Saturday, 27 December 2008

Update: Thanks to the visiting crews from Clark Public Utilities in Washington for coming over to our side of the river and helping the CRPUD crews out with this huge outage during the holiday season. The power was restored in our area Saturday night, almost exactly 72 hours after it went out.

Yesterday evening I hooked up a new generator, freshly purchased from Lowe's in Longview, Washington because the electricity has been out at my house since about 6:00 p.m. on the 24th. In my neck of the woods (which, by the way, is a fairly literal description), we have two utilities: electrical and telephone service. Internet is via a wireless broadband service and an antenna on my roof that points to a mountain over in Washington. I don't get standard phone service, since I use a VoIP-over-Internet provider. So, when the electricity goes out I'm basically shut down here.

After nearly three days without power I now have a magical gas-powered, electricity-generating box humming away outside and a few awesome orange extension cords running under the big outer garage door, then under the door between the inside of the garage and the house. I've hooked up a small space heater, a fluorescent bulb, my refrigerator and even the Internet equipment (priorities, heh) and now I’m up and running!

This morning I was even able to make coffee. It amazing what a difference that can make when your house is sitting at 47 degrees. I'm going to have to toss out most of the food in my refrigerator and probably the stuff in my freezer, too. There' still little to no running water (I have an electric well and the natural pressure is just a very slow flow at best), but the combination of fireplace and generator/space heater can put the temperature to the upper 50's or better with some effort. It's freezing outside, and it was as cold as around 22 degrees a couple nights ago, so some heat is good to have. Most importantly the pipes won't freeze when the temperature drops.

We've had a big storm here over the past week or so, at least by Northwest Oregon standards, and especially in the City of Portland. We have just over three feet of wet snow on the ground here at home in the woods north of Portland. Broken tree branches and fallen trees litter the area, falling across roads and of course on top of power lines. The other night while outside I could hear trees breaking left and right, and branches falling. Lots of people in the area are without power. On Christmas Eve a couple brothers who are friends of mine made the four-wheel-drive trek from Portland to my place in the blizzard and found utility workers asking us to wait to drive over the fallen lines until they cut the power, and burning wires in the roadway. Those Columbia River PUD guys, out in the cold instead of home with their families, racing from broken line to broken line for more than 48 hours before going home... Those guys are pretty darned great. Tough job. I've seen this much ice and snow at my place only one time before in the six years I've lived here, but the impact has not been this significant and the power has never been out for three straight days. I know they've had extra crews from surrounding towns and counties working 24/7 on getting service restored, and the weather just keeps complicating things.

Now that I've experienced the pains of a slightly drafty house in the cold weather, I'll need to work to find the draft sources and try to fix them up a bit. Trying to heat a house with a slight draft is not exactly fun. It'll help with the energy efficiency of the house anyhow, so it's worth it. To try to keep the heat in the downstairs area rather than trying to heat the whole house, I hung a thick blanket in the stairwell on the recommendation of a neighbor. That was a great idea. It's chilly up there (but not frozen), and respectably warmer downstairs as a result.

Oh, and my outside dog is now an inside dog, at least part time. He's thrilled, like a king is his castle, and I'm pleasantly surprised at how well behaved (and non-messy (in the gross kind of way)) he's been.

There's the added difficulty of three feet of very wet, heavy snow on the roof of the house. At least one of my gutters is pulling away partially with the heavy icicles, so that will need to be fixed. So far the roof is okay, and I'm hopeful the snow on there will melt some before more comes. One of my neighbors was shoveling the wet, heavy snow off his roof on Christmas Eve because he discovered his double-wide home was actually separating along the roof peak where the two halves join together. Luckily, the roof on my site-built home was specially engineered due to a county redesign mandate when they reviewed the builder’s original plans, so it's engineered to handle some massive amount of snow specifically because of the likelihood of this type of storm. They had to re-order roof trusses at the last minute that were designed to hold a lot more weight. I’m directing some thoughts of thanks at whichever person it was in the county engineer's office that caught the design flaw and forced the builder to do that structural upgrade.

At any rate, the utility company says they hope to get a crew working on our area today and to get this large region back online soon. I hope they're able to. It's been an adventure for sure, but I'm definitely ready for the electricity to come back on.

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Saturday, 27 December 2008 10:21:39 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Saturday, 27 December 2008 19:25:53 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Clark County to the rescue! W00t! ;)

We have since moved back up north, bought a house here in Skagit county. But Clark county is made up of some really cool people. So I am glad to see that they stepped up to lend a hand.
Sunday, 28 December 2008 08:28:02 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
You have endured quite a bit since we talked a few days ago. Our temp this morning here in NM was a -5 with a wind chill of -23 and out pellet stove (our main source of heat) had burped and didn't want to start. It was 58 in the house and I will NOT complain after reading your saga! Happy Sunday Greg!
Sunday, 28 December 2008 11:24:35 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Great picture of D-O-G :):) He looks so very content and at home inside! Mom
Sunday, 28 December 2008 11:26:47 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Umm, it's spelled Diogi, mom. :)
Wednesday, 31 December 2008 05:36:49 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Wow! What an adventure. It makes me appreciate Miami even more. When it gets down to 70 here we think it is the end of the world. We have learned to live without electricity however due to the hurricanes. We have plenty of those.
Friday, 02 January 2009 05:00:09 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
A yucky situation to be in for sure, but a situation which makes one thankful for the things we take for granted everyday.
Tuesday, 17 March 2009 09:10:34 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Sounds like the cold must have got to your brain - it is clearly snowy-white all around you, yet you are worrying about the Freezer not working!!
What was wrong with just taking the stuff outside?
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