52 States in 8 Months

Windy Hills without Electricity

Posted in Newark by Ulf on June 13, 2009

When I came home yesterday a few days ago, things were a bit strange. I saw many people walking their dogs, the super market was really crowded and some Americans even used their porch and sat outside. I knew that something was strange, but I didn’t know what it was.
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It turned out that at about 3pm the inevitable had happened: The strange American energy grid with its numerous transformers[1] and overland lines failed, at least in Windy Hills. Bob ran his own a power generator to keep a sump pump running (see first picture), and he was very upset about the lazy managers in their huge chairs at the power company: “If I would be paying my bills the way they supply us with electricity, they wouldn’t make any money at all!”

delaware_outage     newark_outage

I liked this evening. And apparently Mary and Bob could also do very well without their TV. Mary and our new room mate Laura (she’s an undergrad working in some biology lab) played a few games such as “Phase 10“. Wikipedia says that Phase 10 is the second-best selling card game of the world, behind Uno (hard to believe, considering that there are normal playing cards around). Anyway, Alvaro and I joined them, and we had a lot of fun! Bob kept watching, but refused to join us.

At some point we got a call from Delmarva Power[2]. They said that they had solved some problem and wanted us to punch 1 if we had electricity and punch 2 if we didn’t. Mary pressed 2, because we had no electricity (of course…). Calling everybody and asking them if they have power or not is an annoying way of finding the exact place of failure!

This The other morning Alvaro was quite surprised that his ice coffee was still cold, but I wasn’t so excited about that. When working our fridge cools down to about 33°F, and that isn’t yet the ice box. So we didn’t have so worry about the temperature of our refrigerator.
The water supply was also working, and we even had hot water! The boiler must have some ignition mechanism which doesn’t require electrical power. That made getting up a bit like an everyday affair.

Here in the University of Delaware everything is normal. Power is up, all computers are running and all the lights are on, even in the rooms which nobody uses since they’re under reconstruction. So everything is pretty normal. The city has its own power grid.
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We finally got the electricity back after about 30h of outage. The reason apparently was a tree which cut a power line when it fell down. Why don’t the Americans just bury those power lines??

[1]They sometimes have 240V lines along the streets and transform it down to 110V individually for each household instead of directly supplying them with 240V. And since it doesn’t make much sense to set up three transformers for everyone, those poor fellows don’t have access to rotary current. They only get a single phase! I saw this in Iowa, so there are farms that just cannot use power machinery!
[2]Delmarva stands for Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. It’s used as a name for what I would call the “Delaware peninsula“.

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2 Responses

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  1. Don said, on June 13, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Ulf– There are a few of us Americans who can
    manage to leave the tv off even when the power is ok. ;-)

  2. Ulf said, on June 13, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Hi Don, you’re in academia, that doesn’t count :-).

    To be honest, I’d say that the average American is pretty similar to the average German/European. Many Germans also wouldn’t play a card game unless there is a power outage. So I shouldn’t make too many jokes about either one…


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