Ice Storms and Power Failures

15 12 2008

More than 1 million homes and businesses blacked out by huge ice storm:

CONCORD, N.H. – Utility crews worked through a night of hand-numbing cold in northeastern U.S. states, but they still had a long way to go before restoring power to all of the more than 1 million homes and businesses blacked out by a huge ice storm.

In New Hampshire, where more than 370,000 customers still had no electricity Saturday, Gov. John Lynch urged residents still without power to make overnight plans early.

“I think there were a lot of people who decided to just stick it out and stay home last night hoping that power would be restored today, but I think people have to assume that power will not come back today and seek shelter,” Lynch said.

The ice storm compared with some of the Northeast’s worst, especially in New Hampshire, where more than half the state — 400,000-plus homes and businesses — was without power at the peak of the outage. Far fewer customers were affected by the infamous Ice Storm of ’98, when some residents spent more than a week in the dark. New Hampshire opened at least 25 shelters.

People lost power as far south as Pennsylvania, but most of the outages were in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine and New York.

At least one death was blamed on the storm: New Hampshire officials said a man died of carbon monoxide poisoning after turning on his generator when his power went out Thursday night.

Extended power outages during winter are not a rare occurrence in the North. And ironically, as the power grid has become more efficient, it has become less reliable. Redundancy can be viewed as “waste” from a “lean” management perspective, which reduces profits. Sometimes it is. But there is a point at which eliminating redundancies leaves your system extremely vulnerable. Energy providers are willing to accept this risk in order to reap additional profits. And we do not have the option of shopping for more reliable electric service.

The individual is now in the position where he must build in his own redundant networks to mitigate the risk that the energy providers will periodically fail to deliver. This could be non-electric means of heat and light, a backup generator, or even a bug-out location.

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3 responses

15 12 2008
Boyd Livingstone

A couple days following this ice storm, a crippling blizzard raged over the northern plains with up to a foot of snow, sub 0 temperatures, and winds gusting over 40 mph. I’m not sure whether or not there were any power issues, but to be without power for any length of time in that kind of cold could be life threatening.

I’ve worked on a couple of housing projects that have had whole house generators installed. They run off of propane and once a week cycle on just to make sure everything is working. They are quite costly to put in, a few thousand dollars at least, but these folks both think they are very practical. They cycle on automatically as soon as power is disturbed.

We have a couple of gasoline generators designed for construction. They would work in a pitch, although they are designed for power cords and would at best run one 220 circuit or a couple of 110. They are noisy and not very efficient at using fuel. Better have some gas around for them. A little experience with electricity would be helpful – for you might need to try to convert a couple of items, such as a furnace, to run with an extension cord.

I’ve investigated windmill technology, but these seem to require more cash than I have available.

15 12 2008
Nick Wright

We were living in North Texas several years back. We had bought a mobile home out in the country and we were installing a wood stove in it for heat.

I kid you not, the day I finished installing the thing the worst ice storm to hit that area in anyone’s memory arrived.

Our little house was without power for almost a month. But we were nice and toasty warm!

28 12 2008
Anonymous

Hello,

I’m a fellow survival-minded person, and considering your knowledge on this issue, I hope you don’t mind me asking your opinion on something I’ve been seriously mulling over for some time.

Due to the economic situation we now find ourselves in, I’ve been doing some serious thinking. We’ve watched the financial world crumble, and it concerns me. We’ve watched the stock market sputter to a halt, we’ve watched as bank after bank failed, we’ve watched as the realm of the loan and mortgage came upon rough waters. I left Washington Mutual when they began having trouble, seeing the possible outcome (which, as we witnessed, actually did occur). I moved over to Wells Fargo, feeling that that bank and Bank of America were the only two trustworthy banks. And now I see issues with Bank of America; bad loans from their Merril Lynch purchase and now the notice of layoffs. BofA may still stay alive, but in an extreme case WF may be the last man standing…. And then what if they go down, too? Yes, the government is propping these institutions up right and left, but what if they get in trouble financially? Yes, our own government, that’s what I’m saying. I’m not sure how sound my own thinking is here, but I raise the same issue many have: who’s gonna bail out Uncle Sam?

Extreme? Yes. But haven’t we been witnessing the extreme already? I do not share the tame projections of those who say next year, or maybe a year or two after that will see a return to normal. I’m afraid it will be much, much longer and much, much worse than we may yet be seeing.

I’ve wanted to invest in stocks before. I’ve wanted to “get smart” financially to earn my own living without having to answer to a boss or board. But, to be honest…I’ve lost my faith. In it all. In the stock market, in our financial system. Sure, this likely sounds completely crazy, but how can I help what I feel? I’ve simply lost faith in it.

I clearly don’t even trust my bank account anymore. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’d be willing to bet that my hard-earned cash will be just fine, but what if it isn’t? Isn’t that what survivalism is all about, preparing for the worst but hoping for the best?

My point in all this? In short, I want to know what you’d suggest. I have very seriously considered pulling my cash out and storing it in a safe, but if things really go downhill that much, will the already weak dollar be worth anything? What would you recommend? Gold? What?

In closing I’d like to say that I appreciate your time. I wish to remain anonymous.

A concerned survivalist citizen

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