Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Big Night Outage

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  • nzlemming, in reply to ,

    I’ve got one of these: just in case

    What do you feed him?

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 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 • 2935 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 • 1233 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 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    I decided to basically guard it until they came

    onya

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 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 • 1233 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 • 1233 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

  • 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 • 4460 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 • 4460 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 • 4460 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 • 269 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 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to ,

    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 • 10657 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 • 10657 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 • 499 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 • 269 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 • 4460 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 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to BenWilson,

    I'm pretty much surprised by anyone who doesn't have a car charger these days.

    I don't have a car to charge, though, so I'm not sure what good a charger for one would do. Especially in a power cut.

    I do have a 100W solar panel on my sleepout and 12V battery that runs lights and fans and the controller gizmo has USB outlets. Plus enough bike lights and torches to power a small scout troop. That stuff isn't the problem, it's cooking. I have a gas ring and regulator, I should probably pay for one of those "swap a cylinder" things and leave it in the shed just in case.

    That's where a bigger solar setup with a bigger battery would come in. In a storm having to open windows in order to run a cooker doesn't seem like much fun. Although in a decent storm my shed would probably lift off and relocate (it's polystyrene with a thin layer of steel, basically an oversize chilly bin).

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1233 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    @ben yeah I just run alligator clips to a car cigarette lighter. It's mounted in the side of a wooden box for stability. Then that usb plug and you're sorted. You could probably charge 4 devices at once if you had to.

    I also bought a relatively cheap solar recharger and I'm completely independent.

    For cooking we use a marine stove. Runs on alcohol. So if things really go pete tong you can use the medicinal spirits to heat water for tea.

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

  • Paul Campbell,

    woo hoo - as of yesterday we can have BBQs again in Dunedin, they've been banned all summer, must have something to do with the 2 inches of white stuff in the back yard

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Moz,

    I don’t have a car to charge, though

    That’s always even more surprising, TBH. :-)

    I also bought a relatively cheap solar recharger and I’m completely independent.

    So long as a bright sun is shining :-).

    I got all survivalist for a bit when the Chch quakes happened, so I’ve got like about 10 cooking options: 2 gas bbqs, one little portable one, two woodfired charcoal cookers, several disposal tinfoil versions, a whole bunch of hand made meth and wood stoves from tin and aluminium cans. I have a grab backpack with tent, sleeping bags, cooking gear, various other amenities and a grab box with water, toilet paper, medical equipment, milk powder, all in the shed in case the house is fucked. Lots of torches and batteries and so on. Then there’s the van which can actually convert entirely into a big bed, or seat 8 people, with working heater.

    I’m ready in case we have to get out of Dodge, pronto. Well, OK, I don’t have any guns.

    ETA: Oh and of course the car has multiple charger adapters, including one multi adapter for every kind of phone ever made, although TBH that was less about survivalism and more about getting a good Uber rating.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to BenWilson,

    I don't have organised go-bags and stuff, I just have a set of systems that work together so that I always have a month or so worth of food and water available. Plus my "camping box" of all the stuff I need to go cycle touring. Being single means that within an hour I can be out of the house and on the road on my bike if I need to. But I'm also more than 50km from the nearest edge of the city, so fleeing isn't going to be easy. Not having a car actually makes fleeing much easier, I can cycle through traffic jams for the most part.

    But if I stay home I can live for a month on what I have, I'll just be very low on camping gas cylinders by the end of it. Having a 10kg LPG cylinder would make it much easier. And I'm well set up to prey on the local feral pest population, so I could probably keep eating fresh meat for quite a while :)

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1233 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    A proper boy scout charges the battery before night time.

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

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