Power outage

Our electricity went out yesterday from 3:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m. Was it the North Koreans? Our area’s top-secret agencies? An infrastructure attack on our area’s top-secret agencies? No. Apparently it was just trees that blew over because of a quick storm we had. But how fragile we are. I couldn’t get on the internet, watch television, watch movies, play games, write, read. We cooked out on the grill, lit some paraffin lamps we have, and visited. I guess that’s what they did in the 19th century. But no air conditioning! Anyway, we are way too dependent on technology. And yet, I don’t know what can be done about it at this point.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Carl Vehse

    This may help.

  • Carl Vehse

    This may help.

  • WebMonk

    I wouldn’t call that dependent on technology, after all, you were still able to eat an excellent meal and because you’ve posted this I assume you survived the night even without air conditioning. Now, if you were to say that we have way too much trouble adjusting to the lack of it, well then I would be in agreement.

    I would be interested in knowing how we (as a society) would actually live without electricity for an extended time, let’s say two months, just to make it easier. That would be a better test of whether or not our society is truly too dependent upon technology.

    For myself, (assuming I somehow knew that electricity wasn’t coming on for a long time) I would move out of town – pack up the family and move out to either some friends or relatives (depending on how much gas my car had at the time). After that, I have a rifle and I’m a good shot and wouldn’t have any trouble taking down plenty of deer and other small game for meat, and there are sufficient gardens at enough of my friends and families that we would have enough veggies.

    However, there are lots of people who don’t have my blessings of being able to move to a more amenable location and hunt food successfully. People in inner cities (New York, Los Angeles, etc) would be well and truly screwed without massive assistance from food convoys and other aid.

    As to whether anything can be done about it – nope. It’s the nature of the dense urban population centers; if the ability to ship in food goes kaput to an urban center, the urban center dies. However, on the plus side of things, electricity isn’t going to vanish for extended periods of time without some sort of extreme disaster. It may go out for a couple weeks, but even a month of widespread outages would require an unprecedented disaster of some sort.

  • WebMonk

    I wouldn’t call that dependent on technology, after all, you were still able to eat an excellent meal and because you’ve posted this I assume you survived the night even without air conditioning. Now, if you were to say that we have way too much trouble adjusting to the lack of it, well then I would be in agreement.

    I would be interested in knowing how we (as a society) would actually live without electricity for an extended time, let’s say two months, just to make it easier. That would be a better test of whether or not our society is truly too dependent upon technology.

    For myself, (assuming I somehow knew that electricity wasn’t coming on for a long time) I would move out of town – pack up the family and move out to either some friends or relatives (depending on how much gas my car had at the time). After that, I have a rifle and I’m a good shot and wouldn’t have any trouble taking down plenty of deer and other small game for meat, and there are sufficient gardens at enough of my friends and families that we would have enough veggies.

    However, there are lots of people who don’t have my blessings of being able to move to a more amenable location and hunt food successfully. People in inner cities (New York, Los Angeles, etc) would be well and truly screwed without massive assistance from food convoys and other aid.

    As to whether anything can be done about it – nope. It’s the nature of the dense urban population centers; if the ability to ship in food goes kaput to an urban center, the urban center dies. However, on the plus side of things, electricity isn’t going to vanish for extended periods of time without some sort of extreme disaster. It may go out for a couple weeks, but even a month of widespread outages would require an unprecedented disaster of some sort.

  • Winston Smith

    The problem is too many trees, or too many big ones at any rate.

    My understanding is that the utilities and/or local jurisdictions used to regularly trim branches that could potentially interfere with power lines. That sort of maintenance has fallen by the wayside in recent years, either for reasons of cost, or because it is seen as eco-friendly to let the trees grow. (If you look at old photographs of then-new suburbs, there were fewer trees than today, and almost no mature ones.) The result is that a big storm brings down branches (or whole trees, with disastrous results, as in the Washington, D.C. area yesterday) and the power and phone lines with them.

    Alternatively, they could just put all the lines underground.

  • Winston Smith

    The problem is too many trees, or too many big ones at any rate.

    My understanding is that the utilities and/or local jurisdictions used to regularly trim branches that could potentially interfere with power lines. That sort of maintenance has fallen by the wayside in recent years, either for reasons of cost, or because it is seen as eco-friendly to let the trees grow. (If you look at old photographs of then-new suburbs, there were fewer trees than today, and almost no mature ones.) The result is that a big storm brings down branches (or whole trees, with disastrous results, as in the Washington, D.C. area yesterday) and the power and phone lines with them.

    Alternatively, they could just put all the lines underground.

  • Michael Z.

    On the positive side, playing board games with one’s wife to the light of an oil lamp is kinda fun.

  • Michael Z.

    On the positive side, playing board games with one’s wife to the light of an oil lamp is kinda fun.

  • Tom Hering

    We’re isolated from our neighbors because we’re all in our homes watching television or using our computers and game systems. We’re isolated out in public because so many are using their cell phones, oblivious to one another. Even in coffee shops – which were great social places a decade ago – half the customers are lost in their laptops. My solution? Every evening, weather permitting, I put my three cats out on leashes in the front yard, set up a folding chair, settle back to read a book for an hour, and then watch the sunset – maybe even stay out to look at the stars. Strangers walking by stop to talk about the cats. Neighbors, stepping out to just get something from their cars, walk over to chat about all sorts of things. One offered to bring me freshly-baked banana bread last night, because she had a lot of bananas to use up!

    I really enjoy my TV and computer and air conditioning, but I’ll put up with a couple of hours of heat and humidity and mosquitoes every night to make my life a fuller one.

  • Tom Hering

    We’re isolated from our neighbors because we’re all in our homes watching television or using our computers and game systems. We’re isolated out in public because so many are using their cell phones, oblivious to one another. Even in coffee shops – which were great social places a decade ago – half the customers are lost in their laptops. My solution? Every evening, weather permitting, I put my three cats out on leashes in the front yard, set up a folding chair, settle back to read a book for an hour, and then watch the sunset – maybe even stay out to look at the stars. Strangers walking by stop to talk about the cats. Neighbors, stepping out to just get something from their cars, walk over to chat about all sorts of things. One offered to bring me freshly-baked banana bread last night, because she had a lot of bananas to use up!

    I really enjoy my TV and computer and air conditioning, but I’ll put up with a couple of hours of heat and humidity and mosquitoes every night to make my life a fuller one.

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    A lot of things have to happen every day that we are totally unaware of and/or totally take for granted for electricity to come to our houses. It doesn’t take much to interfere with that process. The system is more vulnerable than we would like to think.

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    A lot of things have to happen every day that we are totally unaware of and/or totally take for granted for electricity to come to our houses. It doesn’t take much to interfere with that process. The system is more vulnerable than we would like to think.

  • cattail

    The power went out several times at my son#3′s home in Seattle the weekend of July 17-18. No storms were involved.

    Power stopped about Saturday noon, causing a horrendous shriek from the carbon monoxide alarm that made the 5-year-old scream and cover his ears. Several neighbors immediately called it in. 3 hours later, Seattle City Light trucks showed up, cruising up and down the nearby streets, talking loudly to each other via their radios (at full volume). Kids want to watch video but are reminded that no power=no video. 5-year-old wants to play with the Wii–same answer. The cards come out and the whole family joins in a game of poker (no money, just chips). Much discussion ensues between husband and wife on the dinner menu. I offer to fire up my little Primus Micron backpacking stove on the patio if needed to supplement the grill. Since wife is going to a Spanish-language meetup group anyway, it is decided that she will buy takeout Mexican food. Yummy food comes home along with an elated Mommy (she understood all the Spanish conversation!) and we all dig in. At 9 pm, lights come back on (another shriek from the CO alarm!). Trucks are still roaming the neighborhood with 2-way radios at full volume. At 1 am the power goes off again (how do I know? CO alarm is right over my head!). It goes on again (with another shriek) 20 minutes later. Sunday at 3:30 pm the power goes out again! Seattle City Light trucks show up on cue with blasting radios at 6:30. After some nice steaks on the grill for dinner, Mom and Dad decide that since Granny (me) is there, they will go out to a movie. At my request, Mom unplugs the CO alarm so the 5-year-old (to say nothing of Granny) won’t get upset again. About 9 pm (sunset in these northern latitudes), Granny, with help of the grandkids, starts dragging out candles and we all go on a hunt for flashlights. The 5-year old is put to bed to Granny’s singing of “Now Rest Beneath Night’s Shadow,” many assurances that there will be no more shrieks from the CO alarm and assurances that there will be light in the bathroom. Mom and Dad get home at 10:00, by which time it is dark enough that I have lit candles in the upstairs bathroom, whose big mirror nicely reflects enough light to see by onto the hallway, stairs and into 5-year-old’s bedroom (obviously we are too dependent on night lights!). The 8-year old has also gone to sleep and the 10-year-old is wearing his headlamp while reading in bed. Granny is wearing her headlamp, too. Good thing we spent Saturday cleaning up after a backpacking trip, so the lights were handy! After many more radio “broadcasts” from the street, power goes back on about 11. As of when I left to go home, Monday noon, the power was still on.

    The worst part was when Mommy discovered that the fruit juice popsicles in the freezer had thawed enough that they fell apart when removed from their holders. This upset the 5-year-old even more than the shrieks from the CO alarm! (By the way, Mommy did plug the alarm back in on Monday!)

  • cattail

    The power went out several times at my son#3′s home in Seattle the weekend of July 17-18. No storms were involved.

    Power stopped about Saturday noon, causing a horrendous shriek from the carbon monoxide alarm that made the 5-year-old scream and cover his ears. Several neighbors immediately called it in. 3 hours later, Seattle City Light trucks showed up, cruising up and down the nearby streets, talking loudly to each other via their radios (at full volume). Kids want to watch video but are reminded that no power=no video. 5-year-old wants to play with the Wii–same answer. The cards come out and the whole family joins in a game of poker (no money, just chips). Much discussion ensues between husband and wife on the dinner menu. I offer to fire up my little Primus Micron backpacking stove on the patio if needed to supplement the grill. Since wife is going to a Spanish-language meetup group anyway, it is decided that she will buy takeout Mexican food. Yummy food comes home along with an elated Mommy (she understood all the Spanish conversation!) and we all dig in. At 9 pm, lights come back on (another shriek from the CO alarm!). Trucks are still roaming the neighborhood with 2-way radios at full volume. At 1 am the power goes off again (how do I know? CO alarm is right over my head!). It goes on again (with another shriek) 20 minutes later. Sunday at 3:30 pm the power goes out again! Seattle City Light trucks show up on cue with blasting radios at 6:30. After some nice steaks on the grill for dinner, Mom and Dad decide that since Granny (me) is there, they will go out to a movie. At my request, Mom unplugs the CO alarm so the 5-year-old (to say nothing of Granny) won’t get upset again. About 9 pm (sunset in these northern latitudes), Granny, with help of the grandkids, starts dragging out candles and we all go on a hunt for flashlights. The 5-year old is put to bed to Granny’s singing of “Now Rest Beneath Night’s Shadow,” many assurances that there will be no more shrieks from the CO alarm and assurances that there will be light in the bathroom. Mom and Dad get home at 10:00, by which time it is dark enough that I have lit candles in the upstairs bathroom, whose big mirror nicely reflects enough light to see by onto the hallway, stairs and into 5-year-old’s bedroom (obviously we are too dependent on night lights!). The 8-year old has also gone to sleep and the 10-year-old is wearing his headlamp while reading in bed. Granny is wearing her headlamp, too. Good thing we spent Saturday cleaning up after a backpacking trip, so the lights were handy! After many more radio “broadcasts” from the street, power goes back on about 11. As of when I left to go home, Monday noon, the power was still on.

    The worst part was when Mommy discovered that the fruit juice popsicles in the freezer had thawed enough that they fell apart when removed from their holders. This upset the 5-year-old even more than the shrieks from the CO alarm! (By the way, Mommy did plug the alarm back in on Monday!)

  • Booklover

    After the Father’s Day flood we had no water because our cistern was contaminated, so we showered at the neighbors. That made for forced yet friendly socialization.

    We had no internet so I sat in the local City Brew and used their WiFi. Now I have an Alltel internet card that was excrutiatingly slow until I learned how to update it.

    No t.v., so the two sons teamed up and totally destroyed their parents in a rousing card game of Peanuts. It was totally unfair because we are old and their reflexes are sharpened due to video game playing. We also played Yahtzee. I finally put photo albums together after years of neglect. The lack of TV didn’t make me do it since I don’t watch TV anyway. I think the new activity of the males in the house was contagious.

    We have no home phone which is OK because the calls were mostly from bill collectors.

    I remember when our electricity went out on the farm for three days after a spring snow storm over Palm Sunday of 1973. It took us all day to milk all of the cows by hand, which normally took only two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening with electricity. By hand, we could only do it once a day. We somehow got them milked on Palm Sunday so that I could go for my questioning and get confirmed. I barely made it because all of the curlers got stuck in my baby-fine hair. Memories.

    We had cooked on the old gas stove downstairs after losing the electricity, and played games as a family. We were made of stronger stuff then.

  • Booklover

    After the Father’s Day flood we had no water because our cistern was contaminated, so we showered at the neighbors. That made for forced yet friendly socialization.

    We had no internet so I sat in the local City Brew and used their WiFi. Now I have an Alltel internet card that was excrutiatingly slow until I learned how to update it.

    No t.v., so the two sons teamed up and totally destroyed their parents in a rousing card game of Peanuts. It was totally unfair because we are old and their reflexes are sharpened due to video game playing. We also played Yahtzee. I finally put photo albums together after years of neglect. The lack of TV didn’t make me do it since I don’t watch TV anyway. I think the new activity of the males in the house was contagious.

    We have no home phone which is OK because the calls were mostly from bill collectors.

    I remember when our electricity went out on the farm for three days after a spring snow storm over Palm Sunday of 1973. It took us all day to milk all of the cows by hand, which normally took only two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening with electricity. By hand, we could only do it once a day. We somehow got them milked on Palm Sunday so that I could go for my questioning and get confirmed. I barely made it because all of the curlers got stuck in my baby-fine hair. Memories.

    We had cooked on the old gas stove downstairs after losing the electricity, and played games as a family. We were made of stronger stuff then.

  • Eli

    I’m no fan of Rousseau, but Leon Kass once quoted this from him, and I think it was pretty spot on. “S]ince men enjoyed very great leisure, they used it to pursue many kinds of commodities unknown to their fathers, and that was that first yoke they placed upon themselves without thinking about it, and the first source of evils the prepared for their descendants. For, besides continuing thus to soften body and mind, as these commodities had lost almost all their pleasantness through habit, and as they had at the same time degenerated into true needs, being deprived of them became much more cruel than possessing them was sweet; and people were unhappy to lose them without being happy to have them.”

  • Eli

    I’m no fan of Rousseau, but Leon Kass once quoted this from him, and I think it was pretty spot on. “S]ince men enjoyed very great leisure, they used it to pursue many kinds of commodities unknown to their fathers, and that was that first yoke they placed upon themselves without thinking about it, and the first source of evils the prepared for their descendants. For, besides continuing thus to soften body and mind, as these commodities had lost almost all their pleasantness through habit, and as they had at the same time degenerated into true needs, being deprived of them became much more cruel than possessing them was sweet; and people were unhappy to lose them without being happy to have them.”


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