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A power Fourth: With electricity back on for most, holiday plans move forward

Ann Druetzler (right) is pictured kitchen her Homewood home as her daughter-in-law Carrie Druetzler (left) prepares food for Fourth July

Ann Druetzler (right) is pictured in the kitchen of her Homewood home as her daughter-in-law, Carrie Druetzler (left), prepares food for a Fourth of July party. | Mike Nolan/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 7, 2014 6:44AM



Last weekend, Christine Canada bought $400 worth of food, including tilapia and ground round, figuring she would cook on the Fourth of July for whomever showed up.

Just a few days later, all of those groceries were tossed in the trash.

After the Chicago area was thrashed last week by a rare double derecho, leaving thousands in the Southland without electricity and food slowly spoiling in warming refrigerators, people still were ready to enjoy the holiday Friday.

Canada was among several homeowners along a stretch of Lincoln Avenue in Homewood that was hard hit by the storms Monday night, with electricity knocked out for nearly two days.

On Friday, John Schoen, a ComEd spokesman, said that 566 customers, mainly in the south suburbs, still were without electricity, although the company hoped to have power restored to them by day’s end.

Canada said she didn’t plan a cookout or anything special for the Fourth, but wanted to have food ready for family or friends of her three children who might drop by during the course of the day.

“Now I’m going out to someone’s house who didn’t lose power,” she said.

A familiar refrain among homeowners was how lost they felt without an Internet connection.

“That was the hardest thing,” said Dorothy Youngblood, who lives a few doors south of Canada.

Youngblood said she had “a lot of books on my iPad,” which she charged at work.

While she had to throw away some food, her inconvenience paled in comparison to the loss her brother-in-law suffered.

His four-year-old Wheaton home was struck by lightning, sparking a fire that caused $500,000 damage. The loss was featured on Chicago television newscasts, Youngblood said. The home is uninhabitable, and her brother-in-law is waiting to find out if it can at all be repaired, she said.

Even during fairly modest rains, the back yard of Ann Druetzler’s home can turn into a pond from stormwater cascading down from higher elevations to the east of her. Water seepage and flooding over the years had become such a problem that her husband, Jim, built an elaborate flood-control system, including a berm, and has portable sump pumps at the ready to relocate the water.

But with power out and her husband out of town when the storm hit, Druetzler watched nervously as the water rose in the back yard. Family members the following day hauled dozens of bucketsful of water out to the street, she said.

As she was preparing to have family over Friday for a holiday celebration, she said the roughly 44 hours the power was out was actually restful. Druetzler isn’t a big TV watcher, and instead spent time reading and playing solitaire.

“It (the outage) was inconvenient, but manageable, and I enjoyed reading and talking with neighbors,” she said.

A kind next-door neighbor let Eileen Carlson plug in her fridge after the storm knocked out power, so she didn’t have to throw away food. She didn’t think the storm was all that terrible, and initially didn’t realize how widespread the effects were.

“I’ve seen storms come and go,” Carlson said, noting she and her husband, when they were on their honeymoon, had to flee Antigua just before a hurricane hit the island.

She said she “never realized how much you use electricity,” and that “there was no computer to play with, no TV to watch.”

Residents said they couldn’t recall a power outage that lasted as long as this one did, but were grateful for the fact that hot, steamy weather gave way to more moderate temperatures, making the loss of air conditioning not such a hardship.

“Thank God the weather wasn’t too bad,” Canada said.



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