...comes in the form of a near fire. Yikes! While prepping to go teach art, the electricity in our home started acting strangely--lights getting dimmer and brighter, but not flickering in the way it does before it goes out. Well, not being an electrician, I loaded my son into the car and prepared to go on my way. As I came back into the house for my final load of supplies, however, I heard a loud popping and bang come from somewhere in my house. Well, I knew that couldn't be good, so I started searching and was horrified to discover smoke and a nasty chemical burning smell coming up the stairs from the basement. Since we recently did some electrical work in the basement, my mind flitted briefly to the breaker box in the back of the house. Then the creative part of my brain imagined flames trapping me in the back corner of the house and I called the fire department instead. Better choice, don't you think!
Well, they came--two engines with lights and sirens and men jumping off and throwing on gear. At this point I still hadn't seen any flames, so it suddenly all felt like overkill, but all the fireman said they would rather come to a situation like we had than have me come home to a house on fire. They went all over the house and discovered no fire, but that an outlet strip in the basement had overloaded, melted and exploded and was still smoking. The electrity was still nutso, though, so the fire chief called our utility company and then shut off our power. Eventually we found out that a wire from the road to our house had burned out and our house was coursing with 220 (double its normal current!). It fried our dishwasher and a microwave/hood vent combination in our kitchen, along with two outlet strips.
Now for the scary part: the fireman told us that if the outlet strip had been on carpet (it was on a concrete floor), or if there had been papers nearby (there were the week before--I had just made the kid's clean up--thank you Lord for the timing!), we would probably have had a fire. A friend who works with electricity saw the spot and said the same thing. He said that he knows four families who have lost their homes to fires from outlet strips. His advice is to make sure to purchase higher quality strips that have surge protection. He says that cheap strips have a component that stays on all the time, is always hot and slowly decomposes over time so that eventually any surge can cause the overload and explosion that we experienced! We will be replacing all our cheap strips soon! Actually, here is a much more knowledgeable explanation than any I can paraphrase from my knowledgeable friend: http://westwhitelandfire.com/Articles/Surge%20Protectors.pdf (with pictures, too!)
In the meantime, the utility company has fixed the wire, but is now saying they will not fix the damage caused by the failure. I suspect that's their standard answer and we will have to argue to get our items repaired/replaced (two electricians told us it's their responsibility and we only want things put back to the way they were). The children were excited to do the dishes by hand for about, let's see, uh, two days... Ah, the joys of dishpan hands. Oh well. I was blessed to be at home when the problem occurred to be able to deal with it quickly and not have a situation where more damage could have happened.
Finally, let us all remember the blessings we are given each day--no matter how small or insignificant they may seem. Here is a little reminder I used to use when we lived in a house that didn't have a dishwasher. Since dishes are not a favorite chore for me (all right, none of them are a favorite--but dishes are especially bad for me...) I used to look at this little piece I cut out of an article about a missionary family years ago. It helps me re-focus those baaaad thoughts that start going through my head while my hands are soapy! Thank you Lord for blessing us greatly in so many ways--even in the ways we don't recognize daily.