Thursday, September 8, 2011

What I Did on My Labor Day Holiday...

A nice fall planting, with ironweed, Russian sage, and sedum

If you are reading this I finally have had my land line and DSL restored and the power has stayed on, at least intermittently.

Friday, we had a helluva storm. There wasn't a lot of property damage. In central Wisconsin, we just don't have the houses, businesses, and infrastructure you have in a large metropolitan area. So the brunt of this storm was felt in the damage to trees and power lines. The energy companies here were scrambling. Well, I have to assume they were. I don't think I saw a single utility truck working. I looked.

I say if the power stays on. It was out for me for 37 hours. Seventy percent of the village had power out for 5-6 hours on Friday and then at 6 PM on Saturday, the entire village went dark. It was so dark it was eerie. Although, for me the power outage seemed more like camping in a very expensive tent. When the village entire village lost power at 6 PM, I didn't realize it until about 8 PM when street lights and houses' lights across the way did not come on.

For most people, a power outage has it own immediate personal concerns; where is the flash light, where are the candles, how long will the power be out, and do I have to worry about the stuff in my fridge and freezer.

For me, when the rest of the village lost power, my first panicked thought was sewer plant. Without power our lift stations do not pump and or agitators do not agitate. All the moving parts of our fairly automatic system are not automatic without electricity. A lot of the plant functions simply through gravity. Any downhill residents from our sewer plant need these intermediate pumping stations to move the sewage from their homes uphill. I wouldn't want to consider the consequences. I'm sure for the greater number of residents the idea that sewage could begin to back up into their homes does not cross their minds.

Additionally, as we pump filtered waste water into the headwaters of a Class A trout stream, one slip in pH or effluent levels results in fines, penalties, paper work, and additional regulatory controls which could be financially crippling to a small community such as ours.

So while many were thinking, ‘Darn it! Where are the matches?" or "I need to charge my cell!"; my thoughts were sewer plant.

All of us have our own wells, which do not work if there is no electricity. Because the sewer plant was on the line that had service throughout the brunt of the outage, most people only found pouring storm water or pool water into their toilets and keeping their freezers frozen the only real pain.

There is an artesian spring at the park on the north end of town. We have the water quality tested each spring and it is some of the best quality water in the state. There are several very old houses to the east of the village whose basements actually sit on an artesian spring. Even with no electrical outages there are often people filling milk jugs and other containers with this crisp, clean water that simply runs out of a pipe shaped like a "J" driven upside down into the ground.

People from outlying area without power aware of our spring and residents without power lined up around the spring with jugs and containers.

Most of our Main Street business area was hopping all weekend serving food, selling gas, ice, milk, and guns.

Our main recreational area's bathroom had running water and a flushing toilet. Our Community Center was open from 10 AM to 12 noon and had power.

I have no idea how many people originally lost power. Reports are scanty. I lost my land line when a large branch from my sentinel white pine fell on my aerial drop line, snapping it. I think cell service may have been disrupted for about 20 percent of residents, and the WiFi was messed up at the Community Center. Even those with power often had broken cable networks and DISH satellite service was out.

So not only were we in a power outage, but communications blackout, as well. Personally, I don't think the news broadcasting stations that provide service for our area even realized a lot of our county's 20,000-plus residents were without power. Being the Labor Day weekend, however, we had probably an additional 20,000 tourists many who may have come to camp, but still expected to have functioning toilets and running water at their camp grounds.

Surprisingly, instead of people sitting around outdoors around campfires, because of intermittent rain after the torrential downpour and reputed winds of 70 to 80 mph Friday morning, people were hunkered down inside their homes thinking survival.

A surprising number of portable generators popped up in the area comprising the 30 percent of us without power. A tree fell on a power line in one part of the village, starting a fire and while the first call the homeowner made was to the power company's emergency number, followed by a second very quick call to 911, which was responded to by the local fire district; no help or contact was received from the power company.

Two houses in the village had enormous trees fall on their roofs.

Many of those in outage areas simply drove out of the problem. I don't think Waupaca, Amherst, or Stevens Point, all cities to our northwest lost power for more than seconds.

The biggest problem was the breakdown in communications within Waushara county and beyond our borders.

Also, without power, I personally have gotten behind with canning and my food preservation. I have been filling in as the librarian since the beginning of the school year at a nearby school. As such I am on a pretty short leash. I also had a village board meeting this week. Just before the outage I had a hose come uncoupled on my washer. Three loads of 35 gallons of water later trouble-shooting and fixing the washer, I now have the ignitor on the dryer is giving me trouble. Part of my house has been pretty torn up dealing with this. In between, I am cutting up branches off my pine tree. and trying to get my lawn mown.

In case you have missed me, I have been busy!

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