Electrical Outage Continues

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Posted by Annie in Outdoors, Twain Harte News on November 25, 2010

It’s been an exhausting few days. The first day without power wasn’t too bad, we relaxed together as a family, putting together Lego’s without much concern at all. The longer the outage continued though, the more we were forced to deal with the reality of living without electricity.

The Twain Harte Post Office lot

Faced with losing our winter meat supply, freezing temperatures and hunger pains, we were resigned to solving problems we had never faced before. For starters this was the longest outage of our experience.

The freezer held up pretty well. We chose well — a 9 cubic foot chest, which is kept mostly full, which will help hold the cold longer. After two-full-days without power, the frozen foods were still frozen.

The refrigerator was a different story all together. We all know that it is important to keep the door closed, so I put our cold beverages outside in the snow. Not knowing exactly how long we were going to be without power, and knowing we have mountain lions and black bears in the area, we had to balance the need to keep our food cold, with keeping it away from the wildlife.

We opted to pack a few heavyduty gallon size, Ziplock Baggies with snow and insert those into the fridge — it worked to keep the temperature from climbing — overnight.

Equipped with a borrowed 2,000 watt generator, we were able to keep the house warm by powering the blower to our pellet stove, one light, the television, the DSL modem and the Wii (which gave us access to Netflix and movies). After all, entertainment is important too. The 2,000 watt Sportsman Generator is terrific for an emergency. The tank holds just 1.5 gallons of gasoline, which will last 9-hours on a 50% load — very economical but not very practical for an extended outage.

The problem is a generator of that size won’t power large appliances, like the fridge, microwave, freezer, hot plate, or computer. Since we work from home, we realized rather quickly that we needed a larger generator. We had to be able to keep our business a float during the outage, at least on an emergency basis.

Many people choose to install a generator large enough to power pretty much the entire house, and experience as little inconvenience as possible. The problem is, whole house generators can be costly to operate. After speaking with one couple, with a home wired generator, we decided this was not the route for us. They had emptied a 250 gallon propane tank in just three-days. Can you say OUCH!

With this in mind, we opted for a 5,500 watt Honeywell Generator. This model runs on gasoline, the tanks holds 6.5 gallons, which will last 11-hours on a 50% load. We purchased four 5-gallon gas cans, which means we could go 3-full-days without making a gasoline run. In our experience this was doable and more importantly, it was practical in our situation.

We are able to power the freezer, the refridgerator, the pellet stove, telephone, television, microwave or hot plate, a light or two and a few other incidentals. The trick is to know your appliance wattages and keep track of the load. Keeping in mind that anything over a 50% load (roughly 2,750 watts) will increase the fuel consumption and increase costs. We have been getting about 12-hours to a tank of fuel.

We also purchased a couple of 12-gauge extension cords of various lengths. It is important not to use more extention cord length than is actually needed to reduce friction which can degrade the electrical output of the generator. While a 16-guage cord probably would have been sufficient, we are safety minded and running electrical cords is a fire hazard, so care must be taken when attempting to power your home.

For the first few days, I was heating water for drinks and dishes on a burner attached to our grill — outside in the cold. I only dumped one full pan of water on the floor. I’m just glad it was cold water, not boiling water. With the addition of a two-burner hot plate, I was able to heat water in the house. We taught our son how to take a sponge bath properly — that was fun — something he had never before had to worry about.

An experience such as an extended power outage can either wreck havoc on your home, turning your lives upside down or it can bring your family closer together. It really all depends on your state of mind and your ability to prioritize and keep your cool. I won’t lie, it is stressful. Advance preparation and planning can help to minimize stress levels and help everyone to know their job.

While it hasn’t been easy — in fact, we have fallen into bed each night between 10 and 11:00 p.m. each night, fully-exhausted from all the extra work, but it’s been rewarding as well.

I have been making regular calls to PG&E, heck we are almost on a first-name basis with the operators. It didn’t seem to impress anyone at PG&E that I thought I should have electricity on my 50th birthday. Go figure. I have managed to locate PG&E’s outage map on their website, but it didn’t help too much, since I didn’t know our “Outage Number”.

So, I called PG&E again to get our Outage Number (ours is #172165), of course they have our outage as beginning today at 4:01 p.m. Their automated system actually called us, to inform us that our power had been restored today at that time, which it had not. I am so glad I called them back to notify them that we were still without power, though it doesn’t seem to have done much good.

I’ve been providing short updates through-out the day on the Twain Harte Times facebook page.

Time for bed, I’ll post more updates as they become available. Right now the sky is clear but the air is COLD.

Stay Warm!

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Comments (4)

Thank you for blogging about your experiences in Twain Harte this week. I pray that your electricity is fully restored today – Thanksgiving.

We have a cabin in Twain Harte – and have spent Thanksgiving there for the past 5 years. This year because of the impending storm, we decided to wait
a few days – and I’m glad we did because I’m sure we would have been snowed in.

I am hoping to get up to the cabin soon – have not yet shut off the water or winterized the cabin! So I have really appreciated your posts giving me much needed info.

Thank you – and again I hope that your power is restored today!

Lynne

You are welcome. I was hoping to help others avoid getting trapped in our winter wonderland. 🙂 I’m afraid to tell you this but the temperatures have dipped down in the teens up here. Your water may well be frozen. I pray for your sake it is not.

Have a joyous Thanksgiving holiday. We are expecting more weather over the weekend, then the weather is supposed to warm up again. I’ll keep posting as I am able. I am so happy to hear you have found the information useful.

PG&E has no estimate as when we might see our power restored. There are 189 homes in our energy block that are still without power. PG&E lists 39
outages in our local area still.

Best regards,
~Annie

Your site is very good for Twain Harte and the region.

Your comments and criticism of PG&E’s handling of the recent outage was right on. They should have had a crew assigned to each outage instead of doing them in series. It appears PG&E brought in very few outside work teams. We need to get organized and get PG&E to work harder for their mountain customers.

Lets get some sort of petition going.

My late husband worked for General Electric, first as a motor winder, and later he repaired turbine engines at several of the nuclear power plants in Michigan and Ohio. He was called in on jobs during emergencies several times a year.

Time can be a critical factor in restoring power. The Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station is one of the biggest money sinks in the Ohio area. The very thing that was taunted to consumers as a money saving measure, made our electric rates (in the 80s) the highest in the country (at that time).

The largest problem they had was that they liked to cut corners and often wouldn’t address safety issues, until their is a problem.

With all the new highways being put in, wouldn’t it make sense to bury electrical cables, where possible? I’m no expert in this area but as someone with over 25 years in management experience, I’ve always looked for ways to be pro-active.

I was infuriated when we had our last outage, because each time I called PG&E, they would tell me I could get more information from their website, which was terrific — expect I had no power. It was impossible for me to get online.

We have a lot of talent up in these hills, men and women who could have lend a hand, if only PG&E would have asked. I’m not so sure a petition is the answer, but perhaps a letter writing campaign or even a public meeting or hearing to help encourage PG&E to re-evaluate their outage policies.

Thanks for your comments. I firmly believe if we all work together, we can make all of our lives better.

BTW: I really like your website too.

Keep warm!

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