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Did Sandy affect my life, or didn’t she?

Ellen-Beveridge-ReflectionsUp front, let me make this perfectly clear, not for a minute am I writing this column to make any comparison to my plight with the devastation that Hurricane Sandy has brought to so many lives.

What made my situation different was how mystifying and perplexing it was.

That said, my inconvenience and frustration began in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Oct. 31, almost two days after Sandy first blew in. I happened to awaken and noticed that there was no time registering on my bedside digital clock. Upon further investigation, I discovered I had no electricity — at least I thought that was the case. The electric kitchen clock had stopped at 3:55 a.m.

It wasn’t until later that day when I walked into the kitchen and noticed my neighbor’s house had lights on, which was the same as I looked around the neighborhood — every house was lighted! Why was I the only one?

At this point I noticed my microwave read the exact time of day. What? I have no power but this appliance is working? Now I am perplexed.

I phoned my next door neighbor (I have a land line) who came over and discovered that the outlet behind the refrigerator was “live” for the microwave but not for the fridge; in other words, only half of the outlet was workaing; very mystifying indeed.

My neighbor came up with the idea to install a heavy duty extension cord into the socket that had power. At the other end of the cord were three outlets so now I was in business when he plugged in the fridge, the microwave and the toaster oven.

Of course I phoned the United Illuminating Company every day and was given a variety of reasons for my plight. I was part of a grid that was out; there was some generator that was not functioning.

And so the days passed. My cooking was limited, but I was eating — -thankful for TV dinners, and the fact that the fridge had not been out long enough for any of the food to spoil was a big plus.

Saturday brought the first glimmer of hope; a small UI car stopped in front of my house, a man got out, looked up at the pole that happens to be right in front of my property (which serves four residences and all had electricity except me), wrote something down on a clipboard and drove off.

Sunday afternoon brought two more men wearing hard hats and reflective vests who also gazed at the pole and also the meter box on the side of the house that wasn’t registering any power usage.

When I went out and spoke to them, they intimated that the trouble might be my responsibility, which I found troubling.

On Monday, a friend who knows a master electrician prevailed upon him to come and have a look at the situation. He checked the electrical board in the cellar that was new a few years ago, and to my great relief, declared that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the board.

In the meantime, I had much to be grateful for. I was warm as I have gas heat and an older style furnace that involves a pilot light and does not need electricity to operate; I was eating and I had a workable phone.

But the most difficult time was when darkness fell (an hour early Sunday when the time changed to Standard). I went out to dinner with a friend one night and to my daughter’s home in Trumbull for dinner and some welcome television viewing another evening. (She had been without power for three days earlier in the week). Otherwise, the evenings were long with only a transistor radio, a flashlight or a candle to keep me company.

Late Tuesday afternoon yet another UI man appeared. “You need a big truck with a bucket to get to the bottom of this,” I told him, and he assured me it was on the way. Finally, by 9 o’clock, a welcome sight at last— the truck with the bucket arrived along with two smaller UI vehicles.

In no time quite a number of men were swarming around the yard. They began by opening the meter to check that; then the bucket carried a man to the top of the pole, but apparently nothing was wrong there; then a check of the connection at the house and nothing was amiss there either.

One of the men, who said he was a lineman all the way from Missouri, had come inside to check the electrical board and then stood beside the storm door, explaining the procedure as it unfolded.

At long last the source of the trouble was discovered! It was inside the line that ran from the pole to the house. This line, the man called it a “tri”-something or other, carries three wires, he said; one was “hot,” which accounted for the power to the one outlet in the house, and the other two were damaged.

It was 10:20 when the power was restored, almost a full week since the trouble began.

“Did the storm cause the damage?” I asked.

The lineman had no sure answer. So I’ll never know if Sandy’s wrath was the culprit or if it was a faulty wire that would have snapped anyway.

 Ellen Beveridge may be reached at ellenfb@sbcglobal.net

 

 

 

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