View Full Version : Musings and Ramblings From a Failure of Power

Jim Koepke
12-12-2014, 3:48 PM
This began with me happily out in my shop practicing cutting a 1/4" mortise getting the bugs worked out on a frame and panel door build for a tea cabinet I am making for the LOML or SWMBO depending on her mood and the phase of the moon.

We occasionally have power failures in our area. Surely almost everyone has experienced this. When we lived in our old neighborhood down in California we had more than we have up here in Washington. Down in our old area all the wires were overhead. The other problem was all the homes were built during WW II and this is what the power distribution system was built to handle. Where we live now our utilities are all underground until about a mile down the hill.

Down in the urban areas a little power outage is no problem. Here we do not have gas in the house. Our water comes from a well. When we lose the electric, we lose all. Our phones are cordless. This got us thinking about getting one phone that isn't dead if the power goes out. We do have a wood stove and it gets warm enough to cook on if need be.

So we had the "winds of a century" blowing through the area yesterday. Our power went out at about 3:00 pm. The weather reports started mentioning this and the likelihood of power outages a few days ahead of time. They were spot on with this. Trees down everywhere, power out all over in both Oregon and Washington. I am sure it was also out in other places.

Here is where something I use when we have gone camping. A white paper bag can become a nice table lamp. If you have one of the old lantern battery type flashlights, the paper bag can be held on the front of it with a rubber band. Here it is held on the outside of a jar with a small flashlight inside:


Another little help was the other day we were shopping and saw some "electric tea lights" on sale. So we bought a box for use instead of candles during the holidays. Out here in the sticks it gets real dark at night. So we have a few night lights around the house so we don't have to turn on the lights to get a drink of water or use the restroom. These things flicker like a candle, but that is fine for what we needed them to do.

So after sitting around awhile contemplating what could be done I picked up a radio a friend gave me as a gift. I mentioned to him that my favorite station up here decided to switch to an all sports all the time format. The radio is a C Crane EP model. The radio still doesn't do much better in our unique location. In fact is was rather frustrating for me to use. Most of the time my choice is to use my iPod with an attached FM transmitter to listen to music in my shop. Sometimes I use an old FM clock radio in the greenhouse. The C Crane radio seems to have a very sensitive tuner. When it finally is tuned in to the iPod it seems to have a tendency to drift. Decades ago one of my FM radios came with an AFC switch that helped to prevent drifting. Maybe they were replaced with technology.

So last night with the power off the C Crane radio was given a workout. The tuner is very sensitive. So sensitive in fact that I discovered the problem actually seemed to be picking up multiple stations on the same frequency at different location. This was on both the AM and FM dials. Maybe that is why my friend built a directional antenna mounted on a tripod with an adjusting network on the antenna. I used to DX when I was a kid and didn't have other things vying for my time. He still enjoys to DX the broadcast band. He even packs it all in to a high peak in a local park area and sits up there at night listening to far away stations.

One thing I noticed last night is even a lot of the advertising doesn't mention a city. Sometimes weather or traffic reports will mention a highway number that could be looked up on the internet, but wait my power is out so I don't have any access at the moment. A lot of AM stations were coming in on the skip. This is where the broadcast reflects off the upper layers of earth's atmosphere. The problem with this is as the layers of stratosphere move around the signal moves with it and is lost.

After a few hours of this my tuning found a dead area on the FM dial. The radio was tuned there, our iPod was then adjusted to match the radio and we listened to our own music and told stories of who we were with or other stories about the music and things we did when young around the music.

This morning while laying in bed wondering what time it was the lights came back on. So I got up, checked the old wind up wall clock in the kitchen, it was 9:15 am. Usually when the power goes off a light will be turned on to let us know when the power is back. The electronics that are not controlled by a switch on a power strip are usually unplugged. Set the clock on the microwave, plugged the entertainment center back in, started the coffee and went around the house flushing the toilets and washing my face. The water was still good and warm from the day before.

So we got through what was said to be the worst wind storm since about 1916 or so. Hope it is another century before we have another. Now to get out and see what the wind blew in...


Rick Moyer
12-12-2014, 6:05 PM
Never tried this, Jim, but it might work for non-electric source too. I have no idea. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWzSEI45Cvg

Jim Koepke
12-12-2014, 9:51 PM
Never tried this, Jim, but it might work for non-electric source too. I have no idea. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWzSEI45Cvg

It likely would work, but then would have to store it somewhere until needed. We usually have a few of the white paper bags on the shelf.

Another way to do the same thing is to shine a flashlight at the bottom of a milk jug filled with water or ice.

Lots of ways to get the job done. In moments of pandemonium my choice is to keep it simple and quick.