Hurricane Sandy brought home exactly how dependent we are on the electricity grid, and how quickly we can be hurled back into the Stone Age when it’s lost. I was on the verge of completing two blog posts when we lost power Monday night at 5:30.
Our household, which includes some storm refugees, is on candle power now (right). I realize my connectivity problems don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy post-Sandy world, to paraphrase the movie "Casablanca," but I'm sure they're mirrored all over the Eastern Seaboard. My cousin just called — three trees down, power out, and on and on.
My first recourse was switching to my laptop, which benefits from a portable Verizon Wi-Fi connection. The laptop had enough battery — barely — to get the two posts out of the door. I’d crossed the last “t” when it unceremoniously shut down, plunging me into techno oblivion.
Fortunately, I also inherited my daughter’s first-gen iPad with a keyboard cover, so I’ve been able to do some writing on that while it had battery life. Thanks to the wizardry of lithium-ion! But that unit, too, eventually succumbed to dead battery syndrome.
Now I was down to my cellphone, which enabled me to respond to “are you alive?” queries via Facebook. I couldn’t write, but at least I was in contact. Of course, battery life quickly became critical, but I was prepared there, too — with a Mobile Juice Pack Ultra portable power supply. The thing kept several phones charged, but it lacks the power to supply my laptop. It’s great for iPods, too.
A few houses in my neighborhood were severely damaged by falling trees, like the one at left. About 90 percent of my town lost power, but there were some people who escaped. While all this was going on, my tenant Brian took our laptops to his sister’s house, where the electricity was still flowing. When my computer came back, I was in business — I’m typing on it now, but the battery indicator is plunging again, and I'm down to 52 minutes.
The Verizon hot spot has been useful for checking the latest news of what’s happening here in Connecticut — three known fatalities so far, plus a missing swimmer. (Yes, a guy went swimming right near high tide at the height of the storm.)
My cousin's local cell tower was knocked out, so he can't make or get calls, or jack into the Internet — but he's got power from a generator, so that's an ace in the hole. My mother has power back, so maybe we'll head there for some R&R. I'm hearing reports of cars being submerged, especially in New York and New Jersey. With that in mind, I commissioned the illustration at right from 14-year-old Maddie, who's one half of the mother-daughter duo that's been staying with us after being flooded out of their beachside home.
OK, half an hour of battery time left. The little red lights are preparing to wink off and plunge me into oblivion. I’d better post this thing before it’s too late. It’s a weird, disconnected feeling, one I’m unaccustomed to in our modern age. Pretty soon it will be time to get out the wine, light the candles and go back to real, face-to-face communications. Just like our ancestors did.
Related story on MNN: Why do I have cellphone service but no power?