Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Hunt for a Heater: Windstorm, 2015, Part 4

NOTE: Avista Utilities has worked around the clock from the evening of Tuesday, November 17th to restore power after the windstorm. According to their outage map, there are less than 100 customers without power this morning. This is Part 4 of a five-part journal about our 6-day experience without power. UPDATE: Per @AvistaUtilities all power has now been restored!

Sunday, November 22, 2015, approximately 8:00 pm

I hear the sound of engines or motors outside. I go outside and head in the direction of the sound, hoping it’s a utility truck working on our downed line. It’s just a neighbor around the corner running a generator. On the way back home, I see a man smoking a cigarette on his front porch. I ask him if he knows anything about the fallen tree, or anything.
Even though the tree fell on his property, it actually sits in his neighbor’s yard. He assures me we won’t be getting any electricity until it’s cleared away. “All the lines are down on the ground,” he tells me. A sight impossible to see from our home. “I’ve been walking up and down the street talking to the line men.” He points to a red tag on the telephone pole in front of his house. “They put that up this morning.”

I shine my flashlight and see today’s date and other incomprehensible notation on the tag. I hope this is a good sign. I hope it means they’ll be back sooner rather than later.

He asks me how we’re staying warm. By now, most of the people we’ve talked to without heat are staying with family and friends with electricity. We’ve also learned that woodturning stoves, along with actual working fireplaces, are not uncommon in the city. We have none of the above. “We’re not,” I answer.

“Man, you must be freezing!” He shakes his head. “We’ve got an indoor propane heater, but we can’t sleep with it on.”

I’ve never heard of an indoor propane heater before.

Monday, November 23, 2015 approximately 10:00 am

We’re under another Weather Alert. A winter storm is coming. Depending on the way the winds blow, we’ll have light to heavy snow accumulations from Monday evening throughout the day Tuesday. I love snow. This is the first time since we’ve moved to the Inland Northwest that I’ve dreaded it. But the thought of going out to shovel snow and then come inside to a freezing cold home sounds wretched.

When we get to the coffee shop, I sign on to the Avista site. They have icons showing work crew locations around town There are masses of them, but only two in our neighborhood. As soon as I see that, I realize that I've been hoping our electricity will be restored before November 25th at 11:30 pm. Now, it starts to sink in that we might not even get power before Thanksgiving. We need heat. I restart searching the internet for hardware stores.

We call all the Home Depots. Then the Lowes. Not surprisingly, everyone is out of indoor propane heaters (IPHs). We start on the list of Ace Hardware stores. My husband is prepared to buy one from Amazon and pay the extra shipping so we’ll get it on Tuesday, but I just don’t think I can take another night without heat! Especially, if it snows.

We dial the 4th Ace. Unbelievably, they have one IPH left. They can’t take our credit card information over the phone, and they’re very reluctant to hold it. It’s probably the last IPH in the city! I have an appointment at 11:30, and the Ace is more than half-an-hour away.

It’s not a tough decision.

I reschedule my appointment and we head across town.

The heater is there; we snap it up. They’re out of propane canisters, but we want to hook up a tank, anyway. They don’t have the appropriate line. They call around to the other Ace stores and locate one for us. We drive over there and pick it up. We will have—some—heat tonight!

Part 5, the final installment, coming tomorrow …

The Storm Hits, Windstorm 2015, Part 1
The First Night, Windstorm 2015, Part 2
Electricity Envy, Windstorm 2015, Part 3