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Electricity…

I am sitting here in the gathering dark as our short winter day comes to an end. We had a serious wind storm here during the night and into the morning, and around 9:30 am or so our power failed. It is a bit past 4:00 pm now.

According to the BC Hydro outage phone system message, 180,000 people in the Lower Mainland are without power. I guess falling branches and swaying wires caused over a thousand separate power “incidents”, one of which was ours.

The power has flickered on for a second or two twice now: once at around 2:00 PM, and again just now. I am made increasingly aware of my dependence on electricity as the light gradually fades. I’ve gathered some candles and an oil lamp, but I’m saving those for when it becomes fully dark: another hour or so now.

But this lack of electricity is doing more than just making it dark. I have food in the fridge, but the left over pizza needs to be heated before I would want to eat it. The food is still okay in the fridge- but another four or five hours and I’m not so sure if I would trust much of it. We have a gas stove, but it is a modern thing that uses electricity to start rather than a pilot light…so there won’t be any cooking there, either. Of course I can’t watch TV, but the other things I usually do like read are becoming problematic as it gets darker. I spent the afternoon reading a book or two, but that is no longer possible: books don’t emit light, and my eyes can no longer make out the words on the page without straining. Thankfully our gas fireplaces both use old-style pilot lights, so I have those for heat.

So, I’m writing this on my laptop. It still has a couple of hours of battery power, and emits light so I can still read it. But of course, I can’t actually post this: no internet connection.

In less then ten hours, the loss of the trappings of our modern technical civilization has rendered me hungry and bored. If this were to last 24 hours, I’m not sure what my condition would be. I guess I would make do…

Power came back on at about 7:00 PM

4 comments to Electricity…

  • After I saw the news I kind of figured thats why your website was down. Looks like it’s time to start looking at back up power, maybe a small generator. I know I’m considering it, because with no power we can’t tun the new high inefficiency furnaces, that means no heat other than the fireplace, and at -30 that’s not enough, especially without a huge supply of wood.

    It also helps to have camping stuff lying around … and don’t forget the BBQ 😉

  • UPS is something I keep saying I’ll get “some day”, but I keep putting it off because power is generally fairly reliable here. But no UPS I could buy would last for 11 hours…even a generator would be problematic.

    I was able to light the burners on our stove manually (with a lighter), so we were able to have soup. It’s funny, though, how few things “work” in the absence of electricity. As for using the BBQ…hellooo- storm outside 😉 Actually, I could have fired it up, but I wasn’t that hungry. I was happy curling up in front of the fireplace.

    We went to sleep around 6:00 PM, and sometime between then and 7:30 PM the power came back on. I’ve set the clocks more or less back to the correct times, my server has been rebooted, and I’ve read most of my email. I’m almost feeling human again 😉

  • I was wondering about that. Our gas rang you can light the burners manually, but I thought maybe yours had some extra “safety” feature that made them unusable.

    We mow have gas fireplaces in both basements that will keep those rooms warm, but without electricity to run fans the heat will stay down there. And as mentioned the wood burning fireplaces only work so long as you have wood to burn.

    I figure I need a generator able to run 2 furnaces, one fridge, a microwave and one computer … so not that big. Still a thousand bucks or so … given a choice of a vacation of back up power in true short sighted human fashion I take vacation 😉

  • Re: the stove- I was exaggerating intentionally about the inability to use it. It was more a matter of realizing how much of what I like to / prefer to do is dependent upon electricity that I wanted to express. A bit of poetic license is, I think, permitted 🙂

    It is odd to think that, a century ago, life was pretty much the same as it had been for a couple thousand years: light from candles/oil, heat from fire, nothing critically dependent upon technology that hadn’t really existed for thousands of years. In a mere century, we’ve supplanted several thousand years of human history with “necessities of life” that demand technical infrastructure that didn’t exist a century ago. Intellectually I’ve known this for decades, but it is intriguing to have it driven home by something so simple as a lengthy power outage.

    Back up power beyond that provided by a battery UPS is something I *might* use, at most, twice a year. In my experience, mechanical devices that sit around unused for long periods of time are not very reliable. Also, I’d have to find a place to put it, have it hooked into the electrical system some how, have special “back up” outlets wired (since you don’t want to power *every* outlet in the house)…for the amount we’d use it, I don’t see the value. And in the climate here we’d be out of fuel long before the lack of electricity became “life threatening”.

    Actually, so long as you have a gas fireplace, even in Edmonton you aren’t going to be in a “life threatening” situation in less than two or three days. Fire up the gas fireplaces and, even without fans circulating the air, you can probably keep your whole house above freezing for that long. You’d want to set up your sleeping area in the rooms with the fireplaces, but again, a couple of days would be doable. Even with an electric generator…you aren’t going to get more than a couple of days on the fuel you are likely to have at hand. Unless your water and sewer switches off without electricity like it does on an acreage, I am doubtful about the usefulness of an electric generator.

    Instead, I might want to hook up two or three UPS devices to my key pieces of computing technology. I can more or less make the other essentials work: light the stove top with a match/lighter, run the gas fireplaces, use the BBQ. The one thing that I miss the most is being able to “entertain” my restless mind. Having a light to read by, or better yet enough power to keep a computer connected to the net, and I’m set 🙂 It would have been interesting to see how long a “home” UPS could have kept my network modem, hub, and wireless running. Current draw on those devices is, I think, pretty low: maybe as much as 8 hours on a 1000 VA UPS? As I say, it would have been interesting to try.

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