Monday, July 2, 2012


Friday night, and I'd just logged out of SL and was idly surfing the internet.  Suddenly, the lights flickered, and my UPS uttered a bleep of alarm.  A few more seconds, and all the lights went out, except for my computer (supported by my faithful UPS).

I shut things down in an orderly fashion.  Then, hearing a strange roaring sound above, I made my way up from my basement find what I at first thought was an approaching tornado.  We live in a heavily wooded area, and all the trees were being lashed by the fiercest wind I could remember, worse even than the times hurricanes have plowed their way into our area.  The sound was frightening, to say the least.

Fortunately, it was neither a hurricane or a tornado, but the damage was nearly as bad as if it had been.  A squall line of thunderstorms, moving at an incredible 65 miles per hour and containing gusts to 85, passed over our area.  Countless trees were knocked down, and along with them, power and communications lines.  More than a million homes were suddenly without power.

The area is recovering slowly.  Our power was restored earlier today, and the only permanent damage in our own household was to a couple of containers of ice cream.  But sitting in a dark and silent house, with the temperature and humidity gradually rising, I reflected once again on how fragile the infrastructure that supports our "modern life" really is.

Suddenly, we had no more two way communications.  Television was gone.  Cell service was down.  The internet was down.  Our computers were down.  We had no air conditioning, no refrigeration, and no means of cooking a hot meal except the outdoor grill.  Light was candles or battery powered lanterns.  We had a little hot water in the tank, but once that was gone, it was gone.  We had suddenly been hurled eighty years into the past.

The Resident Geek is off looking at backup emergency generators, with my blessing...but in a really extreme situation, we both know that that is not a real solution -- because increasingly, our lives depend not only on electrical power, but on a fragile, interconnected network of systems, many of which we are powerless to affect.

I'm not sure what the answer is.  Redundant and fault-tolerant systems are possible, but costly.  Perhaps it's best to simply accept that sometimes Things Get Zapped...but that's sure not how you feel when it suddenly happens to you!

1 comment:

  1. I live 10 miles outside of "town" in rural Oregon. We installed a Genny. When the wind starts blowin, we know it wont be long before the power goes down. We installed a Generac whole house generator, running off a 500 gallon propane tank. We love our Generac. It has automatic switchover, can run for days and has saved our bacon many times.