What happens when the lights go out……not much.

Candle light
This sure has been a long week on Tuesday of this week we had a snow storm that due to warm  temp's then turned into an ice storm. The power went off here at 4pm on Tuesday and did not come back on until Thursday evening! We were in the dark and boy you sure don't realize how much you depend on electricity until it's GONE!! I live in a condo and we do have a generator for the stairway lights and underground parking lights and door, as well as the security scanners to allow you in and out of the building. The Elevators are hooked into the generator as well but for some reason they stopped working and it was the stairs!!! I was going to get some radio time in as I do have batteries for the KX3 and MFJ 1788 control box. I decided not too as the household was a bit stressed regarding no lights, a warming refrigerator, no heat and dropping temps outside to - 15 at night. The indoor temp was in around 50F, nothing an extra sweater could not take car off. I was able to get lots of reading in using a flashlight but there are so many things you just take for granted and forget about until they are gone………the cold showers sure was an eye opener! Have  you ever had an outage? what did you miss and how was it an eye opener for you?
Mike Weir, VE9KK, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Brunswick, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

14 Responses to “What happens when the lights go out……not much.”

  • W3FIS, Paul:

    Good opportunity to try out emergency gear (you DO keep your batteries charged?). It is also interesting to see the reduction in HF noise when the power is off! I keep an HT on the charger at all times, as I have it set up to listen to weather, local repeaters, fire/police, and coast guard (we live on the DE coast).

    73 /paul W3FIS

  • Dave K1THP:

    Back in October 2012 we had a freak Ice/snow storm. We lost power around 2 hours into the storm and did not get it back for two weeks. I had camping gears so we had a propane camp stove to cook on and Coleman lanturns for light. There were many Harbour Freight LED Flash lights in each active room. We had a Cell phone but no active cellsites. Landline phone was also gone. I used an HT to communicate with local hams with relays to other folks. I remember using my Elecraft KX-1 to check into the weekly Elecraft users net with ncs in OR. Got in on first call with 1.5 watts! Antenna was 80 meter OCF Dipole. Thank the Lord it was October and not too cold (low 30’s after Sun down rather than -15 F if it had been winter. I managed to master the art of the short cold shower. My wife did not and elected to go to the town High School were hot ones were available!

  • Bill, K1NIT:

    Back in February 1998, we had an ice storm that killed the power for 14 days. I worked 3 to 11 then, and had to literally cut my way through fallen trees into my driveway two times after work. Back then, I had an MFJ 9040 that kept me on the air. Luckily they still had power at the YMCA where I was a member, so I got my hot shower every day, and the Kerosun heater kept the house warm. But it won’t happen again, because now I have a 16 kw generator!

  • Bob DW7NIB:

    Your problem was interesting to me as I a retired US Marine living in the Philippines and that would have been nothing here,I am not discounting your ordeal at all but here that is sometimes a scenario that happens daily and sometimes multiple times per day!
    What we have done here to prepare is we bought Samsung inverter air conditioners(2),Samsung inverter ice box,instant water heaters for our 2 showers and (2)Samsung LED Flat screen TV’s,all of my Ham gear and lights and to operate all of this and our 1 HP well pump we have a 10,000 watt generator so with a flick of a double pole double throw 60 amp switch and the turn of a key for the electric start on the generator we are good to go for at least 3 days but if we run short of gasoline the gas station 1/2 mile away has a generator too.
    This is not a commercial for Samsung but they make the best here I did my research and their inverter appliances are at least 36% cheaper to run and the icebox and both air conditioners take less start up and running current.If Possible and you are allowed in your condo I would have a generator to be able to operate the icebox and some lights,we use all florescent and led lighting and there is no noise on my Ham gear or TV’s from the generator.Being a retired Marine I have been taught to overcome and adapt.Hope this helps someone.
    Bob DW7NIB

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Good morning Paul, yes we do keep a set of batteries charged and ready to go for my KX3 rig, I even have batteries for my MFJ loop control box charged and ready to go. I did not get on the radio during this outage as I was being called out from work regarding the outage so there was no time.
    Thanks for commenting Paul

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    WOW Dave 2 weeks sure is a long time and I did have only one cold shower and that was it for me but if the outage had gone on longer I too would have mastered the short cold shower idea. We don’t have any camping gear and my wife was taking the laptops to work to charge them so we could in the evening charge the iPhones. The temps were getting cold up this way but we are in a condo and it takes awhile for the temp’s to drop in the units. Thanks Dave for stopping by and taking the time to comment.
    Have a good week

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Hello Bill and nice to hear from you, since our power outage was only a few days I did not get on the air but I did have charged batteries ready to go for my Elecraft KX3. We are in a condo now that does have a generator but only for elevators and hallway and stairway lights. Back at our house we did have a nice generator but ever since I purchased it we never had to use it.
    Have a great week Bill

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Hello Bob, it sure does sound like you are ready to go when the power goes out and the items you have would make it so a power outage really has no affect on you. Our little outage sounds like nothing compared to where you are! I am going to lookup the items you mentioned and have a good look at what I can do to make the next outage much less painful
    Thanks for your input.

  • Tom, KA4CSG:

    During Hurricane Katrine, our neighborhood lost all power.
    I just walked out to my Antique RV, fired up the 6 Kw generator, ran power cords into the house for the frig and one to my good neighbor.
    Back in the RV with A/C, TV, working frig, etc.
    Still have it and am still prepared.

  • Rich KC8HMJ:

    I’ll never figure out why people don’t have a generator for back up power where possible. Lots of people here have automatic back up gens.
    I have a small portable that will run a fridge and a bigger unit that will run most of the house. I’ve heard of people tossing $200 in food out, that’s like taking $ off the price of a gen to save the food !
    Don’t wait till the power is out………

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Good afternoon Tom, that sure is a nice setup and when the power goes out your doing just fine!

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Nice to hear from you Rich, when we had our house we did have a generator I learned following the big blackout of 2003 up this way. I agree with you with the cost of tossing food compared to picking up a generator. I am in a condo right now and not able to have a generator. I hope that changes soon as there are lots of power outages here and I am starting to get fed up.
    Thanks for stopping by Rich

  • jeff N2LXM:

    During Super Storm sandy I was the only home on my street with back up power. We were with out power only for four days, other went for a few weeks. I knew the storm was comming so I stocked up on gas, can food and batteries. I was able to run the basic needs( refrigeration, some lights)with the 4Kw generator, But my new high tech furnace did not like my generator power. The generator would run for a full twelve hours on one tank of fuel. For heat I have a wood bruning stove in the basement, so the house, shop / shack were warm. We have Natural Gas, so we could cook on the stove top, just had to use a match to light it. And we had hot water as the heater is also gas powered. I was able to stay on the air due to haveing two very large batteries. So my HF and VHF/UHF stations were not effected. When asked where I was in New Jersey, my usual answer was ” Ground Zero “. The most interesting thing was, since I have FIOS and I put power to the interface, we had phone, internet, and entertainment. seems the power line got cut but not the fiber. So I had all my nebeighbors come over, charge there cell phones, laptops, and let them use my phone and internet connection. I was information central for news and storm information till the power came back on. When the power crew was working on replacing the downed poll. My wife and other XYL’s made hot drinks and food for them. They were from Alabama and the cold weather was geting to them. But they worked hard to get the job done. I have added two more large batteries and I am building a charging station for all radio batteries and emergencey equipment. Someone else had note about the Harbor Freight Flashlights. The Hocky Puck style are great. You can hang them, stick it to a metal surface. And when I get the Free Coupon I pick another one up. The lesson learned was be perpaired. It’s not a case of how long before the next event, it’s a case of when.

  • Robert AK3Q:

    We are fortunate here not to have too many power outages. Back in July of 2008 I decided to get a backup generator – 6500 peak/5500 runtime power. Almost felt foolish spending the money, because it seemed like overkill since we had not had a power outage for more than a few hours that I could recall. That September we had a power outage for 4 days – I was the only one on the block to have power. It ran a fridge, freezer, lights, coffee maker etc, and I ran a line over to my next door neighbor for her fridge and lights. I simply alternated between the fridge and the freezer to keep both cold.
    Mike if you have a deck, seems you could have a generator on a cart that could be wheeled out as needed. Of course, storing gas might be a problem, but if only during use I doubt they could say much. Maybe keep gas at a neighbor’s garage? Just a thought.

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