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The ice storm of 2008 left the Village of Philmont in the dark. The warnings were plentiful and to the point. "I guarantee there will be power outages and they were last for several days," said an esteemed weatherman. Everyone in the village prepared. After all we were just out for 6 hours three days ago. We can handle it; we are tough. How to prepare: I'll turn up my heat on Thursday night so it will take longer to get cold in the house; I'll take my morning shower at night so I am ready for work; I'll put a flashlight next to my bed.
What we didn't do to prepare was: getting extra batteries for the flashlights, knowing where the stick matches are located; finding the battery operated radio; stocking the pantry with food that could be eaten without preparation, buying the special wheat cat litter that Maddy and Gracie demand (thank you Mindy), clearing the basement floor for the water that would soon arrive, considering the purchase of a generator (hopefully before the thousands of other people).
The ice came; the power went. The power in the village went out about 3 a.m. on Friday morning. No coffee--only cold cereal and orange juice was on the menu for breakfast. The thoughts in my mind were: we can handle this, how long can it last anyway? As I listened to the trees cracking, breaking and taking down wires, I got a little worried.
The library was closed on Friday—something that the interim librarian doesn't like to do but had to this time. The internet was down, most of the village streets had debris (including wires) blocking traffic and there was no power.
Saturday morning, the phone rang (yes, the librarian has two corded phones for these occasions), and Board President Perry was ecstatic. "We've got power!" I responded with "I don't have power." He was genuinely sorry that I didn't have power. We inspected the library together to find that power had reached most of Main Street and a few streets in the "gut." I decided that the library should be open on Saturday to provide warmth for me and any others still without power.
The library has a small leak in the children's room...probably as a result of the new ice rink on the flat roof.
A mixture of people started coming in the library shortly after it opened. Most wanted to use the internet (which was down with no restoration time available). The phones rang all day, callers seeking information. Are you open? Have you heard when the power will be restored to Prospect Street? Does the Fire Department have dry ice? Did you know that the Holiday House in Hillsdale will take dogs?
So just who came to the library?
D came to return videos that were already a day late; she was assured that we wouldn't charge late fines when we weren't open yesterday.
C came to use the computer but stayed to get warm by the electric fireplace. His family only has a gas kitchen stove; they have been cooking the food that thawed in their freezer.
Yet another came in with a small rechargeable flashlight and a cell phone and wanted to know if she could plug them in.  ; Then she spied the internet. I had just gotten on using an "air-card" on loan from Diane Perry. (The librarian is learning more technology.)
H came for help. Could we charge his cell phone and let him use our phone to call his out-of-town daughter.
K came over to say she couldn't get her car out of the library parking lot as the access was blocked by cars and trees.
M stopped in to pick up a couple of items on her way to cut down their Christmas tree. She related her family's glee at having a wood stove (chimney was finished the night before the storm). The neighbors, who also didn't have power were over for a visit.
J stopped by to see where and when dry ice would be available.
Patrons stopped in to exchange books and movies (movies for the ones that had power or were optimistic about getting power). One family had a freezing house and a dog and was offered a place to stay in the library (you can't go to a shelter with a pet).
J called to say that my house and his would have power restored by 3 on Saturday. He was decorating for Christmas in a 40-degree house (and loving it). L with power offered a hospice to the librarian without power. Some second-home patrons stayed to protect their homes. Others fled for the comforts of electricity…the merits of both were discussed.
R was happy his family was safe, even though their porch was destroyed by a fallen tree. He went so far as to put a children's easel requesting NYSEG reconnect their wires.
R came in to relay her story of saving her fish Oscar to a warmer climate at her aunt’s house in Copake (many fish did not fare as well).
One village trustee came in too. She had spent the previous night at the make-shift shelter cooking grilled cheese sandwiches (rumors that she cannot cook are forever repudiated).
Patrons called to get the phone number for Montague Oil and to find out how cold it has to get before you worry about bursting pipes.
The library closed at 2 but there are still piles of work to make up for closing Friday.
By Saturday at 6, most of the village had electricity restored. The internet is back up. A few homes that were disconnected to put the grid back up are still without power, but most homes are back online. The library performed many essential duties that day. There have not been many outages in the past 20 years in the village, but this was a reminder of the need to be prepared for life without power. It was also a great show of the sense of community that is alive and well in Philmont.