The Blizzard Blackout

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By Dave Deegan

We’re all becoming accustomed to seeing the latest news images of a natural disaster touching the lives of our friends and family across the country. Then, one day, it’s your own community and family.

I live in one of the towns south of Boston hammered in last week’s blizzard that dumped feet of snow across a large swath of the Northeast. Hundreds of thousands of families in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts went into a blackout in the middle of February. No lights, no TV, and in many cases, no heat or warm food.

The first morning we awoke without power or heat, our home was already down to about 55 degrees. The second morning, it was 41 degrees and I couldn’t get my mind off the thought that, if it got 10 degrees colder, our pipes would freeze.

Even the cat seemed freaked out by our circumstances.

I work at EPA, and yes, I care deeply about the environmental impacts of my lifestyle. During our power depravation, I kept considering how much we rely on electricity so we can lead comfortable, healthy lives. And that generating electricity has impacts on clean air, clean water and greenhouse gases. But I wanted my heat and lights back on.

We were fairly well prepared, though not completely or as well as we should have been. The car had a full tank. We had flashlights and batteries, plus plenty of bottled water. We had food that wouldn’t go bad, if we needed it in a pinch. Like good New Englanders, we were dressed in many layers. A battery-powered radio was handy, so we could get local news (and have something to listen to once it was dark, but too early to fall asleep for the night). Cell phones were charged, but turned off except for occasional checks of the news.

Access to social media was a plus: following Twitter updates from state and local emergency responders, and the power company working around the clock to get power restored, helped us feel less isolated in our chilly abode.

In the midst of the continuing storm during the second day, my wife said to me, “A blizzard is much more fun when you can watch a movie and make popcorn.” Yes it is.

There are many good resources to keep in mind, especially seeking ways to be better prepared:


New Hampshire
Rhode Island

About the author: Dave Deegan works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. When he’s not at work, he loves being outdoors in one of New England’s many special places.