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Elvis has left the building

I'm looking at the weather radar in New Orleans, watching the first feeder bands of rain from hurricane Katrina bear down on the coast and thinking that my problems are trivial by comparison.

Katrina bears down on New Orleans

Of course, the consensus among weather-watchers in New England seems to be that we're overdue for a major storm. And, with global warming pumping more energy into the seas and skies, it's bound to happen. The weather here is certainly getting wilder -- sharp abrupt transitions where we used to have slow, moderate changes. Winter has taken longer to take hold in the past decade, but it has been fiercer once it gets it's foot in the door.

If a category-anything hurricane were bearing down on Connecticut, the thing that I'd be worrying about (after home, family and hearth) would be my fiber. All of the leased fiber in the municipal side of the network is under ground, but of the 28 miles of school and library fiber probably 20 are aerial. Strung on telephone poles just below the electric lines and just above the cable TV, this cable plant is ripe for a'wrecking at the hands of a hurricane or ice storm. We haven't had a major one of either in over twenty years, so there are a lot of top-heavy, untested trees. Add to that the fact that CL&P (the local power company) has been focusing on trimming trees along main lines only for the past five years, and you can see why this is at the top of my list.

If all we were talking about was taking out kiddies' access to the Internet I wouldn't be as concerned, but that's only part of what the network does. Perhaps the most critical thing is that with voice over IP, the network is the telephone system. Many Hartford schools are designated as emergency shelters by the Red Cross, and everyone pretty much expects the phones to work no matter what.

I can picture the day after a hurricane picking my way into Hartford to peer at my network map and see what's left. Then bushwhacking from school to school in the city to see if there are functioning chunks that are just cut off from everywhere else. Ugh. Restoration would take a long time, and there's the question of where on the totem pole we'd stand with our fiber provider.

OK, time to think of something else. Like how to build more resilience into the network. And a prayer that everyone in New Orleans has either made it out or is safely ensconced in the Super Dome. Make the two prayers. Let us pray that the thirty year old roof on the Super Dome stays put.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 15th, 2005 03:37 am (UTC)
I have one word

OK, maybe you'd need something more purpose built than what they have planned, but I bet directional antennas could help.

Sep. 16th, 2005 10:18 am (UTC)
Re: I have one word
We (Hartford) are working on our own municipal WiFi initiative (see about nine-tenths of the way down from the top in the Mayor's 2005 State of the City speech). Whether this ever comes to fruition remains to be seen -- no one in the Mayor's office has yet shown us the money. And the kicker is that the backbone for this city-wide WiFi network will likely be that vulnerable fiber network I was describing.

OTOH, I have considered a "church spire to church spire" wireless network as a disaster backup. Of course, once you have connectivity, it always comes down to do you have power?
Sep. 16th, 2005 01:26 pm (UTC)
Power needs for church spire to church spire should max about 125W per node for AP plus two directional antennae. one good deep cycle battery can handle that for 9 hours or so. If you can get away with more centralized topology you could have a slew of those directional antennae powered by a prepositioned generator. Then again there are advantages in having a distributed network.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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