Saturday, January 06, 2007

Blackouts in Winter

Last evening the power went out in town, for the fifth time in just over a week. Usually, the outage seems to occur right around supper time, and fortunately I have usually not started to cook. The blackouts are relatively short - under half an hour - but can be devastating to electronic equipment.

Last night's was particular bad with the power spiking and falling for at least fifteen seconds before absolute darkness. I have heard that perhaps as many as four computers bit the dust in this most recent episode. It buggered up the earth station for our satellite-based Internet access, and I had to reboot the site from the bottom on up. Fortunately, nothing there seems to have become fried, just a matter of the universal power supply running out of power and shutting itself down.

Hydro Quebec, as a crown corporation, has a monopoly on distribution in the province, and one which they protect with the greatest zeal. The term "hydro" is a bit of a misnomer in our circumstance, since all the communities in Nunavik are supplied by local diesel generating stations and are not connected to the massive provincial power grid.

This isolation has served our communities well, and we never are involved in any of the massive blackouts affecting huge chunks of the continent, such as occured in 2003 and left 50,000,000 in the dark.

But being off the main grid has its drawbacks too, since there is precious little that can be done to purchase electricity from elsewhere. Now we normally do not get all that many blackouts over the course of a year, usually just in stormy weather when a flying strip of metal shorts out the high tension lines. But this recent spate seems to be related to the equipment in the generation station itself, and that has me worried.

In my 21 years in the north, I've never experienced a blackout so prolonged that pipes would freeze in the houses, and believe you me, that would be a complete disaster. But one could happen due to, say, a fire at the generating station in January. To the best of my knowledge no comprehensive emergency plan exists for this contingency to mitigate below freezing temperatures in the houses.

As they say, failing to plan is planning to fail. Let's wake up!

6 Comments:

Blogger marty said...

The East Coast blackout of several years ago was a disaster. I hate blackouts.

9:25 PM  
Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

Power companies are evil incarnate. Start a whale oil power cooperative, that way you have power without having to buy from Snidely Whiplash and we get rid of those pesky cetaceans. BTW save me one of the skins, I could use a new car cover.

9:30 PM  
Blogger Fuff said...

Sounds terrible, especially with your climate. Have you a generator, or would it just not work in the temperatures you get up there? It must be hard there at the moment, brrrrrrrr.
Speaking of power outages; our neighbour's burglar alarm had a tendancy to flip out after them, usually during the night...for hours and hours. Inconvenience always seems to strike at the most inconvenient of times.

9:46 PM  
Blogger DutchBitch said...

Blackouts over here are usually followed by a babyboom about 9 months after...

5:31 AM  
Blogger The Wrath of Dawn said...

No contingency plan? That's madness!

Please tell me you have some sort of alternate heating device.

Not wood burning, for obvious reasons...

7:04 PM  
Blogger nanuk said...

Hey Guys, are any of you having problems posting. No matter how often I refresh my screen or reboot my browser, my latest missive refuses to show up. What gives?

7:43 PM  

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