Days of dark: Keizer family recounts 10 days without power

Downed power lines near the Ford home were the source of 10 days of upheaval (Submitted).

When a record-breaking ice storm hit the Salem-Keizer area last month many were without power for just a few days. However, others around town weren’t nearly as fortunate. 

Seth and Natalie Ford, along with their four kids — all who are under the age of 10 — were without power for 10 days. To make matters worse, two of their cars wound up getting crushed by large trees that fell due to the ice.

Despite the hectic week-and-a-half the Ford family maintains a posture of thankfulness.

“We have a roof over our head and we have each other. We have a lot to be grateful for,” Natalie said.

It was 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 13 when the power went out at the Ford house. When they went looking for a generator the following day the Fords discovered that all generators had been sold out within a 40-mile radius. Thankfully, they had a friend from Sisters drive and deliver them a generator on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

“It was definitely a lesson on how we could be better prepared,” Natalie said. 

Despite going days without a generator Natalie and her family were fortunate that they had months worth of canned food to cook. They did however, have to store more than two dozen frozen chickens with a friend after several days.

“We were thanking the Lord that those chickens stayed frozen and that we were able to transport them safely. That would have been a lot of meals that would have gone to waste,” Natalie said. 

In their two-bedroom, one bathroom house, the Fords were able to heat their kids’ bedroom with a propane heater and cook meals with their gas stove top.

“They could stay warm at night, but the day would be a little tricky at times. We kept them in a lot of layers,” Natalie said. “We were basically camping in our house.”

The Fords live off the east side of Verda Lane in Keizer. When the storm first hit Natalie had a hard time going to sleep, which is why she relocated to the dining room. That is when she saw six transformers on her street explode, causing the power lines by their house to fall on the road. A section of the street was closed for three days and, according to Natalie, there were still downed wires and branches after two weeks.

“There was no damage to our property but there were just branches and debris everywhere. There were so many downed lines and trees we had to drive up the sidewalk just to get to our house,” Natalie said. “We couldn’t sleep for a few nights because of all the cracking and falling.”

While their house escaped damage two of their three working vehicles weren’t as lucky. 

“A huge branch smashed over the top of one of our cars while another branch came down like a javelin and went through the back window and stabbed the back seat,” Natalie said. “We are still cleaning up that mess.”

Public school was canceled for the week of Feb. 15-21, but because the Ford children are homeschooled class remained in session, even without power. 

“School was one of the hardest parts because of no lights. It was pretty difficult to work around. I honestly didn’t realize how much we use lights,” Natalie said. 

It might be difficult for many families to force four kids to remain occupied for well over a week without any internet or television. But Natalie said that her kids could still play outside and use their collective imaginations to keep themselves entertained. 

“Overall the kids had good attitudes. We did the best we could to make it an adventure for them,” Natalie said. “We read a lot and we were still able to have fun with each other.”

The Fords get their power through Portland General Electric, which had more than 421,000 customers lose electricity during the storm. Natalie would check in with the company to see if they had an estimate of when they would get power back, but she never ended up getting far. 

“I would try and call every other day just to get an ETA on when we might get power back. After five days I finally got to talk to an actual person rather than an automated message. They tried to give me an estimation, but they really didn’t have any idea,” Natalie said. 

On Friday, Feb. 19, the Fords faced another crisis when they ran out of propane. Although they couldn’t find propane after multiple gas station and grocery store trips the Fords were bailed out by friendly neighbors, who gave them some of their extra propane tanks.

“We are so thankful that we could borrow some from our neighbors because everyone was sold out,” Natalie said. 

At 12:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 22, the saga came to a conclusion when power was restored. 

“Kids were running around the house turning lights on. They were so excited,” Natalie said. “We were starting to get the hang of camping in our living room, but obviously, having the power back makes life a lot more comfortable and manageable.”