It was no contest: Mother Nature 1, Technology 0

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 21, 2008

Technology is the great litmus test to show us how far we have come … and also to show us how far we haven’t.

With a snap, crackle and a pop (well, at least that’s what I imagined it must have sounded like) much of Ironton and Coal Grove was plunged through a time warp, to a time before old Ben Franklin and others ever discovered the juice that runs our lives: Electricity.

Your fancy plasma TV? Worthless. That new 21st century refrigerator that does everything but actually cooks and eats your food? Nothing more than a 500-pound square garbage can. The top-of-the line computer that can connect you to the world in the blink of an eye? Basically useless.

Email newsletter signup

Even that most beloved possession that it seems almost everyone cannot live without – a cellular phone – quickly lost its value with every minute as batteries ran dead.

Irontonians faced the longest power outage they have seen in many years and it really opened some eyes as to exactly how unprepared we truly are as a community.

My family and I were among the fortunate ones who weren’t left in the proverbial dark for more than 24 hours July 12 and 13.

The Tribune wasn’t quite so lucky.

It takes a lot of power to run the office full of computers and takes even more to power a more than 30-year-old press.

We had nothing.

Sometime Saturday afternoon it became very clear that we weren’t likely to get anything back for quite some time. At that point, we had a big decision to make: Do we try to put out a newspaper, and if so, how?

While I would love to tell you that we had some elaborately detailed emergency contingency plan just for such a scenario, If I did that you could call me Pinocchio.

Never having faced a problem of this magnitude, our reaction was purely on the fly.

We packed up my car with one computer after another, threw in a few network servers, laptops and other gear. Presto! My kitchen looked like The Tribune North.

Never in a million years would I have thought we would be building a newspaper next to my toaster and around the dirty dishes but that was the way it worked it.

After struggling to design a 28-page Sunday edition, we worked it out to have The Independent print it for us.

It was after 4 a.m. when we got the first printed products back into our building which by that time we had lit with generator-powerd drop lights and battery drive lanterns.

Several employees sacrificed their Saturday to come in and help insert the newspaper advertisements by hand. It was hot, dirty work but that didn’t stop the staff from rising to the challenge.

Over and over it went, paper after paper went out the door.

At some point, we didn’t need the droplights any more because Mother Nature showed that she still rules. The sun had come up.

Ultimately, subscribers received a Sunday newspaper and we couldn’t be more proud of what we did to get it to them.

Other businesses and residents across town faced their own trials and tribulations.

Maybe we all will walk away with a better appreciation for when it means when we flip that switch.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Ironton Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at