Anyone who was stuck on the road yesterday morning thanks to the freezing rain saw firsthand how a little ice can disrupt normalcy.
Now imagine an ice storm cutting all electric power in your town for days. The Dec. 11 storm that walloped New England snapped off electric service to 1.4 million households.
As utilities often do when hurricanes or other weather-related disasters occur, Peco Energy Co. sent crews from Philadelphia north Dec. 13 at the request of Unitil Corp., which was struggling to restore power.
One Unitil customer, Maureen Davi, was without power at her Ashby, Mass., home for 10 days. Since most of the 2,944 people there depend on wells for water, no power means no water. She called yesterday with a message for Peco from many in the town: "Thank you."
To Davi, who grew up in Northeast Philadelphia and has lived in Ashby for the last 20 years, the Peco trucks were a welcome sight.
Ben Armstrong, a Peco spokesman, said the last of the 33 employees who went to Massachusetts returned Tuesday afternoon. They'd worked double shifts, making the most of the daylight hours. They put up 100 poles, rebuilding the entire electric-delivery system of the town.
Engineering firm Henkels & McCoy Inc., of Blue Bell, also had some Philadelphia-based crews on the job.
This was far from the run-up to the holidays that Davi expected. She never got the cookies baked. But at least one neighbor who did gave them to the Peco employees to show her appreciation.
Thanks to summer thunderstorms, we know a little about power outages in the Philadelphia area. Usually, they last hours, not days, and zap neighborhoods, not entire towns. When we're in the dark, we tend to question the competence of our local utilities, as Davi certainly did about Unitil.
But when I see a guy on a pole or in a ditch, I know I'm glad that's not me sweltering, freezing or getting soaked.
And when the lights blink back on just a few days before Christmas, it's hard not to see electricity as something short of miraculous.