20 December 2008

Reflections on the Great Ice Storm of 2008

In our house we just lived for a week without electricity (from the power company, anyways). It was an interesting week.

I'd been preparing for this event for a while, in fact, ever since the last big ice storm a decade ago. I bought a generator a long time ago, and I have been faithfully maintaining it ever since. I've changed the oil in this thing every fall, and I keep things like gas, oil, flashlights, extension cords, batteries, etc. on hand. I also happen to keep a five-gallon bucket of water (covered) in the basement that I use for toilets. This bucket is always handy for the occasional but short power outages that we experience at our house.

The event that I had been planning for was a little different than what actually occurred. I had been preparing for a three-day power outage in the middle of winter. What actually happened was a nearly seven day power outage.

As far as heat was concerned, I planned on running a couple of 1500 watt electric heaters during the outage. I thought that this would do the trick. It didn't take me too long to add another 1500 watt heater to my house during the outage. All of this "worked" in the sense that my pipes never froze, but things were somewhat chilly in our living space.

The generator also powered things like our refrigerator, freezer, lights, microwave, and rechargable flashlights. We ran extension cords throughout the house to get the power where it was needed.

Notably, our generator was not hooked up to our house circuit panel, so we had no oil boiler, no hot water, and no water at all from the well pump. I bought the drinking water that we needed from the store, and as for water for toilets, I used water from a nearby river.

We survived the week just fine. We are especially appreciative to all of the workers who have been working really long shifts in order to restore the power to everybody.

Now that the event is over for us, I have had a chance to think about how I can make the next power outage a little more comfortable for us. The one thing that comes to mind is that we are definitely going to be calling an electrician to get an estimate on getting a generator cutoff switch installed to the house circuit panel. Yeah, yeah, I know how to hook the generator up to the house circuit panel, but I just decided for myself that I didn't want to go there this time around. During our next outage I'd really like to be able to use our well pump and oil boiler.

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