Irene Trashes The Best Laid Plans

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Irene definitely caused a lot of people grief but was just annoying here. We lost power half a dozen times but the last one went for more than a day. Of course, this happened just after I added eggs to my waffle batter. The waffle iron wasn't even hot yet.

I was debating about plugging it into one of the many UPS units I have but that seemed a bit silly especially since it had stopped raining and the sun was out. I wound up grilling pancakes. Ok, the grill has a gas burner on the side so cooking the pancakes was just as easy as using the stove. They wound up being breakfast and lunch since we could not open the refrigerator or freezer.

One reason I was late getting the pancakes done was the water in the basement. It was definitely less than it could have been because I had repaired the downspouts a couple weeks ago. Still, twenty gallons of water makes a big mess. I'll keep this instead of what we saw that afternoon where we saw just the roof of a van that was in the middle of what was once a tiny creek. We hope the loss was only the van and we hope that you didn't encounter anything worse than we did.

I also want to thank my next door neighbor who had a rather tall, dead tree taken down a week ago. We had a couple taken down a few years ago after a falling limb took out a chunk of roof.

Being prepared is what it is all about and it looks like FEMA and company did well. Power is still out in some areas but I think most will agree that the response to Irene was very good.

Unfortunately I did have some issues with some servers here in the lab and other locations I handle that decided not to shut down gracefully. Actually one that caused a headache shut down fine but its hard drive decided it was not going to start up. It took a bit of coaxing but it finally did boot allowing me to make a backup that I had not done before.

It's taken a day to recover from Irene which is not too bad. Those UPS units turned out to be handy. All those mobile units like e-readers, laptops and smartphones needed charging. One thing I was going to look into is a small LED lamp that would run for quite awhile off a UPS.

It also got me to thinking about solar power. There were a number of rather noisy generators running around the neighborhood and there are a couple of houses that do have solar panels. Most of the requirements around the house are relatively small. Here they included lights and a refrigerator. In the winter, the oil heat needs some power plus the fans. A UPS tends to fall a bit short for these. Of course, a solar system that beats this would need some hefty batteries.

Then again, the cost might be a bit much for only two or three emergencies like this. On the other hand, given the cost of food in the freezer it may not be.

Now I can get back to what I was supposed to be doing before Irene blew through. Hopefully you made out better than I did.

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William Wong

Bill Wong covers Digital, Embedded, Systems and Software topics at Electronic Design. He writes a number of columns, including Lab Bench and alt.embedded, plus Bill's Workbench hands-on column....
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