Monday, December 04, 2006

Power Failure

Getting my ham radio setup with a battery backup came not a moment too soon. Friday night, the power went out.

Last Friday we had a cold front come through, bringing with it high winds. About 2030, the wind blew one of the trees in our yard into the power line feeding us from the pole. Sparks, pops, and groaning noises followed and the power went out.

Out came the flashlights, candles, and my D-cell powered Coleman flourescent lantern.

My wife called PECO and reported the outage. We use Vonage for our phone service and my home LAN is on two APC UPSes so we had phone service and cable modem Internet access until I shut them off to conserve power. In the meantime, we had our cell phones if we had needed to call anyone.

At about 2200 - 2230 we got some power back. A couple of the circuits came back but we had no power upstairs in our bedrooms, nor for the heater (natural gas but the blower requires electric). If things had gone on longer than they did we could still use our gas fireplace, however. Fortuitously, the refrigerator was on a circuit with power.

Meanwhile, I spent some time on the radio and caught the tail end of a Skywarn net. The PowerGate/gel cell setup worked perfectly. I'd done a test run on battery power last Thursday night when I checked into the MARC club net, and got good signal reports.

Saturday morning at about 0930 PECO tech came out. He went and looked at the pole and saw a mass of vegetation which had grown up along it, and that the insulators separating the three feed lines were broken. Due to the vegetation he needed to call for a crew to come out, climb the pole, and defoliate, then fix the connection. (A crew was out over the Summer clearing vegetation away from the wires and pole in my neighbor's yard but apparently they didn't get enough.)

The reason we had some power was that we were getting 110V into the house, not the full 220V. He jumpered the live 110V part to the other part, so we at least had 110V throughout the house, enough to run our heater.

An hour and a half later the crew showed up. They ended up replacing the line from the pole to our house, but I'll need to have an electrician replace the feeder line from the head to the service. (Good thing I have a close friend who's a master electrician.) However, they had to shut power back off for a few hours while they worked. We were back to status quo ante around 1500 Saturday.

Yesterday I went and pruned the tree which had swayed into the line. I'm hoping the reduced wind load will make it steadier. If it does sway or fall it shouldn't take out the power, however, since the PECO crew Saturday rerouted the line. It will drop the currently-unused Verizon phone line, and the heavily-used Comcast cable line, so I do want the tree removed fairly soon.

1 comment:

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