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Zot!

Friday afternoon a cold front blew in, heralded by a lot of wind. It looked like the onset of a hurricane with leaves, dust and twigs blowing all over. The power started going out around town between 3:30 and 4:00 PM. Ours went out around 4:20. Things didn't really cool off until evening, leaving us with a hot house, dinner guests (my parents) coming at 6:30, and no lights.

What's a geek to do?

I had a spare APC 700VA SmartUPS in the basement (salvaged from the junk heap and given new batteries), which I lugged up stairs and sweet-talked into coming on. Many UPS units won't power up in a black out (they want to be turned on plugged into AC power), but a number of the APC models will ... with some coaxing. That got us about two hours of power for one fan and a laptop.

When that UPS ran dry, I pulled the UPS off the household's main server. That UPS had run for five minutes under 30% load at the start of the blackout before signaling it's server to power down. It had about half a charge left and that got us another forty minutes of fan time...

I had another UPS — a 500VA BackUPS that I was going to use to run a low-wattage fluorescent light when it got dark, but Asha vetoed that unit as you can't disable the "on battery" alarm like you can on the SmartUPSs.

Our lights came back on around eight — a three and a half hour outage which left the ice cream kinda melty in the freezer, but wasn't long enough that anything spoiled.

Did I learn anything from this?

First, I can evidently be pretty resourceful in coming up with sources of power. If we had advanced warning (like before a hurricane) I could arrange to have even more juice on hand. Second, that off-and-on toying with getting a generator may have some real merit. I think that may become more on than off. Third, I'm just as much a broad-band Internet addict as I am an electricity addict. I'm usually Johnny on the spot with the weather radar gauging when the storm's going to hit, how intense, is it really done (can I light the grill?!?!). Without that I felt pretty blind. It took some rummaging to find a modem cable and get a dial-up connection running. But I did get my radar images ... albeit slowly. Lastly, I learned that, deprived of all my electronic geegaws, I do still remember how to sit on the porch steps — with my feet sticking out in the rain — and just enjoy the storm.

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