The instant blackness is a bad omen of the hours to come. There is no flicker of the electricity. No quick and repetitive on-offs of the lights and television.

One minute you’re watching a true crime docudrama and the next your house is a vacuum devoid of illumination and sound.

It’s the infamous power outage.

In the middle of winter.

With large amounts of snow and freezing temps.

And you’re up that creek without the knowledge of how to use your generator.

I am no stranger to electrical blackouts. Growing up in the country, they were not an infrequent occurrence during winter.

Trees fell. Lines iced up. Snow measured in feet overwhelmed infrastructure.

It happens, and I place no blame.

The beauty of rural living is that one is isolated from others and surrounded by picturesque landscapes.

In summer months, deer graze in the backyard. Wild turkey meander up the driveway with their brood looking for apples. And an occasional coyote or black bear decides to hang out near the patio.

It’s all good – and green and lush and beautiful. Eye candy for the soul watching lightning bugs by a fire pit on a Saturday night.

But then comes winter.

Three months of hell and sacrifice.

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I can differentiate between power outages. That may sound strange, but there is a uniqueness when the lights go black.

For example, a quick on-off followed by flickers and then darkness usually indicates a car accident. A pole is down, or will be shortly.

At this point I turn on the police scanner.

But a sudden outage – blackness, and then nothing – is a bad sign.

It’s even worse when you call to report the outage and the operator tells you no one else has communicated such a problem.

With the husband out of town with work, it’s just me and the dogs and the deer and the hibernating bear.

I tell myself that a serial killer would be unable to make it up the driveway without a Bobcat or snowplow.

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The German shepherds are a first alert to a bad situation.

Let’s be clear, my dogs have many faults. They are rude, bark incessantly when I am on the phone with work, have no boundaries when it comes to furniture and believe it is my God-given duty to provide them with brand-new toys and high-end treats at least once or more a week.

I can live with that.

But they are not, in any way, skittish.

I have had gun-shy shepherds in the past – ones scared of thunder, firearms, fireworks and more – and it was a challenge.

So I made it a point to raise Pica and Cassie to be brave, confident and courageous.

And their behavior was the second bad sign last Wednesday night.

When the house went dark they jumped up, with fur raised, in full alert mode.

● ● ●

We made it through the frigid night with extra layers of clothing – well, for me, anyway – and lots of blankets.

The next morning, there was still no power.

In a perfect world, I would have called in and taken the day off. Those personal days are a wondrous gift.

But that wasn’t possible. I had a conference call scheduled with “the most powerful senator in Washington,” as he is termed by some media outlets, and a handful of editors from sister papers throughout West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Since I had organized the call, it wasn’t like I could skip out on my own party.

And so I prepared for work in a shivering state with no power and no shower, and then careened down my snow-covered driveway – past the broken power line dangling in the road – like a madwoman in search of a warm room.

Which, I kind of was.

● ● ●

Fortunately, on Thursday evening the power was restored. We were no worse for wear, except for a few sniffles from the cold and the loss of some items in the fridge.

It could have been worse.

As another storm bears down, we are now fully prepared with flashlights, sleeping bags and plenty of non-perishable food items.

It’s the joy of living a rural life in southern West Virginia.

With the good comes bad.

And, sometimes, blackness.

— Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at Follow her @BDTPerry.

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