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Thread: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

  1. #1

    Default Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    As we all know a true flashaholic loves a good blackout. Which brought my attention to this tidbit from a local news site:

    "According to Netbeheer Nederland, in 2013 an average Dutch household was without electric power for 23 minutes". Or something to that effect. So ehm... no point in prepping for power outages here, then. Us Dutch flashaholics better move elsewhere.

    Personally my gf & I have been in a longer blackout this year, that lasted an entire evening, part of the night, and saw some after-effects in the following days. Street lights, that is - can't remember household AC power being out this year, other than by what we did ourselves. Read: statistics are just that, statistics.

    How is this for y'all? Been without power much, lately? What's 'normal' where you live?

  2. #2
    Flashaholic* Ishango's Avatar
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    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    Quote Originally Posted by RetroTechie View Post
    As we all know a true flashaholic loves a good blackout. Which brought my attention to this tidbit from a local news site:

    "According to Netbeheer Nederland, in 2013 an average Dutch household was without electric power for 23 minutes". Or something to that effect. So ehm... no point in prepping for power outages here, then. Us Dutch flashaholics better move elsewhere.

    Personally my gf & I have been in a longer blackout this year, that lasted an entire evening, part of the night, and saw some after-effects in the following days. Street lights, that is - can't remember household AC power being out this year, other than by what we did ourselves. Read: statistics are just that, statistics.

    How is this for y'all? Been without power much, lately? What's 'normal' where you live?
    Being more in the Utrecht area of The Netherlands, I can't remember when the last power outage here has been. I've seen our alarm clock reset to 00:00 hours a few times when coming home from work, but that could also be a glitch We did however have plenty of outages of street lights in my area , making it practical to carry a light nonetheless. Following one of the Dutch energy providers (Stedin) twitter feed, there are small outages pretty much weekly, sometimes even daily, but mostly contained to a few households at a time.
    Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam - Cato the Elder

  3. #3
    Flashaholic* mcnair55's Avatar
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    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    I hate power outages of more than the odd hour as i rely entirely on electric for everything.The central heating is oil but the pump is electric so that goes off as well.
    Diagnosed with Grumpy Old Man Syndrome

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    *Flashaholic* StarHalo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    The largest storm to hit California in three years arrived today -- our lights flickered 3-4 times, that's it.

    If you're like us and never see an actual blackout, participating in Earth Hour is a must (it's at the end of this month.)

  5. #5
    Flashaholic* 880arm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    For the past several years utility power outages have been rare where I live. Maybe a few blinks every now and then but only for a short duration. However, some of that is simply due to luck as several years ago, areas less than 30 miles north of me were without power for weeks due to an ice storm. One such storm is expected to roll in this weekend so anything can happen.

    The longest blackout I have been caught in happened at work when we had a major failure in some electric switchgear. Most lighting was restored after several hours but complete repairs took 3 days. It's somewhat disconcerting to be in a 1.5 million square foot building that has gone dark, no matter how many flashlights you are carrying.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    What is normal, or has been normal? Forgive the ruminations of an old man - however the OP did ask...

    My experience varies widely with a strong dependence on population density in the US/Germany.

    - As a small kid in SW MN in the '40s in a farming community in the middle of nowhere, with long lines and no power station close, every storm normally meant a power failure. Flashlights and kerosene lanterns/stove were regularly used. Kerosene lanterns were not allowed outside of the kitchen-dining room. Candles were not allowed. Fire was a real danger in old wood houses. I even went to the local hardware store to purchase my own flashlights and batteries with my money earned delivering newspapers. I discovered the run time diffences of the many C/D cell types.

    - In NW MN, only the larger storms meant a power failure, but then for a day or more. I remember the early GE sub-cell NiCds packaged as D-cells very well.

    -in the USFS in Northern Idaho on the Bitteroot Divide, the station generated it's own power -> a diesel generator in the horse pasture. It was turned on for the cooks & cook shack in the morning, left on to ease operations during the day most of the time, and shut off after the cooks were finished cleaning. Maybe 12/12. The rest of the time all radios (many) ran on batteries. Flashlights were SOP.

    - in the military, some times the local power was not good (~100VAC, ~50hz, maybe). I routinely discovered the lower limit of AC operating voltages. The power quality was bad enough (~80VAC, ~45hz) that one of the small sites I was at gave up and started generating it's own power 24x7. In Germany the remote military sites lost power only a few times a year.

    - Now that I am living mostly in larger cities in the US/Germany, power failures are normally short (minutes), but during high-wind or ice storms, the power can fail for hours if not days. Power failures in the large US cities are only a few times a year for outages ranging from a few minutes to a few hours. However, there are pockets of older suburbs in th US with the early buried HV wiring old enough that the insulation is rotting in the ground, leading to shorts and some BIG breaker trips. Then the outage is afternoon/evening. German cities have clearly more reliable power than the US cities - at least for now. eg: I have yet to be in a power outage in the Nürnberg area. The more remote locations in German/Austria/Switzerland assume the use of flashlights at night, especially since hallway lights are normally controlled by timers (w/short times!).

    Edit: to actualize the comments above, the power stability of all locations is about the same, save for the USFS station which has been deactivated as too expensive to operate that far back in the boonies.

    2nd Edit: I have been in major power failures where the electric grid failed. ie: the 1965 electric grid failure in the NE of the US. That was impressive to watch an entire city go dark with only spots of light at hospitals, etc. and after a day or so, most of those spots also went dark. There is no guarantee that massive grid failures are not possible again!
    Last edited by moldyoldy; 03-01-2014 at 07:32 AM. Reason: actualization to current day

  7. #7
    Flashaholic* orbital's Avatar
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    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    ^

    How have you been gettin' on with this winter in MN?

    We are in the top 10 coldest since records have been kept (late 1800s')
    The cold hasn't bothered me as much as the wind,, just sole eroding

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    Quote Originally Posted by orbital View Post
    ^

    How have you been gettin' on with this winter in MN?

    We are in the top 10 coldest since records have been kept (late 1800s')
    The cold hasn't bothered me as much as the wind,, just sole eroding
    this winter? This location has had many early morning temps of -27C to -29C. I am used to the cold, but this is getting bothersome. Many car owners are discovering how their car batteries fail - when they walk out thinking that they will drive to work in the morning. My natural gas bill in this ~1000sqft single-family dwelling has been running about 1/3 higher than last year for the last couple months. However I feel lucky. Anyone out of the natural gas distribution network is having difficulty with both supply and price of propane. eg, from an acquaintance:

    "the price of propane - went through our normal pre-buy ($1.43) even after burning 6 cords of wood already this year... Just paid $4.29 to fill the tank. Fed up with the gouging and political games - might have to spend $4K for the 1,000 ft line to get natural gas (regulated commodity) back to the house"

    In some localities in northern MN, officials have requested homeowners to keep interior temps at no more than 60 degrees! jackets in houses are the norm.

    A warmup is expected by next weekend. more subzero F nights coming.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    Since I gave a recommended inside temp for northern MN, I rorgot to give my own:
    - When everyone is out of the house: turn down the thermostat to minimum, about 54F. Old Honeywell mechanical thermostat with mercury-wetted contacts.
    - when we are home: 64F
    - when we go to bed: 60F
    - and we pay attention to the expected temp during the day before we run the clothes dryer. No point in heating household air just to have the dryer blow it out of the house.
    - using any thermostat with automatic settings for time of day or day of week is a waste of natural gas!

  10. #10
    Flashaholic* yuandrew's Avatar
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    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    Quote Originally Posted by StarHalo View Post
    The largest storm to hit California in three years arrived today -- our lights flickered 3-4 times, that's it.
    There was a landslide yesterday which shut down California Route 142/Carbon Canyon Rd which is the main route that leads to Orange County from where I live.

    I ended up going through Diamond Bar to get to the 57 southbound but on the way, there were at least three traffic signals out on Grand Ave due to power outages in the area as a result of the storm.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    The biggest Blackout to hit New York was in 1977.... Until we got hit by the one in 2003 which for most New Yorkers lasted many days.

    A few years later, I took a job at the giant Con-Ed complex located in Astoria, NY. After 1977, Con-Ed did nothing to make sure a major blackout never took place again. Guess what Con-Ed did after the massive 2003 blackout?.... Yup! NOTHING again!!

    So, another one is not just a possibility. Not just likely. But is simply a matter of time. (Also, let's not forget the 10-day Blackout that hit the neighborhood of Astoria just a few years ago. All while the Con-Ed complex itself, located in Astoria, had plenty of power.)

    Based on my personal experience, Con-Ed is a cheaply run, joke of a business. Filled with incompetence. And that goes for NYPA (New York Power Authority) located inside the Con-Ed complex as well. But that's just my experience based on having worked inside the complex for years.

    So if you're in New York, keep buying those lights with plenty of spare batteries.
    "The World is insane. With tiny spots of sanity, here and there... Not the other way around!" - John Cleese.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    Quote Originally Posted by moldyoldy View Post
    - and we pay attention to the expected temp during the day before we run the clothes dryer. No point in heating household air just to have the dryer blow it out of the house.
    - using any thermostat with automatic settings for time of day or day of week is a waste of natural gas!
    I have a programmable thermostat and it works well, but not for me. My schedule and my wife's are different so there can be no sure setting. I just turn it down way low at night, and keep it moderate during the day.

    If you have an electric dryer (gas needs to exhaust) you can get a diverter to blow all of that nicely warmed air back into the house. It has probably saved me over $100 each heating season, for my $20 investment. I count on it now for the extra boost.
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    Flashaholic* buds224's Avatar
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    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    Been in Japan for almost 3 years and have been criticized by my fellow Yokosuka dwellers for my preparations since the power here has been 100% stable for years, not even a blink during the BIG Quake of 2011.

    This year, 2 snow storms affected the power grid both on and off the Navy base; which in turn killed the hot water, even worse, water pressure, and heating. Come to find out I got criticized again for BEING prepared. Can't win with those types. LOL. Whatever!
    Last edited by buds224; 03-01-2014 at 05:13 PM.
    One clear lesson of September 11 is that individual civilians need to take responsibility for maximizing the probability that they will survive, should disaster strike.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    Quote Originally Posted by buds224 View Post
    Been in Japan for almost 3 years and have been criticized by my fellow Yokosuka dwellers for my preparations since the power here has been 100% stable for years, not even a blink during the BIG Quake of 2011.

    This year, 2 snow storms affected the power grid both on and off the Navy base; which in turn killed the hot water, even worse, water pressure, and heating. Come to find out I got criticized again for BEING prepared. Can't win with those types. LOL. Whatever!
    Sounds like they were just upset because you weren't suffering as badly as they were.

    Haters gonna hate.
    "The World is insane. With tiny spots of sanity, here and there... Not the other way around!" - John Cleese.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    Quote Originally Posted by jabe1 View Post
    <snip>

    If you have an electric dryer (gas needs to exhaust) you can get a diverter to blow all of that nicely warmed air back into the house. It has probably saved me over $100 each heating season, for my $20 investment. I count on it now for the extra boost.
    In general I agree, although my clothes dryer uses natural gas hence as you wrote, the exhaust needs to be vented. On the other hand, although venting an electric clothes dryer in to the house mitigates low heat & low humidity problems, there is some concern with the electric heating coils. The question is how hot do the coils become? If the metal coating on the heating coil becomes too hot, the metals outgas. also not good. It depends on the design of the heating coils.

    At one point I was acquainted with an engineer who vented his electric clothes dryer indoors. He started asking some questions after he noticed what seemed to be plating coating near the electric heating coils during a repair. What did he find out? Studies on electric heating units in whole-house furnaces demonstrated a problem with the low-cost units that tended to heat smaller surfaces to a higher temp to achieve the same BTU output. If the temp is driven too high, the metals outgas. His problem was that with a large family, his wife tended to run the dryer at the highest temp to speed up the drying. Hence his recommendation for keeping the heat lower for an electric clothes dryer that is vented indoors.
    Last edited by moldyoldy; 03-01-2014 at 06:03 PM.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    Well, I live in one of those places that has a pretty much rock solid history in the utility department. It's extremely rare to get an outage, and if we do, it's just for a minute. If something blew up at a substation, it might take an hour. Again these are very rare occurrences.

    THEN all of north Alabama got the power knocked out for a solid 5 days by a tornado system that wiped out the main powerplant distribution center for the entire area. What were the odds of that?! Suddenly the closet full of batteries and flashlights didn't seem so pointless. I did find that I had an overabundance of light but things like food and medicine would've become a problem long before lack of lighting. Fortunately I was adequately stocked and didn't have to go out for anything... which was good because the traffic was a nightmare in many places with no signals working, and hoards of desperate irrational people all hunting for the same things.

    Bottom line, don't be complacent. Just because it's never happened yet doesn't mean it won't ever happen, and it may be bigger than you think!

  17. #17

    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stress_Test View Post
    Bottom line, don't be complacent. Just because it's never happened yet doesn't mean it won't ever happen, and it may be bigger than you think!
    I agree. Never without power where I live. But it doesn't mean you have to prepare by spending $500 on flashlights and stockpiling 100 batteries either. But, I wish it did I need more excuses to expand my collection!
    GOOD TINT!

  18. #18

    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    I should also say that for the majority of that outage, I was mainly using a couple of Fenix E01s and a Quark AA light on low or moonlight mode. The only time I used anything brighter was when I needed to see better in the bathroom to shave, etc.

    I did use higher powered stuff outside a couple of times and if you think 200 lumens is weak, try it outside when there are NO other light sources and the sky is overcast! It looked like I was waving a helicopter spotlight around the neighborhood! The medium mode on the Quark (30-ish lumen?) was plenty sufficient just for walking around outside.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    In live in southern Georgia (US) and we rarely have outages that last more than a couple of minutes. But when we get a tropical storm coming through repairs can take a few hours.

    Since I also work search and rescue I tend to have some pretty strong (around 1000 lumen) lights. Honestly I tend to use a Peak 17500 or Foursevens AA mini when the lights go out. I normally carry an Aeon but don't won't to use up those batteries unnecessarily.

    I think our grid works well but when it fails it's usually catastrophic. I suspect that the next big hurricane that comes through will prove my point unfortunately.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    I live near San Francisco. The last good power outage that lasted for a few days was when they cut power automatically after the '89 Loma Prieta earthquake. That lasted about three days. Since then power outages only last a few hours at a time at the most. Usually, they last minutes.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gadgetman7 View Post
    In live in southern Georgia (US) and we rarely have outages that last more than a couple of minutes. But when we get a tropical storm coming through repairs can take a few hours.

    Since I also work search and rescue I tend to have some pretty strong (around 1000 lumen) lights. Honestly I tend to use a Peak 17500 or Foursevens AA mini when the lights go out. I normally carry an Aeon but don't won't to use up those batteries unnecessarily.

    I think our grid works well but when it fails it's usually catastrophic. I suspect that the next big hurricane that comes through will prove my point unfortunately.
    +1 on the durability of the electric grid in the US.

    This was confirmed to me by a power dispatcher that used to live across the street from me. However he went farther. Any highly tuned electric grid works well when only nominal problems are observed. However the failures are too often catastrophic and wide-spread when predictable boundaries are exceeded.

    A power engineer in northern Germany at a brown coal power plant said about the same thing. He gave me a full tour of the plant. Yes, there have been widespread power outages in Germany and Europe, not often, but they do happen. The longest failure he was present for lasted 3 days and the only startup was via a small hydroelectric plant in the mountains. All other plants had lost their steam - vented during the emergency. A power plant consumes about 30% of it's own generated power. If that power is absent and the grid has failed, what starts any plant in the system?

    During the NE US and SE Canadian blackout in 1965, I was on the outskirts of Syracuse NY and watched as a large distribution station transformer just over the hill from me lit up the night sky as it glowed it's way into oblivion at the beginning of the failure. lots of automatic systems tripped, some did not. damage was extensive!
    Last edited by moldyoldy; 03-02-2014 at 01:28 PM.

  22. #22

    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    Quote Originally Posted by markr6 View Post
    I agree. Never without power where I live. But it doesn't mean you have to prepare by spending $500 on flashlights and stockpiling 100 batteries either. But, I wish it did I need more excuses to expand my collection!
    Ironically, the best thing about this hobby of ours' is that we don't have to stock up on good lights because we already have them. A few canned foods, a few cheap medical supplies, along with a few gallons of water in storage (though more water is best) and we're prepared. Not as though a massive outlay of funds is needed just to be prepared for a Blackout.
    "The World is insane. With tiny spots of sanity, here and there... Not the other way around!" - John Cleese.

  23. #23

    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    ^ True but it would give me an excuse to buy a AA extender for my HDS when they become available.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    A few years ago in Oklahoma there was a pretty big ice storm, my wife and I took in several friends, we mainly had the advantage of a gas stove. Used flashlights and tea lights, filled baking sheets half full of water and tossed in tea lights for most of it. I think one friend was without power for a couple weeks and the others had it back in 5-7 days.

  25. #25

    Default Re: Prepare for... WHAT power outage?

    Power grid is pretty stable where I live, the 23 minute figure from the OP is basically my experience as well (more like an hour or two actually, but that's hardly any different). The most recent time was actually a couple days back, and it had to do with electricity counter device failing due to bad wire quality.

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