April 23, 2024

Hurricane Ike status report: electrical power is cool

Today, we checked out the house, again, and lo and behold, it finally has power again!  Huzzah!

All in all, it hasn’t been that bad for us.  We crashed with friends, ate out all the time, and (thankfully) had daycare for our daughter as of Thursday last week.  Indeed, I’m seeing fewer people’s kids around the office this week and more people seem to be getting back into the groove.

Even though Rice wanted classes to restart on Tuesday of last week, the unstated unofficial everybody-get-back-to-work day was really yesterday, Monday, just over a week after the hurricane.  What’s the status of the city?

Many people are still without power, and the power crews are now dealing with harder cases, individually damaged lines, and so forth.  Getting the rest of the city online may well take a good long time.  Another interesting effect is that the rush-hour traffic is beyond insane.  Luckily, our daily commute is short enough that we’re largely immute to this, but traffic lights which reset to blinking red are slowing down everything, to the point that remote freeway exits are backing up into the freeways due to the malfunctioning traffic lights at the intersections below.  The Chron estimates it could be until November until all the traffic lights are repaired.  Ouch.

Naturally, one of the tempting purchases for us is some kind of natural gas powered, permanently installed generator.  I’m sure if I shop around for one now, I’d pay a mint to get it.  Maybe in the off season… Needless to say, I don’t see the city investing to bury all the power lines that run above ground.  They have legitimately higher priorities.  As to me, I sure would have been happy to have had power all the way through this thing, brought to us by the one utility that never had any downtime: our natural gas line.

[Sidebar: it takes a major power outage for you to really appreciate how people got by in the days before electrical power.  Pickling, preserving, and other techniques suddenly seem awfully clever.  Some candles put out an awful lot more light than others.  You can also see why it was a standard architectural feature of old Southern homes to have big outdoor porches — so you’d have somewhere slightly cooler to sleep than indoors.]