Lights Out | By: Abbey Gray | | Category: Short Story - Reflections Bookmark and Share

Lights Out

Lights Out


Friday June 29th


It had been the hottest week so far this year. And the hottest week in June since 1998. 90+ degrees every day with heat indexes well above 100; heat advisories all over the state. Plus we were in the middle of a draught. The grass was brown and dying off.  I hadn’t mowed in four weeks. That part didn’t bother me. I hated mowing. So to cut to the chase…hot days and no rain.

                My husband and I were coming back from town when it started to get cloudy.

                “Looks like we might get some rain,” my husband said. “We need it.”

                “I’ll believe that when I see it,” I replied. “At least we have a basement.” I ended up being more right than I knew.

                By the time we got home it was getting dark. By the time I had heated up my supper the wind was picking up. It wasn’t anything to be worried about.  We were used to wind storms. The wind was getting stronger by the second. Leaves were coming down left and right. Dust and dirt were blowing across the yard. Then a limb fell from one if the trees and landed on top of the bird and other wildlife feeders. And the wind was getting stronger yet. That’s when my husband told me and my mother to go to the basement. Talk about irony considering my previous comment.

                We were all sitting in the basement watching the weather channel and listening to the wind howl outside. The lights flickered, went out, came back on and then went out completely. We were left in total darkness.


The rest of the night…


My husband went to get a flashlight. When it was safe to go back upstairs, we saw that another limb from a tree in the side yard and taken out the electric and the phone line. My husband called the electric company on his cell phone and left a message on their automated voice system since he could not get through. The phone company said they did not work weekends and could not get out here until Monday. So we had no connection to the outside world. My husband got on the four wheeler and went to survey the damage in the rain and check on his parents. They both had lost power as well. It addition to the debris in the yard another tree had snapped and one was mangled, but had not fallen…yet. What blew my mind was the hummingbird feeder was still hung.

                The neighbor across the street had lost a huge tree. He said he couldn’t get his chain saw to work and the tree was almost too big for his tractor to pull. He just wanted to get it off the road. His wife was on oxygen and we told him if he needed to come over to our house since we had a generator. My husband’s mother did not have any major damage and his dad had only lost his one crabapple tree.

                My husband came back and fired up the generator my mother had. Just like my premonition he had run the generator on Wednesday since it had not been run in at least three years. Unfortunately the generator was not big enough to run the whole house. We had to rob from the rich and give to the poor. We had power for the living room, water pump, TV, refrigerator and fish aquarium. That was it. My mother was worried all of the fish would die. My husband brought the box fan up from the basement and plugged it in one of the outlets in the living room. That was the only thing that made it bearable. However if we wanted to have hot water for baths and showers we had to shut off the water pump and basement freezer in order to have enough power to run the water heater. And vice versa. In order to run a fan in the master bedroom we had to turn off the water pump as well.

                We took showers that night with hurricane lamps. My husband and I slept in the living room that night. I always have like Laura Ingalls Wilder, but that didn’t mean I wanted to live like her.



Day 1


                The next morning we went to get more gas for the generator. So did everybody else. We went to three gas stations before we finally found one. When we finally got up to the pump my husband filled two gas cans for his mother and four gas cans for us. He went in to pay and planned to get gas for his car when he came back. But another person had cut in line and was filling his gas cans.  My husband has also called five different places to see if they had larger generators. Everyone was completely sold out. We had to make do with what we had.

                Even though it was 95 degrees we spent the whole day cleaning up the yard and picking up debris. My mother and I cleaned up the sticks and branches on the driveway and hauled limbs from two of the trees my husband finished cutting down. We had planned on cutting the trees down anyway. Mother Nature did it for us ahead of schedule. My husband also raked all the leaves and sticks in the front yard into piles. I went around with the four wheeler and cart and picked them up and dumped them. When we took breaks we all just sat in the basement because it was cooler than upstairs. Upstairs it was 81 degrees.

                Since we didn’t have power, we had to figure out what we were going to do for supper. My mother’s house is all electric. I remember one time when the power went out when I was in high school. One of the trees in the backyard had been struck by lightning and it was lying over the power lines. It was only a matter of time before it fell. My mother called the electric company three times, but they never did anything about it. When the limb finally did fall we took out the whole North West side of the village. Then everyone in the neighborhood went out for supper. We had a gas stove so we had to eat at home.

                It was not the case this time. It was just a question of what was open. We called McDonald’s. No answer. Dairy Queen was open, but was expensive. My mother didn’t want pizza since we had just had it the other night and it was something hot. We tried Subway, but they didn’t have any tuna which was the kind of sub my mother and I wanted. We finally ended up going to town. Luckily the mall was open and we stopped at Taco Bell.

We took showers again by lantern light and my husband, the dog and I all slept in the living room again.



Day 2


I really hoped my husband did not want to work outside again. It was going to be hotter than 95 that day. He did a few things, but that was it. We found out his brother and one of our neighbor’s on Basin Street had power. I said we should move in with them until we got power back. We basically stayed inside and tried to stay as cool as possible. Even though we had the generator to power the aquarium we did lose a couple of fish. We had planned to get more fish that weekend, but couldn’t now. It was now 84 degrees upstairs. The generator also liked to kick off now and again.

That afternoon my husband bought ground beef and brats so we grilled out that night for supper. I had a brat and had planned on having another one for lunch the next day, but then remembered we didn’t have power for the microwave. Luckily the Tuesday before my mother had made two loaves of zucchini bread and I had made Tollhouse brownies. We ate those for breakfast and snacks.

My husband, the dog and I slept in the family room again.  My husband slept on the floor so I slept on the leather couch, which just made me that much hotter.



Day 3


My husband went down and filled the generator up with gas before he left for work. It was 4:00am.  The generator had been kicking off. It would kick off automatically when the oil needed to be filled. He said if the generator kicked off to go and ask his dad, my father-in-law if he could come down and see if he could tell if anything was wrong. My husband also said the oil was fine.

Only about ten minutes after he left the generator kicked off.  I was feeling around the living room like a blind man looking for the flashlight. I heard my mother come down the hallway so we both felt around for the flashlight and she found it. We trekked down the sidewalk with the flashlight to restart the generator. Luckily the night before my husband has shown us how to fill the generator up with gas and how to pull start it. We were able to start it back up. However it only lasted 10-15 minutes before it would kick off again. After four times of starting it my mother and I decided to see if by some chance my father-in-law was up. It was 5:40am after all. My husband had taken the cell phone to work so we were up the creek when it came to communication.

When we pulled into his driveway his generator had just shut off. His house doesn’t have air conditioning and he is on the village water meter which is gas powered. Luckily he was still awake. We told him the situation. He said he would come down and have a look. We had to go home the back way since the main drag was still closed because of trees down.

He looked the generator over and started it up no problem at all. He said it sounded just fine. After five minutes of listening to it run, he left. Around 15 minutes later it shut off.  Well we weren’t going to go back up and ask him again. So we just left it off for around an hour or so. Then we decided we would try and start it. We figured we would keep doing this until my husband came home. The longest the generator ran was 23 minutes at one time. We thought the longer we waited in between starting it the easier it was to start. We turned off the TV in hopes to conserve power.

In the meantime the phone company has showed up and we had phone again.  We called two of our friends in Granville. One had lost power, but one had a tree fall on her house and they now had a hole in the roof. My husband had called and I had told him about the generator. Three minutes later he called again and said he had just dialed the wrong number, he was trying to call his dad. Around a half an hour later, the generator started right up by itself.  My mother and I looked at each other and laughed. We knew my father-in-law must have come down and put some more oil in it. It was the only logical explanation that also fit the facts. When my husband came home, he confirmed our suspicions.

For supper my mother made an executive decision. We were going to the Dairy Queen.  I decided I had earned a hot fudge sundae for dessert.

We took showers that night in my mother’s bathroom which has window it in so we could see without the hurricane lamp. That night our showers were with cool water.



Day 4


We got up the next morning, fed the fish and hunted around for something for breakfast. Breakfast consisted of: goldfish crackers, animal crackers, pretzels, cookies and cereal. We didn’t have any idea what we were going to do for supper. Then we learned my mother-in-law got power. I figured she might invite us over for supper. When my husband called from work he confirmed my suspicion again.

That night it was so nice to eat in comfort in an air conditioned house. We had roast beef sandwiches, meatballs, veggie squares, fried zucchini and spiced apples. I didn’t realized how hungry I was until I started eating. We also had peach pie for dessert. She had seven of them in the freezer before the power outage. She also said we could come over tomorrow and do laundry. She would feed us until we got power back. My mother thought that was so nice of her. I said if the situation was reversed and we had power we would have done the same thing for her.

We came back home, watched TV and took cool showers again.



Day 5


The next morning around 9:30am we went back over to my mother-in-law’s and did laundry. We had two clothes hampers full.  We also had lunch over there.

That afternoon my husband decided to take a four wheeler ride down Narrows Road to see how much damage there was. We had heard Narrows Road had gotten hammered. There were huge limbs laying along the side of the road. Trees in the field were leaning sideways. Other trees were snapped. There were even some big trees uprooted and laying on the hillside. One person had lost their whole garage and another person had a tree land on his car.  We saw a substation that had lines down and also a generator hooked up. That could have been the reason so many people on Narrows were without power. According to the power company they were supposed to have all these trucks and workers out. They had brought all these people in from other states and the governor had even declared a state of emeregency for Ohio. But we never did see the first truck. The newspapers had said we had straight winds. There was no way, not with all the trees leaning sideways. My husband figured we must have had hurricane strength winds. Later on, the newscaster reported it as hurricane winds.

We ate supper at my mother-in-laws that night again. My husband called the power company just to see if he could get through. The person he talked to told him they didn’t know anything about our area being out of power. She asked if we were the only ones affected. He said at least half of the street was out if not the whole street. She said she would update the reports and we would hopefully have power by 12:00am Sunday. Four more days.

That night we ran a fan in our bedroom. Even though, my husband was terribly hot. He slept without his shirt and I was seriously considering changing into tank top. Even my mother who is never hot said she was pretty warm. My mother even suggested we sleep in the basement.  I said, “Don’t tempt me.” Sleeping in the basement had crossed my mind. I also had to wake my husband up in the middle of the night because it was raining and the generator wasn’t supposed to get wet. He thought about leaving it off the rest of the night, but we would have been miserable.







Day 6


The next couple of days were supposed to be over 100 degrees actual temperature with heat indexes of at least 115. My mother had a doctor’s appointment. When she got back, her forehead and hair was soaked with sweat

and her shirt was sticking to her. She said, “I don’t ever remember being this hot.”

I got up from the table one time and went into the kitchen to see what time it was. When I got in there I remembered the power was still out including the clock on the stove. Luckily we had a solar powered clock and it was 2:47pm.

When my husband got home, my mother and I were both sitting in the basement trying to cool off. He went upstairs to change clothes. When he came back downstairs, he started turning all the breakers back on and shut down the generator. We had power! He said he wanted to find the person who replaced the power lines and shake his hand because he had been able to get past me, my mother and the dog. And we had been sitting at the dining room table that faced the side yard where the powers lines were.

After we got back from his dad’s (who was still without power) the temperature upstairs was a nice and cool 75. When I got out of the shower it felt so nice to actually be cold again. We had macaroni and cheese and hot dogs for supper since we could cook now.

Even though we had power the tree limb that had taken the power out in the first place was still hanging over the new power line. I was worried it would fall and we would be without power again.  We called the power company and the tree company, but had gotten nowhere. My husband filled out a report on line, so did I and he called again. So we had three reports out there.




Tuesday July 10th

That afternoon I looked out the window and saw a person walking around the tree. I went out to see what he wanted. He said they had received our reports. They had a crew down the street and they would come and take the limb down. They might have to shut the power off for a couple of minutes. My mother made sure they would check and make sure they remembered to turn the power back on before they left. In the end they didn’t have to turn the power off at all. As it turned out the people who restored our power were actually from Birmingham, Alabama.

After this we have decided to go with an automatic in home 36 Kilowatt generator so we don’t have to go through this again. The generator will turn on by itself and turn off by itself once the power comes back on. A 36kw will power the entire house, air conditioning included. So if the power ever goes out again we will be all set.

All I can say is we sure have a new found respect for Amish people.



Click Here for more stories by Abbey Gray