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updated: 7/13/2011 11:03 AM

Local families find ordinary tasks are challenging without electricity

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  • Lucas Zamudio, 20, of Barrington, fires up a generator Tuesday for his grandparents, Rosemary and Richard Libby of Barrington, who've been without power since Monday.

       Lucas Zamudio, 20, of Barrington, fires up a generator Tuesday for his grandparents, Rosemary and Richard Libby of Barrington, who've been without power since Monday.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Wendy Schultz ducks under a huge oak tree that blocks the road in front of her parents' house north of Barrington.

       Wendy Schultz ducks under a huge oak tree that blocks the road in front of her parents' house north of Barrington.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Wires and a transformer hang precariously feet from the ground near the home of Richard and Rosemary Libby. The Barrington-area family has been without power since Monday's storm.

       Wires and a transformer hang precariously feet from the ground near the home of Richard and Rosemary Libby. The Barrington-area family has been without power since Monday's storm.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 

The Libby family cheered Tuesday morning when they finally got a generator connected to their refrigerator and freezer, 28 hours after the storm knocked out power to their Barrington-area home.

Their grandson went inside and open the freezer door a crack to make sure it was running, and water poured out all over the kitchen floor, sending everyone scrambling for towels.

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The night before, they'd driven to four different businesses in Deer Park and Lake Zurich looking for an outlet where they could charge their cellphones, but found each place packed with people trying to do the same.

They've eaten all of their meals out, went to a friend's house in McHenry Tuesday to take showers, and used buckets of water to flush their toilets (their well is electric-powered).

As Rosemary Libby talked about how frustrating it's been to get ComEd or Cuba Township to remove the large tree that fell across the street, pulling the power lines down with it, a tree contractor walked up and offered to remove the fallen tree on the spot.

The price? $1,200. She passed.

It's what life's been like for thousands of people across the suburbs who are still without power following Monday morning's storm -- disruptive, frustrating, time-consuming and sweaty.

While Day Two of post-storm survival in the powerless suburbs has been challenging, it's also brought some nice neighbor-helping-neighbor camaraderie and make-the-best-of-it fun. People with electricity and air-conditioning extended offers of freezer storage and extra beds to their friends without power.

Others opted to wait it out and do their best to carry on without air-conditioning, lights or electronics.

Nathan Otto, 14, who lives north of Barrington, camped out in the basement with his older sister Monday night and played Monopoly by lantern light while his dad, Chris, got everyone McDonald's for dinner.

"It hasn't been so bad," Chris Otto said, "but I don't know about seven days of this."

ComEd says completely restoring power to the Chicago area could take until Saturday.

The Libbys' daughter, Wendy Schultz of Spring Green, Wis., lounged with a friend in the air-conditioned Hackney's restaurant in Lake Zurich until after 11 p.m. Monday.

While they acknowledged the last two days have had some memorable moments, Richard Libby clarified, "I wouldn't call this fun."

Crystal Lake resident Paul Ruiz had to drive to Bolingbrook for a generator because he couldn't find an available one near his home. He said the hot, humid weather hasn't helped.

"There are a few people who have just written off all their stuff," Ruiz said. "There's going to be a lot of food in the garbage this week."

Rick Doering, of Port Barrington, had already grown tired of being powerless and waterless Tuesday afternoon and tried to rent a room at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Lake Zurich. He was turned away, because storm refugees have filled up every available room. The hotel's phone rings constantly with people inquiring about rooms, and manager Jessica Neville said they are booked solid for the next few days. Their waiting list has nearly two dozen names.

"The hard part is, there's nowhere to refer anyone to. All of the hotels around here are either without power, or full," she said.

Doering and his wife spent Monday night in their powerless home, and he found himself habitually flipping switches when he walked into rooms. He was able to find a hotel room in Crystal Lake, and feels lucky to have it.

"The first night, it's like camping. But I can see this is going to be a long, extended time. I haven't seen a single ComEd truck. So how far are you going to tolerate it before you can move on?" he said. "The (lack of) air-conditioning doesn't bother me. But when you can't take a shower or flush the toilet? It's bad."

Ruiz said he and his neighbors are watching out for each other, especially the elderly, and waiting for relief from ComEd -- a wait that so far has been frustrating.

"We're just trying to cope," Ruiz said, "and we'd like better answers."

• Daily Herald staff writer Jameel Naqvi contributed to this report.

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