The Rural Side of Power Outage
[imgbelt img=wvdishesclose530.jpg]Straight line winds, powerful as a hurricane, knocked out electricity in
much of West Virginia June 29. More than a week later, residents
without well water, toilets or, in some cases, food, turned to each
other to resuscitate old skills at survival.
Clearly, urban journalists, you have no idea. Air conditioning is the least of our worries right now. I realize that in the city when power goes out in a heat wave, air conditioning is the big concern: older folks, especially, can succumb to heatstroke without adequate cooling. But people around here have hardly noticed the lack of air conditioning.
That’s because in our part of the country, these days nearly everyone depends on a well for water. Modern wells depend on electric pumps. So, no power? No water. No water? No dish washing, no showers — and no toilet. Think on that one for a minute.
We weren’t always so helpless. Just a generation or two ago, people in our area were pretty self-sufficient. Quite a few of my friends have told the world (in quick car-battery-powered facebook sessions on their cellphones) how thankful they are that they neglected to tear down that old outhouse in the corner of the yard.
My childhood friend Angelena Ryder of Huntersville said her dad was joking that the storm took us back to the 19th century in a matter of minutes. “He said he thought it was funny that the younger generation was worried about the elders, when the elders were in fact the ones worried about the younger generation because they had no idea how to live off the land and without modern tech.”
People are talking about self-sufficiency now: neighbors wondering about wind (or solar) powered well pumps, facebook friends swearing to ask their grandmothers to teach them to can. West Virginians are used to finding a way to get by. But it’s also not lost on West Virginians that we provide power for the cities. Between coal, natural gas, and now wind power, we certainly keep the lights on. Isn’t it ironic that we can’t seem to depend on that power ourselves? Are our hills somehow too steep for the 21st century?
Rebecca Hartman Huenink is a native of Lobelia, West Virginia. Her thoughts about people and places can sometimes be found at Comforts and Pleasantness.