December 13th, 2007
You may remember my post Monday in which I told Mother Nature to “bring it on”.
I would like to clarify that remark at this time. I would have preferred Mother Nature to interpret this in the President Bush sense of “please don’t hurt us”, rather than the “let’s just knock out power to the entire plains region”. A nice little romantic power outage Tuesday evening would have been nice.
We lost power at 3:10 on Tuesday according to my workstation’s logs. It’s still out, and our rural electric cooperative is estimating it will be another week until it’s back, though that’s better than the Dec. 22 date the state’s much larger for-profit utility is giving people. We were lucky enough to be able to find a generator to rent on Wednesday morning. $35 a day isn’t cheap. But on the other hand, we don’t have a flooded basement due to not pumping out the sump pump, our food isn’t spoiled, and our pipes aren’t frozen.
At work, our Internet connection went down Tuesday morning. We use a fixed wireless connection, and this was the first time our ISP’s radios have been tested in ice. Some antenna designs performed flawlessly. Then there were the antennas we had. 80% packet loss or worse. It wasn’t safe to get up on the roof to deice them until Wednesday afternoon, and even then we couldn’t get all the ice off. Finally today the connection was back to normal.
That two weeks after someone — yes — dug through Sprint/Embarq’s apparent only fiber-optic link into town. Took down all long-distance calling into or out of the town, most cell towers, as well as all access to 911 (since dispatch is in another town) for about 8 hours. If we had still be using wired T1s, we would have been out of service with Internet as well.
All told, 200,000 households or business customers of the state’s largest utility have been without power. Dozens of other utilities have also had significant outages. Ours alone lost 700 power poles and there are substations in need of repair all over the eastern part of the state. And we weren’t even the hardest hit.
On the generator, we can generally pick any three of refrigerator, server, workstation, or furnace to run. So sometime warm, I’ll upload the pictures I’ve taken so far. We have one nice CFL-powered electric lamp we’re using, flashlights, and a kerosene lamp. It’s amazing how after just a few days of this, we’re starting to want to go to bed earlier. Or perhaps that was because I haven’t had the chance to get a lot of sleep lately…
When we look out the house to the east, we see pitch black. Normally we can see some yard lights in the distance. Not this week. Nothing at all to the east. To the west, we can see yard lights tantalizingly close — only 2 miles away, fed from a different location. Ah, the joys of being at the very end of a utility’s network.
All this despite the fact that this storm wasn’t really all that bad. The roads were never really terrible, and there weren’t as many trees down as there were in the ice storm of 2005.
I heard a comment on the news today from an Iowa Republican who had followed the GOP debate yesterday. She mentioned that Romney made a comment like “Well, guess there’s no global warming in Iowa with an ice storm like this, huh?” She pointed out that if Iowa was still as chilly as it used to, it would have been a snow storm instead of an ice storm. I agree.