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Chief Bottlewasher
Jul 13, 2011
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derecho -n- a widespread and long-lived, straight-line windstorm that is associated with a fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms.

They were calling for storms Friday evening, so I kept my eye on the radar. When the derecho came out of Indiana, Johnna and I weren't too concerned. It looked to me that it would pass north of us. When the storm got more organized and plowed through Dayton, video started coming in from the news stations. It looked bad, but maybe it would peter out before it got to us. We were skirted by a single thunderstorm cell---like a Harold of Woe---that passed just north of us prior to the main event. The derecho spread out and intensified as it approached, seven heat/storm/wind warnings were out for our area.

I was watching from the basement window at 5:45PM when the storm came up the valley and blotted out the sun, while 80-100 mph winds buffeted the trees. Minutes later, the power failed.

Now, for whatever reason, I don't own a generator. It must be by choice. I know very well that it's a gap in my emergency preparedness plan. It's on my very long "to do" list. Suffice it to say, we were preprared enough to be ready to live without electricity. Johnna and I spent three days without power---at our previous residence---in September of 2008, when the remnants Hurricane Ike roared up the Ohio River Valley.

All hail the Man Cave! My finished basement, with it's attached wine cellar, never gets above 67F. That evening, after the power failed, we were eating reheated, left-over pasta, with grilled garlic toast and a glass of wine on the side, sitting in our cool <dark> basement. What disaster? We had no idea how bad it was.

I slept on the sofa and Johnna crashed on the futon. Saturday, after a restless night, we got up and got organized. I packed all the food from the upstairs fridge to the one in the basement. We pulled all the curtains and closed all the shutters on the windows. It was dark as the inside of a cow in the basement, but it was comfortable (the temp never changed from 67F). We still had water, so we could make do for a while. Our cell phones were still working (thank you AT&T), so news of the extent of the distruction and the outages began to trickle in. By Saturday afternoon, I was chiding myself for not acting more quickly. We needed ice to preserve our food, and I was coming in late to the party. Ten percent of the county's population was without power, it was hot (100F), and they all needed ice!

As I headed toward town, I saw trees down everywhere. Some already cut to clear the roads, others still lying where they had fallen, taking out power lines and roof lines. I stopped at two gas stations before I reached the city line. Both had empty ice chests with no hope for more. "Screw this", I thought, "I'm heading for Walmart." Half way across town, I pulled up to a stop light, and looked to my left. At the Speedway, right on the corned, was a most beautiful sight! A Diamond Ice truck! The man was rolling a dolly packed with fresh bags of ice down the ramp from a truck that was almost empty! This was my closest point to panic. Johnna was relying on me. I was not going home without ice!

I whipped into the lot---which was already filled with cars---and parked infront of a gas pump. I jumped out the my truck and accosted the Ice Man. I inquired if I could buy ice from him directly, or did I need to pay inside. "Pay inside!", he said, wiping sweat from his brow. The pile of available ice was dwindling. I quickly marched into the store.

A dozen people waited in two lines. I stepped---naturally---to the shortest line. Naturally---again---my line moved slower. Cursed by my pour choice of queue, I was forced to watch as bags of ice were selling like hotcakes at the other register. Six bags, eight bags, four bags, six bags...

I suffled my feet and looked at the folks around me. They came in two distinct types. The "haves" and "have-nots". The "haves" chatted casually about their good fortune during these hard times, not knowing their danger, being surrounded by the "have-nots" with their nervous feet and wild eyes, bent on survival.

The man in front of me was having his things rung up. No ice for him. Must be a one of the "haves". Well, how nice for him. He chatted up the middle-aged cashier like he was sitting at a bar, hunting cougars. She giggled back. Given my circumstances, their interplay annoided me to no end. I just wanted some freaking ice! He deftly pulled out his credit card and swiped it...once...twice. He punched some numbers on the pad and waited. Ice was moving in the other line. Six bags, four bags, ten bags! People were paying, then going outside to aquire their bags. A steady flow of them filed past the glass doors, frosty loot in hand.

Meanwhile, the goon in front of me looked nervously at the cashier. Nothing was happening. She poked at her screen and smiled stupidly. Something was wrong. She dabbled at her touchscreen like she was wiping a child's face. She called to the other---older---cashier to have a look. The elder lady came over, stabbing her long bony fingers at the obstinate screen, as if the mere touch of cold flesh could solve anything. More card swiping, pad punching, and screen touching ensued. Then came the announcement. "This register is locked up, we'll get you at the other one." The older woman looked right at me as if to say, "Good luck, buddy!" and moved back to her register. I turned to see no one behind me. Those who had been in my line had long abandoned me to my over-indulged patience. Fifteen people were now queued there, giving me that "tough luck for you" look. I didn't care. I had waited longer than any of them. I stepped over near the head of the other line, ignoring the moron who had likely cost me my ice, and feeling the hot, silent glares of the "haves" on my back---who, I imagined, had nothing more urgent than slinking home to their air conditioning and their hot water and their homebaked cookies. One of them commented they had heard that Walmart was out of ice, too. At that moment, I hated them.

Just when I thought the ordeal would soon be over the Ice Man pokes his sweaty head through the doors and says to the elderly cashier, "I'm almost out! They better have their ice in hand before you ring them up." I didn't hesitate this time. With a prefunctory "Skews me!", I pushed my way through the people and out the door. The ice man had vanished. Other confused "have-nots" were casting about. I went to the ice chest out front, but it was still empty. I hurried around the ice truck, but the only things left inside were empty wet plastic bags...and the sour smell of defeat. I rushed back around the truck to see people hauling bags of ice from the other side of the building. WTF? The Ice Man had taken the last of his treasure as far from his truck as possible, and was handing it to those who asked. I pushed in behind a stout young man who hauled off eight bags, and asked for four. He shoved four dripping bags of precious frozen water into my arms. I juggled them around as I pulled open the doors to find the one working queue...running to the rear of the store! I counted twenty-three people in the line as I hung my head and took my place, ironically, next to the bank of ten refrigerators humming away in the back. Cold water dripped onto my feet as I waited the next ten minutes to pay my bill and exit the store with my dwindling bags of "gold". I returned to my house victorious, and to my very appreciative wife.

As it approached dusk on Saturday evening, and we completed our first full day without power, I discovered (you don't want to know how!) that my septic system was not draining effectively. Ugh! I went to the front yard, pulled off the lid of the septic tank, and immediately found the problem. The drain pipe existing the tank had somehow fallen into the muck of a thousand flushings. When I tried to push it back into place, it came completely out of the side of the tank, revealing a gaping hole where the liquid waste of our lives had been improperly draining. As a result, I spent most of the next day---Sunday---on my stomache in the crisp brown grass of my front yard, in 105F heat indicies, up to my elbows in waste, repairing the breached concrete tank and it's very necessary funk-shon. I was successful.

The power company had said we would be five days without power. Monday evening, about 72 hours after it failed, the power suddenly came back on. All hail the hard working men and women at AEP! We spent Tuesday cleaning up and getting our lives back to normalcy.

Still alive, and dangerous as ever! :r

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Wow! You made me feel like I was there! (except for the septic tank)!
Man at the end of the story it really got pretty crappy! Glad you made it through that mess!
"Now, for whatever reason, I don't own a generator."

Dave, I know the reason. Same as mine. When there is a power outage, I can't find a generator in any of the stores. When the power is back on and there are plenty of generators, I don't need one! :)

Wow, what a tale of woe. I am glad that is behind you. Way to persevere. We "Ahians" can hack it.
Generators are expensive for a good one! Just like any tool, dont go grab a cheap one as they wont last long or start up when you need it like a cheap lawnmower. Years ago I broke down and installed a Honda 6500 and a Emegenswitch (breaker box designed for a generator) and am now in the process of moving the switch over. Its worth it to spend good money on this if you do decide to buy one as you take it with you where ever you go. At the new house it wil be evenb better as the furnace is gas and we will be on city water so no pump to run and this frees up more juice for other things so we'll be able to run everything now! Somewhere down the line we will switch over to gas stove and gas dryer and be all set but dont have the money to do this now.
I agree, Wade. I don't have one because I can't force myself to buy a cheap one. I'd love to have a propane fueled whole-house generator---since my house is all electric---but they are even more! Summer is one thing, but having a long term power outage in the winter would pose a whole new set of problems.

We had planned to take care of all these emergency loop-holes in our first few years after buying our house. With Johnna now unable to work, many of our plans have been put on hold. This is one of them. Thank goodness she likes cheap wine! :dg
Glad you made it through. 5 days last October in that freak snowstorm made me pick one up. I had a four week old baby and struggled to keep the house warm enough. That was enough impetus. Of course now I'll probably never need it. I think of it like life insurance. You pony up and hope you'll never have to use it. ( though I'm kind of hoping I get a day or two to use the generator some day)
I have a gas one and just keep like 5 - 5 gallon containers of gas at all times ready. I switch them out all year by using them in the lawnmower, weed whacker, leaf blower, and snowblower so none really get stale and I use the gas conditioner in them. After buying mine I didnt need it for like 4 1/2 years buit the next time I needed it it was for 4 days.
what a story glad you all are ok!
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A few years back, we had an ice storm that took out the power for 30 days or so. Bought a generator then, used it til the power came backon. The next year, I decided to use it at work. Was working on a new house, and the generator would not start. Several hours of work and it was going again. Had a outage in part of the town the next year and was going to let a friend of mine use it. Back to not starting and tearing the carborator apart again. Supposedly it has been put away so it will work again. Been a couple of years, think I'll get it out one of these days and see if it works. If I would convert it to propane, don't believe I would have the not starting problems, but the propane is not as convenient as gasoline. Arne.
I have heard stories like these when I used to sell tools and equipment through a mail order company. The company I worked for sold generators.

I recommended to people I sell portable generator to to run it at least every 6 months. This is not only to make sure the engine works but to make sure the generator head works. So also test by plugging lights or what not into the outlets to make sure it provides power. What happens is that over time of non use the generator head losing it's magnetism. By running it periodically it keeps its magnates charged. Once a generator head loses it magnetism it usually means a repair bill or replacement (this depends on the cost of replacing the generator).

With Stand-by generators (these are generators that would turn on automatically when your utility power has an outage) make sure it has a 7 day self test feature. If you have one installed without a self test feature then you must run it manually to make sure it's running between outages.

As a warning: There are only two safe ways to power things from a generator:
1) Use extension cords from your lights and appliances directly to the generator outlets.
2) Use a transfer switch that has been installed by a licensed electrician.

Most whole house furnaces and air conditioners don't have plug ins (they are hardwired to a electrical box) and to run these safely one needs a transfer switch.

I had heard on occasion of people connecting a portable generators to someplace other a transfer switch to run their air conditioning or furnace. DO NOT ATTEMPT IT! It is very dangerous and could cause a electrical fire.
I had similar experiences with a bad ice storm in '94 when we had now power for a week when I bought my generator. We also had a straight line wind storm they called hurricane Elvis that really tore the city up bad. In both storms we were without power for a week with no climate comfortable basement. I keep 5-gallon containers for fuel, and I keep my 20-gallon boat tank full as my generator reserve fuel source. It has really come in hand over the years, the power here does occasionally go out for a day or two. I do start the generator once or twice a year to ensure it is working when I need it.
Ive also heard of people hardwiring their generator into their breaker box. Do not do this as uou could kill a lineman!!!!!!

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