Friday, 22 March 2019

Storms ...

Yesterday we had a sticky 31C, not bad for the autumnal equinox.

But overnight that all changed.

When my phone played it's irritatingly cheerful wakeup music this morning the house was dark, and quiet. No bedside clock, no powerlights on the bedroom tv and internet decoder, and the study was equally dark, no printer or status lights. Only my windows laptop showed any life, and that was only because it was asleep but using its internal battery.

In fact the only thing showing any signs of life was the cat, and that's because he's learned that my phone going off means a tin of Whiskas for breakfast is in the offing.

So, feed the cat by the light of a led emergency torch we keep in the laundry. Take the tin to the bin and check that none of the neighbours had any lights.

In fact its was quite atmospheric with lightning crashing and crackling through scudding clouds and the occasional spatter of ice cold rain.

So we had no power. No power means no internet.

Fortunately our Huawei 4G travel modem includes a backup battery. Checking my phone I could see that we had a signal, meaning the backup generator had started at the cellphone tower. So out with my ipad to connect to the internet, and onto Ausnet's outages webpage.

Ausnet, the company that manages the power network has this really good outage tracker that shows you where the fault is, more or less, and lets you know an approximate time to fix. The only problem is that the display is designed for an ipad or a laptop and not the smaller screen size of a phone.

Hence the travel modem and ipad routine.

Once I connected, it was obviously a bad one - the whole of Beechworth was out, as were quite a few other neighbouring communities and the website was showing a fault location right in the middle of an area of rough hilly bush. Either a tree had come down or lightning had taken out a transmission pylon.

Anyway, the bad news was Ausnet gave a estimated fix time of 1100.

Now we're all electric. No gas at all. We did use to have a bottled gas stove, but chucked that out in favour of an energy efficient induction cooktop.

So if we wanted coffee, and we did want coffee, it was out with the old gas camping stove. Nipping up to Project 49 or Peddlar for a takeout coffee was not an option.

I knew where the stove was - it was in my gardening shed, but finding it took some time as it had got pushed behind some plantpots and seed trays - but once found it was out with the old stovetop coffee maker, and soon we had a brew on the way.

We of course had no radio, but we do keep an old AM radio pretuned to the local ABC station in the kitchen drawer for emergencies, and you guessed it, the batteries were dead. Fortunately I did have some spare batteries, so a couple of minutes later we had the breakfast show telling us of trees down, road closures, power outages and the like.

In the event the power came back just before 1000, and we were able to rejoin the 21st century. What it did show was our woeful preparedness for winter, so before the next one we need to


  • make sure we have spare batteries for the AM Radio always on hand
  • keep a spare gas cartridge (or two) for the old camping stove in the shed
  • buy a couple of small battery led torches
  • buy and keep a couple of cans of soup in the pantry
  • get a small camping kettle for making tea and instant soup 
  • keep the travel modem and ipads reasonably charged
  • ditto for our phones

and of course there's the knock on - the supermarket didn't have fresh baked bread this morning, and the local servo had had to close - no power for the petrol pumps - and of course no one could do eftpos or tap'n'go transactions this morning - it was all cash, so I guess we need to keep some small notes and change handy ...

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