Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Beautiful sunrise #7

December 21, 7:20 AM
-3°F, 29 mph wind

Coincidentally the day of the year with the least sunlight started without electricity at our house. We had 1/2" of freezing rain two days earlier so the trees and electric lines were coated in ice, and Saturday night the wind gusted up to 40 mph all night. We were in bed when we realized the power was out by 11:30 PM, but at that point we knew a good night's sleep was more important than trying to keep appliances running through the night. I called Corn Belt to make sure they knew we didn't have power, and went back to bed.

Laying in the quiet stillness, I tried not to think about the fact that the temperature was falling below zero, and the generator had not started the last three times I had tried it; all the while trying to ignore what sounded like boulders falling on our roof. I laid out my plan countless times as I tried to fall asleep: (1) wake at first light and start a fire in the basement wood burner, (2) tear apart the generator carburetor and clean up what was probably just a gummed up orifice, (3) restore power to the furnace and refrigerator from the generator, and (4) go to the neighbor's house to make sure their house isn't getting too cold (since they're in Florida now).

As the bedroom lightened in the morning, the air in the house was down to 50°F, so I rose at 6:30 to carry out my plan. Before I made it to the basement the electricity came back on. I thanked God for being merciful to us, and proceeded to make coffee before the power went back out again. Confident that the house didn't need my attention, I shoveled ice off the driveway (note: I said "shoveled", not "scraped" since the ice had fallen out of the trees like cubes from a refrigerator dispenser). When I came back inside before 8:00 the power was back out again, and as it didn't return for 15 minutes, I started into my original plan.

A fire was quickly started in the wood burner, and with Gretel holding a flashlight for me, we cleaned up the generator carburetor and started it for the first time in years. I fashioned some temporary wires for the furnace so I could plug it into an extension cord that I routed from the basement upstairs and through the garage. As I was carrying the generator out of the house the electricity came back on again. I thanked God again for being merciful to me.

Through the episode I found a few things to be thankful for:
  • I'm thankful that thousands of people over the last couple hundred years have taken dominion over electrons and made it possible for us to do all kinds of things with this mystery called electricity. Not the least of these things is keeping my family warm.
  • I'm thankful that there were probably dozens of linemen outside all night all over the Peoria area repairing lines and transformers so people like me could sleep in a warm bed and enjoy hot coffee in the morning. I don't envy them working in subzero temperatures with winds strong enough to knock over ladders and make boom trucks sway.
  • I'm thankful for building materials that keep our house warm such that the temperature in the house only dropped 15° in the seven hours the power was off.
  • I'm thankful for our little wood burner that takes the chill off the basement and allows our water pipes to stay above freezing.
  • Most importantly I'm thankful for God's providence and mercy in this experience. I realize he controls the supply and restriction of electricity on our grid and around the world. I realize he controls the wind and temperature, and decides in his sovereignty whether our yard will be covered in rain, snow, or ice. I realize he allows us to experience trials for the strengthening of our faith, and I'm grateful for his mercy when he ends the trial before I expect it to end.

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