Power’s out!

The inconvenience of no electricity during the recent storms left this writer up in smoke

Nothing says cheating at Scrabble like candlelight cuddling and incendiary chimney fires.

Nothing says cheating at Scrabble like candlelight cuddling and incendiary chimney fires.

Veronica Bartell is a local writer living in River Park.

¡Virgen Santisima de Guadalupe!

This was what my mom repeated when she learned that two enormous branches broke off the tree in my front yard. It made me think twice about telling her I nearly burned the house down.

My mom lives in El Paso, Texas, and catches up on national news via Las Noticias por Adela out of Mexico City. She heard that Sacramento would be experiencing severe storms, but missed the part about 70-plus-mph winds. My husband Jeff and I also knew about the storms, but like most shrugged them off. Truth is, we were lucky.

Friday morning, when the winds were at their worst, we readied ourselves for work and wandered into the kitchen for some breakfast. Crunch! The loud noise outside stopped us in our tracks. We pulled the blinds and saw that our tree had lost an enormous branch, which blocked the road.

“Oh, Geezus!” Jeff said. Two remaining branches were wavering in the air, dangling above the house. Five minutes later, a second branch fell. In disbelief, I began to dial the city to report the damage. Then the power went out.

We both knew it would be more than a few hours in the dark.

I snuck out for the day while Jeff stuck around to wait for the power to come back. See, I am blessed with paranoia, so needless to say, something plugged in surely would burn the house down when the power returned.

When I arrived home from work, Jeff was reading on the couch, sporting a headlamp and puffed up in a couple of layers of clothing. Channeling our pioneer spirit, we bundled up, started a fire, cooked a camping-stove meal and enjoyed a fireside game of Scrabble and some old-fashioned cuddling. We slept in front of the fire that night, proud of ourselves, actually enjoying the “inconvenience.”

On Saturday, we avoided our increasingly frigid house for most of the day. We packed up cell phones and laptops and plugged in at Tupelo Coffeehouse for recharging. We walked around our neighborhood, commiserating and snapping photos of uprooted trees. In the evening, friends and family offered up guest bedrooms and blow-up mattresses, but we politely declined.

When we came home, the chill had worsened.

“Hey, I can see my breath,” I bragged.

We doubled up on the layers and nervously hoped we’d made the right choice in turning away warm beds. I somehow managed to fall asleep, gloves, beanie and all.

Later, a slight burning and tickle in my throat begging for a cough woke me up. I stumbled to the little girls’ room. Beeeep! Beeeep! The smoke alarm. Back in the living room, Jeff tended the fire. We’d added firewood to a Duraflame for a larger blaze, which created an inferno much too huge for the fireplace. It filled our house with thick smoke. It was freezing, but we swung doors and windows open to air out the room, trying to mask our panic.

“We have to extinguish this or the chimney may catch,” Jeff yelled.

I found the extinguisher and tested it in the wicked cold outside, but my need for order and cleanliness beckoned another solution.

“I can roll the barbecue in here and move the log from the fireplace to the barbecue and extinguish it outside,” my husband suggested, which we both actually considered as a viable option until Jeff finally took a glass of water and poured it over the fire. Little by little, it died. The house was a cigar tent, but the chimney wouldn’t be catching fire anytime soon.

On Sunday at 3 p.m., our power was restored. For being safe and sound in a warm bed, Jeff and I thanked our Virgen Santisima de Guadalupe.

On Monday, Jeff called me at work. “Guess what? Power’s out again.”