Tuesday, November 1, 2011

11 things to ponder about a power failure in winter

In case you haven’t heard, we had a freak snowstorm in the Northeast on Saturday. Over 1,000,000 people have no electricity. [See outage map for Connecticut.] There are some things that are obvious when the power goes out. When it’s dark, you can’t see anything in your house and the refrigerator doesn’t work. But here are some things you may not appreciate unless you are living through a major power outage in cold weather.

1. Even if you have a gas furnace, it does not work because the thermostat is electric. Unlike the power failure that followed Hurricane Irene in August, it’s very cold right now. For example, it’s 48° in my house.

2. This leads to an issue with sleeping. You can’t stay in your house. There aren’t enough blankets to make 48° comfortable. Even if you could sleep, try taking a shower in the morning.

3. Check into a hotel? Not so fast. Most have no power either. And the hotels that have it are full with people who thought of that option before you.

4. The food will stay cold in the refrigerator because the house is so cold, but you can’t cook it with a microwave or an electric stove.

5. So just go out to eat? Most of the restaurants are closed due to lack of electricity too.

6. It takes at least a day or two to stop turning on light switches.

7. There’s no Wi-Fi, no internet.

8. Most of the traffic lights in town are not working. A pleasant surprise is that drivers are being patient and courteous. The problem is that the flow of traffic is not very smooth. This results in significant delays.

9. Most of the gas stations do not have power to run the pumps. This leads to long lines at the few stations that do have working pumps. It’s reminiscent of the initial gas crises of the 1970s. The lines spill over on to the streets, causing more traffic delays.

10. Outpatient and walk-in clinics are closed because of lack of electricity.

11. Our emergency department is swamped with people who have no heat in their homes or electricity to run their home oxygen equipment. More and more people are getting sick because of the cold.

A power failure in winter is not fun.


SeaSpray said...

I'm sorry you are going through that.

I never thought about traffic lights or gas pumps. Hotels and clinics. Although we do have emergency places for people to sleep - so we've been fortunate. Whenever power has gone out around here ...it has been in pockets around the county. We could still buy gas, etc.

I always try to fill the gas tanks up as part of emergency preparedness.

We can't flush toilets if no electricity because needed to run the well pump. So ...I fill the bath tub.

We lost power in August ...after the hurricane had passed. Filling pint sized Ziploc bags night before hurricane hit and filling freezer with them and then later took some of those and added to fridge too ..saved our food. Only thing I threw out was salmon ..just being extra cautious. But we only lost power 28 1/2 hrs. I don't know how much longer it would've lasted since it was in August. One of our local hospitals had a generator failure during that hurricane and had to evacuate patients to one of their other hospitals. I wondered what would've happened had there been a surgery going on without generator backup. ?

TBTAM - Gyne Doc from The Blog That Ate Manhattan had an excellent idea. They line the large outdoor sized trash can with garbage bag and fill with water and they have water for washing.

Ever since 9/11 we've all been told to have disaster plans and emergency back up items and your post underscores that.

Thank you for sharing your perspective/experience. I think we should all try to be mindful of emergency preparedness.

busysynch mac said...

Have you seen the adds for the solar emergency generator? You should get one of those. You know how sunny it is during a blizzard or a hurricane. Every time the power goes off, I decide I'm going to buy a gas generator, but then I start thinking about the odds that it won't start when I need it, etc.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Thanks for the comments.

SeaSpray, those are good suggestions.

busynch, that's funny about the solar generator. The power failure I described happened where I work, not where I live. I bought a small gas generator to power the sump pumps and refrigerator for my home. Of course, I have not needed it since.

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