I was recovering from the stomach churning sensation I had just gone through. I had never felt anything like it before in my life, and it scared the hell out of me. It had been a twisty feeling. It was as if I was being turned inside out, and squashed, all at the same time. The result was, that I had thrown up everything in my stomach, and was still queasy as hell.
I picked myself up off of the floor, and cleaned up my vomit. I noticed I was on my own 12-volt power, now. Apparently there was trouble on the public utility power line. Well, that's why I had wind generators, batteries, and solar panels.
I went upstairs to look out the window, and received a shock! There was a veritable blizzard going on outside!
What the hell? It was July 19th, for Christ's sake! I went to a phone and picked it up. Dead. I found my cell phone. All it gave me was a 'no signal' code. Great.
Well, at least I would be nice and cozy. I lived in an 'Earth Home'. The inside temp never dropped below fifty degrees, no matter how cold the weather got. It could be hotter then hell outside, and the inside would never go above seventy-five, either.
Living in Nebraska had taught me to be prepared, particularly since I lived out in the middle of nowhere. I had a supply of several months of food on hand, and a freezer filled with meats of all sorts. There were racks filled with cans of everything I liked to eat in the basement and pantry.
I had a fireplace, and a wood-burning stove, in case it was needed. I had recently stacked a huge supply of firewood outside the back door. I had forgone buying a generator. Noisy damned fuel hogs! My solar panels and wind generators provided all the power I needed. They fed juice to the batteries I had purchased from the Electric Boat Company, in Groton, Connecticut. They were fully charged. They could run my home quite easily for a long time, in case of wind turbine failure, and no sun for days and days. I didn't see either of those happening. Hell, those batteries had powered submarines all during WW2, before the subs all went nuclear.
I monitored the inside temperature closely. It was falling slowly from the seventy degrees it had been earlier. I fired up the fireplace and had a fire burning cheerfully in it. The outside temperature was 30 degrees.
I tried the radio again, nothing. The same with the television. What the hell? Didn't anything work via the cable? Hmm, I wondered if the line was down somewhere. That would explain no power, and no TV. Even in a blizzard though, I should get something on the radio. There nothing but static, though.
But a blizzard? In July? Something was not right, here.
I went to the kitchen and pulled a frozen hamburger patty out of the freezer. I started to make up trays of these, as both my wife and son enjoyed them. Then I remembered...
Damn! My wife and son! I hoped they were all right. I figured my wife and son had probably stayed over in Fort Carson, Colorado, since the weather was bad. After all, she was a doctor, and was not a stupid person. I just wished she had been able to contact me.
I opened the refrigerator and got out the lettuce, tomatoes, and pickle slices, as well as the mustard. I went to a cabinet and got out an onion. After slicing it, I placed a nice thick onion slice on the hamburger bun, followed by the tomatoes, lettuce, and finally the pickle slices. I spread mustard on the top bun, and waited for my hamburger to cook.
I took actions to cut my power usage. Most of my lights were turned off. I got out my four 'Aladdin' lamps. They were kerosene lanterns, but with mantles instead of wicks. The lamps were able to produce the same brightness as a 60-watt light bulb. They did give off a lot of heat, but with the blizzard outside, I wasn't worried about that.
The storm was powering my wind generator nicely. As a matter of fact, the generator readouts showed a constant braking, to slow down a bit. They had rev limiters so as not to overstress. The solar panels had closed up already, covering themselves from the snowstorm. I loved that option.
I checked the phone line again. Dead. Ok, there was always a way to get online. I went to my notebook computer, and powered it up. I tried accessing the net via my wifi satellite connection, and was unable to find the internet at all! Damn, was everything down? What had happened? This was beginning to be beyond strange!
The day passed and it grew darker outside. Snow was still falling at a heavy rate, and I shook my head in amazement. Snow in July. Shit! I hit the switch to close the automated shutters on my outer windows.
I shut down three of the Aladdin lamps, and left the fourth burning. I picked it up, and made my way to my bedroom. I set the lamp on the bedside nightstand. Opened the nightstand's drawer, I took out the wind up clock. I wound it, and set the time from my watch. After that, I turned off the lamp, and went to bed.
All the next day, the snow fell. Late that evening it slowed, and finally came to a stop. The internal temperature in the house had dropped to sixty-two degrees.
I had several options. I could either turn on my electric heaters to warm the house, or I could fire up the wood-burning furnace down in the basement, and warm it that way. I could also keep the fireplace going, and fire up the pot-bellied stove upstairs to take the chill off a couple rooms that way. Or, I could just wear sweaters if I got cold.
I opted for sweaters. Somehow, I was feeling that "conservation" was now more than just a slogan.
I checked the battery bank, and it was at full charge. The wind generator was going strong, turning out enough electric energy to power my freezer, refrigerator, and the lights. If I wanted, I could turn a few things off, and power the dishwasher or the clothes washer and dryer, downstairs. When my solar panels came back online, I would be sitting pretty, power-wise.
I had the wind generators, the solar panels, and the battery bank's stored power. I would have electricity flowing, for a good long while, with just minimal maintenance.
The second day without power dawned very bright and clear. A few wispy clouds were high in the sky, but the sun gleamed brightly off the newly fallen snow. My solar panels had unfolded, and were powering up nicely. The wind was at least at twelve miles per hour, because that's what was needed to turn the windmill blades fast enough to generate power to an acceptable level.
I bundled up, and went outside. I saw I was going to have my work cut out for me. I had to dig out the garage door, just to get it open, and then there was the panels that covered the sliding glass door. They were snow blown and would need to have snow removed before I could even think of opening those doors to get outside.
That's what I did. I got the snow shovel out, and started clearing paths to the garage, then I cleared the snow from the garage area.
Once the garage door was clear, I opened it, and rolled out the snow blower. After that, clearing snow went much faster.
I cleared a large enough area to drive my Jeep Cherokee out, if I wanted to. I also cleared the way to the front door of my house. After that, I made a path to the solar panels, and then a much longer one to the wind generators.
After that was done, I put the snow blower back in the garage, and started the Jeep, just in case I would need it. I ran it for fifteen minutes, then shut it down, and closed the garage again. I wasn't worried about the cold, as the garage was also well insulated. Even the one-piece garage door was thickly padded.
I went in, and warmed up a bit. Then I took my shovel and cleared the shutters on the upper level. After that, I looked out towards the road. I couldn't see it of course, but I should have been able to see the overpass, a mile and a half down the road.
Now what the hell could have happened to the overpass? That shook me up more than the 'blizzard in July' had.
It was clear as a bell outside, and I had a view that went on 'forever'. My home was built onto and into a slight rise, which put me on the high ground. I had a well directly under my home, which provided all the water I needed.
I had my own septic system, which was efficient and self-contained. Everything was still working fine. Well, whatever had happened had to be serious, but I was comfortable. I had power, water, food, and my home. All I was missing was my wife and son.
I decided to make a pot roast. I got everything going. I took to looking out the window a lot, and looking towards where the road should be. The snow was over a foot and a half deep, everywhere I could see. It was acting to insulate my home, so I almost stopped losing heat.
I went into the living room. I built a nice roaring fire in the fireplace, and made hot chocolate. There is nothing to beat hot chocolate on a cold day, with snow everywhere.
I considered my options, and decided to break out my cross-country skis. I was going to make a trip to where the highway should be, tomorrow.
Several hours later, the pot roast was done as were the mashed potatoes, gravy, and cream style corn. It was a good meal, and I topped it off with a glass of Gatorade. I loved the flavored drink, and it was good for replacing certain nutrients your body needed.
After the meal, I cleared the dishes away, and decided I could run the dishwasher this evening. The power drain would be insignificant. One thing about Nebraska, was it was a very windy most of the time, making my wind generators one of my best ideas.
I cut the pot roast up and placed the leftovers in a container, and placed it in the refrigerator. I checked how much bread I had left, and decided I had enough store bought bread for a week. After that, I was going to have to start baking my own, unless I could get to town.
Before going to bed that night, I banked the fire in the fireplace, and placed the grate over the front of it. I didn't want embers to go popping out of the fireplace during the night, after all.
After a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast with butter and jelly, I hand washed the dishes.
I got my 'trip kit' ready. It was a backpack that consisted of extra socks, an emergency dome tent, blankets, a handful of energy bars, and a two-quart canteen full of water. I also had a pair of binoculars.
I dressed carefully for the workout I was going to get, as cross country skiing could work up a sweat if you weren't careful. And a sweat could cause hypothermia in a heartbeat. I went to the closet, and got my skis and poles. After making sure everything was ready, I went outside with them.
It was great getting out of the house. I had not realized that I was suffering from a form of 'cabin fever', but I sure was glad to be outside. Once on my skis, I got into a rhythm, quickly. I covered the mile to the highway, or where it should be, almost before I knew it.
I stopped and looked though my binoculars frequently. I had gone down to the edge of a ravine, which I knew paralleled the highway. I found no highway at all! This was impossible! No road... no bridge... nothing!
I considered what could have happened, but drew a blank. I guess I was a bit numb at not finding the highway where it should be. I was considering what to do next, when I heard a faint shout.
I turned my head, and saw a strange sight indeed. I put the binoculars to my eyes, but that only confirmed what I thought I had seen. Two bundled up people were sitting astride an obviously tired horse. The horse was slowly walking my way.
Now who the hell would be stupid enough to be out riding in this weather? I dropped the binoculars, and let them dangle from the strap. I grasped my poles and started ski walking towards the two on the horse.
As I got closer, I could make out more detail. It was a great shaggy brute of a horse, and it was obviously tired. The two on the back of it were waving at me, and the person in front slid off, as I approached.
I saw that it was two kids. Bundled up as they were, it was impossible to tell how old they were.
"Good morning. What brings you two out this morning?" I asked.
They were silent as they stared at me. It was actually disconcerting.
They had gaunt faces, and while they were bundled, the clothing was old and worn. The horse, while shaggy, seemed a little on the thin side to me.
"Did you kids need some help?" I asked more and more concerned.
"Got anything to eat? We ain't et in two days, now. Not since Pa died during the storm," the girl said in a high frantic voice.
Shit! Poor kids. I took off my backpack, and pulled out a couple energy bars. It was about then that I noticed that a small dog or puppy was bundled in the girl's coat. I pulled out a piece of jerky, and opened it and passed it up.
"Give this to your dog, and you kids eat the energy bars," I told them, passing them two energy bars apiece.