Saturday, January 17, 2009

Snapshot of the Cold Snap

Depending on where you live, you either suffered the recent cold snap (Hi, R.!), are suffering it (Hi, Mike!) or have read or heard about it.

We kept the taps dripping when the cold weather hit here last week, as we always do. That usually does the trick, but on Friday we woke up to find the water in the upstairs bathroom was frozen. Husband dutifully got out the heat gun and started tracing pipes, and by noon the water in the sink and bathtub was running, but not the toilet. (Since the pipes run from the sink, to the toilet, to the bathtub, this was a bit of a poser.) We kept checking the office underneath the bathroom for signs that a pipe had burst, but nothing. Just - nothing.

Then we found the car wouldn't start.

Since we both had to go to work, we decided to wait out the toilet (there's another one, which was working, downstairs), putting a space heater in the room and crossing our fingers. We don't need the car for work, so we decided to put off calling CAA until today.

This morning the toilet tank still wasn't refilling and the car still wouldn't start so Husband had another go with the heat gun (no go) and we called CAA, which was swamped and couldn't come until 4 pm or so. They came and jumped the battery. The car still wouldn't start. Then Husband and CAA guy noticed that the car actually has a plug-in, something we had no clue was there.

So we plugged in the car (duh!) and the CAA guy said he'd come back tomorrow and try again. But hey! The toilet tank refill line started running! ("It's the most beautiful sound in the world," I sighed.) So with everything under control, Husband left for his usual Saturday night visit to the pub and I settled in upstairs to read "The Audacity of Hope".

That's when there was an explosion outside my bedroom window and a shower of sparks. I thought kids were setting off fireworks in the street and ran downstairs to see what the heck was going on. Looking out the window of the foyer, I saw a thick black powerline snaking along the snowbank right outside the house, and the power pole at the end of the driveway - just a dozen or so metres from the house - was on fire. Our electricity was still on, but houses across the street were dark, and through their windows I could see flashlights flickering on.

As I've mentioned before, our street is downtown and constantly walked by pedestrians. I was freaking out a little by this time; I called 9-1-1 (again!) and stuffed the two struggling, protesting cats into their carriers while peering out windows up and down the street so that I could warn any approaching pedestrians away. By the time I'd gotten the cats banged up, there were firetrucks at both ends of our short street, warning people off. (Someone next door must've wandered out and tried to argue with the firemen about being able to go somewhere, because a fireman had a pretty dramatic shouting match with him or her, ordering him or her back into the building.)

Then the NB Power trucks arrived. That's when we lost our electricity (naturally they had to cut power to everyone so the poor brave NB Power soul could go up in his little bucket and do what he had to do). Now I had a new worry. No electricity=no heat, and we could lose all the pipes. The NB Power guy did his work - poor bastard, it's -24c (11f) right now - and Hallelujah!, the power came back on. As the NB Power guys walked back to the truck, one of them turned and saw me peering out the window. I did a kind of "tip my hat" to him, and he waved back. Thanks. You're welcome.

Once again I'm in awe of the guys who do the really hard jobs, the firemen and the cops and the utility people, and everyone else who works in the lousiest weather at the worst hours to make sure the rest of us are safe and warm.

Just a snapshot of the cold snap and how it's affecting our little family. As I said to Husband today, this is being repeated thousands of times by thousands of families all over the region. One damned thing after another.




Blogger Brian Fies said...

I went outside and cleared leaves out of my rain gutters today. Since it was a nippy 65F, I put on a long-sleeve shirt, but then I got warm so I pushed up the sleeves. I also got a little muck under my fingernails, but luckily it washed right out.

9:39 p.m.  
Blogger Sherwood Harrington said...

As usual, Brian's got it soft. Down here in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the temperature barely nudged above 60F, but, even so, while I was working outside I not only had my sleeves pushed up, but I had the top three buttons undone! I can't match the muck under the fingernails, though, unless chicken poop counts.

10:48 p.m.  
Blogger Ronnie said...

One of the good things about being old is that no one expects you to do anything. Everything is working, plans automatically canceled, and I stay cozy and warm and reading. The snow is lovely, out the window.

I do remember, with very little nostalgia, the water frozen in the bathtub in Star Lake. Glad I'm spending my golden years a few miles further south.

Mike's Mom

10:54 p.m.  
Blogger Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

8~) Was your line about getting the cats "banged up" a typo? Because in our case it would be quite accurate, and it's one of the things i dread about any emergency - Downy panics in a carrier. He used to bash against the grill and the sides till his nose was bloody, which is why we ditched the hard carriers and bought soft carriers for all 3. It's rather heartbreaking.

SO glad the Infrastructure Sooperheroes got things back in working order!

11:06 p.m.  
Blogger Mike said...

"Since the pipes run from the sink, to the toilet, to the bathtub,..."

Well, see, there's another difference between the US and Canada. We try to conserve water, too, but we'd probably reverse those last two ...

11:32 p.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Oh, you're all so clever while we sit here suffering! SUFFERING! Especially the California Contingent, you've got no excuse at all. 65F indeed.

Ruth, "banged up" is Newfoundlandese for locked up. You might say that Joe is banged up in Her Majesty's Penitentiary for a year, or the dogs are banged up in the bedroom while you try to get this furniture moved in.

Poor Downeyflake! At least you were able to do something to mitigate the situation a bit. Mojo fought me tooth and nail last night, which didn't help.

Ronnie, I should very much like to hear the story about the water frozen in the bathtub in Star Lake. Do you mean in the pipes, or the tub itself? Brrrr!

-17c today. I guess we're starting to crawl out...

3:04 p.m.  
Blogger Ronnie said...

Out of town for a couple of days - sorry to be answering so late. I kinda forget the details but it had something to do with the garage door not having been closed one cold night (those darned kids!) and in the morning we found that the last inch or so of water in the bathtub over the garage had frozen in place before finishing draining overnight. Someone had really jumped in bed fast after that bath.

12:59 a.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Thanks for the update, Ronnie.

BRRRR indeed!

9:20 p.m.  

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