around 9 a.m. to pick up some food while avoiding any possible traffic hassles with the Oregon-Oregon State football game to kick off a few hours later. After leaving, I called my wife and asked if I should go through with the grocery shopping — what if the power doesn’t come back on for several hours?
Well, we have a cooler, we have ice packs, so it seemed like we could get through this so I went ahead and got the shopping done. My 5-year-old son and I started out at Trader Joe’s and picked up some items I wanted from that establishment and then we made our way over to WinCo to pick up what remained on the list.
On our way home, we had a harrowing experience on 19th Street crossing Main Street with the traffic lights not operating. In such situations, I believe motorists should be treating it as a four-way stop. And that seems to be how everybody was approaching the intersection — except one driver. When it was “my turn” to go, I started out into the intersection when a car buzzed right on through seemingly without even slowing down. I hit the brakes hard, caught my breath, cursed the other vehicle, told my 5-year-old to never repeat those words and continued on my way.
After getting the groceries in the house, we lined up everything on the counter as we planned to throw items into the fridge and freezer as fast as possible. Not knowing how long the outage might last — Pacific Power was actually estimating 4:30 p.m. at that point — we wanted to avoid opening the fridge unless absolutely necessary.
We spent the rest of the morning picking up a Christmas tree — deciding to buy one at Out West Farm & Ranch here in Philomath. Afterward, the kids started to act up a little so we pulled out a tablet that still had a 54% charge and let them watch a Disney movie that had been previously downloaded (in other words, no wifi needed).
I had the thought that I would head up stairs to the treadmill to get in a workout but then remembered that we had no power. No workout. My wife suggested that I take a walk — the weather was fairly nice — but I had my mind set on doing the next stage of my Grand Canyon “hike” on the treadmill (it’s one of these newer ones that has pretty cool preset walking, hiking and running programs that you can do). No, I thought, I’ll wait for the power and do the “hike” later.
While my wife was out of the house, she called to ask if I wanted a burrito from El Cruzero. That sounded like a good plan but she arrived home 10 minutes later to report that the restaurant wasn’t operating without power. Of course.
At around 12:30, I started to feel bad for the Oregon and Oregon State football fans in Philomath. I wanted to turn on the game but was not willing to sacrifice any of my phone data, which disappears pretty fast if you’re streaming video. So, I followed the game on the ESPN app’s Gamecast feature. But it looks like it was a heckuva game to have missed watching, especially with the second-half rally by the Beavers.
It was probably around 1:30 or so that it started to get noticeably chilly in the house. In reality, we were actually lucky that the weather really wasn’t so bad outside. The sun did shine through the back patio door and windows for significant stretches to provide some warmth.
My wife asked if I wanted an Americano from Human Bean and I thought that sounded good — much like the idea of the burrito a few hours earlier. And then again, we realized that they wouldn’t be able to make us coffee without electricity. Of course.
About an hour before the power came back on, I decided to go ahead and start working. My laptop had been fully charged a few days earlier and I connected to my cell phone via personal hotspot to be able to access PhilomathNews.com and other needed websites. The power came back on sometime around 4 p.m.
As I sit here now and think about it, our reliance on electricity is startling. In fact, it’s almost embarrassing to think about the types of disruptions I’m describing considering some of the hardships that others around the world endure without such conveniences (Ukraine, for example).
A few months ago, some fella knocked on the door trying to sell me on the idea of solar panels (I told him I was interested and we made an appointment to talk but he never showed up). And on Black Friday, I actually noticed some pretty good deals on generators and took a close look at one but didn’t pull the trigger on the purchase. I’ve always thought maybe it would be good to have something like that as a backup in case something catastrophic happens to knock out electricity for an extended period of time.
Maybe I’ll take another look. Right now, I need to get started on my hike in the Grand Canyon.
(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at News@PhilomathNews.com).