How to cope with the unexpected and unplanned

As my regular readers know, I’ve had some challenges this year. I wrote Roll with the Punches to discuss some of them last month. Then besides those challenges, my mother died on July 8 after a fall. Mom’s death was sudden but we are at peace with it and have started to return to a routine.

The latest challenge

Saturday morning a sudden wind storm blew in and I could see the trees bending outside my office window. All of the sudden a flash, I saw fireworks on the power lines outside. Initially, I thought someone was foolish enough to be setting them off and then I realized that it was the lines themselves arcing as they touched. Everything was popping and we were scrambling to try to pull electronics offline before it was worse.

One of the loud pops came from my son’s room and he yelled that he thought his TV was hit. Shortly after that our power was gone.

One of my neighbors, Joe, was in the street and I heard his wife, Vernell, yell, “Should I call 911?” My son, Tim and I checked our roof in the back for fire and I asked Joe to look up at the front of the house. All clear! I had Tim climb up with a flashlight and check the attic.

I flagged down the ambulance and told them I had downed lines. The Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) truck went too quickly at first and we finally found it in front of my other neighbors (Jim and Ginny) two doors to the north. Turns out that all of the fireworks were caused when wind or lightening took down a huge branch of a tree one house north of us and landed on Jim and Ginny’s tree pulling the electric wires down with it. This in turn caused the transformer to blow as the stress from that side coupled with my lines swinging into each other and in the end we had downed lines throughout the neighborhood.

Jim’s had health issues and he and Ginny are older so I went to see if I could help. Their phone was out but as always, my cell was in my pocket. As is my nature, I took over. I talked to the WPS representative and the fire fighters to find out what we needed to do and called an electrician to come to rebuild the conduit that was twisted when the lines went down.

I helped them find their insurance information and called for them to get the call going. I helped them call their son so that they knew what was going on and to help find someone who could later deal with the trees. Then I took pictures of the damage just in case there were any issues later with insurance. At the same time, I told them to drink lots of water because our temps were rising. I was brainstorming places they could go to keep cool and trying to figure out what they might need.

Make the best of it

After that was settled down and WPS was on the job restringing lines, I went back home for a bit and then realized I needed to charge my phone so I went over to Vernell’s and asked if I could use their electricity. We had a nice catch-up visit while my phone started to charge and then I left it there while I checked on Jim and Ginny again.

My husband, Bill, had come home and since the storm had gone as quickly as it came, we pulled weeds in the raspberries while watching WPS continue to pull lines and restore power. Later since there was still no power, we decided to go out to dinner at Redeye Brewing Company, a place I love and had wanted Bill to try. There we had a good time and then ran into some of my whitewater friends in town for the recreational release so I got to catch up with them. Bill had told me to go visit, so I did.

Power was restored when we got home but the air conditioning is not working. We discovered that several surge protectors had blown and Tim’s surge protector couldn’t handle the blast and his TV ruined. Charter, our cable and Internet provider had to come to replace the receiver and reprogram the TV. Our garage door opener has also apparently been hit. Today I will call my insurance and my HVAC company.

What did I learn?

I know across the country people have much worse damage than we do. I had never seen this level of damage so close to home or within a very short time span.

  1. Don’t think you are immune. Be prepared for disaster or the unexpected by planning. I will replace those surge protectors with heavy duty ones again because my printer and computer still works and my modem and router weren’t fried when the surge protectors got hit.
  2. Make the best of it. If the unexpected happens, find something good in it. I got to visit with neighbors and friends.
  3. Have a back up plan. We did discuss options for ourselves as well as Jim and Ginny. They decided to stay home and sleep in their lower level.

What about your career?

Are you prepared for sudden loss of employment? I didn’t know we would have that bad of a storm. I was picking raspberries and was at the Farmer’s Market just shortly before the storm. You don’t always see it coming or think things can go south fast. Be Prepared!

Find something good in the bad. You can spend the time whining but it does nothing.

Figure out your options. Get the back up plan.


  1. Julie Walraven on July 26, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Thanks for stopping by, Jared. Yes, being prepared does give you piece of mind.

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