Symbiosis: Partner or Parasite

I have been absent from posting for the past few days because of a powerful and damaging storm that blew through my area the morning of July 10, 2011. From that morning up until just a bit ago, my home (and much of the area around me) had been without power. We have also been digging out. While thankfully, no one was hurt, Commonwealth Edison (our power company) reported that within about a 2 hour timeframe more than 835,000 homes and businesses were without power. Being a small sleepy village of 200 homes, when the transformer near the Pump House blew at approximately 7am on the 11th shooting flames 20′ in the air, we all knew we were in for a number of days without power. Some residents I spoke with felt it would be Sunday (July 17, 2011) before we got power back…

Being too in love with technology, I felt pretty informed as I had setup ComEd’s Outage Alert information system to text me updates after the first night. When I reported the outage, there were no estimates given, just a “check back” as “400,000 customers were affected… I called back about 30 minutes later and the total had risen to 500,000… By Noon on the 11th, ComEd’s message upped the numbers to over 600,000 and restoration would take a number of days. I was also checking the outage alert information on ComEd’s website. On the 11th, in the afternoon, I setup ComEd’s Text Message service to enable my phone to receive outage updates:

July 11 4:53p
You subscribed to ComEd outage alerts. Upto 21 msg/month. Msg&Data Rates May Apply. Txt STOP 2end, HELP 4info. T&C:

At this time, ComEd was estimating 4pm on July 13, 2011 for restoration.

July 12 4:23p
ComEd info: Crew is on site to repair service for [Your Address] . Est. repair time: 07/13 4:30AM. Txt STOP to terminate service, HELP for info

I got to spend the entire day cataloging my refrigerator, freezer, and deep freeze to throw everything away and to be able to make a claim with ComEd for the food I lost. At about 8:30p, I headed back to my parents house to spend the night and next couple of days until the power was restored.

So, I was very surprised to get this that night…

July 12 10:42p
ComEd info: Power was restored in your area. Call 1-800-EDISON1 if you are still out. Txt STOP to terminate service, HELP for info

Instead of just driving out, I wanted to check in some way to be sure the power had been restored… So, I logged into my DVR as that was the only service I had that I knew would come online by itself after the power was restored. All was good, except for my missed shows… Since it was late we decided to stay where we were for the night and head back in the morning.

This was even more of a comfort as we got a call and needed to take our youngest, Noah, to the doctor. Doctor and hospital trip later (for blood tests) we headed home feeling happy to have power… But, upon arrival, no power… WHAT?!

At least, mother nature was cooperating because a rare cool front cam through and it was in the low 70’s for the day. It was so good to be home that we opened up all the window and just relaxed in the cool refreshing breeze. But, I wanted my power back…after visiting family for 3 weeks on vacation, and returning the same day we begin a multiple day power outage left us with a strong desire to simply stay home. So, I called ComEd again to report the outage. 20 minutes later I got this message.

July 13 1:55p
ComEd info: A crew is in route to repair [Your Address] . Est. repair time: 07/13 11:00PM. Txt STOP to terminate service, HELP for info

About 4pm I headed to pick up Noah’s prescription and was really happy to see not one, not two, not three, but FIVE power company trucks in the valley. Three at the pump house itself.

Hoping with all this support power would be restored in by 11pm or earlier, we decided to stick it out a bit more…

July 13 6:55p
ComEd info: A crew is in route to repair [Your Address] . Est. repair time: 07/14 12:00PM. Txt STOP to terminate service, HELP for info

But, when I got this message we decided to start looking for a hotel with availability. After the second call, things were not looking very good, and we were considering calling hotels further out when all of the sudden whooommmm, the house suddenly rushed to life… Trish and I looked at each other skeptically… Was this really happening?!

Woohoo happy dance…

Here are me takeaways from this event:

  • We under value electricity in this country – the relatively ubiquitous no effort supply of this resource can’t be appreciated enough – and we don’t…
  • Our utter dependance on the Internet and all of the value it brings to our lives – yes, you can “waste” a lot of time on the Internet (like anything else), but this is where I get me news and information, this is where I share my life, this is where I connect with the world… When it is not available at all the void created is almost all encompassing.
  • The need to research alternative energy sources – the easiest option is a generator… And MANY MANY people were at local hardware stores purchasing any and all available when this event happened. However, these investments can be quite large for a very short benefit life. Yes, when another outage occurs you can fire it right up, but how often does an extended outage occur? Solar seems like a better longterm investment as it can offset itself, or completely replace all power needs. A large enough system can even have the power company paying YOU.
  • Need to keep Liquid funds available somehow – while I have credit cards like many others, almost all of the branches of my banks in multiple areas around me were closed with no power also…
  • Need to re-evaluate my preference for electric devices over gas-powered – most of my outdoor equipment, sans riding mower, is electric… However, my 18″ electric chainsaw did me little good when I needed it because of and due to the outage.

Overall, I am really glad to be home AND have power again. It is hard to think of your home as a living thing, but it truly is and I for one appreciate how it takes care of me while I take care of it. Now, it’s time to think about how to provide it what it needs while off the grid.

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