One story of powerlessness and frustration from Bear River

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
Published on July 12, 2014

Kitrin Jeffrey reads to her son by the light of a headlamp during the power outage.

©Kitrin Jeffrey

[This week every single person I met had a compelling engaging story to tell.

I don’t pretend that this is the definitive “I survived Arthur” story. It is just one person’s story.

But part of what we do as a paper is chronicle the events of our time – knowing I can’t even start to write down all the stories, I wanted to record at least one.

Thank you Kitrin for sharing.]

Kitrin Jeffrey and her four-year old son were four days without power after post-tropical storm Arthur swept through the region.

Longer than most, not as long as some.

But long enough she says.

“Monday and Tuesday, those were the worst days because it seemed everybody was getting back to normal except for us,” she told the Courier on Thursday, July 10, a day after her life got back to normal. “It felt like we were forgotten about.”

Once she got cellphone service back she was able to see that Digby had power, then Acaciaville and even parts of Bear River, where she lives.

“Even the post office and Cherry Brook got power about 2 o’clock (Tuesday) and I was just waiting,” she said. “Surely to goodness any minute now we are going to get power. And it never happened.”

At some point Tuesday night, her attitude changed.

“I stopped calling the outage line,” she said. “I know the number of by heart. But I was just resigned that the crews weren’t going to work all night and so my power wouldn’t come on at least until Wednesday morning.”

By far the most frustrating part of the four days for Jeffrey was the lack of dependable information from Nova Scotia Power.

“I started to get a little irritated Monday because every time you called you got a new time,” she said. “First they said Sunday 6 p.m., then Sunday 11:30 p.m., then it was Monday at 11:30 p.m.,” she said. “The last few days they just kept bumping it ahead.”

Like many, Jeffrey was underestimating the storm when it first hit the area.

She only had an eighth of a tank of gas in her car Friday, July 5 and thought about running in town just to fill up but decided the storm wouldn’t be that bad.

She did think to fill the tub with water for flushing the toilet. By chance she had a case of water at home.

Saturday the power went out before 7 a.m. and came back on just after 10 a.m. At 11:30 the sun came out.

“I thought, oh is this the whole storm?” she said. “Is this just a case of everyone making a big fuss about nothing?”

With the power out again Saturday evening, she went to her parents’ house and her mother cooked spaghetti on the woodstove.

On Sunday her mother started cleaning out the fridge and made a big roast with all the vegetables and trimmings.

Still Sunday was mentally tough.

“I’d say the wheels fell off Sunday night,” she said. “The cellphones were down and we didn’t know what was going on around us. You had to be cautious. I didn’t have enough gas in the car to risk a run to town – if the power wasn’t on, I wouldn’t have enough gas to get back. I was only using my cellphone to quickly check the outage line and turn it off again.”

By Monday morning she was out of water for the toilet but luckily her parents have a gravity-fed well and cell service had been restored.

She went in town and bought several large containers for carrying water from her parents’ house. She bathed her son at her parents’, in water heated on the woodstove.

“For my parents I think it was easier,” she said. “They didn’t have hot water when they first moved to that house and they could just go back into their old routine.

“My son too, he thought it was great fun because he did all kinds of things he usually doesn’t get to do like eat lunch at Tim Horton’s.”

Jeffrey says she was one of the lucky ones.

“In a power outage, your life is not going to be the way it always is, but you change your expectations. No, my son didn’t eat the healthiest but he also didn’t need any electronics.

“I played cards by headlamp, I taught myself to play crib again,” she said. “I dug in my bookcase and read some books I hadn’t read in a long time.

“I am lucky I know that,” she said. “When I got too annoyed or frustrated or poor me, I thought about people without family or friends close by, people on fixed incomes whose food spoilt and they have to wait until the end of the month to buy more food.”

Jeffrey thinks Nova Scotia Power needs more front line staff.

“If they had spent more time on actual line maintenance and tree cutting, we would probably have had a lot less people without power and a quicker restoration time,” she said. “I don’t fault the linesmen or the people on the phones, they were working hard but if anyone, I fault the higher ups.”

Jeffrey says people in the community were quick to help.

“I was just saying how I couldn’t find any ice and Mike Bartlett at Subway offered me all the ice I could carry,” she said. “And some guy named Kenny Handspiker messaged me on Facebook and offered to bring a generator and gas and hook us up. By that time all my food was spoiled but still it was incredible nice.”

Jeffrey was in bed Tuesday night when the power came on and it took a minute for it to sink in. When it did she was too excited to go back to sleep.

“I was tossing and turning, it was like Christmas morning,” she said. “So I got up and cleaned the bathroom, I did the laundry, I went on Facebook. I was up for three hours.”