Thursday, December 26, 2013

We are BACK in the world

Last Friday morning,  we awoke to a weather forecast on local TV which told us this:

'We are expecting an ICE STORM in which we are CERTAIN there will be widespread and long term outages'

The word outage out here in Maine 15 miles from a town of 26,000, in a town of 2000, on road which we DID build and we maintain and we clear the brush and snow from ... means you are about to get cut off from the world for ..?????

In the event it was sunday until late last night.

So on the day we host our neighborhood Christmas party we decided to go out the next morning and get a 4000 watt generator. That would give us our water pump, just cold water (but toilets!!), and lots of lights, and the ability to use one burner on the stove (and a decision to DITCH the electric range for a gas unit, although out gas grill is right outside the door on the deck, but that turned out not to matter).

Sat came and we ran out to Harbor Freight after I called to be sure they had the generator. They said they had 4. We drove over, a drive of about 25 minutes. ALL GONE. They were carting out 3 of the next larger size, 8750 watts. We asked what was left, and they said they had ONE of those left and THAT WAS IT. Home Depot was out, we knew, and Lowes had about a dozen of a unit that was into 4 figures (not happening). So I ran in and SAT on it while Mrs. Epa waited for the guys helping to load the generator came back and we walked out with a larger generator. The good news is that it was powerful enough for the hot water heater (which we have on a heater timer).

On the way back we stopped at Lowes and bought the NEMA plugs, and 35 feet of 10/4 rubber coated line. They had about 60 feet left. They normally have about a 1000. Significantly the outlets which you wire from your breaker panel to the side of your house were GONE in both Lowes' and home Depot. So I was going to have to wire this plug to the line, and the line to the panel with a 40 amp double pole breaker.

Sunday by noon, DONE.  Generator in place.

Bangor Hydroelectric maintains a live real time outage map whose input is people calling in to report no power. We watched that spread toward us like a tide of radiation on the wind of a nuclear war.

And then flicker, flicker flicker ....GONE.

Fired up the generator!  We have all lights now - those horrific CFL's and some LED's except for the outside halogens, so the lights we no problem wattage wise. All normal total wattage to light the house very low. Toilets, hot water. Wonderful. In the spring, summer and winter we could just get a bucket and fill the toilet tanks, but THIS winter the cold was so intense the ice was already thick enough to walk on NO WORRY. So we were all thrilled. Just keep the generator gas tank filled! I had 25 gallons ready to go. The 6.6 gallon tank ran for about 10-12 hours.

The cable was even working, so we had TV and internet.

And then the next morning, THAT was out, and since there is no phone service without our cell phone network extender, that was that. The world was our little lane, unless we drove into town and had service.

Of course, even with 4 wheel drive, with 3/4 of an inch of ice on the ground OVER snow, and under snow that was somewhat inadvisable, to say the least.

The world disappeared. There is nothing outside yourself and your family and your immediate requirements. No Obama. No Obamacare, no Duck Dynasty, no posting of Tanaka, and the crank powered emergency radio was actually filled with pre recorded shows ..CHRISTMAS, dudes! And shortwave from Russia. In fact the only thing we missed was all the cheesy hallmark Christmas movies we were watching (go figure, Jews love that stuff)

The storm stopped Tuesday AM. Roads just passable enough to get the Titan to the nearest convenience store/gas station which was operating on generators. They powered the gas pumps, the cash register and 1 of every 3 lights. No one was filling their vehicles, everyone was filling 5 gallon gas cans and no one had less than 2.

We were all thankful and in a good mood. Christmas eve day! Everyone there was prepared. Who wasn't? We slowed down as we approached our road and  lowered the windows on the truck. Every single house had a generator running.

Every single house.

Welcome to Maine.

My wife and I usually spend part of this vaca with the grandchildren and by yesterday the roads were great. I could not leave with no power except to feed the thirsty generator and heat available only from the wood stoves during this. So I took the wife to the train which runs from Portland (2.5 hours away) to Boston. On the way we saw CARAVANS of electric company trucks from ALL OVER heading north on I-295. ON CHRISTMAS DAY! A good sign. In the vehicle we had heard Bangor Hydro warning everyone if you did not have power by dawn today you probably were out until THIS COMING TUESDAY. I immediately decided to get more gas cans.

Dropped off Mrs Epa, and decided to enjoy a bit and went to LL Bean's home store in Freeport on the way home, which is open 24x7x365 and there was a BIG HAPPY CROWD there. BIG. The only other place open in town was China Rose, which was mobbed with who I assumed (being one) was the rest of the local members of the TRIBE.

Two hours after leaving LL Bean as I got to the top of the hill near home I was passed by 6 Bangor Hydro trucks honking in the dark as they passed me with drivers waving and shouting something, I waved back with hope. They appeared to me like the liberating forces sweeping through France.

And there at the top of the hill, about 1000 feet above our little vale and ponds I could see all the Christmas lights lit and flashing against the ermine ice and snow.

And the world is back, but I am in a much better mood.

So SORRY I didn't get to email my friends here with a merry Christmas wish so please accept this belated one.

Here it is .... DISCONNECT for a few days and be with those you love.

Until they get on your nerves.


Pastorius said...

You're a Frontiersman.

What a life.

Glad to hear you guys are ok, and happy and healthy.

Reliapundit said...

great story.


an emp device will make those adaptations permanent and more difficult/problematic.

Unknown said...

Sounds like the script for a Christmas movie, Still the peace and quiet, priceless.

As Pasto said you're a 'frontierman' now , Although no horses involved. :)

Have a Merry Christmas Epa.

Epaminondas said...

As Louis CK said, after sitting next to a guy on plane complaining that the plane's wifi was too slow for his laptop, 'maybe we need to spend some time conducting business with donkeys with pots clanging on their sides'

And 'One Second After' was one of my primary thoughts during the week, BELIEEEEVE IT.

And then ....