This Side of the Pond – Oct. 10

By Sarah Pridgeon

I have emerged from the weekend’s blizzard clutching a blend of contrasting emotions: specifically, I am feeling both smugness and admiration. The former because I was prepared for extreme weather for the first time in my life and the latter because the relative comfort we enjoyed during the worst of it was thanks almost entirely to a group of people who stood their ground in the face of some of the most adverse conditions I have ever witnessed.
Coming from less excitable climes, I will admit that I have never paid a great deal of attention to electricity. It’s there, I use it and I accept that life is much duller without it. I rely heavily on my cell phone, television and computer and I’d eat a lot more salads without my kitchen equipment, but for the most part electricity is one of those luxuries that one never truly appreciates until it’s gone.
Lounging snugly in our apartment, watching movies and playing about on the laptop, was a situation I took for granted. But when the power went out, I switched immediately to the pouty face of a small child and stared uselessly around me, wondering if I would have to read a book. I wouldn’t have minded, except that I was being forced to read a book, and that meant my petulant brain didn’t want to.
I wasn’t cold, I wasn’t particularly hungry and the sun was still up so I wasn’t staggering into walls and furniture. I have bookshelf after bookshelf of literary treats that would have kept me occupied until bedtime and plenty of blankets and warm sweaters. Had the situation continued for very long, things might have gotten considerably worse – but the PRECorp team wasn’t prepared to let that happen.
On and off the lights went, as the storm cracked branches from trees and relentlessly whipped the power lines together. The world went dark over and over but, every single time, barely an hour passed before normality was restored.
Somewhere out there, beating through snowdrifts, dodging falling trees and confronting bared power lines, teams of people were fixing every problem, one by gruelling one. The PRECorp website updated throughout the day, warning customers that the weather in certain places had become so bad that even those brave few could no longer find a way through – but still they toiled wherever they could make a path, tirelessly moving from one near disaster to the next.
And it wasn’t only the PRECorp folk who were out there in the wind and snow: meanwhile, the county, city and WYDOT crews attacked those snowdrifts all day long to dig out stranded travelers and keep the roads open in case of emergency. I looked out of my window, imagined what it would be like to be out there with them and felt nothing short of awe.
I understand that we were among the lucky ones and that many people were without power until the following day – some even longer than that. I know that there were tragedies, from missing cows to broken structures, and that Mother Nature was not in the mood to be kind. But I doubt there are any among us who could argue that the PRECorp teams did everything humanly possible to keep as many of us safe and comfortable as they could. They went above and beyond any reasonable concept of duty, which is why I am awash in admiration and thankful to every one of them.
And I am meanwhile smug, because I too weathered the storm with a degree of elegance I have never before displayed. I saw it coming and prepared ahead of time, which is a far cry from my shower-requesting tornado reaction and my snow-melting efforts during the last water shortage.
Two days before the weather turned, I stocked up on essential supplies, such as candy and magazines. The day before the storm, I paid a visit to the newspaper offices to gather all my current notes and half-written articles, just in case I wasn’t able to navigate the drive (much to the amusement of your editor, who has no real confidence in my driving abilities and offered to lend me “somebody else’s snowmobile”). And on the morning of the storm, I got up early, showered while we still had hot water, charged the cell phones, fetched the torches and filled literally hundreds of jugs with water.
I was even allowed to participate in the clean-up effort, which is unheard of. Passing me a shovel and a pair of gloves is, in the minds of my family, a bit like handing a set of kitchen knives to a toddler: they really want to help you chop vegetables, they have nothing but the best of intentions, but somebody is going to end up with a bleeding limb.
Not that I’m claiming to have been the most useful member of the team. I watched the activity for some time, trying to work out what I could possibly do when the shovels had all been distributed, and eventually I settled on sweeping. Our deck is at an incline and I had already ice skated back down it to the door a couple of times, so I decided that my best move would be to get rid of the ice and let the sun do the rest of the job.
The end result was pleasingly meticulous: not a speck of snow or ice remained on that deck (until my husband decided he needed to use it as an access route, quite without my permission). I then dug a small potty hole for the dog to ignore.
I was arguably more proud than I deserved to be about my accomplishments, especially when the rest of the patrol had cleared several tons of packed snow and created a pathway where once there was only a frozen wall. Still, nobody slipped on their way into the apartment and I consider that to be a job well done.
My efforts were nothing compared to those endured by the PRECorp and snow removal teams and may seem like fairly obvious coping mechanisms in the event of a blizzard. But to me, they were a marked step forward from my city-girl reactions in the past. Perhaps there is hope for me yet on my journey to becoming a native – next time, I might even remember to buy batteries for the torch.