Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview

Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview
Overview of Fayetteville, AR

Friday, February 06, 2009

What I Learned About Generators During the Recent Ice Storm

Well, we're mostly back to normal after the severe ice storm last week in NW Arkansas. The electricity at my home went out on Tuesday; we finally got energy again on Sunday.

As I write it’s 10 days after the storm and according to news reports, power has been restored to all but about 20,000 homes – mostly in remote areas. Sometimes just getting to those homes requires chainsaws, bulldozers, and manpower to cut a path through the downed trees and power lines.

I really don’t know the number of homes and businesses that were in the dark at the worst of the outage. Suffice it to say more than 100,000 in NW Arkansas alone with hundreds of thousands of others throughout southern Missouri and into western Kentucky.

It was cold, dark, uncomfortable, and a test of patience and resourcefulness.

People with wood stoves and gas-log fireplaces faired pretty well in keeping warm. Outdoor grills and camping stoves provided a means of cooking. Kerosene lanterns, flashlights, and candles were put to good use.

I heard Wal-Mart and other stores were totally out of D-batteries, kerosene, and good old-fashioned telephones that don't need electricity to function. Someone I know couldn’t find a chainsaw for purchase anywhere.

The really lucky people had a portable, gasoline-powered generator to provide electricity for essentials such central heat (electric blower on a gas furnace), refrigerators, lights, and a reasonable quality of life.

I didn’t know anything about generators but I learned a lot in a hurry. In case you’re “in the dark” (pardon the pun), I’ll pass along what I learned.

*Generators are relatively inexpensive and easy to operate. A medium-sized generator (rated between 3000-6000 watts) is sufficient for an average home. It can operate the electric blower on a gas furnace, keep refrigerator(s) cold and lights on. If necessary, it can also power the pump on a water well.

*An electric clothes dryer and a microwave oven might even be possible as long as everything isn’t running at the same time. For instance, once the house is warm, shut that off and switch on the refrigerator.

*If you don’t want to run extension cords all over the house, consider buying a transfer switch. You’ll need an electrician to install that but it really simplifies the process. Then all you need to do is flip switches.

*There’s a ton of information on the Internet – everything from how to figure power surge versus operating wattage to prices and availability. Just Google “portable generators” and start reading.

*Generators must never be run indoors. They must be operated in fresh, outdoor air. (I think we all know that but a safety reminder never hurts.)

Now that the worst is past, I just want to say how impressed I was with the way people banded together to help each other. People with electricity invited family and friends to stay with them. Strangers helped strangers clear roads. The outpouring of mutual support was phenomenal.

It was an adventure that affected everyone, so that now that it's over, the main greeting question is: How long were you without electricity?

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