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Philip Maramba: Post-Sandy outage outstays its welcome

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - You'd think a guy could go for years between writing about long-term, weather-induced power outages.

Well, after a summer with the derecho, I met Sandy.

I went to bed Monday before last, confident the ground was too warm for snow to accumulate from the so-called "Frankenstorm."

I awoke to about 10 inches of the stuff in the yard and a live power line across my wife Kris' car. (The line soon went dead when a pair of transformers blew.)

A few more blown transformers and a phone call later, and I was dropping off my family for a stay with the in-laws in Parkersburg.

My sister still had power, and she invited me to stay with her family. I told her I'd swing by after work and after packing a few things and feeding the cat.

The house was chilly and dark but not uninhabitable. I was tired after the long day and the idea of packing by flashlight, then schlepping over to my sister's was enough to make me pull on a knit cap, fleece pants and jacket and curl up under a down comforter.

With no kids to rouse me with a pre-dawn wakeup, I had probably the best sleep I'd had in months.

The next evening, I returned to a still-dark street. I lit a couple of candles, made a sandwich for supper and listened to sports radio.

It seemed rather spartan without Internet or light, but at least the house was dry and I didn't want for warm clothes. I had hot running water and a gas stove.

I imagined folks with much less means sleeping in abandoned buildings or under bushes for whom this kind of cold-weather living is a season-long dread. I was merely being inconvenienced.

There was an exercise I practiced during the derecho blackout wherein I watched the neighborhood slowly regain electricity by keeping an eye on which houses along the drive home were lit.

By the third night following Superstorm Sandy, I was pleased to see our street aglow. But my front porch light was still off. Another cold night in the Maramba house.

My neighbor told me the next day that he'd watched a power crew detach our fallen wire from the main line. He asked when they'd return and was told there were a few others that needed re-connecting.

I went to pick up my family, confident that we could return that weekend.

Kris told me not long after I arrived that American Electric Power told her we needed to have an electrical contractor reattach the meter and wiring conduit to our house before they'd restore power to us. They tell us this on a Friday afternoon, three days after we reported our line down.

I got my contractor, Jerry, in by Tuesday, and he was smartly done in a couple of hours. Kris called AEP. We're good to go.

AEP calls back. We need to have the city inspect our contractor's work before they'll hook us up. Fine, except it's Election Day and city offices are closed. And never mind that the company waived the inspection requirement the week of storm. I guess it's all in the timing. There was nothing left for Kris to do but laugh.

Wednesday morning, a pair of inspectors gives a once-over and a provisional OK. AEP sends a cherry picker shortly afterward. I thank the linemen for getting our house back on the grid.

After nine days, it took a while to readjust. Having a gas stove light without matches was a wonder. And after I spent days wearing longjohns and fleece, our regular house temperature felt like a balmy extravagance.

I hope my brethren in the north central portion of the state and the northeast U.S. come to be reacquainted with these luxuries soon, too.

Contact writer Philip Maramba at 304-348-1248 or philip@dailymail.com.


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