They made it as far as Altoona IA Sat. night. Four more crews were meeting them there from other parts of SD. There are 10 vehicles traveling together in a convoy – line trucks, cranes, bucket trucks, a bobcat (that’s on a trailer – I’d hate to drive a Bobcat that far!!) and I’m not sure what else – those were the ones I could make out in the photos that Rudy sent me Sun. morning just before they hit the road again:

They spent Sun. night in Reynoldsburg OH. I think they drove about 650 miles. Here they are fueling up again this morning in Reynoldsburg:

Plans seem to change minute by minute. I can’t imagine the amount of coordination it takes to get all the people and equipment and supplies in the right places at the right time. Today they are heading to Harrisburg PA, which is apparently a staging area until they are needed in NJ. They’re not sure if they will spend some time there, or continue on to NJ tonight. There is talk that they may be housed in a racetrack or soccer stadium that has 4000 beds set up – a ‘man camp’ Rudy calls it. Time will tell……


Why Doesn’t Someone Just Flip the Switch Already???

Have you ever thought about where your electricity comes from? It’s so easy to walk into a room, flip a switch, and expect there to be light, or turn on your sewing machine and step on the pedal for those stitches to magically come flying out from under the presser foot. How many other wonderous things do we take for granted every day???

While I am far from an expert, or even particularly knowledgeable, on our electricity system, I have picked up a few things after being married to a lineman for 18 years. And after reading so many post-Sandy posts on Facebook and Twitter about “why does the block next to me have power and I don’t?”, I thought maybe this layman (lay-woman??) could help explain.

First the electricity needs to be ‘made’ somewhere. I really don’t know how all that works, except that it is the ‘generation‘ stage of the process, and usually involves a coal-fired plant, nuclear plant, or hydroelectric (dam). Oh, and wind power, one of the newer ways.

Now you have to transfer that electricity through power lines. Often it has to travel many miles before it gets to it’s final destination (i.e. your house.) Because it can lose energy as it travels, the electricity first goes through a transformer to make it powerful enough to travel those long distances, and then travels through high-voltage transmission lines. These are usually the large metal structures you see in between towns, not the wooden poles usually found near homes. (DH works in electric transmission, so he works on these high voltage lines.)

High-voltage transmission lines

Once it gets closer to your town, the voltage has to be lowered to be useable in your house. This occurs at a substation, which has tranformers and circuit breakers and switches and many other parts.

Now the power coming out of the substation travels on distribution lines, many of which may leave one substation to travel to different customers. And eventually it ends up entering your home.

File:Electricity grid simple- North America.svg

Electricity Grid.
Click on the illustration to go to a Wikipedia page that explains in more detail.

So as you can see, there are many parts that are all interconnected. When my mom & brother were out of power, he kept complaining to me that there was only one power pole down in their neighborhood, so why didn’t they just fix that and get his power back on? Or people were complaining on Twitter that they weren’t seeing any utility workers in their neighborhood, so apparently no one was really working on fixing the power issues.

Perhaps the explanation above will help some to understand that until the generating station, transmission lines and substations are all up and running, fixing that one line outside your house isn’t going to help. And since there are different lines coming from a substation, it is possible for one block to be on and the next to be dark if there is a problem on one distribution line and not the others. There isn’t just one big switch somewhere that they flip and it magically turns on all of the power to everyone all at once.

There are also different type of linemen. Some work on transmission lines, some work on distribution lines, some work on the substations and transformers. And the line work has to be carefully choreographed. You don’t want someone switching on the power to a substation if the substation workers are not yet finished with their repairs. So when you see utility workers sitting in their vehicles, they may be waiting until they get the ‘all clear’ to proceed with the next part of their work. Or waiting for a different piece of equipment or necessary part to be delivered.

Thank you to the many people who have offered words of support to my DH as he embarks upon his journey. I know he and his co-workers want to restore power as quickly as possible to everyone affected, but they also want to come safely home to their families. So next time you turn on that light switch, be thankful that there are people out there who know how to make all this electrical hocus-pocus work. Hug a utility worker today!!!!

And Now for Something Completely Different….

So I’ve been absent from the Blogosphere for a LONG time. I’ve sold out most of my retail goods, have gotten caught up on the quilting, and am feeling much more relaxed and happy – yea me!!

And then came Superstorm Sandy. While I no longer live on the East Coast, I grew up on Long Island and still have friends and family in both NY & NJ. I spent the first week glued to the TV and reports on the Internet. All of the family I checked with fortunately had no flooding or damage, but were without electricity for varying amounts of time. My 90 year old mother went 3 days without, but fortunately was then restored. A cousin and several friends are still in the dark 5 days after the storm.

The total destruction done to some of the areas is unimaginable to me. My brother works in facilities management in Manhattan, and said of all the blizzards, 9/11, and other disasters that he has been through, this is the worst. If I didn’t have my shop and two dogs to consider, I think I would head out there and volunteer at one of the shelters.

My DH is a lineman for the power company in SD. Thursday he told me that they requested manpower to go out and help. It might mean he would be gone for 2 – 4 weeks. He had vacation planned – every fall for 20+ years he has gone deer hunting with friends in the Black Hills. But he was willing to go if it was okay with me. I told him the decision was his, but I was behind him if he wanted to go. So he started unpacking the hunting gear (he was scheduled to leave Fri. morning) and started packing the work suitcases.

The first report was that he and a co-worker would be leaving Monday and driving to Ellsworth Airforce Base where they would fly them and their equipment out in a military cargo plane. Cool! I’d like to do that too!! After several changes in plans, we were told they were going to Hoboken, NJ, driving a crane and a line truck. And leaving Sat. afternoon! All the things he was going to spend the weekend doing had to get done Friday night! Bills paid, laundry done, suitcases packed, and wait…….we don’t know if there is a place for them to sleep or eat. Hoboken was seriously flooded, and many stores and business are not open. So, time to pack a sleeping bag, pillow, wet wipes in case there are no showers, non-perishable food to keep his energy up during the 16 hour work days, bottled water, and, just in case, toilet paper! You never know what you might need when you’re a lineman on a storm job!!

So here is the rig he will be driving 1500 miles from the prairies of SD to the metropolitan New York/New Jersey area:


I’m glad I don’t have to drive that thing!

Time to go for tonight, but I plan to post more about his trip, as he will try to send me photos of his journey

%d bloggers like this: