power outages

The Blizzard Blackout

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Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Dave Deegan

We’re all becoming accustomed to seeing the latest news images of a natural disaster touching the lives of our friends and family across the country. Then, one day, it’s your own community and family.

I live in one of the towns south of Boston hammered in last week’s blizzard that dumped feet of snow across a large swath of the Northeast. Hundreds of thousands of families in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts went into a blackout in the middle of February. No lights, no TV, and in many cases, no heat or warm food.

The first morning we awoke without power or heat, our home was already down to about 55 degrees. The second morning, it was 41 degrees and I couldn’t get my mind off the thought that, if it got 10 degrees colder, our pipes would freeze.

Even the cat seemed freaked out by our circumstances.

I work at EPA, and yes, I care deeply about the environmental impacts of my lifestyle. During our power depravation, I kept considering how much we rely on electricity so we can lead comfortable, healthy lives. And that generating electricity has impacts on clean air, clean water and greenhouse gases. But I wanted my heat and lights back on.

We were fairly well prepared, though not completely or as well as we should have been. The car had a full tank. We had flashlights and batteries, plus plenty of bottled water. We had food that wouldn’t go bad, if we needed it in a pinch. Like good New Englanders, we were dressed in many layers. A battery-powered radio was handy, so we could get local news (and have something to listen to once it was dark, but too early to fall asleep for the night). Cell phones were charged, but turned off except for occasional checks of the news.

Access to social media was a plus: following Twitter updates from state and local emergency responders, and the power company working around the clock to get power restored, helped us feel less isolated in our chilly abode.

In the midst of the continuing storm during the second day, my wife said to me, “A blizzard is much more fun when you can watch a movie and make popcorn.” Yes it is.

There are many good resources to keep in mind, especially seeking ways to be better prepared:

Ready

Connecticut
Maine
Massachusetts
New Hampshire
Rhode Island
Vermont

About the author: Dave Deegan works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. When he’s not at work, he loves being outdoors in one of New England’s many special places.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Getting Off To A Good Start

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By Lina Younes

As many of us are still in the spirit of getting off to a good start in the New Year, I believe it is timely to discuss emergency planning at home so that we can be ready for whatever nature might send our way this year.

As we have often stated during the hurricane season and now during the winter months, it’s important to prepare today in order to be safer tomorrow.  I’m sure that many of you have witnessed how there seems to be panic shopping at local supermarkets and hardware stores whenever there are reports of snow storms or hurricanes. So why not stock up on the basic necessities that you will need in the event of an emergency? How can you get ready?

  • Stock up on batteries and flashlights when they are on sale.
  • Have a battery powered radio at hand.
  • Have bottled water at hand in case of an emergency.
  • Stock up on canned goods or non-perishable food.
  • If you have infants and young children, stock up on baby formula, diapers, baby wipes, etc.
  • Don’t forget your pets.  Identify where you can shelter your pets in the event that you may have to evacuate.
  • Have a list of your prescriptions and emergency papers on hand in a safe place in the event that you may need to evacuate.
  • When developing your family plan, make sure you also develop a contingency plan for your elderly relatives or those with limited mobility in the event of an emergency.
  • Something that I learned last summer all to well, fill your tank with gas and have some cash on hand before a major storm because it may be difficult to get these services after a storm or black out.
  • Get the emergency numbers for your local utilities and basic services.
  • Sign up to receive instant messages with updated news and emergency information.
  • In the event of a power outage, NEVER USE A GENERATOR INSIDE. Protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning from generator exhaust.

Remember, basic planning will keep you and your loved ones safe. Do you have any tips that you would like to share with us?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Be Ready For The Unexpected

By Lina Younes

This past Friday night I don’t think anybody truly anticipated the intensity of the storm that hit the Washington metropolitan area. The devastation caused by the strong winds still has many utilities working around the clock trying to restore power to many residents in the area.

While we had enough flashlights and batteries, basic necessities, battery powered radios and a generator on standby to weather the storm; there were two things that were lacking. We hadn’t had the foresight to fill up the car with gas and we didn’t have cash on hand! We hadn’t foreseen the impact of the power outage would have on gas stations and banks in our immediate area.

Last Saturday, we were literally running on fumes when we finally found a working gas station with gasoline for sale. With gas in the tank, then we were able to drive further to find a bank with power.

So, what did we learn from this experience? Basically, to prepare for the unexpected!

And some additional tips?

How was your experience during the storm? We would love to hear from you!

About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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My Heating Experience during the Snowstorm

By Denise Owens

After last year’s snowstorms, I decided to purchase a heater for my home in case the power goes out again. The fireplace helped, but it just wasn’t warm enough. I needed more.

After visiting several stores, I realized that there were a variety of heaters to choose from. I saw several energy efficient heaters, but they all required electricity; therefore I decided to purchase a fuel heater.

That required me to also purchase fuel, so I was thinking to myself, do I really want to do all of this? But then I realized that my electricity seems to go out for every weather condition.

Once I purchased the heater, I decided to try it before the next snowstorm actually arrived. The heater felt great and it kept my house extremely warm. But when I turned it off, I then noticed there was some smoke. As soon as I noticed the smoke I began to think to myself, what are the side effects from this heater?

After the power was restored I decided to do the research I should have done prior to purchasing the fuel heater. I then realized that it is not the best thing to use, but what do you do for a heat source when your power goes out for days?

Check out DOE Energy Savers and EPA’s Burnwise Program information.

About the author: Denise Owens has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency for over 25 years.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Finally Had To Buy That Generator

By Lina Younes

During the recent storms, my home was one of the thousands in the Washington, DC metro area that remained without power for several days. For some reason, my home seems to be located in an area that is prone to power outages, whether in the winter or the summer. There have been many occasions in which several streets near my home have endured a blackout while other houses a few streets down in the same neighborhood stay with power at all times. How does that happen? I simply don’t know.

For years, I had resisted purchasing a generator.  My main concern was for environmental reasons. Basically, I didn’t want a gas-based appliance emitting carbon monoxide and other gases close to my house. However, when we called the utility company during this last storm and they informed us that we were probably going to be without electricity for several days, we had no choice. We finally had to purchase one. So, I made sure that the generator was outside, far away from the house to minimize exposure to carbon monoxide.

I must confess that the experience during the recent power outage was not all negative. On the contrary, the first evening of the snowstorm when the power went out, we gather together around the warm chimney, got some flashlights, and started playing card games. It was great family time. When it was time to go to bed, we just snuggled in our beds with some extra blankets. By the second day, in spite of the Energy Star windows, the temperature inside started to drop beyond comfort. In light of the situation, we decided it was time to buy the generator.

After observing the necessary safety measures, at least we know that if we’re left without power again, we’ll be prepared. How was your experience during the recent snow storms? Send us your comments.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as Acting Associate Director for Environmental Education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.