An Ill Wind

by John Delach

I did not plan a piece for today, but Isaias changed that. Isaias, what a peculiar name. Pronounced, E-sy-E-us, it is the Spanish or Latin translation of Isaiah meaning “God is Salvation.”

Isaias was also a named windstorm that travelled through the Northeastern states on Tuesday, August 4. Not to be confused with a monster storm like Superstorm Sandy that clobbered the Metropolitan area with water and wind, Isaias was downgraded to a fast-moving tropical storm by the time it arrived in this area.

It didn’t receive the hype that Sandy did either, but in the short time it took to pass, we learned that it isn’t always size that counts. Mary Ann and I had three separate encounters with the storm and its aftermath.

We began our experience in Denmark, ME at the summer camp of Geoff and Judy Jones our old friends who summer in Maine and winter in Saint Simons Island, GA. Each year we alternate visiting the Jones’ in Maine or they visit us in New Hampshire. Both homes are in the sticks, but their camp is on a lovely lake.

We knew the storm was coming on Tuesday, so we made haste to return to Marlow before it arrived. Less than 130 miles separate us but, since most of the journey is along two-lane country roads, traveling time is about three hours.

Still the storm seemed to arrive simultaneously with us about 3pm. By 5pm a large eye treated us to blue skies that quickly darkened. Rain and wind returned causing a power failure before six. Geoff and Judy lost their power about the same time. Losing power in rural areas is common enough that Geoff maintains a gasoline powered generator. We don’t spend as much time so we depend on battery powered lanterns and faith that New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) would save the day sooner rather than later.

Our son, Michael, his wife, Jodie and daughter Samantha were with us, but their two boys had left separately that morning driving back to Fairfield, Connecticut. Fortunately, Jodie had already prepared a pasta in meat sauce dinner just before the lights went out. Our guests left the next morning in the continuing blackout. Before they left, Drew told them power was out in Fairfield. We also discovered Port Washington had also been hit hard with numerous trees down.

Curiously, our NH problem turned out to be a broken utility pole that NHEC replaced mid-afternoon on Wednesday letting there be light once again. The Jones’ utility also acted swiftly but failed to re-connect them or their neighbor on Wednesday. On Thursday Geoff ventured out to find a utility truck and after a bit of frustration, found six in convoy. The lead diver agreed to follow Geoff home where the lineman spotted a tripped circuit breaker on the top of the pole leading to their home. He used a 30-foot telescoping pole to reset the breaker leading to a bright and loud spark along the line and a second tripped breaker. The workers fixed the short and power lived again.

We also learned that our New Jersey friends, Mike and Lynn Scott were without power in their Fairhaven home. WTF? How could three major Metropolitan power suppliers in three different states get it wrong. After Sandy, all of us had been sold the same bill-of-goods that they had taken steps to minimize outages and re-invented their communication system so that customers would receive accurate and timely updates. Instead, Isaias overwhelmed the utilities and, in each case accurate communication was zero point zero.

Our Port Washington power returned Friday morning, Michael Delach’s on Saturday morning and the Scotts on Saturday evening.

Despite the wide-spread annoyance of Isaias, I was able to take away an odd tale from the blackout in Port Washington. A good method to remotely determine whether power is on or off is to call the answering machine. If the power is on, the call will go through to voice mail. If it is off, it won’t go though.

Sometime on Wednesday I called 883-0040 from my mobile phone. On the second ring, a man said hello.

Nonplused, I was silent for a second or two then I said, “I’m taken aback. I never thought that a person would pick-up this call. You see I was calling a number that should have gone to a voice mail.” That number is 883-0040.”

He replied: “Amazingly, this phone number doesn’t contain even one of those digits! Must be a problem in the switching system.”

Sorry.” I replied. I called back on our NH land line this time including the area code: 516-883-0040.

Same fellow picked it up and answered: “You again.”

“Good grief, I thought including the area code would set it free. I will not bother you again. Goodbye”

True to my promise I didn’t call him again, but my daughter did. So did our friend, Sue from Florida and the Hampton Inn, Oxford, OH called to confirm a reservation for my son. I have no idea who else called, but on Friday I decided to call him one last time and offer him a bottle of his favorite brand as thanks for his trouble. Too bad, but by the time I called my answering machine was back in operation.

So, whoever you are, if I ever find you again, I owe you and thank you for your patience.