Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The lights go out

Last night, the power went out in North Shore City, where we live, knocking out power to around 30,000 homes, according to the New Zealand Herald. Apparently a circuit blew up (literally) at a substation that serves this entire area.

In the eleven and a half years I’ve been here, it’s only the second major outage I can recall (the previous one was at the same substation, maybe 8 to 10 years ago). There have been others affecting smaller areas, usually because someone crashed into a power pole, or because a transformer failed, but a blackout on this scale is very unusual.

We knew where our torches (“flashlights” in Americanese) and candles were, so we had light pretty quickly. However, without power we had no heat (nothing to drive the fan in the central heater). Fortunately, the power was only off about an hour, maybe less.

It was reminder of how dependent we are on electricity, which powers pretty much everything in the house. My computer is on a UPS battery backup, which provides just enough time to shut down before it, too, has no power left. That wasn’t enough time, however, to finish editing or posting yesterday’s podcast, meaning that this local power cut had an affect beyond its limited geographic area.

Most interesting to me was the number of people who commented on how brilliant the stars looked without the lights. So I went out and looked, and they were brilliant, but nothing particularly unusual—the stars are often brilliant where we live. So, I’m wondering if maybe these people just don’t normally look at the stars. If so, the power cut accomplished at least one positive thing.


lost in france said...

Hmmm. Lots of interesting things can happen when the power goes off and the lights go out!

Arthur Schenck said...

well, it is winter here and one does have to stay warm. Apparently, there are creative ways to do that when the power goes out.

Anonymous said...

I grew up out in the country in Northern Minnesota and loved going at night and looking up at the sky.

Whenever I get back home these days, it just blows me away how bright the stars are. I have lived in large cities since I have left home and rarely look up at the sky.

I know all the major northern hemisphere constellations. I think the strangest thing for me when I make it to the southern hemisphere will be not knowing most of the stars.

Arthur Schenck said...

When I was a kid, we used to go camping in Wisconsin, and I always noticed the stars there, too. I don't remember every seeing stars when I lived in Chicago--North Star, maybe. The stars here are more brilliant in the country, too, but they're pretty bright in Auckland, too, at least as compared to Chicago.

As for the Southern Hemisphere sky, there is one thing: We can see the Southern Cross, which isn't visible in the North.