Saturday, May 21, 2011

Good Thing I Stocked Up on Extra Fortitude

I'm back. Briefly. I missed you all and have been trying to read and catch up on my iPhone.  Thank you for all your sweet comments, especially *karendianne who I need to get back to.

Where to start with the events of Friday, May 13th, 2011...

Things that had a high probability of happening that day but did not:

No one (human or cat) hurt or even singed
No one (human or cat) electrocuted
House didn't explode
No major smoke damage
No big flames

Things that did happen (short version):

I took Friday off of work because I was tired and stressed out and needed a mental health day.  Day did not turn out as planned. I had a house fire caused by crossed Georgia Power service wires at a neighboring vacant house.  The positive and negative wires crossed, sending electric current through the ground along natural gas lines and water lines to my house.  Smoke. Melting electric wires in my house. Got two of the four cats out of the house. Fire department came and could not stop current, kept gas lines cool with water as the lines were burning white-hot until Georgia Power came and cut my power lines.  Current still traveling through the house.  More Georgia Power people come, finally figure out problem and cut service at vacant house.  This stops the current from electrifying the ground, my house and everything touching the ground at my house, and some electrical surge problems and fried wires in the neighborhood.  Total elapsed time of event:  from a little after 12:15PM until 8:30 or so PM. 

S., cats, and I are fine.  My insurance is taking care of everything.  Everything is fine and will be returned to normal. We were very lucky and very thankful that nothing horrible happened (see list above of what could have happened--no exaggeration).
Public Service Announcement Portion of This Post:

(I have all the following and it really helped in this emergency)

Please make sure you have an emergency or disaster plan and supplies for yourself, other people, and pets.
Make sure you have fire extinguishers (even though in my case this didn't help much but maybe helped a little). 
Make sure you have good house/renters insurance.
If you think there is a problem, call the fire dept. and police immediately.  They are there to help you and are the best people (who should be getting paid a lot better than they do)    
Keep your phone by you at all time and know where your keys are.

For those of you who want a long version of the event of Friday 13th:

I really needed a day off of work so mid-last-week I decided to take Friday off and stay home, watch Dr. Who and sew.  About noon or so, I smelled a weird smell. Edgar Poe did too and we both were looking under the couch, thinking it was coming from the air conditioner.  Nope.  Lights flickered, TV flickered, and I went into the kitchen.  An electrical outlet for my stove was smoking and sparked. Whoa! I grabbed a pot holder and pulled out the plug (note: you are not supposed to do this...). I took off the cover plate (don't do this either) to see if there was flames in the wall or anything.  Nothing but still smoky so I called 911 for the fire dept.

Got cat carriers, grabbed purse and keys, and Morpheus and Gomez into two carriers and took them out to my truck into truck they go. Go back into house (you are not supposed to do this).  Smoke alarms going off. Looked for Edgar Poe and Stella.  Stella had crawled under the dust cover in the box spring and was up inside my bed. Saw Edgar and picked him up.  He was WAY scared and bit my right forearm hard. Dropped him and he disappeared. Fire dept  comes roaring up (from 4 stations with 5 trucks) and I have to get out of the house. There is smoky haze in the tall crawlspace under the house (at some point I had unlocked the door to the crawlspace and opened it up but I don't remember when).    

Firefighters go through the house, up into the attic, under the house, all around, no flames, just light hazy smoke, they turn off all the circuit breakers and determine that it is an electrical problem and tell me to call electrician.  House is given the all clear. They leave. I go into house, call S. (who is out of town), and call electrician.  Cats get carried back inside and let out of carriers. My arm and shirt are a mess of blood so I wash it off and put some antibiotic ointment and a bandage on it. Change shirt.

Electrician comes, changes out outlet by the stove, the stove electric cord is melted.  He checks the circuit breakers and checks the voltage coming into the house.  Voltage should be coming in at 120 v.  Voltage in my house is coming in at 202 v. We go outside and check meters.  Voltage is too high.  Electrician calls Georgia Power to come out and he notices that the neutral service line from my house to the power co. pole is snapped.  Electrician  resets the breakers that are OK at 120 v. and leaves.

Georgia Power guy comes and splices a repair to the neutral line. He checks voltage coming into meters. I asked him "Is it now at 120 volts not at 202?"  He says "yes" and he leaves.Call S. and tell him story.  S. is on his way home.  It is around 3:30 or so. Maybe 4PM

No sooner had his truck disappeared down the road and I go back into house then all craziness happens. The wires in the closet with the circuit breaker boxes are melting and smoking. OMG!!!  What the #$@%^#*!!!  I grab fire extinguisher and spray the wires (note for future reference:  fire extinguishers are filled with very fine yellow powder that makes a huge mess and gets all in your lungs--don't breathe at all if you use one in a closed space!)  Alarms going off again.  I run outside, S. drives up, I say "you need to help me" I give him the phone and I open the crawlspace door again. He goes into house and calls GA Power main phone # back. Smoke is coming out from under the house and I smell burning wood.  I go back into house and say "call 911 the house is on fire" S. hangs up with GA Power and calls fire dept. I go to find cats. I find Morpheus (who was asleep bless his heart) and Stella. Into carriers they go and back out to the truck.  Go back in and can't find Edgar or Gomez.

S. gets a hold of the GA Power guy that was at my house and tells him he has to come back.  The guy says he'll be here in 30 minutes. S. says "I don't have 30 minutes! My house is on fire!!!!" (I love him for this!) Fire dept. (same guys, same trucks) come roaring up.  They see natural gas lines are glowing white-hot and don't let us near the house.  They turn off the gas at the meter and keep water on the lines to keep them cool.   I am hovering and wringing my hands because Edgar and Gomez are still in the house. I call the electrician to come back to the house.  Time gets very slow. Firemen go in and out of house.  All the circuit breakers are off and there is still electricity coming into house.  More wires are burning.  The firefighters spray water in the closet with the breaker boxes.  Electrician comes.  Much puzzling on what is happening with the house. 

Georgia Power comes and cuts the lines from my house to the pole.  Wires laying in my yard are still live (this definitely should not happen).  Electricity is still traveling along gas lines and water lines. GA Power guy calls more GA Power guys.  Firefighters go door-to-door telling neighbors there is a big problem.  At a school two blocks away, there is a telephone pole that is supported by wires and the wires are red-hot and melting.  The electrician says that there is a problem at a neighboring house that is causing all this.  After much time, Georgia Power discovers the crossed positive and negative lines at the vacant house and turn off the power to that house. 

Current stops. It's now 8PM or so.  Most of the firefighters leave. Electrician leaves. GA Power leaves.  I call insurance company.  The last firefighters leave and we are given all clear.  I clean up mess in the back hall and bathroom.  We get flash lights and bottled water. Go to bed exhausted with scared cats.  I realize that if I had not been home, I could have lost everything.  I realize that at any time seriously bad things could have happened--while we were sleeping, while we were watching TV, while we were at work. I don't sleep very well.  

Saturday--I think I was on the phone all day.  My insurance is taking care of everything and will try to recoup my deductible from GA Power as GA Power is responsible for their service lines and maintaining them.  By Saturday evening my cat bite is infected, my arm swollen and red, and I feel feverish.  I probably should have gone to the emergency room but my health insurance won't pay for it, so I wait and go to urgent care Sunday AM. 

Sunday--get tetanus shot and antibiotics.  I think I was on the phone all day this day too.

Monday-Thursday--phone calls. Insurance is taking care of everything. Phone calls. All wiring needs replaced. All gas lines need replaced.  Once electricity is back on, heating and air company needs to come check systems.  Insulation around ductwork melted off and needs replacing.  Who knows the status of all our appliances, electronics, my Bernina(!!!), etc. until electricity is repaired. I visit Becky and do laundry.  I visit Karin and do laundry. My friends are wonderful.  I take vacation days from work all week. Cats recover.  I clean out my sewing room for something to do.   I don't have hot coffee in the AM and drink Starbucks Via in cold water.  I am quietly stressed out all week and just try to deal with the zillion of things that need to be done.

Friday--electricians start work removing all wiring.  I am angry at the elderly lady who has been in a nursing home and left her house vacant for the past 8 or 10 years with the electricity on.  I am angry at whoever are her relations for not selling the house and letting it deteriorate.  Georgia Power guy says maybe squirrels chewed on the wires.  I don't care what happened to the wires, they should have been maintained. I nearly lost everything.  I go to Thimbles sewing group but I am headachy and my allergies are horrible from breathing dust and smoke and fire extinguisher powder.  I get some ice cream on the way home and S. and I eat melted ice cream in the dark in my kitchen.  This week deserves to end with my favorite Bruster's ice cream (chocolate raspberry truffle) melted or not.

The End


swooze said...

Wow. I am glad everyone is ok.

*karendianne. said...

Oh friend, thank you so much for sharing. I am so glad to read no human or cat is hurt, singed, or electrocuted and we are so blessed to still have you all with us. The fact that the house didn't explode is seriously something to be grateful for. Gretchen, it must have been terrible leaving the house without all the cats. Friend, oh, the distress!!!

So, so grateful for the guardian angels.

Linda said...

Oh,my! So sorry for all your troubles. It sounds like a nightmare; glad all felines are OK and you are surviving. The thought of you not being at home when it began is just horrifying. Good luck with the repairs.

Jayne said...

Oh, my, what a day! So glad you survived it, as did your house and your quilting things! Gives us all reason to assess our readiness for emergencies, doesn't it? May better days be headed your way!!{{hugs}}

sewprimitive karen said...

Ho-ly Cow. How remarkable that you took that day off. It's as if your ESP was totally working. Poe! You bit your mom and got her infected!! So every bit of your wiring will be replaced? I never heard of such a thing happening. I'm so glad you all got through it OK, Gretchen.

Rebecca P said...

Oh my goodness, you poor thing. What a scary time. I'm so glad no one was injured & I am so glad you were home to get the cats out.
Hope all goes smoothly from here on.

Tiffany said...

I just about cried when you said "If I hadn't of been home". Something wrong with the wiring in a connected row home burnt my co-workers house to the ground, including her cats inside, a few months ago. Terrible! I'm SO Glad you were home and SO glad no one was harmed!

GerryART said...

O.M.G. ! ! !
Soooo, what's new at your house ? ?
Sounds like one hell of a day.

So happy all turned out - in the long run - to be okay.

Sending love and hugs,

Pat / Silver Thimble Quilt Co. said...

Hearing the story yesterday and reading it again makes my stomach are welcome here anytime..I cook EVERY NIGHT!!

Thank goodness all are safe. You are one of the strongest people I know... And that is a fact...

Perry said...

What a nightmare for you! Thank heavens no one was killed, and eventually things will get back to normal hopefully.

Cathi said...

I was almost afraid to read through to the end! I cannot imagine how stressful it must have been to have to leave the house without all the kitties -- and am so, so grateful that no two-legged or four-legged inhabitants of your home were harmed!
Thank goodness you were home. Gives me shivers to think about what could have happened had you not needed that day off.

Anita said...

What a horrible thing to happen but how lucky you were to be home, angels were definitely looking out for you. Things could have gone wrong real fast so it is fortunate all your cats, self, and hubby are okay. Hopefully your Bernina is okay, if not, maybe you can get a new one with insurance money :) Hang in there.

Michelle said...

Wow, Gretchen...thank God you are all ok. What an amazing chain of events! It's moments like this that you realize you can't take one single minute or thing for granted. I'm sure you are looking forward to getting back to normal very soon. Thanks for sharing your story.

dianne said...

holy crap (actually, the OTHER word for crap) ... cheese and crackers got all muddy (but the OTHER words) ... i know you wrote that you are okay, but ... are you okay? i thought i was having some rough patches, but you and my favorite kitties in the whole world have cornered the market on near-misses and wtf's, lemmetellya ... take care, dear one.

Brenda said...

So glad that you are ok. Very lucky that you were at home that day, just think what could have happened if you had been at work.

Thelma said...

What a lucky break, I'm so glad you were home, but what a hugely frustrating day. I hope all is back to normal soon, you're in my thoughts.

Michele said...

Wow! What an awful event!!! I say event because it was so big! I'm so sorry this happened to you! Thank goodness everyone is okay! How bizarre that something like this would happen......there really aren't enough words to express how sorry I feel for what you must be going through to recover. I know no one was hurt...but your arm...but something like this is just difficult! My thoughts and prayers are with you. I like how you said are not supposed to do this....if you have time keep us posted on how things are going.