It had been an extremely hot summer season here in the North Country, as well as for the entire nation. Business as usual went on though, day after day through the sweltering heat. According to news reports, the heat wave was so severe demand for electricity was actually exceeding supply in many parts of the country. Once again California and other parts out West were experiencing "rolling blackouts" in an attempt to distribute available power. Even parts of Texas were experiencing rolling blackouts from time to time. While the North and East Coast regions were experiencing flickering and sometimes dimming of the lights, now and then. These "brownouts" seemed like they were becoming more and more common, lasting longer in duration. Climate Change was the talk everywhere as temperatures soared 10 to 15 degrees above normal.
It was reported on the news daily, just how world wide this heat wave really was and that this country was one of the better ones coping with it. Horrific stories were constantly being reported about countries that were fairing far worse, many had lost electricity completely. To make matters worse, a very large hurricane was building strength and was expected to land on the Southeast Coast of the country, within the next day. The bulk of the news was heat related and stories ranged from those expiring usually the elderly, to ways of keeping your pets cool. Following up every newscast was a plea for people to conserve on electrical energy. Mostly by controlling use of air conditioning, however this was extremely hard to do with temperatures soaring into the 100 degree range for most of the country.
This evening while watching the news, it was announced that almost all of the Western Interconnection Network had gone down, leaving millions of people without power. All 14 grids in California had failed! People there had been urged to stay put and to stay calm as the power was expected to be restored soon.
The next day while working in the blazing sun, the Category 5 hurricane was dominating the news coverage on the radio. It was pounding the East Coast and moving it's way inland along the Gulf states towards Texas. It wasn't long before the music stopped and that's all they were talking about, kind of like when 9/11 happened. Apparently, Atlanta had been hit very hard and people were doing all they could to get out of the way of the storm's path. "Sketchy" reports were also coming in that the California situation hadn't improved, that now almost all the Western states had blackout. By now the condition was now spreading to many parts of the much smaller Texas Interconnection Network, putting even more people without power. Then, it was back to coverage of the hurricane.
I'll admit I was getting a little scared at that point and decided to go back into the plant to cool off. As soon as I walked through the doorway, I noticed the lights were flickering and dimming. Worse yet, the huge electrical saw motors were surging! I immediately ran over to shut them down and threw the switch disconnecting them for the plants power. I proceeded to shut down the entire operation and sent the workers home. There was not much complaining as they too, wanted to go home after listening to what was happening over the radio. Almost surreal, my instincts were telling me something horrible was happening now.
There was no greeting of the usual hum of air conditioners when I arrived home. Instead my wife greeted me at the door, informing me that the power had gone completely out. Turning right around, I made my way to the generator house and within minutes, power had been restored to the house.
At noon the news came on and a visibly shaken newscaster told us that the station was on reserve power. Apparently the whole State had lost power, including surrounding states and most of Canada. They had no idea of how long it would take before the power would be back on line but to be patient and hopefully it would be restored soon. The hurricane was reported as the largest ever that had reached the mainland and reports were becoming sketchy, as the power had been lost for the entire Southern region of the nation. The President was to address the American people the status of the situation in the South at seven o'clock, right after the national news.
At seven o'clock, a very tired and distressed President began her address from the Oval Office. She started out describing the enormity of the hurricane and how it's powerful force had devastated Atlanta. The largest hurricane ever recorded to reach inland had apparently wrecked havoc across the entire Gulf state region and the assessment of the damage would begin tomorrow. There were no estimates in the loss of human life at the time. She regretted to inform everyone that the entire North American continent had temporarily lost power. Due to the catastrophic damage the hurricane had left in the South and the deteriorating condition the Western system was already in, engineers could not act fast enough before the entire system went down or was deliberately shut down to prevent further damage. She believed that this outage would only be a temporary condition and that some portions of the system would soon be back on line. The President then took a deep breath and further explained she was declaring a State of National Emergency and Martial Law was enacted. She would be ordering all armed forces back to the U.S. immediately and for all National Guardsmen to report for duty.
After regaining her composure, the President reassured the American people that Homeland Security was prepared and would soon be working with State and local officials. She was closing all ports of entry into the country for the time being. She suggested that everyone should stay put and remain calm. To cooperate with federal, state and local officials in the task of getting life back to normal as can be. But for now, to remain hopeful and upbeat in making an unpleasant situation the best it could be. Again, she repeated to stay put for now and wait for the power to be restored or when help arrives.
My wife and I, just stared at each other in a daze when that silly sitcom came on right after the address...