Power Out!

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Typically when I use the phrase, power out, I’m referring to some degree of productivity. As in, I’m going to power out on this laundry. Translation = I’m going to focus on the laundry until it’s done.

However, last week an experience unique to those in the very southwest of the United States gave new meaning to those words. We experienced a very widespread and unexpected power outage that affected sections of Arizona, Mexico, and Southern California. It was a trip, to say the least.

I was with one boy on “a date” at Target; hubs had another boy on a Father-son trip to the library; the rest were at home under the watchful eye of their big brother.


Target’s power went out and I thought it was a fluke thing. My cell phone was dying, but I answered when hubs called. The power was out at the library, too. Hmmm…. I got on the freeway, wondering if something bigger had happened. Thoughts of 9-11, earthquakes, and being unprepared rushed through my mind.

It took me an hour to drive ten miles. Apparently not all my fellow San Diegans read their driver’s ed handbook as assiduously as I did in high school. With traffic lights out, folks didn’t do so great getting through intersections. Lots of gridlock.

Lots of sirens blaring in the distance. And me with a dead cell phone and kids home alone. I had a little panic attack, particularly so, as the radio station I randomly picked turns out to be an alarmist type station, and they were hyping things up. major. big. time. Talk of explosions, terrorism, navy maneuvers off the coast. Yes, thanks, that helps my commute home. I rarely listen to the radio, so I had no clue I had latched onto some hyper folk.

FishBoy7 and I got home to find the others all safe and happy. It took hubs another hour to get home after me.

We were all home together. It was not a national emergency nor a natural disaster. And we had water and gas. While we had been told by police agencies not to use our phones (cell or landlines), we could use texts to communicate with the outside world. Funny how that happens. I would never before have considered texting a valuable resource.

We had no power, but we had a lot.

  • We had running water and a hand water filter.
  • We had gas for the water heater and the stove as well as propane for the barbecue.
  • We had a neighbor with a generator so Thursday night football was covered. (Yes, really.)
  • We had candles and a few flashlights. (Time to stock up on batteries!)
  • We had a camping lantern and a picnic table in the backyard.
  • We had some delicious BBQ potato chips in the pantry for the nervous mama to munch on. (Yes, I ate half the bag.)
  • We had lots to choose from in the fridge — grilled quesadillas, fresh salsa, pineapple juice, and chocolate milk.
  • We had no TV and little computer time. (I confess to turning on Dora on my laptop to buy me a little dinner prep time.)
  • We had some funky headlamps that the kids loved to wear.
  • I had renewed resolve to get our emergency act together.

We made connections of a non-electrical kind.

That night instead of scattering to different areas of the house, we convened in the family room/kitchen where I had gathered the few decorative candles we own. It was a fun mood! We lounged on couches, chairs, and floor, enjoying the cool breeze coming in through the open windows.

And we played 20 Questions – Movies. We laughed and played a group game. We’ve not done that in a long time. We’ve relied too much on our own little entertainments. Even though we try to limit our TV and computer time, we still tend to scatter in the evenings to books or TV or games.

That night we didn’t scatter.

The dark was exciting, particularly since there was no danger present. We were safe — and we expected power to return in the morning, which it did.

But that night was sweet. By total random blessing from God, I found several packages of light sticks in a drawer — in the dark! We had instant night lights for each bathroom.

And each FishChick went to sleep with a fluorescent wand in her hand, blissful.

In fact, the next morning the girls woke while it wasn’t yet light outside. FishChick4 started sobbing as soon as she came out her door. “I want a dark house,” she wailed.

The boys agreed that it had been a fun night. While I lamented my lack of “preparation,” hubs reassured me that there really hadn’t been anything we needed. Except of course marshmallows to toast for s’mores.

So, this week I’m buying more batteries, light sticks, and marshmallows. And we might just stage another night to power out.

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  1. I have been known to slip into the laundry room and flip the breaker on occasion just so we can have together time.We drag out the board games and the camp stove to cook on,light the kerosene lamps and have a blast.Sometimes it’s fun to live for a few hours like they did “back when”.

  2. wow, makes me want to check my emergency supply…ok, i have no emergency supply…need to stock up on bbq potato chips just in case. Really though, this is such a nice post. Wouldn’t it be nice if more families did this even when the power was on?

  3. Yep, that was a fun time! Truthfully I panicked a bit too and was glad to have the power back 12 hours later. My hubby made me go out on Friday, kids and all, to stock up on a few things including gas. If it happens again we’re ready : )


  4. BBQ chips are definitely needed for times like that.

    Sigh. I’m not sure why people don’t realize that with a power outage, intersections become a four-way-stop. I’ve seen way too many people just blow through an uncontrolled light. Frightening and reckless.

    I’m glad to hear that your weathered the outage well and even made it a party.

  5. We recently did the same thing with hurricane Irene on the east coast. I had expected the power outage, so at least we were prepared. It was a novelty for the kids, but truth be told…I really enjoyed it!

  6. Oh, thank you for addressing some of these issues. Being prepared to live out of your pantry for a few weeks I think is really important. Families might want to make a list of what they normally eat and see what they need to buy. Perhaps purchasing some extra foods with each paycheck wouldn’t be such a burden for those living on a tight budget. With winter approaching and the financial storm the USA is in right now, it might be a good idea to be prepared for the unexpected. BTW, I’ve read that comfort foods (like those BBQ chips) is really important in a crisis :)!!

  7. Even with power, it is a rarity for families to be home. In ND we are used to blizzards, but a couple years ago they were forecasting a big blizzard and all we heard was about people wondering what they were going to do at home all weekend.

  8. I highly recommend a car charger for your cell phones. The one I have charges my phone even when the car is off. Not sure if that’s a feature of the car or the charger as I’ve had some where that wasn’t the case. Anyway, I had a bad experience on a cross country road trip so I’ve made sure to have a charger in every car I’ve owned since.

    1. Yes! Totally agree. I didn’t have it in the car I was driving that day. But, I charged it as soon as I got home. I think it’s the car not the charger that allows it to charge without power. It works in our ’02 but not in our 96. So, I think newer cars have that capability. Love it!

  9. That sounds like a scary 10 mile drive home but I’m glad your family had a nice evening in the dark.

    When we moved in February the cable company screwed up the install date and we didn’t have TV/internet/phone for 4 days. It was an awesome couple of days of family togetherness and once everything got hooked up I debated cutting the lines.

  10. thought of your family when i heard of the sw power outage and wondered if you had updated your “be prepared kit”. thankful that overall things went well for your family. chuckled when i read fishchick’s comment. how sweet that she wanted more time in your dark house to continue. now restock the batteries, light sticks, bbq chips!!!!!! and don’t forget the marshmallows & chocolate!!!!!!!

  11. We’re in San Diego too and the whole thing made me realize how unprepared I am for any type of emergency…one flashlight, low on batteries. Good thing I have an obsession with candles!

    1. Yeah, I was thinking that I could justify all kind of candle purchases this winter. LOL

  12. A couple years ago our whole city shut down when we got a big winter storm (we rarely get snow here). It was at Christmas time and everyone stayed home. It really made the holidays better because everyone was forced to slow down. People seemed less grouchy. We had a Christmas Eve service in our living room with just our family–so memorable.