Totally in the dark

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

Click. Nothing.

Click. Nothing.

Click. Nothing.

After the third click-nothing and calling myself an idiot for the third time, it finally sank in … the power is really, totally off. The habit of turning on lights every time I entered a room was just that … a habit.

Luckily, it was Saturday morning and it was a bright, beautiful day outside.

Not since Hurricane Ike hit Ohio in 2008, have I worried about how long a power outage might last.

Saturday, after several hours of click-nothing, I started to worry. I was concerned that the high winds and significant wind damage the county endured on Thursday might have caused some damage to the power infrastructure that would result in a prolonged outage.

Actually, what do I know about power infrastructure? What I do know is that the local outages following the remnants of Hurricane Ike were horrible. I would hate for our community to go through that again.

The day Ike hit, Debbie and I were at the Elks Golf Course. Our local Elks Lodge was sponsoring the annual statewide Elks golf tournament. Our job was to monitor the hole-in-one contest on the 18th hole.

We parked out golf cart just to the left of the tee box. As the wind increased, pine cones, from the line of trees that border the east side of the hole, started flying from the trees. Soon, we were dodging flying pine cones.

After a few minutes, so many pine cones were whizzing at us that we couldn’t dodge them all. We were getting whacked with pine cones and limbs.

The contest on the hole involved golfers paying a few bucks. If they hit the green, they got some money back. If they made a hole-in-one, they made some big bucks.

As the golf matched went on and the wind from Ike started kicking up, even the best golfers couldn’t even get their drive halfway to the green before the wind slammed it to the ground. Obviously, people quit trying. Hurricane Ike’s 77-mile-an-hour winds beat every golf drive.

After a few more minutes, the tournament was cancelled completely. The lodge was afraid that a tree would go flying across one the fairways and wipe out an entire foursome. Cancelling was a smart call.

Debbie and I headed for El Dorado Mexican Restaurant. We ordered our margaritas and sat down in our favorite booth by a window. Within a few minutes … the lights went out. No more power. We had just received our ice-cold drinks but, unfortunately, the dinner had to be cancelled.

The electricity appeared to be out throughout the city. Thank goodness, it was mid-September. We didn’t have to worry about staying warm. When we got home, instinctively I started the “click-nothing” routine.

We have become so reliant on electrical power that we automatically assume the lights will come on whenever we flip the switch. We all know it doesn’t work that way. We just click out of habit.

All of us need to have backup plans for prolonged power outages.

Following Hurricane Ike and the hours and days without power that many of us experienced, Debbie and I had our fireplace converted to gas. I’m glad we did. It was cold this past Saturday. Our gas-fired fireplace kept the family home toasty warm.

We limited the number of times we opened the refrigerator so the food would stay cool for as long as possible. We limited the number of times we opened doors to keep the cold out. Fortunately, within a few hours DP&L had the power restored. Click-lights is so much better than click-nothing.

By the middle of this week, it will officially be spring. Spring storms with rain, wind and the occasional tornado will be a real possibility.

Now is the time to prepare. Have back-up power available. It might not be a full-house generator, but flashlights with new batteries are vital. A camping stove that can be used on your porch or deck to warm water and food will be needed. Even though it will be spring, you might need an alternate heat source.

Think about all the bad things that can happen and get ready. Be prepared.

If the lights go out, don’t bother flipping the switches.

It will just make you feel like an idiot.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

Randy Riley

Contributing columnist