Severe weather alerts generate drama bordering on hysteria in Atlanta. Just a hint of snow causes schools to close and grocery shelves to be ravaged.
The thunderstorm Tuesday, March 21, knocked out power to more than 100,000 homes, including mine. It also brought drama and comedy.
I was in Buckhead with a friend who lives on my street. We had not heard about the storm threatening hail, wind and torrential rain. As we drove back to Toco Hills, our neighbor Betty called with a warning: “If you’re not home, you won’t be able to get home. Our street is blocked. There’s an electrical fire, a tree sprawled across LaVista, and no one has power. You won’t believe the mess.”
I began noticing dark houses and stores. Close to our subdivision, we saw flashing red lights, shooting flames and lots of firemen. A tape barricade, as at crime scenes, stretched across the road.
“I’m walking home,” I told my friend. I crossed the street, but a fireman stopped me. He said it was dangerous because of live electrical wires on the ground.
We called a friend, told him our dilemma and asked whether we could hang out until the barricade was removed.
“Of course,” he said. He had plenty of candles and flashlights, and he offered us dark chocolate and a bottle of fine red wine.
Every 30 minutes I called 911, as the fireman had advised. Call after call, I was told nothing had changed.
It was after midnight. I needed to shower, and I wanted to go home. There had to be a way past that fireman.
My friend drove me back to the barricade. The fireman recognized me.
“Georgia Power just got here. Come back in 45 minutes.” It would be 1:15 by then.
I returned at 1:15. The fireman had left, and a good-looking young man was sitting in a Georgia Power truck near the barricade.
“If you have a flashlight, you can walk in,” he said. I carry a laptop, a wallet, keys, a spiral notebook and a pen. Flashlights aren’t on my list of necessities. I asked whether he would walk with me, using his flashlight.
He was glad to oblige. We chatted and walked while he shined the LED flashlight. Within minutes I was out of harm’s way and continued down the lightless street alone.
It was so dark I couldn’t shower. I also couldn’t fall asleep. I meditated until 6 a.m. and got out of bed, four hours before my class on ultra-Orthodoxy at Emory. Maybe I’d go out for breakfast.
Normally, I shower, brush my teeth and put on makeup before I leave. I also usually drink two cups of coffee. Suddenly, I had an intense craving for coffee. But I still didn’t have electricity.
I remembered passing a McDonald’s with power the night before. Maybe I’d get lucky and Starbucks in the old Loehmann’s Plaza would have electricity.
I grabbed my purple velour bathrobe, tied the belt, slipped on shoes and left.
My need for coffee trumped my normal routine. I planned to use the drive-through window, so what difference did it make if I was wearing a bathrobe and hadn’t brushed my teeth? I’d be home in 20 minutes.
Never assume anything.
Still sipping my coffee, I got to my street and saw trucks and police cars everywhere. A police car barricaded the only entrance. I explained that I was wearing a bathrobe and had to get home.
“Not now,” the officer said. “It’s not safe. Live wires everywhere.”
I told her I had walked down the same street at 1:15 a.m. and had driven out at 8.
I asked whether there’s a law against walking down the street in my bathrobe.
She giggled and informed me she could not allow me in.
OK. I’d go another way. I headed down Houston Mill and turned onto a street where I had heard a walking path would allow me to cut through someone’s yard to get to my street. My plan was to find someone who would let me park my car and go through the woods to get home.
I decided to call my friend Kerri, whose driveway could accommodate my car.
It sounded funny when I asked to leave my car and cut through the woods in my bathrobe so I could get dressed.
“I have to see this,” she said, opening the door of her beautiful home.
She checked me out and laughed. I told her to look at my bumper sticker: “Outrageous Older Woman.”
I explained the situation: I’m in a hurry to get to Emory and need my clothes.
“Do you want to borrow some of my clothes?” she asked.
That would save some time, I said. It’s a perfect solution.
In three minutes I was wearing tights and a loose black top. I managed to get to Emory early enough for another Starbucks.
Once class ended and I had more food for thought about ultra-Orthodox Judaism, I was looking forward to going home, showering and brushing my teeth.
But it still couldn’t be.
The same policewoman said the same thing: No one could go in or out. Georgia Power trucks were still blocking the entrance. It took seven more hours until I could drive home, and in all it took 30 hours until power was restored.
As I was throwing out the spoiled food from my fridge, I pondered the important lesson I had learned: Never leave home in your bathrobe.