This Is How Bad It’s Gotten

I just got an e-mail from the WordPress VIP folks (who are the ones hosting Whatever) that power issues in Texas due to the storm may force some of their servers to go temporarily offline. So if in the near future you have problems accessing Whatever, a) that’s probably why and b) don’t panic, it’ll get fixed.

To illustrate the problem, here’s a picture of ice on my clothesline. Imagine the clothesline is a powerline and you’ll see why there might be issues.

Yeah, that.

Mind you, we have high winds, fragile ice-bearing trees and frozen powerlines here in Ohio, too, and about 50,000 people in my area are without power. So I can’t even promise I’ll have power for the rest of the day. Icegeddeon ’11: What a mess.

I’m going to use this as an excuse to run away from the site for the rest of the day and get a little more book writing done. See you tomorrow.

22 Comments on “This Is How Bad It’s Gotten”

  1. I live in Kentucky. We went through this in Feb of 2009 during our own icegeddon. Our house had no power for 7 days. And some folks where I work went 10 – 14 days without power. It was insane. Hardware stores were sold out of generators. Those with generators were selling them, used, at more than double their retail price. Those without generators suffered. A lot. Luckily, my in-laws had gas heat and a nice generator, so our suffering was confined to having either the TV OR the kitchen appliances OR the water heater, but never any two of the above.

  2. So, what’s your favorite unplugged writing method? (Just in case the lights go out.)

    I use a Pentel 0.5mm pencil with HB lead, on spiral-bound legal or steno pads. I was insanely happy when I discovered graph paper steno pads.

    (Yes, I’m an engineer. Why do you ask?)

    I had a friend, now departed, who wrote most of a SF novel with a 1950s vintage Sheaffer fountain pen.

  3. Yeah, ERCOT’s told the power companies to do rolling blackouts today. Centerpoint (the major southeastern TX provider) says that they will last about forty-five minutes each, but some parts of the grid are turning back on more easily than others. The individual blackouts are not being announced to anyone, including the school district (schools used to be immune from rolling blackouts, but apparently that policy has changed). Anyway, right now the state’s shedding 3,000 megawatts of load with the blackout, down from 4,000 earlier today. We’ve lost about 7,000 megawatts in power production capacity to the storm, and that even includes the nuclear plant. There are alot of web servers in Texas, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

  4. I live just north of Dallas. Things are COMPLETELY nuts here. Freeway pileups yesterday, rolling brownouts today. Just getting out of the garage is taking chances with your life (well…your car, at least). Which is why I’m staying home for the second day in a row…

  5. Oh Sure! Like we believe you don’t have a bunker with completely independent, off the grid power supply and direct uplinks to the satellite of your choice.

    And unicorn-zombie messengers as a backup for the backup.

    Yeah. We believe that.

  6. First winter in the new house (moved over the summer) and I’m still trying to get used to the weather patterns. Tried to go to work this morning and while the truck was warming up I went to check the driveway. Merrrily slid about 60 feet into a snowpile at the edge of the parking pan. Took *way* too long to get back uphill to the garage (took me awhile to figure out to walk up on the snow, rather than the icy driveway — a hearty dope-slap was needed!) Needless to say, truck stayed in the garage.

    Now it’s 1:00, it still hasn’t gotten above freezing (we were promised 39 degrees today) and the plow guy is still stuck down at the bottom of the driveway. I’d go down to help him (going downhill is obviously not a problem), but stopping before I impale myself on his grill would be a challenge. And getting back up, well, I just don’t want to do that to myself again.

    Hopefully the power will stay on, most cables are underground here, so I”m hoping we’re “hardened” for winter. Meanwhile I can still telecommute, and the Kindle is loaded, so I’ll just have to enjoy the “forced” vacation day…

  7. It could be worse – you could be in Queensland, Australia. They’re currently getting their equivalent of Hurricane Katrina.

  8. Fountain pen. Start with a Lamy Vista, medium or fine nib, their ink. There are other pens of better quality and higher price, of course. My favorite is a flat-top Parker 75 with the 18k bookkeeper’s DuoNib. The collectors have driven the prices beyond reasonable, however.

  9. Clothesline? You have a cable that delivers clothing to your home? Is it connected to some sort of fabber?
    Oh wait, is it that weather-dependent thing luddites use to dry clothes in hours instead of minutes?

  10. #6 Nathan, I like your Fictional John Scalzi. He’s somehow twinkly and menacing at the same time.

  11. Currently in North Texas trying to work from home. Just had our fourth rolling-blackout of the morning.

    It is a little difficult to work from home via the Internet when your connection goes *sphhhth* every 1-2 hours due to power loss.

    Stay safe & warm everyone.

  12. It’s not so much the ice on the powerlines, It’s the ice-covered/wind-blown tree parts that fall on the powerlines. Or at least that’s what a lineman once told me. (Lineperson?)

  13. Bearpaw @13 — Yes. The powerlines themselves can usually withstand a huge ice and wind load, because it’s evenly distributed and slowly applied. A strike from a tree part (or light pole, or …) is neither, and down it comes. My brother (who’s having a horrible winter as a southern public utility’s director of engineering, the previous storm sent his budget into the red) says “linesman” and “lineswoman”, depending.

  14. @13 – Yep, wires have excellent tensile strength, cuz they’re wires… =)

    Though speaking as someone from Canada’s east coast(ice storms are way too common), oftentimes it doesn’t even take a tree falling down to do it. If a tree’s branches are loaded down enough with ice, they only need to bend over enough to short out two lines and you get to see the pretty blue flash of an exploding transformer.

  15. Yeah, living in Dallas but being from the midwest I can say that Texas does not handle winter well at all. Stuff that would be a inconvenience up north is reason to panic and shut down everything. A heavy frost will cause people to whine they cant get into work. Then, when they do get on the road they drive like it is any other day. They know bridges and overpasses ice so of course they slam on the brakes when they get on them. Complete mayhem.

    #16 – Having said that, I would take snow and cold over having something like a major earthquake or even double/triple cost of living hanging over my head.

  16. I can understand how you feel. I’ve lived in Missouri for nearly 35 years and this week was the first time I ever heard the phrase “Blizzard Warning.” Fortunately, the snow bypassed my area, but it did drop a half inch of ice. Power has been off twice, but for short periods only. Now I just need some thawing so I can leave the house.

  17. ERCOT (Electrical Reliability Council Of Texas) problem was that frozen pipes shut down to major generation stations while another major chunk of generation was already off line because it’s winter, electricity demands are usually low and it’s the time that most power generators come off line for scheduled maintenance. The shortfall might have been made up by smaller “peaking” plants, usually natural gas-fired turbines, but these are in place generally to handle peak loads in the summer.

    In the summer, natural gas supplies are high. In the winter, gas supplies are lower because people use it for heat. So with low gas supplies, no (or few) peaking plants came on line.

    When the outgo exceeds the income (even in electricity) something’s got to give. ERCOT is a power grid that serves much of Texas and it is only lightly connected to other portions of the “national power grid” that doesn’t REALLY exist, so it was impossible for ERCOT to buy its excess needs from other power producers with excess capacity.

    This is all great fun and quite interesting, unless you’re the one sitting in the dark.

    (who still plays with BIG electricity)

  18. I remember going to school in central OH, when we had one big ice storm during my stay there. My car was encased in 1/2″ thick ice. I had to crawl in through my hatchback, because all the other locks were frozen and that lock was the only one sufficiently sheltered from the freezing rain. Then I had to run the car until enough ice melted off that it was driveable. Chipping off the ice from the windows? Fuggeddabawtit.

  19. At least if there is a continuous ice storm you could write a book about it like Steven King. Wasn’t there a movie involved also?

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