When you are inside a warm, dry house, it is wonderful to watch a storm, especially a fierce winter storm with trees whipping around in the wind and snow falling incessantly. Of course, if you are an adult there might be little niggly warning signals going off in your brain occasionally. All the what-ifs. The power goes out, the trees fall on the house or car, you run out of fuel…
It was a brutal storm, causing significant damage from Virginia north into Canada, particularly in coastal regions. Here in southern Maine a few miles from the ocean, it was a winter storm. The flakes started drifting down Thursday morning, just as it was becoming light enough to see them. Snow continued throughout the day. Light, tiny flakes driven by the ferocious winds. The wind could be heard all night long.
We never lost power here. Our problem was fuel oil.
For the entire time we have lived in Maine we have ordered oil when we needed it. Usually sometime around when the gauge is almost to a quarter tank. We have never signed up for regular deliveries. We almost always call around for the best price, although we generally purchase from one of the same two or three local dealers.
This time was different. On Monday when we returned home after ten days of working at Sunday River, my husband began the search for oil. It had been as cold here as it was in Newry, and, although we had the thermostats lowered, the gauge was right on the one-quarter tank mark.
The first sign that there could be a real problem was the failure of anyone at the myriad dealers he called to answer the phone. He left a couple requests to call, but most of the companies had full answering machines, and could not even accept a message. When he was finally able to get through to the company we use the most, they told him they would not be able to deliver to our area until next Monday. One week. It did not seem possible to go that long with the little fuel we had left.
At last, he contacted a dealer who could get us oil on Thursday…or maybe Friday. The days of the big storm. It wasn’t until the end of the call that I heard him ask the price. It did not matter.
We loaded the woodstove and shut off rooms we did not need to use, and kept the other thermostats low. I moved my computer into the family room and called the table I commandeered my office. I have a wonderful multiwindowed wall in front of me, the better to see the storm while I work.
We have an understanding with the man who has been plowing our driveway for the past few years. He does not plow until the ground is frozen. We do not need him to get us out to drive to work so he can concentrate on his other clients early in the morning, and hit our driveway when convenient. This has been working well. The snow that had fallen while we were away had been plowed.
As the snow began on Thursday, we were hopeful that the delivery truck would come either before there was much accumulation or after it had been cleared. Before we left for an appointment, Stan called to find out if they knew when they might be coming. They knew. Not today. The driving conditions were such that the company had pulled their trucks off the road. They would try to come Friday.
And, the storm continued. With nothing like the ferocity it showed the coastline, but snow and wind all day and into the night. In the afternoon our friend arrived to plow. It was still snowing and blowing. He planned to return when things quieted. We stocked the woodstove and went to bed hoping for electricity and an oil delivery in the morning.
The driveway had drifted over, but there was only four inches of new snow since it had been plowed the day before. The town plow had created a massive mound at the end of the driveway. Calls to the snowplowman did not get a return call.
We contacted the oil company and they promised to have the driver call before he came to be sure the driveway was plowed. When the driver called, he decided that he was close enough that he would come down to assess the situation. Minutes later we got a call from Jeremy that he was on the way. The oil deliveryman arrived and decided he could not safely go up the driveway. He was expecting to make deliveries until about 10 o’clock tonight, but waited as long as he could. Finally, he had to leave. He drove up the road to turn around. Almost as soon as he left, the plow arrived. It took less than five minutes to sweep up the driveway. The plow backed out and the oil truck backed in. We would be warm, and we would not lose pipes. It was a wonderful feeling.
Ours was not an isolated situation. All over the state and I am sure in other states as well, people are dealing with a shortage of oil. Hopefully, it is temporary. It is a frightening predicament. We are facing a very cold early winter. This weekend, when the storm leaves, is expected to be even colder than last weekend was.
We have had blizzards that knocked out the power for days. We have had ice storms that stopped our electricity for weeks. (Our camp was the last in a line of only a few dwellings and we were a very low priority to have power restored.) Now, we have experienced a very upsetting supply/demand condition. I know for sure that we will not let the oil get that low before ordering next time. Just because something has worked in the past, there is no guarantee it will continue to work. This time it did not work. This was a very worrisome couple of days. And, one has to wonder what will happen the next time.