On a (hopefully) brief temporary involuntary blog break

In case anyone's interested, the reason that there was no post today is because we had a rather massive windstorm here in the Detroit area that left 800,000 without power. Unfortunately, that number included my wife and me. I valiantly tried to take care of my blogging addiction last night, as the temperature in the house plunged to the 50s. With nothing but residual battery on my laptop and mobile hotspot from my phone I ended up giving up in order to save battery charge, particularly on the phone. Given that the power is still out and I'll be surprised if we get it back before tomorrow or Saturday, I can't predict whether I'll have a post tomorrow. Worst case scenario, I'll post a rerun from the vault that you can chew on or bang out a quick post someplace where there's heat and wifi (which we'll have if the cold forces us to stay in a motel tonight). I definitely should be back by Monday. I think.

It takes a lot to stop Orac from applying Insolence to pseudoscience and quackery. One of the biggest windstorms in his lifetime finally did it. (No jokes about wind.)

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I hope it's fixed quickly, and y'all stay warm and safe.

By Dorit Reiss (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink

Orac, as long as the food in the fridge or freezer doesn't go above 41 degrees for more than a couple hours; its good to go. You can safely refreeze food that hasn't gone above the 41 degree point.

(Hey, part of what I do is emergency management)

Stay warm! And hopefully up in the terribly cold north everyone knows not to bring gas heaters or grills or generators inside.

There was a terrible windstorm out here a few years ago and several people died of carbon monoxide poisoning because they brought their generators inside because they didn't want to disturb the neighbors with the noise.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink

I hope you have somewhere you can go in the meantime. I've been without power for three days on a couple of occasions, and it's not fun. With 800k people not having power, it will take a while to restore it to everybody.

I don't know how far out of town you live, but if you need to run a pump for any reason (well water and keeping the basement dry are the two most common reasons where I live), you should definitely have a generator on hand, just in case. Ask the gas company about it if you are connected to a natural gas supply system--they can get you one that runs on natural gas, and those tend to be quieter and less expensive to operate than gasoline-powered generators.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink

One of the most common mistakes is to bring a hibachi into the house to cook with.

You have my sympathies, Orac. Been there, done that.

I'm sure we'll manage to keep ourselves occupied. Stay safe, and stay warm, and hope your weekend turns out better.

I'll just sit out here in the courtyard in the sun and read some papers.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink

In early December 2015 there was a big ice storm that downed our power line. It was followed by unusually cold weather for early December. Our power was out three days, because that's how long it took the power company to get to us. Not fun. I need to buy a generator. A good one. I should have gotten the last time this happened. We seem to be in an area prone to power outages. Not as bad as our house in NJ when we lived there, but prone nonetheless.

HDB, my retirement plans (9 months, 22 days but who's counting) is to move to a nice warm location.

Orac, if you do not have natural gas available in you area go with a propane powered generator. Propane does not degrade over time like gas does. Also, get a generator that has about a 1/3 more capacity than your normal home power usage during peak usage. Running a generator at lower than peak capacity lowers fuel usage, allows additional uses(unexpected loads), and in general adds a longer life expectancy to the general. The generator I specify for my health center was a 500KW (you probably need about 25-30kw) and our max usage is 230KW.

If you happen to have a tauntaun and a light sabre.......

By NumberWang (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink

A good time to brush up on your Quintet skills.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink

Would be interested to know what was the wind-speed. Hope your house was not damaged.

If there were downed trees please replant.

Squirrels and birds are good neighbors that also need a home.

I'd suggest something that suits your personality (e.g., Weeping Willow). ;-)

By Michael J. Dochniak (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink

Obviously God's punishment for participating in holding back cancer cures! Shame on you! Praise the Lord and pass the antineoplastons!

By Mark Thorson (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink

... go with a propane ...

It doesn't happen very often anymore, what with global warming, but in rural areas around here people occasionally have to build fires under their propane tanks because the propane is too cold to evaporate. This is something done with a certain amount of fear and trepidation.

My wife's cousin, who lives in the Detroit area, was having dental work done when the power went out.

Dental work. Power out.

We have friends who live where trees tend to fall in windstorms. Once right across their driveway which wiped out their truck.

They get water from a well, so they decided to get a good generator powered by propane because when the power goes out it not only gets dark and cold, but there is no water.

They get water from a well, so they decided to get a good generator powered by propane because when the power goes out it not only gets dark and cold, but there is no water.

We live in the mountains, where the power goes out when there are bad storms. I remember one winter, when I was a kid, when the power was out for a week.

We don't get winters like that anymore, but this winter has been a relative doozy. We have wood heat, and we don't have a generator; as soon as the power goes out, we draw a couple bathtubs full of water and that lasts us for the day or two it is out.

We tend to be the last ones in the area to get our power back on, as remote as we are...

I can definitely empathize. After Sandy we had no power for four days, and we were luckier than the rest of the neighborhood because our power comes from a different line. After five days the streets were cleared enough to go over to my brother. We hadn't been able to get in touch with them since the storm. They were okay though.
We lit the gas burners with a barbecue lighter and we took out the eggs and boiled them, and cooked some of the other stuff. We didn't open it again, and everything inside stayed good, even the milk..
Two things I saw that I will never forget: our dog retreated to her bed and at the peak of the storm she was staring wide-eyed like a human, something I've never seen in a dog any other time, and from the upstairs windows I could see up to the major power lines near the Expressway and I saw the transformers blow one after another with brilliant white flashes, almost like arc welders.
Here's hoping you come through at least as well as we did.

By Old Rockin' Dave (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink

This is what happens when you trust in "Big Energy". Forget that generator, though...here's a patriot that will show you how to go off the grid forever with just a few hundred dollars in supplies (and $27 to his bank account). And if you buy that, I've got some ocean front property for you here in Arizona.

Seriously, though, hope you're getting some power back on really soon.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink

Hope you're all ok - fingers crossed for a swift return of power!

By Rebecca Fisher (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink

Sorry to hear about the bad weather.

Hope you can manage to stay safe and warm.

By squirrelelite (not verified) on 10 Mar 2017 #permalink

Top wind gusts were 68mph, near Detroit and near Saginaw. They were over 60 mph quite a few places. Ground was not super wet but was thawed in most of the areas of high winds so some uprooting occurred, and would have been more if there had been leaves on trees. Tree breakage mostly confined to compromised trees, but there are more of those than you think, as gets proven at these times. I merely have sticks all over the yard, and one large elm "stump" about 30 feet long that fell over the garden, proving I should have felled it previously, but it's not a big deal. It was what remained of one tree after a 2012 tornado removed most of my woods. Well, actually, some of the trees are still there, dead, and have supplied me with beautiful bark for the past few years, but gave most of the oaks, hickories, and cherries away to worthy causes. My garden walkways are gorgeous.

We had a dead tree in our yard that the tree service didn't want to take down for various reasons, not the least of which was that they thought it was unsafe. It was uprooted. Fortunately it didn't hit any power lines or buildings. It did, however, buckle a section of our fence, although a lot less than I would have guessed. I'm not even sure we need to replace it if we don't mind a bit of a curve in the top of the fence.

I learned something too. Douglas fir trees, though very solid looking an weighing tons, are actually able to fly in MI. People sometimes ask me (cause I'm a botany nut) how big Doug's can grown here, compared to where they are native out west. I still often answer to ask me again in about 500 years, when I'll know better, but I think the real answer might be that they will never become old trees here, cause the winds will kill them at some point before then. Consider not planting trees that want to be over 200 feet tall here.

@rork: They get some pretty fierce winds out west, too--winds that have been known to shake bridges apart.

That wind storm hit my neck of the woods yesterday. My house lost power sometime after I left for work in the morning. We got it back around 10:15 AM, to judge from the time my oven clock was showing when I got home.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 10 Mar 2017 #permalink

I'd recommend a whole house generator system, there are propane models and models that'll run off of natural gas.
That and an automatic transfer switch and it'd come right on as soon as the power goes out. Figure around $8 - 10k for it and installation.

We had an outage last weekend, but fortunately, in this area, outages are typically quite brief. I still had a half hour remaining on my UPS battery, so I didn't have to try to limp the car to the office to finish my shift.

Well, off to order the thermal fuse and pre-heater thermostat for the clothes dryer. We got the unit for a song and it turned out that the heater coil was tack welded to the frame, leaving the element constantly on, which killed both that thermostat and the thermal fuse.
Then, off to change my oil in the car, assuming the replacement oil filter can be found (someone mistakenly took it out of the car and didn't bother putting it back into the car and now, it's been "put away").

our dog retreated to her bed and at the peak of the storm she was staring wide-eyed like a human, something I’ve never seen in a dog any other time

Every time there's an earthquake our Siamese glares at us, gives us real stink-eye, because it's apparently our job to keep the ground stable. "You house-apes had just one job..."

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 10 Mar 2017 #permalink

A few years ago, we have a massive ice storm where I used to live in North Carolina. School was canceled, and I was stretched out on the couch enjoying my time off.

I could hear ice cracking and falling as the temperature rose . . . then I heard a KABOOM! and my whole house shook. I thought a tree had landed on my house. It had landed on my neighbor's house with such force I felt it in mine. :o

The damage could have been worse; caved in the soffets and wrecked the front porch. I took photos for the insurance company, and a good thing since they couldn't wait for an adjuster with all the other damaged houses in the area. They had to take the tree apart and start temporary repairs to make the house livable.

That's when I noticed one of their (pine) trees was so far bent over my garage, it was a miracle IT hadn't snapped and hit my house.

When I first moved to the PNW we had a terrible windstorm that absolutely destroyed the regional electrical grid. And by destroyed I mean that in some more suburban/ex-urban places it took a biblical 40 days to restore power, because the trees didn't just knock down the power lines, the lines themselves shredded.

A coworker had a freezer full of breastmilk that managed to stay frozen until they could get power back (but they were only a few days).

By JustaTech (not verified) on 10 Mar 2017 #permalink

Justa Tech, was that the Inauguration Day Storm in 1993?

That was the one where I was watching the roots of a conifer in the front yard heaving up the lawn. So I took grabbed my toddler and drove to a mall without tall trees, and then picked up his older brother from preschool.

When I got home I saw the top half of the conifer had broken off and landed where I my would have been parked. It did some damage to the garage. Fortunately the neighbors had already cleaned it up!

Some conifers are quite fragile in high wind.

In my neck of the woods we have a fair amount of white pine, which grows tall and grows quickly. I dodged a bullet with the one that was next to my driveway (planted, as I discovered when I counted the tree rings, the same year the house was built) which had limbs growing through the utility lines (not the electric lines of course, as they do take care of that kind of thing, but they don't care about the phone and cable service strung along their poles). When the tree service guy came to give me an estimate, he knew before he stepped out of his car that I was asking about that tree. If it had come down in an uncontrolled fashion, it would have taken out my house, the neighbor's house, or the power lines.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 12 Mar 2017 #permalink

Mr. Lund, imagine what that is like for someone whose property borders an elementary school playground. It was a Douglass fir, but the issues are similar.

Apparently the duties of a school custodian go beyond just making sure the refuse is discarded, he is the one that wrote the owners explaining that the tree was a danger to children. In reality they are the school property facilities manager. They know everything about the building/grounds, and it would be idiotic to ignore them.