Life in the dark

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BY HARNOOR GILL

Grade 10 student

Christ The King Catholic Secondary

Georgetown, Ontario

STORY 8 ITEM 7

MY experience without electricity for a long period of time has been hectic, cold, agonizing and inspiring in different ways. It all started out on Saturday night when my family and I were just coming back from eating dinner at a restaurant in Brampton. On the way back home, we noticed that the storm had left much ice on the trees causing them to lean over. The hydro poles were affected by this because when the trees leaned over, they created a spark that caused a lot of the lines to go down. By the time we arrived home, it was obvious that there was no power available as the garage door wouldn’t open with a remote.

Once we got the car inside and entered the house, it was time to go to sleep. It got pretty cold overnight and without a source of heat because of the power outage, it was around -12 degrees at the time and felt like -19 degrees with the wind chill. This was the toughest night to sleep through because of how cold it got and because of how tired we were at the time.

We woke up a little early the next morning as none of us could really handle all the cold anymore. Then I put the idea out of how we could all just go for a morning workout at Goodlife Fitness to freshen ourselves up, get warm and plan on staying somewhere in the night later on in the day. Knowing that it was Sunday and the gym would open at around 7 a.m., we started getting ready as quickly as we could to grab a quick coffee before a morning routine. I used all the time on my hand here as it had essentials such as water, heat and shelter until we decided to contact a family / friend in an urban area to stay overnight with.

We got out of the gym at around noon and then decided to go over to a family friend’s house in Mississauga to spend the night. I discussed with my cousins there about how they were lucky that they weren’t affected that badly by the ice storm as they hadn’t lost their power at all. I had some fun playing video games with them and then was tired and needed some rest from the night before and soon fell asleep.

Monday was a long and eventful day but we accomplished a lot and achieved a whole lot from it too. In the morning, we got served a hearty breakfast at our family friends’ house to power throughout the day. As we were getting ready we tried calling our local hydro provider, Halton Hills Hydro, in order to gain some information on how long we could probably be without power. The hydro line was pretty busy for a while. Once we were able to get through, we were advised to seek shelter, food, warmth at the local community centre or seek residence at a family’s house for the time being. We were told it would most likely be 72 hours or longer before we would get power again. Since we didn’t want to cause our family friends a lot of stress over taking care of us, we ventured off to the closest Canadian Tire in an attempt to find a generator. Upon arriving, the store clerk said that there were none left and we could try visiting another Canadian Tire in Milton. The store in Milton then told us that the person that had just walked out of the store had bought the last generator in stock!

Then we were advised to visit a branch in either Burlington or Oakville. We ended up visiting both branches as the one in Oakville had sold out all of its generators as well. The store clerk at the Burlington branch of Canadian branch offered us a huge tip on how to safely use the generator without harming ourselves. He advised us that there had already been cases on how people have been using generators / barbecues in an enclosed space (indoors) which results in carbon monoxide poisoning. In order to avoid this and use the generator to your benefit, it should be placed 15 feet away from the house as that won’t cause any carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s really hard to tell the symptoms of this poisoning and if you don’t address it right away the results can be fatal. The store clerk advised that the smoke alarms should be set to detect this poisonous gas and that some of the symptoms are but not limited to nausea, anxiety, headaches, numbness and loss of consciousness.

 

ONCE we got the generator from Burlington, we took the drive back home with ease as all we needed to do was to setup the generator. Well, setting up a generator may sound easy but it took a long time as we started at around 7 p.m. and accomplished that around 10 p.m. – not to mention that this whole time we were freezing outside with flashlights trying to figure this out. The only reason that the generator really took so long to setup was because there were items in the house that overloaded it. These consisted of the stove, fridge, microwave, furnace, television, computers, etc. So we turned sources of power off with the circuit breaker and we took off the overload on the generator in order to power some parts of the house only. These ended up being the water pump, furnace, internet and a few lights upstairs, the stairs, the kitchen and the living room. Once we set all these up, it was time for us to go to sleep as we were tired from the tasks.

The next day we woke up in the morning to check if we got power yet but when we turned off the generator and turned the main power back on, there was no indication of power. So we plugged the generator back in to rely on the morning tasks that we do on Tuesday mornings. Throughout this whole time I realized how much our lives depend on electricity and how much we take it for granted to power throughout our lives.

However, it did essentially help us to think of the ways people entertained themselves without electricity by playing cards, board games and playing sports. Since it was Christmas Eve, I thought that we should probably go over to our family friend’s house to celebrate with them by having a big Christmas Dinner while watching Christmas movies and singing Christmas songs.

Once we arrived at their house, they were happy to have us for the night yet again as they were worried about how we were doing from the impact of the ice storm in our area. I had lots of fun at my cousins’ place with electricity as they had everything that was working. It was Christmas Eve and we were all sitting in the family room watching Christmas classics like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, Frosty the Snowman, Frosty Returns, Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, Little Drummer Boy and Cricket on Earth. Then we played some Christmas songs and sang, and talked about our experiences during this ice storm that unfortunately hit southern Ontario. As midnight was approaching, we started to get tired from all the Christmas dinner we ate and all the Christmas movies we watched.

It was time for us to all go to sleep. This would then allow Santa Clause to be able to come down the chimney and give everyone the presents they deserved. However, I left something extra just for Santa – a big glass of milk along with the chocolate chip cookies I helped bake.

Christmas morning was fun in a new setting but I missed being able to rip open the wrapping paper at home. Instead, I was supposed to be polite and open my presents that I received with care to show my manners at someone else’s house. That sort of happened. Anyways, as everyone was finishing up thanking each other and wishing each other a very merry Christmas, we turned on the television to find out that Halton Hills Hydro was now receiving support from other hydro companies such as Oakville Hydro, Hydro One and Toronto Hydro. This was great news to hear as that meant that our house would soon receive power and hydro crews would be able to rest as well. We decided that it was time for us to leave and we assured our hosts that we would call them as soon as we received power so they wouldn’t be worried.

As we approached our house, we noticed that it had gotten worse than before with broken branches on the roads hindering travel. Once we got home and started up the generator to get the house warm, my dad and I decided that it would probably be a good idea to ask our neighbors how they were doing. Most of them weren’t there which meant that they were safe with their families somewhere else or they were at the community centre to seek shelter. Some of them were fighting through the ice storm like us with their generators running. Many of them were glad that we came to visit in a time of stress like this and on Christmas Day and some of them joined us while we asked other neighbors on how they were doing too. So, I guess you could say that we had some community bonding while assisting others around us as much as we could.

Once, we got home we attempted putting on Christmas lights with the generator but it didn’t work out that well as it tended to overload the generator. It was getting pretty dark outside but it was only 5 p.m., so we decided to head inside. Mom had started up the fireplace and we watched a movie or two off Netflix before going to sleep.

Thursday was the end of the misery as our hydro crews had worked overnight on moving the trees and fixing the area up a bit. It had been about five days that my area had been without any power. I understand that Halton Hills Hydro (HHHYDRO) is trying their best and is hard at work in restoring everything back to its original state. I can’t thank these hydro workers enough for risking their lives and going out to brave the cold in these conditions to restore power.

Happy New Year to all!