The Night The Lights Went Out in Los Feliz

I remember it all very well looking back…

It was windy Wednesday evening. Traffic was crazy on the way to yoga. On the way home it looked like it had let up. I stopped at JuShan’s for a night cap. Because that’s what you do after yoga. I left a little bit later and drove home, the maze of fallen palm fronds making me feel like I was on an agility course. My car passed.

I came into my house and began prepping for bedtime. The power went off. My neighbor’s bf texted me something along the lines of “POWER OUTAGE!” (I hope this is the way he delivers the news when the big one hits.) The power came back on. I had barely had any time to panic so I was like, phew! That was close. Then the power went off again. At this point I was like, maybe I should start prepping some things. Then the power came back on. I finished getting ready for bed and plugged my phone in. The wind was howling. I started popping Advil PM. I can have trouble going to sleep on a perfectly quiet night, so I knew I would need some help. I also needed to be up early to volunteer so I didn’t want to lay around awake wasting precious hours.

So I’m laying there when I hear a thud and see two bright flashes of light out my window. And that’s the moment I knew it wasn’t going to be good. But luckily the Advil PM had kicked in and I didn’t care and I went to sleep.

I woke up the next morning and there was this really eerie feeling in the air. I wasn’t too shocked to see I still didn’t have power. And then I left the house. And there were several wires hanging at our street corner. Most were tied with fire caution ribbon. Palm fronds were EVERYWHERE. Down the block from me a huge tree had fallen over blocking the road. I can’t believe I didn’t just walk around taking pictures, but I didn’t.

I volunteer two neighborhoods over from where I live. Traffic lights were out more than half the way there, including a five-spoke intersection that’s hellacious when power is on. Traffic cops were doing their best. At intersections where they weren’t posted, I was shocked to see how many Los Angelinos didn’t remember that the rule with dark lights is to treat it like a four-way stop.

After volunteering, I went out in search of dry ice. Four stores. I was apparently right behind the guy who got the last one. I’m sure it was comedic as I ran in, asked the first worker I saw, had them ask someone else for suggestions as to where to go next, and then I was off. I finally got over it, assuming I should leave dry ice for people with fully-stocked fridges and hungry families. Besides, it had already been 13 hours and things were already not doing well.

So I moved on to the next task. My blackberry was dying. It doesn’t work well in the best of circumstances, but really gets sluggish when the battery begins to die. So I headed up the street to the library. Despite the fact that everywhere around the library was without power, the library’s lights were on. When someone else asked the librarian if a generator was to thank, the librarian told her the library runs on its own power, not a generator.

Well isn’t that special? I used the library power to charge my phone and laptop. And then I went home to get ready. Because I had a ticket to Wicked, and when you’re running on natural light in the winter, you have to get ready by 4h30p.

I lit candles. My apartment looked amazing. My friend J stopped by after work in an effort to salvage any of the food. Remember all the cheeses I referenced the other day? Sadface.

I had never seen Wicked, so it was a nice distraction. We pulled onto Hollywood Blvd and it was like sensory overload…ALL OF THE LIGHTS! It hadn’t even been 24 hours and I was already used to the new dark apocalyptic atmosphere of my street. Wicked was predictably great. Even tho I felt a little sensitive about all the mentions of wind storms (kidding). I actually really liked the story’s perspective, and we were lucky to have the Broadway Glinda. I can totally see how Kristin Chenoweth must have rocked that role. This girl did a great job as well.

So I come home and nighttime’s not the hard time to not have power. I nestled into bed with a book and my headlamp and was a happy camper.

The next morning (Friday) I babysat for a friend. So I was able to charge my phone while chasing her little girl around. I came home and finished the book. And maybe fell asleep. But then it was past 4h30p and I still needed to get ready. So I did makeup by flashlight.

A street without street lights or lights from within houses is a freaky scary place to walk around. So I didn’t really do it. But people gathered at corners. Because that’s what happens when an entire neighborhood is in the same boat. To commiserate. To share what they’ve heard or seen. To watch the eight LADWP trucks that had been working for hours. Their radios blaring random issues and addresses. Anyway, we stop to talk to a woman who’s standing there and I comment that it looks like the workers have gone home for the night. She says she just talked to someone who said it could be two hours or two days…then she tells us about breaking up with her online Canadian bf. We wished her well and headed out to a comedy show in a garage on the westside.

We ended up at a Denny’s later that night, and my phone was once again needing some juice. I asked the waitress ever-so-sweetly, and she plugged it in for me. That’s a secret tho, so I didn’t tell you that. When S was driving me home, we noticed the street lights were on. We knew that was a good sign.

The first thing I did (after turning on a light) was put a record on. (It had been WAY too quiet around here!) Floyd Cramer filled the air. My 48 hours were over.

I have to say: I never lost water. My heat and water heater run on gas. I was very lucky. And I wasn’t all that bothered about having to use candles instead of lights. I got used to it. I was most bummed about the phone issue and the absence of the internet. Luxuries, but my cell phone is my only phone, so kind of a necessity.

My neighborhood had no fires or looting. (That I heard of, anyway.)

We learned several valuable lessons. One of them being that LA isn’t the greatest at handling things like this. Although I’m not sure how any city really could be. The winds were super strong. (Luckily they didn’t last the three days that was forecast.) Did they get the power back on within the estimated 48 hours? Yes. Is there still debris EVERYWHERE? Yes. I’m going to assume it was the residents of my street who have gathered it into piles. So in preparation for the ever possible Big One, my neighbor and I are actually going to make/get earthquake kits. I got a car charger for my phone. I now know where to get dry ice and will make that an early priority. (In the case that getting the heck out of dodge is not the first priority.)

During a recent (within the last two weeks!) insurance comparison, I discovered my renter’s insurance policy included covering food spoilage during a power outage. I was all, that’s a bizarre thing to cover! Fast forward to me calling them today and asking for that very reimbursement.

I didn’t expect my first solo power outage to be one of the new experiences I would write about here, but I handled it pretty well and wasn’t very solo at all. Hooray for friends! And Thomas Edison.

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