47 degrees inside: How suburban households are living without power

 
 
Updated 11/28/2018 6:21 AM
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  • Annette Wegener of Mount Prospect carries a borrowed lamp into the basement about noon Tuesday, where a heating contractor recently installed extra outlets so she could connect a generator later in the day. Once her husband arrived and plugged in the generator about 2 p.m., the electricity came back on.

      Annette Wegener of Mount Prospect carries a borrowed lamp into the basement about noon Tuesday, where a heating contractor recently installed extra outlets so she could connect a generator later in the day. Once her husband arrived and plugged in the generator about 2 p.m., the electricity came back on. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Annette Wegener's house in Mount Prospect is a cool 47 degrees. Houses in Arlington Heights and Rolling Meadows also topped out at 47 indoors Tuesday afternoon after losing power at various times Sunday night or early Monday during a snowstorm.

      Annette Wegener's house in Mount Prospect is a cool 47 degrees. Houses in Arlington Heights and Rolling Meadows also topped out at 47 indoors Tuesday afternoon after losing power at various times Sunday night or early Monday during a snowstorm. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Wayne Anderson of Arlington Heights powers off his generator while taking a break from removing fallen tree branches Tuesday afternoon.

      Wayne Anderson of Arlington Heights powers off his generator while taking a break from removing fallen tree branches Tuesday afternoon. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Annette Wegener of Mount Prospect reviews a photo of a large tree branch downed in a neighbor's yard, which could have been the source of a power outage that lasted from 9:30 p.m. Sunday until 2 p.m. Tuesday.

      Annette Wegener of Mount Prospect reviews a photo of a large tree branch downed in a neighbor's yard, which could have been the source of a power outage that lasted from 9:30 p.m. Sunday until 2 p.m. Tuesday. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Living without power for the second straight day threatened indoor piping and tested warmth preservation across scattered pockets of the suburbs where electricity still had not been restored Tuesday.

But the ordeal put on display the grateful perspectives of some stuck dealing with the chill, people who praised the electric crews out rewiring disconnected lines, even while indoor temperatures dipped into the 40s.

With roughly 11,000 Chicago-area ComEd customers without service just over 48 hours after the snow began Sunday evening, the main concern was preventing burst pipes, and the main methods were dripping water through faucets and running generators to power furnaces.

Here are five stories of surviving sans electricity.

Bad timing

Sunday evening's power outage came at a rough time for Libertyville-area resident Jim Moran and his family, who have been staying at a hotel. It followed a stay at a Ronald McDonald House in Chicago while Moran's youngest daughter, Anna, was hospitalized for a few days.

The Morans' sump pump stopped working because of the power outage and the backup pump failed, which led to about 2 inches of water seeping into their basement.

"Luckily I caught it in the early stages of flooding and was able to run an extension cord from our sump pump to our neighbors' generator," Moran said. "That's been keeping the water out of our basement."

No big deal

A generator-powered sump pump also has been protecting Holly and Wayne Anderson's house on Chicago Avenue in Arlington Heights, which has been without electricity since Sunday night. The latest update from ComEd indicated they may not have power until noon Wednesday.

"Our side of the street has no power, but across the street has power, so it's a little annoying," Holly said.

Holly and the couple's adult son, Alex, went to the library to keep warm Monday, and they spent the night with relatives. On Tuesday both went to work.

Wayne Anderson of Arlington Heights uses power from his generator to remove fallen tree branches Tuesday from his backyard. The generator also is helping power a sump pump inside the Andersons' house.
  Wayne Anderson of Arlington Heights uses power from his generator to remove fallen tree branches Tuesday from his backyard. The generator also is helping power a sump pump inside the Andersons' house. - Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

But Wayne has been at the cold house throughout the ordeal, "toughing it out" and keeping an eye on a portable generator that's running a sump pump, his wife said.

Wayne, though, didn't see his endurance as tough -- at least not compared to his grandmother, who he said moved from Norway to northern Canada in 1913.

"We get upset when we lose our ability to charge our phones," he said. "But this is not a big deal."

Stay moving

Since his power went out about 2 a.m. Monday, Ralph Larsen of Arlington Heights has stayed warm by staying on the move. He's visited the barber shop, the gas station, the Best Buy store and the library, which he called "more like a warming hut."

Ralph Larsen of Arlington Heights works to preserve the heat inside his house as he endures a power outage that began about 2 a.m. Monday and was projected to conclude about noon Wednesday, when ComEd estimated electricity could be restored.
  Ralph Larsen of Arlington Heights works to preserve the heat inside his house as he endures a power outage that began about 2 a.m. Monday and was projected to conclude about noon Wednesday, when ComEd estimated electricity could be restored. - Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

With a fresh tank of gas and the heat on high in his red sedan, he arrived home to Mitchell Avenue about 11:35 a.m. Tuesday to wait for his son to potentially deliver a generator.

After spending Monday night with his daughter in north Arlington Heights, Larsen said his house was 47 degrees. He hoped a generator could run the furnace for a bit, bumping up the temperature while he awaits noon Wednesday, the estimate of when power could be back.

"I'm managing," Larsen said. "One way or the other, I'm managing."

Camping indoors

The house was also 47 degrees at noon Tuesday in Mount Prospect, where Annette and David Wegener had been without power since 9:30 p.m. Sunday. The duo stayed home because of Penny, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel Annette called a "walking stuffed animal."

Eddie Bauer "extra thermal" sleeping bags from a friend assisted Annette Wegener and her husband, David, as they slept through a chilly Monday without power after Sunday's snowstorm. With "a contingent of good people" she said it's always possible to make it through.
  Eddie Bauer "extra thermal" sleeping bags from a friend assisted Annette Wegener and her husband, David, as they slept through a chilly Monday without power after Sunday's snowstorm. With "a contingent of good people" she said it's always possible to make it through. - Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

A visit to her 90-year-old mother in Arlington Heights for a hot lunch kept Annette warm Monday, as did dinner and wine at the house of a friend. Another friend lent the Wegeners some Eddie Bauer "extra-thermal" sleeping bags from Boy Scout camping trips for a chilly Monday night.

At work Tuesday in Chicago, David bought a generator online from The Home Depot in Glenview, while Annette got Mount Prospect contractor All American Heating & Air Conditioning Co. to install extra outlets near the furnace to allow the generator to be connected.

"Just as he plugged everything in and got it running, everything came back," Annette said, as electricity was restored about 2 p.m.

"Patience, a good sense of humor and good friends who are willing to help you out" got the Wegeners through, she said. "If you have a contingent of good people around you, everything will be OK."

Cold but thankful

Inside her 47-degree Rolling Meadows house Tuesday, Rachel Noltner wore a plum-colored winter coat and a teal knit hat as she worried about the temperature dropping roughly 1 degree an hour.

She and her husband and 9-year-old daughter bundled up to sleep at home Monday after the power went out about 11:15 p.m. Sunday, but Noltner said she doubted the same feat would be possible in an even colder house Tuesday night. She worried about pipes if her house's temperature were to dip below freezing.

Neighbors offered use of a generator, but Noltner said she turned it down so it would be available for elderly residents. She and her husband consoled her daughter by saying, "It could be worse. We have a house," and reminded her of the thousands of workers out braving the elements to get the power back in operation. Theirs was expected to return by noon Wednesday.

"We're really more just thankful," she said, "that they're out there working."

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