Commentary: Surviving the derecho storm

When it comes to the best inventions in recent history, I'd have to say air conditioning is my favorite.

This isn't to discredit all the wonderful things that have popped up in the last 50 or even 100 years.

Penicillin, while I've never had to use it, I hear is fantastic. I'm also a huge fan of sliced bread. Well, really bread in any form — sliced or not.

But air conditioning takes the cake (which was also a great invention. Bravo!).

The invention of central air is something I've never taken for granted.

Come the very first hot day of summer, and sometimes spring, I quietly sing the praises of air conditioning as I press that button and turn the thermostat to the lower 70s.

So, imagine my dismay when two weeks ago the electricity at our house in Baltimore went out during the now infamous derecho storm.

At first, I wasn't worried.

During Hurricane Irene last August we lost power for a little less than 24 hours and, while not the best experience ever, we didn't have to throw out any food and opening a few windows kept us cool enough to have a decent night's sleep.

This storm, however, was special.

The first hour was spent in denial.

"Oh, the power will come back on any second. You saw how fast it was passing through," I told my husband … before water started pouring in from the back door.

Apparently, the high winds blew enough twigs and leaves down the steps leading to our basement (our kitchen and main living room are on that level — don't ask) that it clogged the drain and the water had nowhere else to go but underneath the door, soaking the surrounding carpet and took a turn into our work room to create a nice wading pool of a half-inch of water.

Quickly, we gathered every towel and washcloth we owned and began soaking up water as fast as we could to keep up with the flooding, ringing them out in a five-gallon bucket and tossing out the water in the laundry room sink.

All of this, mind you, in candlelight (it was around midnight at that point) and with the house getting warmer and warmer.

Eventually, the flooding stopped and we were able to soak up most of the water.

The next few days brought more challenges.

With temperatures in the low 100s that entire weekend and very little wind, opening the windows only made things worse inside.

Mr. Gallo and I bought a large cooler to try to save as much food as we could. Naturally, we had gone grocery shopping just a few hours before the storm and our fridge and freezer were fully stocked.

Luckily, we use gas for our stove, oven and water heater, but we didn't want to cook and add even more heat to our sweltering home.

Then there was the dog to worry about.

She managed just fine and we kept her water bowl full, but she was miserable just like the rest of us.

We escaped to places that had air conditioning — Panera Bread, the movie theater — but we had to go back to the house to sleep, which was almost impossible.

That Sunday night, we spent the night at my mom's in Bel Air because, miraculously, Harford County was barely affected by the storm.

The only thing that got me through was imagining all of the things I would do when we got our power back. Even then, we didn't know when that would be.

I pictured lounging on our couch with the air blasting while watching TV and surfing the Internet at the same time.

I thought about turning on every single light in the house just because I could and dancing in all of electricity's glory.

Even then, all I really wanted was air conditioning. I made secret pleas with whatever higher power there is that I didn't care if we didn't have television or an Internet connection or lights — I just wanted that sweet, sweet air.

Through some miracle and despite BGE telling me our power wouldn't be turned back on until Wednesday at the earliest, we were shocked when my husband received a text message from our neighbor Monday afternoon saying we were saved.

I practically screamed with joy right here in The Aegis newsroom.

That night, I watched TV. I visited all my favorite websites. And while I didn't go the wasteful route and turn on all lights in the house, I did stand under an air vent and enjoyed every single second of it.

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