Joe Desposito's Blog

Hurricanes Hate Trees and Electricity

Looking out my window yesterday as Hurricane Irene passed through the New York area, I could see the trees groaning under the onslaught of her high winds. The younger trees were okay, just dancing back and forth and giving up leaves before the fall season, but the older ones gave more--limbs and branches mostly, but some got pulled out by their roots altogether.

As trees go down, power lines often do, too. We lost our power around 7:00 PM ET on Sunday--not bad. Many in the tri-state area lost power on Saturday, as soon as the storm hit. Power returned for me this morning, so no power for about 12 hours altogether, but some will have to manage for days or weeks without power. I find it interesting how people cope without power.

For us, my wife gathered all the flashlights in the house into one basket. We had some of the older ones with incandescent bulbs and some newer ones with LEDs. The star of this group was a LED multi-function flashlight with 45 LEDs. Twenty one are used for the flashlight, 18 for a work light, and six as a red LED emergency flasher. The worklight was so bright that it easily lit a room as an ordinary lamp would do. I was impressed.

In addition to lighting and plug-in appliances, we lost our Internet connection, cable TV and VoIP phones, since there was no power to our Cablevision voice modem. But our triple play service was down anyway, even when the power was on. This made me think about how dangerous VoIP service is in a power outage. In the past, landline phones worked for the most part, during blackouts and other power outages. Not so VoIP phones, as least not through cable companies like Cablevision.

Though our electricity was gone for the evening, our electronics weren’t. We had phone service through our 3G phones and a modicum of entertainment via a tablet computer (before the Internet connection went down, I rented a movie for the evening, so no Internet connection needed). I also had Internet connectivity via a 3G air modem on my notebook computer.

The downside, of course, is that battery power runs out after a while. This got me thinking about ways to charge up these devices when the electricity is off. For cell phones, there is the car charger, of course. My Jeep happens to have a built-in inverter, so the car can charge any electronics that we plug into it. I don’t have an external inverter, like those that run off of the cigarette lighter in a car, but many people make use of those.

I also have a backpack with a small built-in in solar panel, which can charge phones and such. I’ve decided to invest in more solar power chargers for the future. But I don’t have anything that could have harnessed the wind power that the storm brought our way. I don’t know of any small turbines or windmills for charging personal electronics, but I’ll spend some time investigating this for the future. Another source of power is, of course, a gasoline generator, a solution for many people I’m sure, but I don’t own one.

Is that it? I’d be interested to hear of any other power generation methods that you may have used when impacted by a hurricane or other natural disaster.  

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