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Question about power outage.....help me understand. ***Updated post 63***

post #1 of 135
Thread Starter 
I've been listening to all the news about the storm on the east coast and I feel so bad for all the storm damage people are dealing with but there is something I just don't understand. There is a lot of talk about power outages and how this is a major emergencies and people have no idea how to live without power. They have no heat or ways to cook and just seem completely unprepared for this.

I live in Northern California where we get lots of snow and weather in the winter and it's not uncommon for us to have no power for a week or more at a time numerous times throughout the winter. Yes, it's a pain in the butt but in now way is it an emergency. Everyone is prepared. We all have none electric heat, usually a wood stove. Most people have a generator to run the basics and we stock up on gas ahead of time. Most people has propane stoves and ovens, but if not they can cook on their wood stove. People even know to fill up the bath if the weather gets bad so we have water to flush toilets. It's just not a big deal.

So why is it so different on the east coast? I'm not trying to be mean or snarky, I'm just kind of amazed and a little worried that a major part of our country seems so unprepared for a minor emergancy.
post #2 of 135

Where I live, we have never had a power outage longer than 8 hours. And that didn't even happen with Hurricane Sandy. We only had a 4 hour one. So no one in my area has a generator. Our stove is electric which is annoying but my mom has a gas stove. It has an electric starter. No problem to light it by hand but the oven can't be used at all without electricity. We own a couple kerosene space heaters from when our furnace died, not that we went out to get kerosene before the storm. I have $20 in my bank account which I'm loath to spend on something I'm not certain to need....

 

Many people are at the mercy of their landlords. The millions of people in apartments don't all own outdoor cooking equipment, not having any access to outdoor property. Sure, everyone could be more knowledgable about how to be prepared for things like this. But you are talking about people who have never had the lights go out for more than a few hours in their entire lives. It shouldn't be that surprising we don't own special equipment for dealing with it.

post #3 of 135

Most people on the east coast don't have woodstoves, nor any other sort of heat that doesn't require electricity - even most stoves that run on propane still require electricity to function, and besides that its not like heating your house with an oven is in any way shape or form safe. Many people live in apartments in NYC and they certainly don't have a way to heat their apartments, let alone anywhere to set up a generator. These are not people used to going without electricity for any period of time - its not something that happens often enough to make the cost of having all the stuff neccasary worth it. :shrug:

post #4 of 135
Quote:
Originally Posted by AngieB View Post

So why is it so different on the east coast? I'm not trying to be mean or snarky, I'm just kind of amazed and a little worried that a major part of our country seems so unprepared for a minor emergancy.

 

I'm not trying to be mean or snarky, but you sound like someone who lives comfortably in a one or two story single family dwelling in a small town with little commuter traffic. It's so easy to be smug about emergency preparedness when that's the case. How large is your city? How many people live in apartment buildings with limited storage for extra food and water supplies or bulky, rarely used items like a generator? Most apartment dwellers have no access to BBQs or camp stoves or fireplaces. They have the daunting prospect of climbing up and down 10 or 20 stories just to enter and exit their shelter. 

 

How many people in your area have health problems and are dependent on home medical equipment?

 

How is sewage and water treatment handled in your area? Are you "lucky" enough to have your own septic system or do you rely on a public system that serves a few million other people? 

 

How many traffic lights and how many people commute long distances on major arterial roads that require traffic signals for safe travel? How many electric-powered commuter trains, streetcars and subways? When the power goes out unexpectedly in my city, the streetcars are frozen in their tracks, blocking traffic and adding to the chaos. 

 

How many airports, train stations, shipping docks, large hospitals, major factories and industrial works in your area that will be affected if the power is out for any length of time? 

 

Oh, and what is your definition of "minor emergency"? It's one thing to cope with a heavy snowfall or even a blizzard for a few days, particularly if you don't have to leave your home. It's another to cope with high winds, falling trees and blowing debris causing property damage and personal injury/death and massive flooding. Really, the destructive force from something like Hurricane Sandy is more comparable to a forest fire rather than a snowstorm. If you had a forest fire blazing down around your house, would you consider it a "minor" problem? 

post #5 of 135
Generators must be outdoors when running. We live in an apartment and have no way to have a generator running outside. And where would we store the gasoline? Not in our unit or storage locker in the basement. That would be illegal. And how would we connect the generator to just our unit? We have gas, hot water heat, but guess what? The pump to pump that hot water up to our unit runs on electricity. If you have ideas for how we can be better prepared, I'm listening. We had a cold and miserable night without electricity this storm. We were luckier with Irene, last year, as the power outage was only 4 hours. We're near a hospital, so we usually get power back pretty quickly. Unfortunately, when the transformer blew (spectacularly ), so did a fuse in our building. That wasn't replaced until 11am the next day. I'm guessing the maintenance man had to go buy one. He buys them one at a time, whenever one blows. It's a pain! In that respect, I'd like to be a homeowner, again. But it's not possible right now, financially. Even in our old house, there were issues. No fireplace, so no safe way to cook when our then electric stove had no electricity to power it. We had a grill, but grilling outdoors during 60 mph winds with torrential rain just seems a bit much!

I grew up in western PA. We had a fireplace, although electric cooking. Our heat was gas, hot air. That makes a difference! Hot air rises, so the furnace would heat the air, which drifted up without the electric blower. We lost power frequently. We had a small wooded area behind our house, and once gathered wood to burn during a nasty snowstorm. It wasn't bad.

So, you see, a lot depends on the location. An urban location, lots of apartments, no fireplaces, landlords who live in other areas, and even those that live close by are going to take care of their personal property rather than their investment, makes it more difficult to take care of yourself. And there isn't always a safe place to go, either. We have no car, and no family not also in the line of the storm to stay with.

I hope now you have a better understanding.
post #6 of 135

yeahthat.gif

 

 

In addition:

 

If we do have a home, instead of an apartment, we need the power to run the pumps that keep the water out of our basements, out of our homes.  Where my family lives, just north of NYC, the water table is so high that any sudden, great rain will flood many houses, not to mention streams, rivers and lakes.  We all have pumps, sump pumps or otherwise, and guess what those pumps run on?  They're not gerbil powered.

Also a concern is the sheer number of now hungry, cold, frustrated and scared people.  Small towns where you know everyone have their downsides, but one of the upsides is, you know your neighbor, and you know he's not going to break into your house with a tire iron, looking for food.  You can't know millions upon millions of people.  You just have to hope the thousands of folks in your immediate vicinity aren't about to do anything stupid.

 

I'll fly my pride flag for a minute:  I think NYers (and our friends across the bridges and through the tunnels) are some of the most resourceful, independent and scrappy people in the nation.  We're all also very wonderful to know personally, and all extremely good looking. 

 

orngbiggrin.gif
 

post #7 of 135

I think a lot of people there are extremely inconvenienced by the power outages but are making do as best they can.  They aren't fleeing to shelters because they can't figure out how to keep warm and make peanut butter sandwiches.

 

I have many friends and family without power in NJ right now and they are doing fine.  They all have fallen trees in their yards that had been upright for decades and through many prior storms, including other hurricanes.  Some friends have holes in their roofs that can't be fixed for at least a week, probably several weeks.  Some friends had cars totaled from fallen trees.  Many don't have power or phone service, and might not for a week or more.  This is not a "minor" emergency.  This is a massive, large-scale disaster.  But the people of that area are strong and resilient and will get through.

post #8 of 135

OP, like you said, blizzards are not uncommon where you live, so people live with that knowledge and are perpetually prepared.  60 million people in the Northeast are not going to have the supplies and preparations for a massive, unprecedented storm.  There are piers on the Jersey Shore that were there for decades that are now gone.

post #9 of 135
The number of trees is also a factor. I have a sister in CA. When I visited, she was in the San Francisco area. The size, number, and type of trees, and how close they are to houses, is very different than in PA.

To those who have trees, or know someone with trees, they should be thinned (NOT trimmed) every 5 years to reduce the chance that high winds will knock them down. It is an expense, so even we cut that during tough economic times, so I understand that.

There's a way to help the economy a bit. The government could let you apply for vouchers to get your trees thinned, helping small businesses. But it probably won't happen, because a few folks would abuse the system. It might save money in the long run, though.
post #10 of 135

Modernizing the electrical grid (ie running cables underground, instituting 'smart grid' technology, etc) would also create jobs and save lots in the long term, but its 'too expensive' so we simply pay out every year or two when a major disaster occurs and we are forced to rebuild it again. :shrug:

post #11 of 135

As others have said, people aren't likely to be prepared for something they don't expect to happen. I live in Vancouver. I'm not as prepared as I should be for an earthquake, but I do take steps for that. I'm not prepared at all for a tornado, because the odds that I'll ever experience one are extremely low. When one is used to long power outages, one will be prepared for long power outages. People around here aren't, and we don't have generators, and I don't know anybody (except my cousin, who lives in a rural area a long way from here) who owns a wood stove. I have elecric heat (baseboards), because I rent, and that's what's available to us. Emergency preparedness here follows very different lines than it does for you, because we don't have week-long power losses...ever. I don't remember ever being without power for more than about 2-3 hours. Others have already mentioned the fact that a high population, urban centre tends to lean heavily to apartment buildings, where barbecues, wood stoves, generators, etc. aren't likely to be present (okay - I've seen barbecues on quite a few apartment balconies, but not all of them).

 

I also have to disagree with you characterizing Sandy as a "minor emergency". The East Coast may not have been totally prepared for it, but if you look at what Sandy did to the Caribbean, you'll see they weren't as unprepared as you seem to believe. This storm destroyed piers, tore the front off at least one building, left live electrial wires lying in the wet streets (at least one person died by stepping in a puddle), and caused massive flooding. Blocks of homes burned down - I believe the total was something like 110 houses. I was told that fire started when a transformer blew. People living in basement suites had their entire homes flooded. This wasn't minor. It was huge.

post #12 of 135

i was listening to NPR this morning. and i realised in many countries in asia - the condition that exists now is a normal part of their life every year. its a part i grew up in and so all the information being aired now is a way of life during the monsoons.

 

but living in an area where i live now, in an urban setting in Northern California with no power outtages - i dont think anyone here would know what to do. they would have no idea that food in the fridge you throw out after 4 to 6 hours and food in the freezer after about 48 hours. 

 

i am sure people who live in your kind of area on the east coast are faring much better because i am sure they had power outages during winter just like you. for my friend who lives off the grid in NY - it is a minor emergency as she didnt have to deal with floods but just had to deal with lost cell phone reception, fallen trees and panicked people.  

 

but mostly the news is covering urban area because isnt most of the east coast mostly urban?

 

yes StormBride. countries like Cuba for whom this is a way of life are really high tech in storm warnings. Cuba yelled their voice hoarse warning the US about Katrina, but the US ignored them. 

 

yes Sandy was HUGE. if it was just a power outage then yes i would have agreed this would be seen as a minor emergency. but this was so much more. 

post #13 of 135
Thread Starter 
I really wasn't trying to offend anyone and I'm sorry if I did. I wasn't talking about people we were flooded or their homes and towns damaged. I've just heard stories like a friend of mines sister lives back east and there was no damage to her home or major problems with the town, but they have lost power and they have 2 little kids and no heat or ways to cook and it seems crazy.

You are all right, I have never lived in a city or apartment and I didn't understand the limitation you would face. That seems incredible scary to me to be so dependent on "the system" to provide you with the basic necessities .
post #14 of 135
Quote:
Originally Posted by meemee View Post

 

but living in an area where i live now, in an urban setting in Northern California with no power outtages - i dont think anyone here would know what to do. they would have no idea that food in the fridge you throw out after 4 to 6 hours and food in the freezer after about 48 hours. 

Why would you throw out food in the fridge after 4 or 5 hours? It doesn't instantaneously spoil upon reaching 41 degrees:-) Many people in the world routinely keep things like eggs and cheese at room temperature. I was scratching my head at someone on the news complaining that her baby's milk had spoiled when her power hadn't been out very long... It isn't August. 

post #15 of 135
Quote:
Originally Posted by meemee View Post

 

but mostly the news is covering urban area because isnt most of the east coast mostly urban?

 

 

Well, a lot of it is urban, but many of the affected areas are suburban and almost rural.  The county I grew up in has no cities and as of yesterday, over 85% of homes there were still without power.  Some gas stations have no gas and others have gas but no power, but a lot of people can't even get out of their neighborhoods because of trees and power lines in driveways and roads.

post #16 of 135
Quote:
Originally Posted by AngieB View Post

You are all right, I have never lived in a city or apartment and I didn't understand the limitation you would face. That seems incredible scary to me to be so dependent on "the system" to provide you with the basic necessities .

Throw in poverty and it's impossible for some people to even change their situation. There were people with no cars who knew no one out of the area that were stuck in Atlantic City during the whole storm. They didn't have the means to follow the evacuation orders and evidently there wasn't any plan in place to help such people by sending buses to take them to shelters or anything.

post #17 of 135

The lack of cars isn't limited to the poor, either.  I have driven a car in NYC.  I was young.  I was brave.  I was very, very, stupid.  If I lived there now, 50/50 I would or would not own a car.  Cars are kind of white elephants in a lot of the most urban areas.

 

Good point about the gas stations as well - generators run on gas.  My little brother has a generator because his home flooded badly in Irene, and he can learn, and can afford a generator, and has a house with two shed so he has the ability to keep one... and he might still be out of luck if he can't find gas at this point.  He has no power the last time I checked, the storm took down his trees and part of the roof, but didn't rain on him.  Which he appreciated, because he's the sort to figure he doesn't want to lose everything under the roof as well as the roof, so he went out in the storm and patched it.  bigeyes.gif

post #18 of 135
Quote:
Originally Posted by 4evermom View Post

Why would you throw out food in the fridge after 4 or 5 hours? It doesn't instantaneously spoil upon reaching 41 degrees:-) Many people in the world routinely keep things like eggs and cheese at room temperature. I was scratching my head at someone on the news complaining that her baby's milk had spoiled when her power hadn't been out very long... It isn't August. 

that is what the government is informing residents in the Sandy areas to avoid food poisoning which usually happens at such a time. i think bacteria becomes a factor after temperatures rise above 40. i think its more about taking a chance. 

 

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2012/10/hurricane_sandy_aftermath_what.html

post #19 of 135
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bokonon View Post

 

Well, a lot of it is urban, but many of the affected areas are suburban and almost rural.  The county I grew up in has no cities and as of yesterday, over 85% of homes there were still without power.  Some gas stations have no gas and others have gas but no power, but a lot of people can't even get out of their neighborhoods because of trees and power lines in driveways and roads.

yes you are right. but most of the media coverage and pictures are of urban areas. 

 

while people in the rural area are out of power (which they are used to) those affected by wind and floods are the hardest hit. 

 

those of my friends without power are actually managing quite well in the rural areas. some got cell phone reception back, some havent yet. 

post #20 of 135
Thread Starter 
This is so interesting to me. First I can't believe that the east coast doesn't experience more power outages with all the crazy winter weather like blizzards and ice storms, I'm kind of jealous . I was also wondering for the moms who do live in the storm zone what did you do to prepare? There was a few day notice and lots of warning that there could and most likely would be long term power outages, so you had time to get ready. I understand that gas for generators wasn't an option for many but did you think about other ways to keep food cold or alternative heating methods? Once again I'm not trying to be mean I'm just very interested in how people deal with these emergency situations. Also has this change how you plan to prepare for future emergencies or do you feel like this was such a rare storm that you don't have to worry about more in the future?
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