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Hurricane Isabel Takes Its Toll on ASP 101

by John Peterson

You might have noticed that we're a little light on content this week, but, as I found out first hand, computers don't run too well without power. ;)

Before I really get started, let me explain what you're in for if you continue reading this "article." We're not a news site and this is not news. If you want accurate numbers or official statements that you can quote... check out your news site of choice. I'm simply going to relate my experiences for anyone who may be interested.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don't really follow the news or the weather. As a result, I had no idea Isabel was coming. So the first time I realized there was a problem was when my power started acting up. Now my power isn't great. I get a lot of brown-outs and lose power for a minute or two every couple weeks. Because of this, I've got UPS units on all my computers and even one for my entertainment system (mainly for my TiVo). The first 3-4 times they beeped I didn't think too much about it. After the 10th time or so I knew something was going on.

Isabel killed my power (along with that of 500,000 other Pepco customers) on Thursday. Normally my power doesn't stay out very long so I just shut down my computer and turned off the UPS units (to stop the constant beeping) and didn't think too much about it. Half an hour later I started to see how prepared I was just in case.

I went and found my flashlights (Mag-Lites of course), batteries, candles (I found that I only had a couple of little tea-lights), matches, and my oil lamp (the real life-saver of any power outage). In the middle of refilling my oil lamp my phone rang.

Flash Lights Oil Lamp

My buddies and I have a relatively active local poker group here in the DC area. We play at least once a week and have occasionally had 3-4 games in a week. So when the word came down that federal government employees wouldn't have to work the next day our immediate reaction was to have a poker game. I left my apartment to go to the game (they still had power) and, while it was raining and windy, it really didn't seem all that bad weather wise.

While I was at the game, the storm got worse. It really wasn't the worst storm we've seen, but the winds took their toll. On my drive home I had to drive around quite a few downed branches and most of the traffic and street lights were out.

I came home to a very dark apartment. Not thinking ahead, I hadn't taken a flashlight with me so it took me a little while to navigate the pitch black stairwell and find the right key to get into my apartment. Once inside I found my flashlight, lit my oil lamp, and tried my phone. Sometime during the game I had lost phone, internet, and cable. I still had my cell phone, but no power with which to charge it. I turned off my cell to conserve the battery and went to bed.

Friday was the first annoying day. My laptop had a full charge so I tried to do a little work, but trying to get anything done without using the internet proved pretty pointless. I spent most of the day reading the endless computer magazines which I normally ignore and checking my voicemail from my cell phone. I already had plenty of drinks, but not much in the way of food that I could eat without cooking (damn electric stoves!) so Friday afternoon I hit the grocery store and stocked up on granola bars, pop-tarts, and misc junk food. The water aisle was empty, there wasn't a C or D battery in the store, and all the refrigerated cases were shut down and empty.

Friday night I listened to the radio a little to find out what the power status was, watched a DVD on my laptop (using the power from one of my UPS units to finish it after my laptop's battery died) and went to bed early.

Saturday morning when I got up and looked in the mirror I came to the conclusion that I had to take a shower. While I had never lost water, my water heater is electric so hot water wasn't an option. Let's just say that the phrase "cold shower" now holds an entirely new meaning for me.  ;)

By noon on Saturday I was going a little stir crazy. I couldn't think of anything else to do so I called around and found a movie theater that was open and went to see Underworld. While I was out, I picked up a car charger for my cell phone, filled my car with gas, and checked 3 different stores to try and find some C batteries to power my little 5" B&W; television. No luck.

On the way home, I checked my voicemail and found a message from some of the guys in the poker group saying that since none of them had power they were heading to Atlantic City. Having nothing better to do I decided to join them. I played some poker, made a little money, and kept calling my apartment to see if my phone was back on and check my messages. Sunday afternoon my phone finally rang instead of going straight to voicemail. I took that as a sign that at least my phone and probably my power were back.

We got back from AC late Sunday night/early Monday morning. Apparently my power had come back well before cable because my TiVo had taped several hours of nothing thinking that I might be interested in watching what it thought was showing. I turned back on the few circuit breakers I had flipped to prevent possible damage when the power came back, plugged back in some things that I had unplugged from other circuits, and started to go about my business as usual when I awoke Monday morning.

Power flickered a couple times during the day on Monday, but aside from that and having to dispose of the food from my fridge and freezer, I suffered no real lasting effects from Isabel.

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