The power came back on at around 5 PM yesterday, a day after I was starting to feel very deprived because there was power three blocks west of us and two blocks east, and even at the foot of our street. We live on a dead end, which I'm sure has something to do with it, but no power starts to wear thin after three days.
Sitting in the dark, or near dark, thanks to the generator, makes one think long and hard about just how spoiled we all are. I'm fortunate that I had the $2750 to spend on a direct-wired generator setup that allowed us to switch from the furnace/fridge to the water heater with the flip of a circuit. I'm fortunate that my packrat ways (and the generator) meant a full freezer out of which I only have to throw away some ice cream and a few bags of frozen vegetables that were in the door. We even had recognizable ice cubes left in the tray. I'm fortunate that I had bought tons of batteries for the crank radio prior to the hurricane in September so we didn't have to sit there cranking in order to get weather updates. After the first night, which was dark and cold because we had never used the generator before and wanted to wait until daylight, the house never had to go below sixty degrees.
But for one evening at least, it's kind of nice to just sit in the dark with nothing to do but listen to music on the radio -- really LISTEN -- and talk about music and culture; things OTHER than politics, because the box that feeds rants into our brain every evening was out of commission. It was nice not to be bothered by telephone solicitors. It was nice to think about how many years ago this was how everyone lived, only with gas lamps and candles, and entertainment was gathering around the piano.
But I've had enough of all that now.
I remember when the first snowfall would take place in late November or early December. It would usually be just a dusting, and it never, ever stuck. This one started at around 10:30 AM and was sticking by 11, despite temperatures in the upper 40's. Driving was treacherous by 1 PM. One colleague reported to me that she was so frightened driving because of the cracking of branches and the "snow bombs" that sagging branches were dropping on her car that she abandoned her car about a half-mile from home and walked the rest of the way -- an astounding decision, given the even higher risks of walking under trees unprotected. But this was the kind of pouring-out-of-the-sky snow that we saw last January, and its path, coming out of the south as it did, followed the same path as the many foot-or-more snowfalls we had last year -- not a good omen for the rest of the winter.
But this storm seems to fit right in with the United Nations report on climate change that is shortly to be released:
The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is expected conclude that there is a high probability that man-made greenhouse gases already are causing extreme weather that has cost governments, insurers, businesses and individuals billions of dollars. And it is certain to predict that costs due to extreme weather will rise and some areas of the world will become more perilous places to live.
Federal climate scientists have labeled 2011 as one of the worst in American history for extreme weather, with punishing blizzards, epic flooding, devastating drought and a heat wave that has broiled a huge swath of the country. Weather related losses amounted to more than $35 billion even before the Nor'easter shellacked the East Coast.
Among the more costly events in the U.S. this year was the flooding of the Mississippi River and tributaries due to rapid melting of the Rocky Mountain snowpack and early spring rains. That event, which prompted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to open a Mississippi River spillway and flood more than 4,000 acres in Louisiana, caused billion of dollars in direct damage.
April also spawned 875 tornado reports nationwide, well above the 30-year average for the month of 135. The "super outbreak," as climatologists dubbed it, killed 327 people.
Drought in Texas has caused more than $5.4 billion in damage to the cattle industry alone, driving up beef prices, while wildfires consumed 2 million acres. A heat wave throughout much of the country caused 29 states to issue heat advisories in July. Nationwide, the hot spell was blamed for scores of deaths.
The "Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation" will be released Nov. 18. It builds on the climate change panel's previous assessments of the Earth's climate, and is intended to help governments and policymakers boost preparedness for extreme weather events.
Even former climate change skeptic Richard Muller has changed course, though in this article he penned for the climate change-denying Wall Street Journal, he actually admits to having thought "Some places are cooler so that disproves global warming" shows that he is a scientist not above letting his politics affect his research bias when it suits him. But since he does not seem to have become a nightly viewer of The Rachel Maddow Show, we can perhaps safely assume that his gear-shift extends only to climate change, and right-wing fears that he has been kidnapped by Occupy Wall Street and turned into a liberal are probably unfounded. That global warming may not preclude some places being cooler than normal is a difficult idea for those who think Rick Perry would be a great president to fathom, but I don't think anyone ever accused the Tea Party right of being able to juggle two ideas in their heads at the same time.
So it's time to gas up the generator, buy some extra umbrellas, run the sump pump, and whatever else we have to do until we leave this mortal coil. Fasten your seat belts, folks, it's going to be a bumpy ride to oblivion.