Sandy to solar

Five years and one day ago, Sandy ravaged the East Coast. New England was on the outer edges of the storm’s violence but suffered profoundly nonetheless. My participation in the event required five days without power. I was totally undone by the experience. One of my kids remarked that he thought I was more of a pioneer woman than my behavior indicated.

Last night on returning from a weekend in NYC, I drove from the train station – bright lights on – in the middle of the road to avoid splaying the water pooled in the small floods that edged the roads. Enormous raindrops caught my headlights before angling horizontally into the windshield. I was happy to have new tires but worried they might be damaged by all the tree litter strewn across the road.

Fortunately, no deer leapt from the woods and few cars came in the opposite direction. I took note as I passed the driveways of the few people I know along the route in case I needed emergency road service – which I didn’t.

Later as I turned off the light to start what’s for me a fairly involved fall-asleep process, I tried to ignore the wind. But from time to time, there’d be a thump – something falling in the yard, on the roof, off the benches beside the mudroom door, on the porch. I had not brought in the tray of White goldenrod seedlings awaiting repotting or the watering can. Maybe the watering can had taken in enough water to be too heavy to fly off the bench and maybe not. Surely the seedlings would be knocked to the ground. I’d left a bucket with a scrub brush and a rag to dry on the porch after washing the rugs. Were those things blowing around? It was too wet to check and getting up while in the fall-sleep process is always a bad idea. But when I remembered that the hourly weather prediction used the high winds symbol till the middle of the next morning, I got up to take an Ibuprofen pm bill to get some sleep.

I was slow to realize in the morning that the power was out. I did not have Internet service, but when I could flush the toilet and get water from the sink I presumed the problem was router related. Usually that’s a problem that can be fixed in the front house but not today. So I went to the back house to reset the FIOS router. Ah ha, no power there. The phone battery pack was beeping, about to die. Refilling the bird feeders in shed #1, I switched on light – not because I needed it but as a test: power there.

Finally it dawned on me that I was experiencing my first real use of my battery powered solar generator! The electric clock in the front wall showed the correct time. The fridge was on. The kitchen lights worked. I had to move the coffee pot and grinder to different outlets but water, even hot water, flowed from the faucets.

It’s miraculous! In four years (?), this is the first long-term blackout. The batteries are working noiselessly, apparently reliably. Today’s sun is generating more electricity; I can monitor the output on the inverter. Does this mean I’ll be able to keep powering the house for the coming days? Could I be so lucky?

On a walk down the road, I found at least part of the problem: a large Norway maple limb lies across the electrical wires half way down the road. Maple on Post

I have not seen a National Grid truck drive down the road. The word is that it could be several days before everyone has power again. (I can’t complain when I think about Puerto Rico!) I trust that we will not be powerless as long as we were after Sandy. And as long as the generator works, I can reestablish my credentials as a pioneer woman — not in tolerance for the hardships of blackouts but in alternative power.

3 comments
  1. Dorothy Swift said:

    Hi Susan, I just got power back about an hour ago (or I couldn’t be sending this). Two days of classes canceled so far. No phone, no internet, no TV, no lights, no laundry etc. for 41 hours. But I could occasionally access CCRI on the new iPhone that I barely know how to use. And I could make calls to Operations there, once I looked up the campus phone no. in a phone book. (No internet to use for that). So, I don’t think I’ve lost much in the freezer except ice cubes. Maybe a little in the regular frig. We shall see. But it will be so nice to cook dinner (gas stovetop keeps going as long as I have matches) with real lights on. Dorothy

    >

  2. Tysh McGrail said:

    good tale Susan, ta for sharing. Update on solar generator success would be appreciated too….

  3. Tysh, not sure what you’d like to know about the solar generator. It’s some 18 lead acid batteries that get a drip of power from the PV array to keep them charged. Without sunlight, they are supposed to run for 6 days but any sunlight keeps them charging. I never dented the power they had stored but I only used the generator for 2+ days — and the sun came out. Come by to see it sometime when you’re in South County. I love to show it off!

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