Power Out: Storms and Disruptions In Our Daily Life

A power outage triggers some reflections on the value of redundancy and some kind words for those who make repairs on dark and rainy nights.

Power Out: Storms and Disruptions In Our Daily Life

Power Out: Storms and Disruptions In Our Daily Life We had a bad storm in the Bay Area today and it knocked our power out from about 3 pm to 11 pm. It got very dark by 6 pm, so we had the candles out, and I was struck by how we rely on overlapping redundant systems. Pacific Gas and Electric seems to have about 12-24 hours of outage in our area every year, which is about 99.7-99.85% uptime, so a small investment in redundancy for illumination is not wasted.

The redundancy extends to offsite meeting rooms in two locations that we can pay for by the hour. We have two long Zoom calls scheduled for tomorrow and made a list of who to call in the morning to see if they have power and Internet to plan our temporary relocation.

I was looking at the PGE outage map on my phone and saw hundreds of distinct failures (probably one for each errant tree limb) and thought, “This may take a while.” But the crews were on it–the power engineering answer to DevOps–and because we were in a big outage pocket (5,000+ according to the map), they had us back up in 8 hours. I suspect someone in a remote area who was part of an outage of 4 houses might have to wait a few days.

The most immediate impression was how quiet it gets with the power out–except for the sound of 30 mph winds gusting against the walls and windows of my tiny townhouse. I fell asleep on the couch and then went to bed at 7 pm; I guess I needed the break despite everything I had planned to get done before tomorrow. There is another lesson in that somewhere.

Postscript: An Earlier Call with Kenya

A few years ago, I am on a Zoom with an NGO in Kenya where my client provided their infrastructure. It’s about 7 am in San Jose and 6 pm in Nairobi, so it is still twilight outside and quiet in the office; about ten minutes into the call, the room went dark, but my laptop stayed bright. I am a little disoriented, and then I realize the power is out and the call has dropped. I spend ten minutes setting up my phone as a hotspot and rejoined the Zoom, but I am embarrassed to admit we lost power in San Jose. After I apologize, they say, “Don’t worry, it happens all the time.”

We do take a lot for granted.

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Photo Credit: SoutherWIStorm Clouds Are Back” used with attribution under Creative Commons.

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