Thursday, September 6, 2007

We're Back! Our 37 Hours In Hell Due To An Aging Power Infastructure

Well, Labor Day is over. We had a good day. It was 110 degrees and we hung out in the air conditioned house watching TV all day. As night approached, we continued to watch the tube and at 10:45 PM it happened. BLACKOUT. No power. No lights. No TV. And most of all, no air conditioning. Thus began this wonderful story of our 37 hours of darkness in this blazing hell. You don't realize how much you rely on our good friend Mr. Electricity and what joy and happiness he brings to our lives. Until he goes away.

So, we began by finding the flashlight and then lighting a candle. The living room where we were quickly became hotter and hotter. The temp maxed out around 94 degrees. Life was about to change and so was my awareness about disaster planning. I called Southern California Edison ('SCE' from here on out) and reported the problem to an automated line. Oh this is going to get good. Probably the most frustrating for me was the fact that this computer, the one that brings you Discover Insanity everyday was off. Oh my god. No computer. No e-mail. No blog. What in God's name do I do. There's only one answer...barely sleep.

When Tuesday morning came, I checked with our neighbors and discovered that it was only the 6 houses connected to the pole behind my house that were affected. My neighbor behind me couldn't get her car out of her garage because there was no door to get inside besides the electrically operated garage door. I found out that our other neighbor, an elderly woman, was taken to the hospital due to the heat and problems with her medical equipment. It was bearable in the morning but our dog didn't like it one freakin' bit.

I called for an update from SCE on our repair. Their automated system said it would be restored by "late Tuesday evening." Say what? that's 24 hours. Okay, so there were 25,000 of us without power. What about me? Screw them. Well, my neighbor Gerry, who has the same love of power tools that I do, had a generator available. He had power in his house even though it came off my power pole. Seems he was connected to the previous transformer and not mine. So, I got the generator in the truck, got some gas and tried to save ourselves.

I tried to do everything I could to make the house bearable for me and the animals. I even went so far as to put a tap on the front of the house to block the afternoon sun a bit. It helped to lower the temperature some but remember, if it's 90 degrees in the house, the fan is still moving 90 degree air. I guess that's a law of physics or something. But hey, I had the shower, and the pool to stay wet and apply the principle of evaporation. Oh how science played such a role in this disaster.

The generator was placed outside by the pool and I ran cables all over the house to power a couple of fans, a light, and the fridge. We had a bunch of food leftover from our "family picnic" on Sunday and that couldn't spoil. Also, I even got the TV to work so at least I had some entertainment to distract me from the freaking heat!

I waited for the SCE repair crew to arrive. And I waited, and waited, and waited, and waited, and waited. Well, finally, at around 4PM, a crew from SCE arrived from Twentynine Palms. That's some 100+ miles away. The guy told me they were sent here to help out since our specific SCE office had 800 calls pending. He was beginning a 36 hour on, 24 hours off shift and we were his first call of the day! One guy climbed up the pole to see the problem and as my neighbor and I watched him check it out...BOOM! Sparks everywhere. See the picture, I actually got it when this happened. I'll tell you this, he was shocked as shit. He made his assessment of our problem and said that we were screwed. Access to our yards was limited and the problem was a transformer that blew up and shorted out one pole down. He said that the transformer behind my house was OK since it was new, but the one just down the way was old and underrated for the load on the system.

The guy from SCE told me it would take a 4-man crew to do this job and that it would probably have to happen in the morning. I thought, OK. I've got the generator. I've got fans. So I'll be OK. My wife and I went out to dinner and hung out with fans flying and watched TV. Att around 11:30 PM, our neighbor banged on our door and asked if we could kill the generator cause the noise was driving him crazy and he and his wife were trying to sleep...outside! Since I put the generator in the fenced in pool yard, it was like a giant speaker. I really didn't want to piss off my neighbors, so, off went the genny! The temps were cooler (in the mid-80's) so it was uncomfortable, but bearable. Although our cats didn't think this was such a good idea.

I fired up the generator around 7AM so my wife could dry and curl her hair. A very important use for the generator. At around 8AM on Wednesday, the Edison repair crew showed up (actually a contractor to them). They brought the equipment needed and were able to get their truck close to the blown transformer and power pole, but they still had to carry the transformer quite a ways to the pole. Thus began the work of putting this 300+ pound can on a power pole about 60 feet in the air.

Well, these guys worked their butts off in the hot morning sun as the temps began to rise. The heat wave actually had finally broken but I'll tell you this, if you're in the direct sun, it don't mean diddlysquat. It was hot and having to lug that big can up the pole and change all the wiring out due to the short circuit wasn't something I'd want to be doing...especially 60-80 feet in the freakin' air.

The SCE crew worked and sweated and around 11:45AM, some 37 hours after this all began, wallah! The power was back. Thank freakin' god! But now it was time to fix all the crap that got reset during the outage. Those damn clocks that blink and blink after a power failure. It's enough to drive you insane. After about a half hour of plugging crap in, shutting down the generator and cleaning up the mass of wires throughout the house. life was back to normal. We had A/C and our pets were happy. Life was getting good.

I've got to give credit to the people at Edison. During the current heat wave, 618,008 Edison customers have lost power for at least a few minutes. As of 8 p.m. Wednesday, Southern California Edison reported outages affecting 7,758 of its 4.8 million customers, including 4,698 that had been without power more than 24 hours. That number was a substantial drop from the 20,500 that did not have power as of 10 a.m., including about 8,800 that had been without power more than 24 hours, and that was me. But life was good again, the old Macintosh came back up without a hitch and I even got a quick chance to check my e-mail before going to work. Only 285. Not bad.

All in all, we survived. It gave us something to talk about. It's nice to plug in a voltmeter and see what you see in the picture to the right. That's what life is all about. And now, Discover Insanity is back! Life. Powered by Edison. Unpowered by Edison. Fixed by Edison. Paid for my me.

Isn't that a joy?