In mid-February, the state of Oregon was hit by massive snow and ice storms, causing wide-spread power outages in cities across the state. For students, staff, and faculty off-campus, this proved disastrous. Pacific Index editors Grace Alexandria and Bren Swogger, along with Pacific University professor Dr. Keya Mitra, give their own personal accounts of how the Oregon ice storms and the resulting power outages affected them…
Surviving 24 Hours Without Power by Bren Swogger
“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?”
That phrase stuck with me when our power finally shut down on the afternoon of Valentine’s Day. Up to that point, we had been lucky. Our little neighborhood in Oregon City was still going strong. We felt a sense of security. Maybe we’d make it out of this ice hell unscathed.
But around 2:00 that afternoon, as my hand reached for a lightswitch… nothing. Everything was dark. The clocks were off. The little LEDs were dimmed. So it began.
My Dad went to work immediately, fetching flashlights, lanterns, and old kerosene lamps from the garage. I decided to turn my cell phone off to conserve the battery, a decision that would make no difference in another hour when the cell tower gave out as well, leaving us with no power and no internet of any kind.
I had hoped that it was only going to be a bump, that we’d recover power within an hour and we’d be back to normal. But as the hours ticked away and the sun began to set, we knew we were in it for the long haul.
But what’s a day, right? I could TOTALLY survive a day without electricity. After all, people survived thousands of years without it. If they can, I can too!
I did. But God was it miserable.
It feels foolish to feel that way now, seeing as how my mere 24 hours without power was a week or more for many others. However, the lesson I learned remained the same.
“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone?”
Use your power while you can, folks, and just be thankful for what you have.
The Little-Known Terror of Box Springs by Dr. Keya Mitra
On Saturday, February 13th, my husband and I sloshed through St. John’s with an inflated unicorn pool-float and hand-painted Amazon box, to the steep slope of Cathedral Park, where we made our best attempt to sled as nearby snowboarders attempted tricks off an improvised ramp. I wore an owl hat, and Nick squeezed himself into the much-too-small-for-his-frame box. Later, we tromped through the streets in snowshoes, delighting in our snow-swathed paradise.
Less than 36-hours later, the power flickered and died around 1 a.m. I burrowed under the sheets and woke to a freezing apartment, with no hot water or heat. Both Nick and I had to work, and by that evening, we’d loaded up our belongings, our cats, and their belongings—found an Uber willing to transport us to a Quality Inn in Washington, and planned to work and teach class from our hotel room early the next morning.
But the next day, we had no Internet in our motel, and soon enough we also discovered that Lady Bug—our 5-pound, blind, special-needs cat—had gone missing. Considering we were in a roadside motel room, we soon ran out of places to look. We opened drawers and scoured the bathroom, calling Lady Bug’s name, all the while packing frantically so we could return home, where the power had recently been restored, to get back to our Zoom careers, already in progress.
We flipped mattresses and then box springs, frantic. There, behind the gauzy covering of the box spring, we could barely make out our five-pound, gray sliver of a cat. Nick ripped open the box spring lining, grabbed our squirmy ball of fur, and deposited her yowls into the carrying case. Another Uber hightailed us back home in time for my first class.
Over the next several days, I heard harrowing accounts from my friends and family in Texas about losing power, heat, and water for several days. Weeks later, many have only recently had their power restored and stopped boiling snow for potable water.
These mornings, I take a moment to express gratitude to the world for the comforts we so often take for granted: running water, heat, shelter, electricity.
And I can say with full resolve that I will never, ever own a box spring.
Small, Country Towns still Suffer from Aftermath of Ice Storm by Grace Alexandria
On Valentine’s Day weekend, Oregon was hit with an ice storm where more than 270,000 people were without power. My family and I lost power on Friday night and didn’t fully recover from the outage until the following Tuesday evening. We were lucky enough to have a generator, as many people in the Stayton area do, so we occasionally had access to water, the ability to keep our fridges cold, and to watch a movie when we got bored. Tree branches had fallen onto houses’ rooftops and were covering driveways and roads. There were trees completely uprooted, powerline poles knocked over, and power lines touching the ground.
Without power, I had no access to any of my work while I had a big project and scholarship applications due the next Tuesday. Fortunately, my professors were understanding and told me not to worry about it. The only way I could contact them was by driving to the McDonald’s in town and using their wifi to try to send an email. It felt like the fires all over again, but at least I had a warm bed and a little bit of power at home. I had no energy and did my best to pass time with phone games or taking a nap.
What surprised me the most was that Pacific canceled in-person classes but didn’t consider that thousands of people were without signal and wifi and therefore couldn’t attend online classes. While online classes are more convenient, I think it was incredibly unfair that Pacific didn’t consider what their online students were dealing with. If I hadn’t missed Monday’s classes, I might’ve been less stressed in the long-run. My town still hasn’t recovered fully as three weeks later there is no signal. The ice storm took a toll on so many Oregonians. I can definitely say that I’m tired of dealing with natural disasters and the school not addressing the situation and instead continuing on as normal.
Photo: Ice envelopes a small branch of a tree in the midst of Oregon’s ice storm (Grace Alexandria)
Grace Alexandria is a sophomore at Pacific University majoring in Creative Writing and Graphic Design. She’s originally from Hillsboro, OR but currently lives in Stayton, OR. She also works for Marketing & Communications and the Berglund Center at Pacific.
Bren Swogger is a journalism major at Pacific University Class of 2021. They currently live in Oregon City, OR. They are the creator of Indie/Alt Magazine, and also write for Vortex Music Magazine in Portland.