I like to think of myself as a pretty prepared person. We have lanterns, extra batteries, food and bottled water. I keep gas in the car, and if I raid the kids' piggy banks, I can come up with some cash on hand as well. Where we live in Pennsylvania rarely sees true "disasters." We are very, very fortunate.
But the world is changing and the weather is getting wilder. We rode out Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, we lost a refrigerator of food to a previous long-term warm-weather power outage, but thank our lucky stars, that's about it.
This time, as the temperature in our house dropped and the news was reporting ever-growing numbers of people without power, I knew we had to get out of dodge. It would take PECO and the wonderful volunteer lineman and crews that came here a while to restore all that power (my guess was three to five days). I knew that, because my dad used to be one of those guys and I can appreciate all their hard work.
One of the kids had a friend over on Wednesday, so my plan to flee was slightly delayed, which worked out well. As we hunkered in on Wednesday in sweatshirts and under blankets, I made my plan to flee in between playing games. We're lucky that my parents live close enough to go to but far enough not to be affected by the same situation (this time).
I put five freezer bags of snow in my refrigerator in hopes of not having to toss everything in there when the power got restored. I had some ice packs in my freezer already. I also didn't open the doors more than necessary.
We each packed a bag to get us through that day and two more. I figured if necessary, I could take a trip back or do laundry at my mom's. Pillows? Check. Books, gadgets and chargers? Check.
We were off.
Well, for about 20 minutes through unplowed, snow-covered streets, littered with fallen limbs, until I realized I had left my purse with my driver's license, cash and credit, at home. We turned around, and did that white-knuckle gauntlet two more times before we got to the outer edges of the ice storm damage.
It was smooth sailing into New Jersey – in fact, I couldn't believe we had left the set of Frozen and driven into a green/brown landscape. My dad was bringing home dinner as we arrived – perfect timing.
My parents fed us and entertained us for three days and two nights while we waited for PECO to restore our power. I pored over the Internet, looking for information about our area. I checked our township Facebook page every 10 minutes to follow what was going on. Will there be school? When will the power go back on? The questions far outweighed the answers. John stayed behind, needing to be at work, and also to watch over the house.
Our story had a happy ending. We got power back late Thursday night, and the kids and I returned home Friday evening. The kids missed school on Friday – they had a delayed opening, but we just couldn't get back in time. Many of my neighbors and friends are still without power, going on five days, so I know how lucky we are.
But I still had this strange sense of being a refugee, forced to flee my home, with an uncertain future. It made me realize (as so many of life's moments have the power to do) how lucky we are and how much we need each other. We're a family – no matter where we are or what we go through. We work best as a team.
Hillary Chybinski is a crafty mom of two boys living the American Dream with her husband in the Philly burbs. This post was adapted from her blog, My Scraps.