Another Storm, Another Outage

electric_coI’m beginning to think that I’m not getting my money’s worth from the local electrical monopoly.

We had a line of thunderstorms move through today, and despite the severe warnings issued by NOAA, they didn’t amount to much. Lots of rain, a little wind, and some decent lightning. It had pretty much blown itself out by 6:30PM or so, and we were just getting dinner prepped when a rogue lightning bolt hit somewhere nearby and knocked out the power. Or rather, the power went out a fraction of a second before the flash from the lightning. That seemed a bit odd.

After 30 seconds with no power, I knew we were in for three hours out minimum, so I broke out the blackout kit and worked through the procedures. We were able to finish cooking on the electric griddle and toaster oven once the genny was spun up, and after dinner I went for a drive to see what the trouble could be.

No surprise – the cutout fuse at the end of our road was blown again. I drove all around, but couldn’t see anything obvious that would have blown the fuse – no limbs on the lines, no poles down. Seems like the fuse blew when the line had a surge from the lightning strike.

We were out for about three hours, so no big deal – our preps worked as planned, and I even got a chance to enjoy some face time with the kids for a change, rather than having their faces stuck in their computer screens. So I guess the lesson here is that the grid is nowhere near as reliable as it should be, or at least not our section of it. The vaunted “five nines” standard for uptime – having a system or service available 99.999% of the time – translates into a mere 5.26 minutes of downtime per year. The power monopoly would be lucky to squeak out three nines (8.76 hours) for our service. They’ve already racked up almost that much, and it’s only July.

Bottom line: we have to be prepped for at least two of these three or four hour outages every year. That cutout fuse is a fail point in the local grid, perhaps by design, perhaps by accident. But either way, when it blows, we have to be ready to react.

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