Yet another extended power outage in New England...

Yes, it happened AGAIN, thanks to the “Mega-Nor’Easter” (unofficially I consider it a small hurricane, some areas in Portsmouth, NH, just over the border from us, saw sustained gusts of over 90 MPH!), we’ve officially lost power again, and I think this will be another long restoration effort, much like the Ice Storm of 2009, apparently the damage from this storm was as bad, if not a little worse, than Ice Storm '09

So far, it’s been 3 days without power, and Central Maine Power has learned NOTHING from IS '09, as far as customer relations are concerned, I know the line crews are out working 24-hour shifts, we have crews coming in from other states and even from Canada to help with the restoration efforts, but with so many trees down, they can only do so much, they’re only human…

(If only we had some Cylon Centurions programmed to do power line cleanup/restoration, we could have a true 24/7/365 line maintenance crew (as long as they didn’t evolve and rebel in the process, that is :wink: )

Anyway, the biggest problem I have with CMP is their outright lies and falsehoods they tell you to get you off the phone, every time I call for an update on the restoration efforts, I’m told “we have line crews in your area, you should have power back in the next two days or so”, thinking that will placate me, sorry, wrong, on my road alone, there are four good size trees down, one has knocked a transformer canister off a power pole, other poles have tripped breakers, and that’s just on the five mile stretch of road that our house is on, there are a good 30 houses on that road, even if power was restored to the streets parallel to ours, we wouldn’t see power back on in two days, unless they can perform miracle work (which they are clearly incapable of)

after the Ice Storm of '09, we were without power for SIX days, and only saw the briefest glimpse of a CMP truck on day FIVE, near midnight…

There is no indication that anything has changed at CMP, the reps are still told to lie to get customers to hang up, and to make matters worse, CMP is a MONOPOLY, we have NO other choices for power providers, they can drag their feet all they want, and we’re stuck with it

If there are any Maine Dopers without power, the phone number for CMP Corporate HQ is 1-800-565-0121 (the number is on their website, it’s not hidden), dial 0 to get an operator and ask to speak to the person handling your region (Alfred region for the town of York, for example), if enough irate customers call in, maybe they can get it through their thick head that they need to step up their efforts AND deal honestly with their customers

Okay, rant over, onto the main point of this thread, which is;
How to handle an extended power outage in a cold climate

Supplies you need to have onhand;

Water, drinking water and washing/flushing water, for drinking water, the easiest thing to do is to stock up during non-emergency times, pick up those 5 gallon bottles that are used on water coolers, the square stackable ones are the easiest to store, get yourself a good supply of them, that will supply your drinking/cooking water, after the bottles are empty, save them and refill them from your faucet, and you’ll have a ready supply of potable water
Washing/Flushing water (also called “Gray Water”) can be stored in a bathtub (if you have one) or spare sinks, do your personal hygiene washing in a bowl, save the soapy water to re-use for flushing toilets, if you have no bathtub or spare sinks, you’ll need more 5 gallon water bottles for that purpose (another reason to save the empty 5 gal. bottles)

Food; canned goods, dry goods, anything that does not require elaborate cooking steps, perishable goods can be stored outdoors if the temperature stays in the thirties, think of it as a huge walk-out refrigerator, canned goods that can be eaten cold direct from the can are ideal, as they need no water to be added, in this situation, high-calorie foods are beneficial as less of them are needed to keep you going

Heat; If your house has a fireplace or woodstove, keep at least a cord of wood on hand, woodstoves are far more efficient heat generators than a traditional fireplace with a chimmney, but you work with what you have, if you don’t have firewood set aside, you can also pick up compressed sawdust “firelogs”, they burn incredibly hot, and are about 98% efficient, many of them are too hot and efficient to use in woodstoves, in fact and are best used in fireplaces, but they do make woodstove-specific models as well, plan on burning at least two firelogs or a couple good sized logs a night

Make sure you have plenty of warm clothes, dress in layers, it’ll get cold in areas of the house not heated by the fireplace/woodstove, so dress like you’re going outside on a cool day, you may not have to bundle up 100% with ski gloves, boots and the like, but a good sweatshirt/sweater under a fleece liner, under a winter jacket (if necessary) will make things at least tolerable, by layering-up, you can shed layers as you warm, or add layers as you cool, try to make sure the layer closest to skin is a synthetic wicking material (like Polypropylene), cotton retains moisture and can cause you to chill faster, wear a winter hat, as a large percentage of body heat is lost through the head

Sleeping; Blankets, lots of blankets, and even more blankets, if you’re not sure you have enough blankets on the bed, you don’t have enough… plan to sleep in sweatpants and a sweatshirt, and wear that hat to bed as well, with enough blankets on the bed, you can use the “layering” technique like you do with clothing, lets say you have five blankets on the bed, heck, lets say you have ten!, you start off with all ten above you, that’s too much insulation, you wind up sweating, so, you go up five layers, leave the bottom five layers on the bed and sleep on top of them, pull the other five on top of you, you should be more comfy then

Light; Powerful personal flashlights are fun, no argument here, Multi-Hundred Lumen retina burners you can fit in your palm, modded 3-D Mags that can set newspaper on fire in seconds, searchlight power in the palm of your hand, what’s not to love?
…Runtime, or lack thereof, when said lights can burn through their batteries in an hour or less, they’re basically toys, what you need in a long power outage are battery-sippers, and that generally means LED flashlights, lights that use the simple 5mm emitters, or high-end variable power lights, you want a light that has at least 10-20 hours of burntime, and puts out around 10 lumens or less, a 2-D incandescent Mag puts out around 15 lumens with fresh batteries, but quickly drops off after 5 minutes to 9 and below, there are LED flashlights that put out 10 lumens of continuous flat output for 20+ hours that run on a SINGLE AAA battery, perfect for extended outages, and it’s best to use something that uses “oddball” batteries, like AAA, C, or CR123a/CR2, during an extended outage, the batteries that sell out the quickest are 6-volt lantern batteries, D-cells, and AA’s, AAA, C and CR123’s are basically ignored…

The absolute BEST light for a extended power outage? the one that I use nearly constantly? (and bear in mind I have a large collection of flashlights, ranging from a 200+ lumen SureFire G3, a 170 lumen MagCharger, a “1 Million Candlepower” spotlight, all the way down to a 10 lumen Fenix E01 1AAA, and a Novatac 120P variable-power flashlight that has a range of 120 to 0.8 lumens (0.8 is great for extended outages, at that level, it has over a week of continuous runtime)?

A Princeton-Tec EOS HEADLAMP with the Luxeon Rebel emitter, it has three power levels (High, Med, Low) and a flashing mode that I never use, it gets about 20 hours of light on low, and the best part is, it leaves both hands free, sure headlamps make you look a little dorky, but the utility of having both hands free is great

the other lights that see use during an extended outage? all long-runtime low-output lights;
Inova X5 White(5 5mm LED) (20 hour burntime, flood pattern)
Eternalight ErgoMarine (4 5mm LED) (50+ hour burntime on low, variable power levels)
Inova X1 (1 5mm LED)
cheapo plastic Ray-O-Vac 2AA with MJLED PR-base 5mm LED (30+ hours burntime)
Novatac 120-P variable power (used mostly on 0.8 and 10 lumen levels)
MiniMag 2aa with red Nite Ize 3LED bulb replacement (40 hour burntime, used as a ceiling-bounce room light
Coleman flourescent lantern (8D cell) hung from ceiling hook as room light

If I had to limit myself, I could get by with just the EOS, the red MiniMag, the Coleman lantern, and the MagCharger for distance spotting, short use

Flashlights aren’t enough though, you need multiple redundant backups, in addition to a good set of batteries, you need oil lamps and candle lanterns/candles, use the oil lamps/candles first, then fall back on the battery powered lights

Charging/recharging hardware; I have a 400 watt voltage inverter in my car, which I can use to charge up my laptop battery, or my iPhone, or any other cell phone that charges off 120v AC, I also have an APC Back UPS Pro 1100 that I had used to keep my MacBook and iPhone charged up, it’s depleted now, so I may have to take it down to my sister’s place and charge it up, bring it back home and keep the MacBook topped off, but in the interim, use the iPhone to surf the web/read e-books/watch vids/listen to music, as it draws less power than the MacBook

And finally, I hate to admit this, but a cell phone is quite useful in an extended outage situation, just this morning, we lost the land-line phone lines, thanks to my iPhone, we have telecommunications ability, and internet access, even though the power is out, I can keep tabs on CMP’s knuckledragging efforts to get the power back on here, and call Corporate every morning for another status update… I also use it to catch up on some of my Terry Pratchett reading (reading Hogfather and Small Gods currently)

Not really three days yet, though, given the power went out late TH night. Unfortunately, it likely will be three days for real for a lot of people given PSNH (the assholes. they better stop their “we’re doing such a good job” commericals) have only restored power to half of us so far.

We bought a propane generator during the fall - which not only is quieter than the neighbors’ gas generators, and not only did it run for 14 hours at a time on 20 pounds of propane, we didn’t have to worry about all those stations that ran out of gas- and it upgraded the power failure from 2008’s utterly miserable to just annoying. OTOH, we were “only” without power for 39 hours, so that’s an improvement over 5 days right there. And by accident we found out that if the sink is on when the power goes out (I was filling a bucket with water) you can still run both hot and cold water until it empties the water heater and captive air tank. That was cool, but I’m not sure it’ll ever work out that way again unless it flickers a lot before cutting out.

I did learn something else from this power failure, though. I’m psychic. No, really. The night of the ice storm, I was at a Carbon Leaf concert in Londonderry, and it was the last time I was happy for almost a week. The same friend e-mailed me just after Christmas wanting to know if we should buy tickets to their show at the same venue for tonight or yesterday, and I wrote back telling her that the idea made me uneasy, and since we can’t predict the weather and didn’t want to risk going out in a storm like that again, I’d rather wait to see if they’d come back during the summer like last year. Guess what? Both shows this weekend were cancelled due to lack of power!

Power came back on about an hour ago, one momentary outage about 5 minutes in got me worried, but it was 30 seconds or so long, the power now appears to be solid here, at least as solid as the incompetent morons at CMP are capable of, which isn’t much really

CMP still has a long way to go to restore their remaining victim…err…“customers”

I got power back Saturday afternoon.

What really sucked was making my hour commute Friday morning, only to find that the office had no power.

I ended up driving around a lot on Friday and was very shocked at the amount of damage. There was a stretch of road that must have had 5 or more large pine trees blown over. They took with them a good 500 yard stretch of power line and poles.

I’m looking forward to spring.

So apparently they weren’t lyng to you about “within 2 days”?

Seriously, what do you expect some guy at the call center to tell you? “Hold on, I’ll call the techs out in the field for an update.”? The call center likely has no better idea than you do, and no way to get any better info than they already have. (disclaimer: I don’t work for CMP)

Admittedly, this time was a little better, but CMP has been reliably UNreliable in our area, it’s not uncommon to have at least one or two outages a week, ranging from a few seconds to a half hour or more, lets put it this way, there’s a VERY GOOD reason that I have all my computers on their own UPS’s, and no it’s not just because it’s a good idea

you have to understand our road’s history with CMP, we have never gotten reliable service or straight answers from them

compound that with air temps being below freezing for most of the outage, you can understand the frustration

What??? You got to talk to an actual person??? All I ever got was a recorded voice telling me there was no specific info about the outage in my area or when it would be fixed.

Power went out around 10:00 Thurs. night and came back on around 4:00 pm on Saturday. I have a well so no power meant no water. Thankfully, I have a fireplace in the bedroom so the dog and I hunkered down, shut the door and lit a fire and stayed moderately warm. I had plenty of drinking and flushing water laid in so we were ok. The biggest problem was the cellar. With the sump pump out, I ended up with about 6 inches of water and it was rapidly approaching the furnace. I called the local volunteer fire department and since they weren’t busy, they came out and pumped it out for me. (Thanks, guys!) I now have a nasty musty smell in the house now which I hope will go away when the mud floor dries out but am otherwise no worse for the wear.

The wind was something else on Thursday night. The house was shaking during a couple of gusts. None of my trees came down, praise Og, but several down the road did - one right through a garage roof. Unfortunately, I had piled a bunch of boxes and misc. trash out back for “The Dump Guy” to pick up and it is now strewn all over the yard along with assorted small branches. Maybe I can pay a neighborhood kid to clean it up for me…

Astroboy, just to clarify, my OP was made THREE DAYS INTO the outage, so it was actually four days (closer to five, the power went off just around midnight that evening)

On day one, they said there were trucks in the area, I saw none when I drove around checking damage (rather extensive), at this point, they were simply assessing damage

On day two, I was told the same thing, “trucks in your area, maybe two days before it’s back on”, but saw no sign of any equipment or workers

Day three, CMP pulled the crews working in my area (Kittery, one town over) and diverted them up to the northern portions of the state, yet same hollow promise as the last two days

Day four, same response, two days tops, bear in mind, they were saying two days from the day I called each time, on Thursday, Saturday was the target, Friday, target was Sunday, Saturday, target was Monday, no variations in response

I know repairs take time, I have no problem with the crews, I did talk to one honest rep who said “this was a big one, over 200 poles down, we really don’t know when it’ll be back on, we HOPE it’ll be in two days but we have no way of telling for sure”, I thanked her for her honesty, if you don’t know, SAY you don’t know, don’t promise something that can’t be delivered

If anything, the reps should “underpromise” time estimates, instead of saying “two days, tops”, say “we don’t know, maybe a week, ten days, this was a bad one” (this part is in fact true, that way the expectation for a week has been set in the customer’s mind, and if it takes four to five days, the customer is actually pleased with the efforts

Anyway, I may have inadvertently sidetracked myself in the thread, I wanted this to be more of a “how to survive an extended cold-weather outage”, not a “CMP is incompetent” thread

in the next few posts, later, I’ll detail what I did to make the outage easier and more tolerable

No worries, MacTech, I understand… I spent nearly a decade outside Bangor myself, so I’ve been there, trust me. Believe it or not, I miss the weather there and would move back in a second if the opportunity arose.

I’m on the other side of the phone now, however. I work for one of the cable companies here in commercial tech support, and when there are outages I have people yelling at me all day long wanting to know EXACTLY when it will be fixed!!! Hell if I know; generally it’s within a couple of hours but it depends on exactly what the problem is, of course. The field techs generally don’t give us an ETR (they’re busy fixing it!) unless it’s a big problem like a cut fiber optic cable; those take forever to fix.

And, of course, I get to hear all about how this customer’s little mom-and-pop biz is losing millions every minute they are without internet (if that’s true, you never considered having a backup?).

Anyways, sorry to hijack your thead… I’m done.

You’d think that New England would have figured out how to deal with wintry weather by now :confused: it’s not like it’s on the equator.

I do.

Woodstove, wood.
Generator, fuel.
Generator pumps water which gives us flushie toilets, and water for washing and drinking and cooking. All praise the generator.
Generator provides electricity which powers the refrigerator. All praise the generator.

[we minimize electric use, so tend to not run tv, computers, more than the light where we happen to be at the time. Don’t want to need a bigger generator =) ]

Our preps were;

Heat; woodstove, fueled with Rock Maple logs cut from the tree limb we lost in The Ice Storm™ (we’re recycling!) and some old apple tree wood

Water; we have a supply of drinking water stored in the pantry, as well as a good number of five gallon bottles refilled from the tap before the power went out, washing/flushing water was from filling the bathtub before the power went out

Food; canned goods mainly, also stopping off at my sister’s house for dinner a couple evenings, they got their power back two days before us, also allowed us to conserve our canned goods stock, had we got power back before them, we would have had them stop by for food/shower/hygiene etc…

Light; The runnning joke in my family is that I’m a flashlight “fanatic”, just because I have a large selection of flashlights…

…but guess who they come to when the power goes out…

…at least they did until I supplied them with their own set of emergency lights, Mom and Dad both have a LED headlamp and MiniMag LED flashlight each, this time, they had them to hand just when they needed them, my Sis and BIL have MiniMagLeds, and my nephew and niece have a couple of my older lights I gifted to them, and a headlamp each, my parents gave me some good natured ribbing about my headlamp in the last ice storm, but guess what they were sporting this outage, yep, they both saw almost exclusive use of their headlamps, even remarking multiple times how amazingly useful they were (my response, a smug “i know…”)

room lighting was provided by oil lamps and candles, which also produced a tiny amount of heat, not enough to make an appreciable difference, but every little bit helps, and by a Coleman fluorescent lantern, bedroom lighting was provided by a MiniMag AA with red Nite Ize LED module (red LEDs are the most power efficient/longest running, this MiniMag can run continuously for 80 hours, plus, red light does not disrupt dark adaptation/night vision, it only takes .5 lumens of white light to destroy dark adaptation)

Clothing; layers were the rule, layer up when in unheated areas of the house, shed layers when in the sunroom with the woodstove (where the temps were a balmy 80 degrees thanks to the efficiency of the woodstove)

Sleeping; lots of blankets, sleep in sweatclothes, wear a winter hat to retain heat, turn in early

Hygiene; sponge bath with water warmed on woodstove, use small amount of drinking water for brushing teeth

Woodstove is Good, All Hail Woodstove!

Final step, collect fallen branches, cut larger branches down to firewood size for use in burnt-sacrifice to woodstove, Praise Woodstove!

I guess if I lived in an area with a notoriously unreliable power company and regular multi-day outages, I’d invest in a generator rather than 100 LED flashlights. But that’s just me.
Down where I live, power was out for less than 24 hours, but it was a devastating storm with many, many trees blown down. So I’m pretty sure the power company wasn’t just sitting on their hands during those four days.

If I could afford a Standby Generator, I would have one, we certainly don’t enjoy relying on CMP for power, but the generators are bloody expensive, a simple Honda gas genny wouldn’t be able to run our oil-heat system

I’ve been researching building a tractor-powered generator, we have a Kubota G5200 14 HP diesel garden tractor, so, we already have the engine part of the generator, all we would need would be the generator/regulator portion, driven off the PTO, and we’d have a mobile generator

I’ve also been looking into pellet stoves to reduce reliance on the oil burner, and wind generators (windmills), having some form of power redundancy would be great, even something to just run the heat and water (water heater and pump)

what with my bills, car payment, and my underemployment in a marginal job market, I just don’t have the money for a genny right now

the flashlights were;
A; purchased when I had a bit more disposable income, not a significant amount more, but more than now
B; a lot less expensive than even a basic Honda generator, they wouldn’t even be a downpayment on a standby generator

Wintery weather, yes. Multiple day power outages, no. This storm caused the second biggest power outage in NH history. The biggest one was just 14 months ago. There are power failures nearly every winter, but they rarely even reach the 24 hour mark, never mind several days.

The other issue here is that winter storms (at least in my area) have been changing their form dramatically, in the past, especially when I was growing up, from November to March/April, the worst we had to deal with were blizzards, intense, driving snow with large accumulations and massive snowdrifts, during these months, rain, even freezing rain was unheard of, all we got was snow, snow, and more snow, oh and occasionally we got snow, that is, when it wasn’t snowing…

We know how to handle snow, plus, blizzards never really seemed to cause extended outages

Recently (in the last five to ten years or so), our winter storms have begun to be more windy, and have a much higher quantity of rain and ice, blizzards are a fond memory , we live out in a heavily wooded area, trees near/over power lines are fact of life, and they have been ever since I was born, it’s only recently that we’ve been getting storms that topple trees onto power lines, usually these are ice storms

this most recent storm had almost no snow, and no ice in our area, this was just hurricane force winds, almost unheard of in winter months

I hasten to bring up the spectre of “Global Warming”, but the fact remains that storms in this area have been getting less snowy, and more ice-ey than the storms of my childhood and teen years

Snow we can handle, ice storms a bit less so, and freak hurricane-force storms can catch us completely off guard

My uncle ran two milking machines off the engine vacuum from one of his tractors. It took forever to milk the cows, but compare that to hand milking the cows. You can’t just let it go for a few days. He owned a PTO driven generator as soon as he could get one. So there is another surviving method for your list.


I have city water and gas so I have heat and water. If I didn’t I would have a generator. they’re not that expensive considering the alternative. I also have 2 kerosene heaters plus the fuel to run them plus every LED flashlight that was ever invented. Also have a chainsaw as do many of my neighbors which is a big help in an energy disrupting storm.

Where to complain: Maine Public Utilities Commission, “We are now located at 101 Second Street in Hallowell, Maine.”

Who to write to: these three commissioners

Point out your complaints are with the terrible job public relations was doing, not with the restoration efforts. Make it a firm but reasonable letter. Commissioners talk to staff, staff talks to CMU executives, executives talk to PR people. Shit flows downhill.

I’m so upset after watching the news tonight. There are still close to 4,000 people without power :frowning: I wish there was something we could do for them, but there really isn’t any way we can get their power back on any sooner.