Power Outages

Many of you have figured out I’m in Madison, WI. We’ve been in the news a lot lately because we keep getting snow, somewhere in the mid 80 inches now, with idiots on both sides using it to prove or disprove global warming. Snow is old news now, so the weather gods decided on a bonus round for today: rain. While the support cables for the power lines might hold the line itself they don’t stand a chance against a tree limb, heavy with ice, sagging and ripping the cable out.

Today I had two power outages, the first in quite some time, and my first winter outages as a homeowner. Power outages in February in Wisconsin present certain challenges. You don’t have to worry about your food going bad, that’s for sure. You do have to worry about things freezing if the outage is long. Water, being the strange animal it is, doesn’t act like most other substances when it gets colder. Most substances shrink in the cold, but due to its polar nature water starts expanding instead. This is why ice floats — it is less dense than liquid water. A neat trick on a lake, but not so awesome when it’s in a confined space, like a pipe in your house, a bunch of bottles of wine, or even cans of soup.

To top all of this off, we were in the middle of some long-awaited storage array maintenance when the second outage happened. There’s nothing like losing power when you have half your virtual environments down, the roads have a foot of slush/snow on them, and you’re in the wrong part of the city. I’m glad my long time friend and coworker Kevin lives just down the road, in a neighborhood with buried cables. Plus his homemade chicken soup is top-notch.

In the end my fears for my house weren’t realized, due to fairly responsive utility crews. I have realized that I’ve become fairly complacent, though. The batteries for my flashlights are so-so. I didn’t know the phone number to report utility outages. I need a UPS on my DSL modem and wireless hub, so at the least I can put things in a safe state from my laptop. My woodburning stove, the only big heat source I own without an electric component, could help a lot, but I’d need dry wood first. And last, I should probably get some sort of small independent heat source, if only to make myself some food during a crisis. Propane blowtorches just aren’t as effective at cooking as I’d imagined. 🙂