Thursday, November 01, 2012

My Hurricane Tropical Storm Super-Storm Sandy Experience, Being The Absolutely True Account Of The Exceedingly Annoying And Very Inconvenient Weather Hereabouts Recently

More stupid weather has happened.

Things began well on Monday when, with no sign of any sort of storm the Bloody Long Island Rail Road bellied up to the bar and cancelled all trains. The rest of the MTA, like a bunch of cattle from a Sergio Leone movie, spooked and stampeded to cancel service too. No trains, no subways, no buses. No work on Monday then.

And no sign of bad weather until about 6 pm when the wind began blowing and rain began spotting - but not in the biblical deluge quantities we had been promised by the hysterical shrieking of the weathermen now indistinguishable from any tent-show revival preacher in their assurances of hell on earth about to pour out of the cracks in the ground that would soon be forming.

Around eight thirty one of my neighbours from the side street to which our power is connected banged on the door to inform me that the trees owned by the guy on the other side of the road from Chateau Stevie were brushing the power line, had caught fire and were showering Chateau Stevie with burning embers driven by the gale force gusts.

I raced outside and was greeted by a sight that elicited a half dozen level 3 Word of Power. It was true. The howling winds were fanning three different glowing patches on one tree and two on the other into incandescent glory, producing a blizzard of glowing flakes that bounced gaily off my roof and siding.

We had been told to expect heavy rain, which would have solved the problem at the source, but we actually got just enough wet to short the power line to the trees and heat them to flash point.

A small crowd gathered to watch the whole thing from my front garden, speculating all the while on the likelihood of a roof fire chez Stevie, when suddenly the power line finally gave up the ghost and broke away from the splice at the main road, dropping to the street where it arced away merrily with sound effects stolen from Son of Frankenstein. About thirty seconds into the display some fubleepwit drove up to see what was going on and parked with one wheel on the hot end of the power line.

We all roundly cursed the neighbour whose lack of tree grooming had caused what would undoubtedly be an unnecessary power outage of several days duration and each retreated to take remedial measures - in my case wheeling out our generator, chaining it to the swimming pool so it wouldn't wander off and stringing half a dozen heavy duty extension cords from which I would fashion a makeshift power grid for lights, fridge, laundry, TV and internet.

Now I don't mind all this froofaraw, but I could live without the stink of gasoline and I get splashed with the stuff every few hours when I refill the genny or refill the gas canisters from which I refill the genny. It is all very tiresome at the best of times, but panic spurred partly by previous experience with Hurricane Irene, partly by being home from work with nothing else to do has made the business of refueling fraught with angst and bad manners. Nothing beats being yelled and screamed at while trying to fill a can with gas presumably because it makes the pump pump faster. Today, Wednesday, I was almost rammed by a truck whose driver was so incensed by my trying to get between him and a fuel pump for which he was queuing it didn't occur to him I was merely trying to pass between him and the guy already fueling so I could exit the forecourt. Madness.

I decided that this time I wouldn't try running the generator all night, but would conserve fuel by running it only in the morning, evening and night till around 11 pm, shutting it down at all other times. It was during these experiments over the course of the next two days that I discovered that if I filled the tank more than 3/4 full the gas would drip out of the float chamber of the carburetor until the excess had drained off. I calculate about 3 gallons of gas, maybe four hours of light-load running, and a number of class four Words of Power were wasted before I properly diagnosed the issue. No sooner had I figured this out than I realized a number of bolts had wiggled loose because of the ferocious vibration and gotten lost in the gasoline-soaked dirt under the machine. I used one of my rarely deployed class fives and went groping after nuts and bolts which I eventually found and reattached before firing up the rattlin' beast this afternoon.

The major problem is that large sections of Long Island have been shredded by the high winds that brought down trees, smashing property and tearing out overhead power cables. This in turn has disabled other infrastructure components like sewage treatment and water purification.

Water inundation has also added to the toll of damage and disorder. Widespread flooding has affected almost every tunnel in Manhattan and disabled power generating plants. The south shore of Long Island has been leveled by tidal surge.

All of which means that out little street with it's one broken power cable will be way down at the bottom of LIPA's1 to do list.

I've often wondered in these pages and other venues why the Bloody Long Island Rail Road cannot trim trees away from the right of way until the wind knocks them over and disrupts services. Now, after looking at my neighbour's trees which were an obvious short waiting to happen and seeing dozens of similar situations in almost every street, I find myself wondering why LIPA didn't trim more actively during the summer and why it is still legal to plant trees under power lines.

Time to shut down the generator for the night.

  1. the Long Island Power Authority


Steve A said...

I'm glad everything is as well as can be expected under the circumstances. Has the basement of Chateau Stevie survived the great deluge?

Stevie said...

Indeed yes Sir!

At least, that is what I choose to believe in the absence of actual light with which to view said basement and form a different conclusion based on facts.

You wouldn't happen to have a gallon or two of gasoline about you by any chance, would you?