No power, no Fourth of July barbecue as food spoils
BY NICK SWEDBERG AND STEVE METSCH Sun-Times Media July 2, 2014 5:58PM
Carmella Gordon, 71, of Chicago's Beverly community, lost power at her home Monday night. The outage ruined $400 worth of food she planned to use for an Independence Day barbecue. | Nick Swedberg/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 3, 2014 2:09AM
Carmella Gordon’s plans for an Independence Day barbecue for about 20 family members have gone up in smoke, thanks to a persistent power outage after Monday night’s violent storms that caused more than $400 worth of food to spoil.
Gordon, a resident of Chicago’s Beverly community, and her husband, William, on Wednesday still were in the dark, where they had been since Monday night. A ComEd employee told her the power would be on by Wednesday, she said, but she already has had to cancel her planned family barbecue for Friday at the home the couple have lived in for 43 years.
“In all the years, we’ve never had an outage for this long,” Carmella, 71, said Wednesday.
There might not be much that residents such as the Gordons can do about it if the power outage impacts their holiday plans. A spokesperson for ComEd said the utility usually does not reimburse customers for losses caused by an act of nature, such as Monday’s storms that left thousands without power in southern Cook and northern Will counties.
As of 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, more than 48,000 customers in Cook County and nearly 9,000 in Will County still were affected, according to ComEd’s outage map. The hardest-hit communities are in southern Cook County.
The Gordons had invited 20 family members to their home for a cookout on Friday. To prepare for the outdoor feast, Carmella bought ribs, rib tips, hamburgers, hot dogs and an assortment of other picnic fixings.
Most of the food for the barbecue was kept in a basement freezer, Carmella said. All of that already had defrosted. By Wednesday, the Gordons were able to secure a small gas generator to power the kitchen refrigerator.
An exasperated Carmella said she was not able to get power to the refrigerator in time to save most of the fresh and frozen food stored in it.
“Stuff is starting to defrost and I just have to throw it away,” she said.
Carmella said the rest of her block is without power, too. After the outage, a neighbor two houses down had family members pick up the food she had bought for their holiday barbecue.
Carmella Gordon contacted the office of Ald. Matt O’Shea, D-19th, on Wednesday and was told the alderman would send out a memo with the names and addresses of residents without power. She said she saw two ComEd trucks driving down a nearby alley a short time later.
Other backyard chefs in the Southland who still need to buy food for the holiday probably won’t have many problems, as a spot check of grocery stores found them open for business.
A manager at the Ultra Foods in Chicago Heights said the store lost power for about an hour on Monday.
About 4,600 customers in that city still were waiting Wednesday for the power to come back on.
Groceries to garbage in Oak Lawn, too
Pockets of Oak Lawn still were without power Wednesday, too.
A woman in the 4200 block of 99th Street pointed to a pile of garbage on her curb when she was asked if her plans for the Fourth of July were ruined.
“See that? All my groceries are right there. I had to empty my fridge. That’s probably about $250 in food,” said the woman, who identified herself only as Ginger. “I had a lot of meat, salmon and steak, good stuff, and I had just shopped.”
Frank Dyra, in the 4100 block of 99th Street, said he and his wife had not shopped yet for the Fourth of July.
“Actually, we were going to do that today, so we’re low on groceries,” he said.
“Of course, if ComEd asks, it’s ‘Yeah, we bought everything, piles of it,’ ” he said with a hearty laugh.
“I bought 50 pounds of dry ice this morning and put it into the refrigerator. I don’t know if that will work or not. But we had dry ice camping once and everything froze up,” Dyra said.
Being without power has been a learning experience for some.
“I didn’t know I was such a (wimp). I miss the computer, watching TV. I have the habit of flipping lights on when I walk into a room. We’ve got to go to the laundry now,” Dyra said.
Over in the 10000 block of South Keeler Avenue, Ellie, 7, Dominic, 8, and Evan Gonzalez, 11, find themselves spending more than their usual amount of time outside. They played basketball in their driveway Wednesday.
“It’s good. I never get any exercise because I’m playing video games,” Dominic said.
Ellie said the week has been “pretty boring.”
Their mother, Tina Gil, said there’s a bright side to the outage: Her children get outside and play with each other. But the family’s plan to visit friends in South Haven on the Fourth of July are likely scrapped unless the power is restored.
“We don’t want to leave if something else happens,” Gil said.
They had to spend $500 on a generator they have used to power a pump to remove the water that seeped into their house. They also lost food worth $200 and had to remove carpeting from a downstairs office.
“There’s nothing you can do. It’s Mother Nature,” said Gil, who said she was fortunate to have a large supply of candles.