In case you haven’t heard, we had a freak snowstorm in the Northeast on Saturday. Over 1,000,000 people have no electricity. [See outage map for Connecticut.] There are some things that are obvious when the power goes out. When it’s dark, you can’t see anything in your house and the refrigerator doesn’t work. But here are some things you may not appreciate unless you are living through a major power outage in cold weather.
1. Even if you have a gas furnace, it does not work because the thermostat is electric. Unlike the power failure that followed Hurricane Irene in August, it’s very cold right now. For example, it’s 48° in my house.
2. This leads to an issue with sleeping. You can’t stay in your house. There aren’t enough blankets to make 48° comfortable. Even if you could sleep, try taking a shower in the morning.
3. Check into a hotel? Not so fast. Most have no power either. And the hotels that have it are full with people who thought of that option before you.
4. The food will stay cold in the refrigerator because the house is so cold, but you can’t cook it with a microwave or an electric stove.
5. So just go out to eat? Most of the restaurants are closed due to lack of electricity too.
6. It takes at least a day or two to stop turning on light switches.
7. There’s no Wi-Fi, no internet.
8. Most of the traffic lights in town are not working. A pleasant surprise is that drivers are being patient and courteous. The problem is that the flow of traffic is not very smooth. This results in significant delays.
9. Most of the gas stations do not have power to run the pumps. This leads to long lines at the few stations that do have working pumps. It’s reminiscent of the initial gas crises of the 1970s. The lines spill over on to the streets, causing more traffic delays.
10. Outpatient and walk-in clinics are closed because of lack of electricity.
11. Our emergency department is swamped with people who have no heat in their homes or electricity to run their home oxygen equipment. More and more people are getting sick because of the cold.
A power failure in winter is not fun.