Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Big Night Outage

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  • steven crawford, in reply to Warren Clark,

    My disaster plan is … silly redundant.

    I’ve got one of these: just in case

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4016 posts Report Reply

  • Patrick Xavier, in reply to Nick Russell,

    I’ve just returned to Auckland after an inadvertent 20+ year diversion to Wellington. A couple of years into my Wellington relocation, it occurred to me I had not experienced a single power. Now I am thinking I never experienced a power cut in the entirety of my time in Wellington. (There were occasional power cuts in Wellington; it’s just I did not experience them.) But there is something else about Wellington: there is a degree of maintenance of its infrastructure that is simply missing in Auckland. In Wellington’s CBD and inner suburbs, streets are cleaned nightly, including by mobile vacuum cleaner; drains and pavements are maintained; and fallen debris is removed promptly. I am quite surprised, on my return to Auckland, to discover that basic level of civic civility is absent. Pavements and drains, in particular, are an absolute disaster, broken by tree roots and blocked by leaves. Stormwater facilities are inept, to put it mildly. Presumably that affects other infrastructure. Perhaps it’s reflective of a more deep-seated malaise. I have no answer; it’s just my observations.

    Since Nov 2006 • 49 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to steven crawford,

    I’ve got one of these: just in case

    What do you feed him?

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2897 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Patrick Xavier,

    Perhaps it’s reflective of a more deep-seated malaise.

    Much of it reflects the old multiple council problems of separate services. The supercity was supposed to resolve this. Bwahahahaha!

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2897 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to nzlemming,

    What do you feed him?

    Oh, and one of these.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4016 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    Holy bat, four grand? I have a $15 second hand plastic drum under a downpipe. That gives me 220 litres that I can drink if I need to, ideally boiling first.

    My $4000 spend is more likely to be solar + battery + inverter on the garage roof so I have enough power to cook a little with if there's no grid. That setup is getting quite affordable now, and the Auckland experience has persuaded me that I should look into it again (last time it was over $10k if I wanted to be able to draw 2000 watts to boil the jug or run an induction cooker (the latter two are the cheap bit, under $200 and likely under $100 by now).

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1118 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I never lost power, but did lose my rear balcony fence and railing in its entirety, torn clean off. At times the wind gusts were so strong I was not sure if things were hitting the house. The rain was horizontal and I was seriously worried a tornado might form, it not being unknown around here.

    In the morning I nearly ran over a downed power cable outside my house when taking the kids to school. When I got back I called it in to Vector on their emergency number, which took an hour. Then I decided to basically guard it until they came, directing traffic around it. It was cold and wet but I considered the risk someone might zap themselves to be significant. I blockaded the street with wheelie bins. It ended up being a bit fun because I met half the neighborhood.

    A fire truck came but was not there for that. I said I could guard it all day if necessary and they said "thanks, that frees us up" and they went to 3 different houses they had been called to, before leaving.

    At about 1pm a garbage truck came and instead of going around the line the driver pushed the line off the road with a stick. A minute later the Vector technician arrived and just shook his head when I told him the truck driver moved it with a stick. The line was indeed live at the time and it was just lucky he hadn't shocked himself. Note to self...

    The mess around the neighborhood is still being cleaned up. Lots of entire trees completely uprooted. Plant wreckage everywhere in piles.

    I did tweet about the powerline with a photo. Vector tweeted me back asking for a DM of the details but did not follow me so I could not comply. I left it, the phone call was sufficient and I figured they did not need extra load on their call center staff.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10559 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    I decided to basically guard it until they came

    onya

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19538 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    This for example. There are better options with a bit more DIY effort, and I will probably end up buying second hand PV panels because those are cheap and fairly reliable. But the advantage there is that I can run my garage and sleepout off them, charge via extension cord if I need to, so it'll always be there when I need it. All for only $4000, or $160/year in extra interest on my mortgage...

    Of course, nailing that down to survive the sort of storm Auckland just had will be fun. Plus in Sydney we get the famous "hailstones the size of tennis balls" every now and then. But TBH, if that happened to my house the PV would be more likely to survive than the roof tiles.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1118 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to BenWilson,

    The line was indeed live at the time and it was just lucky he hadn't shocked himself.

    In related news, I had an electrician round the other day because a circuit breaker/RCD failed in the switchboard. Turns out that whoever installed it not only used a distribution box that was too small so they had to really wedge the wiring in, they also installed things "upside down" - input at the bottom, output at the top. After disconnecting the top wires the bottom ones were still live.

    So is the electrician.

    After disconnecting things he poked around with his tester to make sure it was actually safe. There was some vehement explaining that my setup was not ideal, though. And for a surprisingly cheap fee he spent the time to rearrange everything and give me 4 new RCDs to replace the 2 old ones (because one of the other "features" was that there were two circuits running off each existing RCD).

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1118 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    For reference sakes it's really easy to build a 12v usb recharge station for your home with a car battery and a car cigarette lighter.

    Can post specs if they're needed

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Yes, cost can be an issue. The government needs to step in and doing something about it! People’s lives are at risk!

    The MS2000 v03 Flight Commander Immersion Suit and a MD1128 v03 Life preserver, which are meant to be worn together would keep me afloat and protected from hypothermia in the harshest of conditions for several days.

    The KATADYN POWERSURVIVOR 40E/12 V has an emergency manual pump so even if the 12 volt system fails I could desalinate plenty of water.

    It would be irresponsible not to have those, and I hope lessions are being learned in Auckland about how hostile the environment can get!

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4016 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to BenWilson,

    I did tweet about the powerline with a photo. Vector tweeted me back asking for a DM of the details but did not follow me so I could not comply.

    That’s probably one of the limitations of using social media during civil emergencies!

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4016 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Moz,

    Plus in Sydney we get the famous “hailstones the size of tennis balls” every now and then.

    I once witnessed lots of fork lighting over Sydney. That's dangerousness!

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4016 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Patrick Xavier,

    Wellington’s CBD and inner suburbs, streets are cleaned nightly, including by mobile vacuum cleaner; drains and pavements are maintained; and fallen debris is removed promptly. I am quite surprised, on my return to Auckland, to discover that basic level of civic civility is absent.

    Essentially Auckland has been under constant pressure to keep rates low. The classic C&R package is all rates are evil especially those levied on rich people.

    The consequence is sequential councils keep pressuring departments to meet ever more stupid budgets. What happen is maintenance is the first "cost-saving".

    Try riding any of the white line cycle lanes which are usually covered in detritus from the roads.

    Compound that with the CCOs which are run to make "profits" who also believe cutting costs (aka services) is the best business model.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4427 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    In Mt Roskill our first indication it was really windy was hearing the old UHF aerial coming down off the roof. I had been meaning to get it down sometime but frankly I don't like heights so having the wind helpfully uninstall it wasn't the worst news.

    Then about 9:30 pm the power went out. We had the same problem as everyone else, the vector app wouldn't accept our outage and never ever acknowledged our outage. The web page wouldn't even load the map. Kinda silly that the management at vector had obviously ignored the IT people who certainly would have told them they need to plan for high load events.

    We have -80 C freezers at work so we know the first thing you do with freezers in a power cut is make sure nobody opens them. Even after a 22 hour outage the ice cubes hadn't melted.

    The extra insulation and double glazed windows proved again to be a good investment on a cold Auckland where the temperature dropped to below 20 C!!!!

    We had dinner out the next day and fortunately had power back on when we got back home.

    Like most folks the biggest frustration was just not getting information from vector, either their app or their webpage.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4427 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    One more comment.

    Next day I read and heard Vector management blaming Aucklanders for having too many trees that knocked down all those power lines.

    So here's the thing, I still have my Vector shares and I still get dividends from them.

    What the hell is the company doing giving out dividends when the basic network infrastructure is so vulnerable?

    When undergrounding was suggested (well duh) the response was "ooo that's a bit expensive".

    How much money was just spent repairing all those downed lines???

    And how many of your shareholders would prefer to have underground robust power supplies rather than a dividend.

    Classic short term cost savings creating a huge liability, frankly the board of directors should be delivering a major "please explain" message to the management and none of the management should be getting their bonuses.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4427 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth,

    Having spent 6 days without power 5 years ago - after the windstorm that felled trees in great numbers throughout North Canterbury (a gust of 200kph recorded on the hills behind us) - I learned a few lessons about resilience. We are resolutely rural, so expect to be more vulnerable to outages, though they are thankfully rare. The local lines company Mainpower is pretty strict on trees and will trim or fell any it thinks threaten their lines (at your expense, unless you do it for them). We paid a fair sum to underground a section of the line round a spectacular gum on the edge of the garden.

    One thing I've learned: cook with gas. I've always insisted on having a gas hob and electric oven. You can live without the oven for a long time if you've got a kettle-style barbecue/BGEgg/pizza oven, and, well, you're cookin' with gas...

    I really should buy a battery back up for charging phones etc - but the old farmhouse roof will need updating before too long, and that would be a good time to hoist some solar PV and stick batteries in the garage.

    Bucolic in the backblocks… • Since Jan 2008 • 267 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Che Tibby,

    For reference sakes it’s really easy to build a 12v usb recharge station for your home with a car battery and a car cigarette lighter.

    Yup, you pretty much buy a USB recharger that plugs into the cigarette lighter and you have not only a battery, but also a portable generator to keep it topped up. I'm pretty much surprised by anyone who doesn't have a car charger these days. They cost like $5 and have usefulness that goes well beyond emergencies. They make useful something in the car that is basically completely useless and redundant to me, despite being near universal.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10559 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to steven crawford,

    That’s probably one of the limitations of using social media during civil emergencies!

    Yes, I don't really want to go posting my phone number and address in public tweet.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10559 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Patrick Xavier,

    The idea of not mowing the grass outside of every property (which is not private property, does not belong to the property owners) was the brain child of our left wing mayor, which speaks volumes to why our infrastructure is so run down. Since then, there is now waist deep berms in practically every street, where a resident has not decided to take up the council's shortfall in looking after it's own land.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10559 posts Report Reply

  • John Farrell, in reply to Gareth,

    Gas can be a problem for cooking....a lot of hobs have a mains connection to power igniters, and some have an electrically operated valve for flameout protection.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 468 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth, in reply to John Farrell,

    Matches (you have to have them for the candles*) answer the first problem, and I wasn't aware of the second. Not fitted on my old hob, at least.

    *We also invested in headlamp torches. Wonderful things, even if you do end up looking like Torchy The Battery Boy

    Bucolic in the backblocks… • Since Jan 2008 • 267 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to John Farrell,

    Gas can be a problem for cooking....a lot of hobs have a mains connection to power igniters

    Yeah our gas hob needed matches but otherwise was a dinner saver.

    USB rechargable bike lights provided all the light we needed.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4427 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Gareth,

    Attachment

    You can live without the oven for a long time if you’ve got a kettle-style barbecue/BGEgg/pizza oven, and, well, you’re cookin’ with gas…

    Although unexpected challenges may arise from strong winds, like the sausages falling off the back into the neighbors yard being hoovered up by their pitbulls, or the entire BBQ blowing off, for that matter.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10559 posts Report Reply

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