Power outages

I woke up struggling to breathe.  My BiPAP machine was off.  I reached down and touched the “On” button.  Nothing.  I pressed it again.  Nothing.  Then I glanced at where the bright numbers of the digital clock should’ve been telling me the time.  It was dark.  I stripped off my BiPAP mask, realizing that the power was out and that it was pitch black in the basement.  I gave myself an hour to struggle for more sleep without my BiPAP, but I just couldn’t breathe, so I got up and carefully navigated out of the bedroom by touch and by memory.  I managed to reach my cell phone in the living room and turned on the display, using it to walk into the kitchen and get my climbing headlamp that I normally read with at night.  It has a strong, rechargeable battery in it.  I thought, not for the first time, that I should recharge that battery soon.  Once I had my headlamp on, I went to the bathroom and then asked my husband who to call about the electricity being out.  He told me to go check and see if the streetlights were out first.  I walked out the basement door and up the stairs.  It was pitch black outside. Yep, the streetlights were out.  We just went through a day and a half of torrential rain and the utility companies have been digging deep holes in our neighborhood for fiberoptic cable and pipe, the corner across the street included.  Whatever caused the power outage was probably related to all the water.  Regardless of the cause, we needed it fixed, so went into the kitchen and found the latest NorthWestern Energy bill and called the toll-free number on the top of the statement.  After choosing a few options from their automated menu, it gave me a message stating that there was indeed a power outage in my area and that crews had been dispatched to fix the problem, with no estimate on how long that would take.  Of course there was no estimate…

I dug out another headlamp to have as a back-up just in case the battery in my trusty rechargeable headlamp decided to give out.  I had no idea how long I’d be using my headlamp, but I’d be using it to do something with because I couldn’t sleep without my BiPAP machine.  I’m quite fond of headlamps and have quite a few.  I’m of the opinion that I need more!  That opinion aside, I was contemplating moving my GoalZero Yeti 400 Power Station into the bedroom to plug my BiPAP into so that I could get a few more hours of sleep when the power came back on.  Everything in the house that had the capability of beeping and blinking blinked and beeped, resetting.  I saw that the nightlight that we have plugged in beside the kitchen sink was on, so I cautiously flipped the kitchen light switch and the light came on!  I don’t know why I was surprised, but I was, and pleasantly so.  By this time, I was fully awake, though.  Yes it was 0300 hrs in the morning, but by the time I got back to sleep, it would be time to get up again, and I have an appointment this morning that I need to go to.  At the moment, it’s 0521 hrs and I’m recharging the battery in my headlamp, and I plan to charge an extra that I have as well when this one is finished charging.

We are amazingly reliant on electricity in America!  Lights, internet, phones, you name it, we need electricity to charge and power these things so they’ll work for us!  I thought this morning, as I sat in the dark with my headlamp on, what it must be like for people who have no electricity.  I live in Montana.  The nights are chilly here in the summer, and in the winter, the warmest days can be below zero.  Just think of sitting alone in a cold, dark place, wondering if you’re going to see daylight again because you might not survive the night.  That thought disturbed me.  I have pretty good night vision if it’s pitch black outside.  In the military, that served me very well, but still…  I had the gear I needed to stay warm in the military and the skills and weapons to defend myself with if need be.  I thought more in terms of being homeless this morning, or in a poor country where the people live in mud huts and eat dirt with disease running rampant throughout their population.  I thought about people who weren’t climbers, who didn’t have headlamps on in a basement apartment, sitting at a kitchen table contemplating these things.  I thought about my headlamp going out…

The power outage had a profound effect on my thought process this morning.  For one thing, we’re very blessed to have electricity.  For another thing, we’re way too reliant on non-sustainable means of storing and using it.  My GoalZero battery can be wall-charged with the established electrical infrastructure, or it can be charged via solar panels, which was the whole point of purchasing it because I took it with me camping on a multi-day climbing trip to Ten Sleep Canyon last summer so that I could power my BiPAP machine with it in order to sleep at night.  It would’ve been of great value and use to me this morning to power my BiPAP right here in the apartment if the power had been out longer, too!  Definitely a worthwhile purchase!!!  If you’re survival-minded and independence-minded, which you should be, plan some solar-compatible power stations and panels into your game.  You’ll be glad you did.

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