Your job this week is to go out and perform a random act of kindness. Now, before you freak out, please read on. This is actually really easy!! This act may be for someone you know or for a perfect stranger. It can be big or small, it'll all up to you. Obviously, it should be something within your means. For instance, don't go out and buy your next door neighbor a car and then complain to me that you can't make your mortgage payment, ok?
So let me start by explaining that I live in Southern NH. Yes, the place where a federal state of emergency has been declared. In case you haven't heard, we were hit with a major ice storm in the early hours of Friday morning, which left 300,000+ homes and businesses without power. To put that in perspective, the total population of NH is only 1.3M. The RECORD number of power failures in NH in past storms was a measly 94,000. In our town of 17,000 people, there were still 4,500 houses without power as of Saturday night.
The local chapter of the American Red Cross has had a tough couple of years, between back to back floods in 2006-07, record snowfall last winter, and in 2008 a couple of large apartment complex fires that displaced a number of families, the most recent just a week ago destroying 28 apartments. Now the Red Cross is operating a number of shelters throughout the state, as there are no hotel rooms to be found even for those who can afford a hotel.
On Friday morning, the extent of the damage from the ice storm became clear as the only reliable source of information was the internet - our local TV and radio were off the air/operating on emergency generators with very low signals. We were very lucky, we never lost power and by mid-afternoon what little ice had accumulated on our trees had melted. The Red Cross set up an emergency shelter at the school next door to my house. A local nursing home was forced to evacuate their residents to this shelter, a school bus was found to transport them. Diva and I spent the morning baking cookies and took them up to the shelter. The volunteers there were so happy, as the NH Food Bank was furnishing meals, but sweets were in short supply.
On Saturday, Diva's BFF revealed they were calling as far south as CT looking for a generator, and even if they could find one, would be lucky to find an electrician to come install it for them. With temps heading down into single digits for the second night, they were afraid their pipes would freeze. Kilowatt loaded our generator (which we thankfully did not need) and his tools into the car and was off again. An hour later their house was slowly heating back up. The local utility warns it could be a week or more before all power is restored, and we have another storm forecast for Wednesday into Thursday this week.
We finished out the week with a run across town -- a couple of posts ago I lamented the loss of my 16 year old waterbed mattress, obviously Christmas wasn't a real convenient time to buy a new mattress. Well, we are fortunate enough that we could afford that mattress, and picked up a new one for my daughter also so we could move hers to the guest room. That left us with a spare bed - the Red Cross was able to put us in touch with a local organization called Beauty 4 Ashes who takes gently used furniture and distributes it to those in need. When I called the woman was very apologetic that they didn't have a truck available to come pick the bed up - no problem, with two SUV's we deliver! Since their storage unit is near Goodwill, let's see what we can find to take there on the way. Double benefit - my house gets cleaned too!
Want to see what things look like up here? The best source is local news station WMUR. Today as I was driving across town what was most notable was that there were large areas with no visible impact from the storm, where just a few hundred yards away were large areas of devastation. One road had no ice or visible damage on the left, but on the right all the trees still had a thick coating of ice. I'll leave you with this photo, taken about a mile from my house. Notice that you can see a line on the mountain where the ice begins....