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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ramblings on Storm Recovery Duty...

Grandfather Mountain
After a week off during Christmas I returned to work last Monday. We had a pretty hard rain on Christmas Day, but up in the mountains in about a 20 mile diameter area all that rain was an inch of ice. So I found out I was assigned to storm recovery duty in one of the hardest hit areas.

Icey trees

As I headed up the long and winding road up to the mountains I was sure I could find some lessons about how folks were making do, how people reacted and how bad things could really get. I wanted to bring along my Digital SLR but since my iPhone is almost always with me, I decided to use it for convenience. My el cheapo Sony Point and Shoot was with me, but other than megapixals (Sony is 7.1 and the iPhone is 3.something) the iPhone takes better pictures. This is not a slam against Sony's, it is just my $100 version does not take as good as a picture as my wife's $300 Sony.

Lots of broken trees

running beside the BRP

More broken trees

As we got up to where the ice had hit, I noticed there was a bunch of tree tops missing, power/phone/CATV lines down EVERYWHERE. Since up in the mountains utilities cannot simply follow the road as it would cost too much money for all the curves, most utilities go in a straight line and are MOSTLY aerial.

Home no longer GRID tied

Fixing cable
So basically ANYWHERE there was enough ice to cause a tree to fall it landed on a utility line, it went out!

Most people were very thankful to the utility workers that were out and about, but there were a few instances of confrontations. As much as I like warm meals, I usually avoid eating in public on storm recovery duty as the sheeple do not understand that you have been working out in the cold for the past 12 hours and just want a bite to eat so they can continue on fixing what is broke!

Tree vs. gas station sign
I had an incident where I was working on a gas stations phone line for their debit/credit card machine. When a large tree fell on the power it sent a surge and fried the modem in the device. As this person came in and was informed that it was "CASH ONLY" because the phone lines were down (NO, WRONG the line was working it was their equipment that was not working) he said, "WTF are you doing standing there MFer, you need to fix it now so I can get some gas!" Which I replied, " the phone is working, it is the gas stations equipment that is deffective, but you could have saved yourself a bunch of trouble had you simply taken the time to get a little cash BEFORE the storm so you would not be in this situation!" He mumbled something as he left but had a look of disbelief and shock as he walked back to his car. SCARED SHEEPLE can be DANGEROUS, so watch your back... I did!

I mentioned YakTraks as a great way to walk around on the ice and they do work... however wearing them for a week and walking up and down hills they kept breaking. I fixed them by using zip ties, but I am sure that that will eventually fail as well! Great for city slickers, not so good for storm recovery duty in hilly terrain. BTW I just want to say to Ajax on another forum, you were right dude!

I was VERY surprised at how many folks that were out of power DID NOT have a generator. I mean where I live at in the Piedmont area of NC, everybody has a generator. When the power goes out you can hear them running from miles away. You would think that folks who live in such an environment they would spend just maybe a little less on the mountaintop Chateau and budget in a generator or other alt power source. This to me, was something I expected to people to have!

Generator Power

It was also surprising to me how many folks reported phone problems when their power was out, but their phone service was actually working, it was just the only phones they had were of the cordless variety and required AC power. Get a cheap and basic plug in the wall phone for when the power goes out. Will not always work as sometimes Remote Terminals require generator power to keep them running, but straight out from the Central Office these lines always have power as long as the copper lines are not damaged!

Ice ruts

28F was the high on day

Snowy Swing

A week before the ice storm, this area experienced 12-18 inches of snow and it hardly melted. When the ice storm came, it coated the snow with a crust of ice. It was very hard to walk on as it would not break easily in places, but at the wrong time it would break and throw you off balance. The best thing was to STOMP to break the ice to get down to the packable snow layer underneath. The one thing that I found out was that this can wreck havoc on leather climbing boots. My boots at the heels, toes and side were very abraded by the sharp edges of the ice. This is something one may need to consider for extended operations in this type of environment. I am required to wear a certain type of boot so it is hard for me to get by wearing pac boots.

Again as the weather stayed at freezing with one day it got up to 45F, the snow/ice did not go anywhere. When it did melt it was actually worse as the water froze into glass like sheets that made getting traction up steep inclines impossible. Also when it was melting some of those same hills became muddy quagmires and were also very difficult to drive on as the ground was SUPER SATURATED! Be aware that driving conditions can change with the temps. That muddy driveway may turn to a slick sheet of ice that will give you a very scary ride. The major roads were clear and heavily salted. Most of the ones I am talking about were private or secondary roads.

Cable Down

Blue Ridge Parkway is CLOSED

Waterfall Park

A bunch of the lines feeding the few cellular phone sites were out and thus your cell phone would not work. If you know where your free wifi hotspots are, you can use Skype to make a call if those places were not damaged by the storm. The places in town had both power as well as internet. Know how to communicate by alternate methods when your primary form becomes non functional. Think of Voip (Skype), Ham radio, Calling cards to use in an area that is not affected, etc.

Zippo handwarmers are the best! They run from 12-24 hours on a few ounces of lighter fluid. In the long run, they are cheaper than those disposable types. If you work outdoors in cold weather you should get one or two to keep your pinkies warm!

After working up there a week I am sure enjoying my time inside this weekend. Looks like I will be heading back up there tomorrow and probably for awhile to come.

Be prepared because you never know when TS is gonna HTF in your neighborhood!!!

Thanks for reading!



Museice said...

Great post. Lesson: Always have cash, Yac Trax, and a sense of humor. Thanks for the tip about the Zippo hand warmer.

ZombieAxe said...

You are welcome, the Zippo hand warmers are more cost effective in the long run. I'd go broke using the disposable kind! LOL


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