I posted this on the Garritan forum, but I thought I'd share it here as well.
I live about 50 miles east of Pensacola, and so our town was pretty much in the direct path of Ivan. Watching the news I was sure that at speeds of 160 mph, our house would not stand afterwards (especially with several large trees nearby). We evacuated to Tallahassee about 150 miles east, only to find out that every hotel in the city was booked. So I called 1-800-Holiday and found out that the nearest hotel was in Jacksonville, several hours away.
We finally arrived, got in our hotel, monitored the storm on the telly till we eventually fell asleep. Got up the next morning, packed to get back home, and called the police in our area to ask what kind of damage they were dealing with. Mostly downed trees and power outages.
So we drove for several hours toward home, and stopped to eat some breakfast. Unfortunately KFC was the only joint open for miles, and was complimented with the smell of fried foods, urine, and baby diapers. We kind've lost our appetite and decided just to go home - that is until we met someone who lived in the same county as us informing that HE wasn't able to go home because of the now infamous 'curfew'. So we again called the police in our area and asked if we could return home. NO - CURFEW. So there we were, already a long ways away from Jacksonville (the only city with vacancy), with no place to stay.
We kept going anyway!
As we neared home, the damage was becoming apparent. Indeed downed trees, church steeples bent, signs that looked like origami, foliage strewn all over the road. As I suspected, no police 'kept' us from heading home, despite the curfew.
As we turned onto our street, we all kind've held our breath. The house was still standing, and I was very overwhelmed and overjoyed, almost to the point of tears. The damage was minor, with a good number of shingles ripped off the roof, and the corner of the rain gutter demolished from a branch that JUST missed the roof.
Then there was the wild card. My mother or sister accidently locked the screen door that lead to the FRONT door of the house. With no power to open the garage, and the windows boarded like a pro, getting inside was obstacle uno. So we got pliers, a little elbow grease and spent time literally peeling the wood off the bathroom window. We threw our sister in there, she unlocked the door, and we got in.
NO POWER. That's alright, it'll be on probably tomorrow, or the day after, tops.. right?
After we arrived, we got to work right away on clean-up duty. Picking up large branches, raking, ect. Afterwards I went scouting up and downtown to go shop for any Sternos to heat up some ramen. Silly me! - 100% of the stores were closed... So we ate some rice and goodies stored in the fridge... which was losing its cool (no, not getting mad).
Lemme tell you - the worst part of a power outage in Florida is having to sleep in a 92 degree humid-as-hell household. I ended up using my APC unit to charge my parents cell phones and turn on my tiny portable fan (which helped immensely). I used to live like this when I was living in South Korea with no a/c for 5 years - the U.S spoils ya!
Morning arrived - still no power... no biggie, I'm a big boy, I can tough it out no problem.
First obstacle, breakfast. Mmm... no milk - which means no cereal. *digs around in the cabinet* hmm.. corn. Not bad. I remember after eating it, I returned to the kitchen to find a hilarious rig my dad constructed to get his morning coffee. He got one of the candles, propped a pot in a way so that the ONE candle heats up the bottom of it... *shakes head* My dad walks in to check the progress. "Hey I see steam!" *I continue to shake my head*
So finally mother returns from the now-open grocery store with chips, beanie weenies, bread, water, capri-sun, olives, jalapenos, cookies, and V8. This combination seems weird, but at that point it seemed to be a gourmet meal.
I decided to drive around town to check out the damage, and boy... we were blessed. Some houses were totaled due to hugantic trees, boats were washed up on shore, 30 feet away from the road. Some businesses were flooded (literally), and a monumental number of police were driving up and down the street (counted 32 crown victorias all driving in a row!). I remember when we drove back from Jacksonville, a tremendous number of military vehicles and cherry pickers were all headed to our area.. - quite surreal.
Day 3 - still no power. The cuteness of the situation has now worn off... I grunted, ate a sandwich with some beanie-weenies, and was off to hunt down ice and gas.
Gas stations - all closed. Grocery store - no ice. Aaron - frustrated.
So I decided to listen to NPR on 88.1 FM. "*radio crackle* Ice distribution point for Niceville (town neighboring mine), is on the Niceville fairgrounds.. *crackle* National Guard is helping pass out free ice, MRE's, and water... *crackle*." Hearing these words at this point in time was glorious music to my ears. So I got down there, volunteers loaded 2 packs of packaged ice in my car. Drove twenty feet further to the next station - got 2 MRE's (meal ready-to-eat). Drove another 20 feet and got a box of bottle water... all of this free. To see people helping out like this really warms your heart. I wanted to volunteer and help them out, but since I was the man of the house during that part of the week (father had to return to Alabama right away to work), gathering the necessities for the mom, sis' and dog were priority. *boasts out unmanly chest*
Day 4 - No power, woke up drenched in sweat, dog barking woke me up after little sleep... Grit my teeth, took a shower, a new day.
At this point I was getting used to the 90 degree household (no choice really), and was getting composer withdrawals. So I got out my pen and manuscript paper and jotted some ideas to be realized via samples later. Later in the day we cleaned out the fridge as most of the stuff was going to rot anyway. The meat in the freezer was still cool, but we threw out the pork anyway (mother says pork no-freeze - bad).
WE BBQ'ed THE REST OF THE MEAT! This way you can wrap it up in aluminum and store it in the ice - will last longer. To our surprise 4-5 of our neighbors were all bbq'ing their cuts and dogs, not by coincidence I'm sure.
By that night we were all still damned hot. We lit up the candles, had some nice conversation (this is not going THAT direction your pervs), and were pretty comfortable with all the windows open letting in the occasional breeze. I was lighting matches at that time... not to light candles, but just to light them.. (first time ever being bored). About a minute later the smoke detector was beginning to wheeze out some sound - like it was TRYING to alarm us smoke was in the house. I made a comment akin to, "wait... smoke detectors aren't supposed to work without electricity." And at that moment, the entire house got power, and we were prancing around the house like a bunch of idiots singing some type of gibberish. I remember going outside the house and shouting a sound similar to that of a moose being kicked in the... Power, WE GOT POWER!! :-D
It's amazing how much stuff is taken for granted, and amazing how much of our lives are based around STUFF. Even though our experience doesn't hold a candle to those who've lost their homes, we did learn some valuable lessons, and only a handful of them a direct result of having no power.