In the dark | Ucluelet Photographer

In the dark | Ucluelet Photographer

I’m the type of person who gets songs stuck in her head. That’s probably everybody, I guess. Most of the time, it doesn’t really bother me, actually. I enjoy reflecting back on the winter where the soundtrack to my life was The Lion Sleeps Tonight, or more oddly the summer of 2005 which is drowned out in my memory by Only in Kenya.

On December 20th of 2018, the power went out at around 8:35 in the morning. School starts at 8:40, and we leave our house at 8:30 (dawdle out of our house – we live SO close to the school, and we are slow) so when I arrived and another parent shouted out of their car to me asking if the power was out, I responded “nope” and kept walking.

And I was wrong. The power was out. The school’s policy is to keep the kids for 30 minutes in the event of an outage, and then start calling parents to come pick them up. I was fairly confident it would come back on – it normally does within the hour – so I went home, figured out how to silence the alarm on our battery back-up system, switched lights on every time I walked into a room then rolling my eyes at myself and put the still-hot coffee in all my Contigos.

By the time the 30 minutes was up, I knew I was going to get the phone call. Wind had knocked power out all over the island, and the BC Hydro website seemed to be reporting ten new outages every time I refreshed the page. By this time, it was pouring and the wind howled loudly.

I went and got my kiddos.

There is a fine line between “it’s nice to have an unexpected day off” and “how can they be bored already when we have two weeks of Christmas break ahead of us??” In the afternoon, my good friend Kristi came by with her three boys. It broke up the monotony, but that was when the sirens began. If you’ve been following my blog for the past year, which you probably haven’t, you know we live across the street from the fire department. The peace of mind is nice – I know that if my house catches fire, it’s likely to be put out quickly – and sirens are rarely turned on, and almost not at all during the night. It causes interest, and sometimes worry.

Kristi had to leave, but her littlest stayed behind to play with Hobbes, which was a lifesaver for a couple of hours. It was beginning to get dark. The firefighters were called out, I think, 7 times that day all together, and it was non-stop that afternoon. At one time, I watched a firetruck just drive right on by from one call to another without time to stop. The sirens just blared.

Then, I got a song stuck in my head.

I am slowly going crazy – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 switch

My husband let me know that he was turned around at Radar Hill and wouldn’t be coming home from Tofino, where he works, until they reopened the road at 6:30pm. The wind was blowing so hard that the windows rattled. The house had gone from being a bit chilly to my toes are freezing off. By this time, Hobbes was wearing a pair of my socks and a pair of his dad’s socks. Camp blankets had come out, and flash lights.

It gets dark so early in the winter. By the time Layton arrived at 7pm, it was black as pitch out without any power.

The kids coloured and read by flashlight. We have lots of batteries (thanks to Amazon Subscribe & Save). I wandered around taking photos. I think the following photo pretty well illustrates my state of mind during this time.

Crazy going slowly am I – 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 switch.

Layton would have to go back to work for 11pm to cover the generator, so the kids and I decided that we were all going to sleep in my bed. By 8:30, I was completely worn out from wandering around the now-cold house and fretting, so I crawled in with them. Seville bailed on us within 5 minutes (Hobbes is a very active sleeper) back to her room, which is downstairs and notably warmer than the upper bedrooms anyway, especially with the three or four blankets I piled on to her.

In the morning, I woke to Layton arriving home and telling me to try to get a room at the Black Rock – the power could be out for days. It was 8am when I called and this is the thing that saved my sanity on that blustery day – they said “give us a couple of hours and we’ll have your room ready”, so by 10am I was once again warm. The Black Rock has gas fireplaces and their generator keeps the water hot, so the kids and I checked in and I seriously indulged in the rainfall shower.

The insane music in my head faded away. We went to visit my good friend Hanna, for whom I am eternally grateful, and who fed us. The wind calmed. Layton texted me – my weekly flowers from Crab Apple Floral had miraculously arrived.

The kids and I picked up a variety of groceries that didn’t require any sort of cooking, then headed back to the hotel. The food there is delicious, so I thought I’d wander around in hope that someone would feed me, and was not disappointed. The kids and I were reading our menus at 4pm when the power came back on.

And everyone cheered.

As you can imagine, we spent the night at the hotel anyway. I texted Layton “power is back!” and he said “no way!” He’d spent most of the day at home sleeping off his night shift, and was back in Tofino, where the power was not back on, and wouldn’t be for another day, which meant that he was at the beginning of a 16-hour shift.

There is a lot that goes on to keep a small, remote town running during a power outage. This was the longest outage we’ve experienced in the time we’ve lived here, but could have been much longer.

Thanks to my friends for keeping me sane and checking in on me. Thanks to the staff at the Black Rock Oceanfront Resort for their hospitality and seriously personal service.

And a huge thanks to all the people at BC Hydro for getting us back on line so quickly.

Saturday the 22nd, we woke up to wind warnings and the Pacific bashing around Big Beach.

I am slowly going crazy…

21 thoughts on “In the dark | Ucluelet Photographer”

  • This might sound weird but… I’ve always wanted to experience a multi-day blackout! There’s something exciting about having to survive without electricity that thrills me 🙂

    • There are definitely some advantages. I definitely felt I’d been relieved of having to actually do anything – it was a total freebie-day. If I hadn’t been worrying about food going back in the freezer (it did) and the house becoming unbearably cold (it didn’t) I’d probably have enjoyed it more. I talked to a few people who went 2+ days without it, and the biggest complaint was being unable to shower.

  • I love your writing Jen❤️You’ve got an ease and style that is so welcoming and personal, as if I am the only person you are speaking to. Love it! And of course your photos always capture those pure moments and come across so vividly yet gently that again it feels like I am right in that moment with you❤️

  • Oh man, I’m so glad you got to go to that hotel! What a relief that must have been. Power outages with kids are not fun.

    • At one point they popped up, all excited, and said “we know what we’re going to do! We’re going to go play Nintendo”. hahaha. Honestly, it was hard. Seville was so worried about her dad not getting home. I’m glad it didn’t last very long.

  • It’s quite incredible how drastically things can change, and how much we rely on the occasionally unreliable.

    What impresses me the most about this post is that you still took the time to capture the moments, and really well too! It says a lot about you as a photographer!

  • Good for you for staying positive. I think I would have been lost without power. And smart move with the coffee and the contigos

  • I loved spending that quality time with my family, without distractions. And also how my neighbours rock, offering us an outlet from their small generator once it got dark! Loving this small town ❤️ Power outages and all… oh and one more thing… the power came on here before our house in Port!

    • The people is what makes this place. I mean, yes, the beaches are breathtaking and the rainforest is humbling. But the people in this town freaking rock. Including you, Tracy – thanks for being my friend 😀

  • What a crazy story!! I kept thinking of you when the storms were happening. Glad you were able to all stay safe <3

  • I love that you rescued the coffee – I would expect no less! 😀 What a crazy experience. I love how the pictures document the experience and also show such contrast. Yay for warm hotels with hot water and, maybe most importantly, an available room!

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