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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Satellite Propane Tank Monitor

During last week's 24-hour power outage, our Kohler generator took care of matters but I noticed that our 1,000-gallon underground propane tank was at the 30% level.  Not too bad, but it might get dicey in a real extended outage or if the road was blocked -- as it was -- by a white birch slaughtered power line that was firing white lightning from a half-dozen cuts in the wire. 

First Fuel & Propane, had developed a delivery schedule based on our customary propane usage.  I called them and asked for more frequent deliveries in order to keep the level above 50% as a hedge against extended power outages.  Instead, they told me they would install a satellite wireless remote tank monitor in my tank at no charge.  Yesterday, in the middle of the snow storm, they did exactly that.  I'd been happy with this company for the past two years and this new capability has further impressed me with their excellent service.

Austin and David
Wesrock Satellite Transmitter atop Underground Tank

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bird Show

I once went to a bird show at Busch Gardens in Florida.  We watched Tweety and Woody jump through hoops.  Well, as tends to happen in Florida, a downpour hit out of nowhere prompting a youngster to wail out "I KNEW we shouldn't have come to this bird show!!"  It added a new phrase to my vocabularly and it usually comes to mind around this time of the year as Linda puts up her bird ornament Christmas Tree.  That's right... all bird ornaments... all the time.  And the annual unveiling of the "Bird of the Year," which gets more air play than Time Magazine's "Person of the Year."

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Winds of 2012

As I type this, the highest wind gust so far today was 17 mph at 6:03 a.m.  That's a strong wind, given my wind anemometer is only 5 feet above ground.  I decided it was about time I researched an adjustment factor to convert the wind speed reported by my anemometer at 5 feet above ground to the approximate average 60 foot height of the hemlocks surrounding the weather station.  Best as I can determine, converting calculus formulas to a simple "rule-of-thumb," the factor I arrived at is 1.33.  So the 17 mph gust at 6:03 a.m. this morning converts to about 23 mph.  A comparison with the wind data provided by the two closest professional grade weather stations -- downtown Berlin and West Grafton -- seems to validate this factor.

Take a look at the Plateau weather charts from yesterday,  the wind gusts really ramped up through the evening.  You can access these graphs at any time, using the pull-down menus for the day of interest by clicking here.

KNYGRAFT2 Weather Graph
Further Reading
Adjusting Wind Speeds (Aerostar Wind Turbines)
Wind Gradient (Wikipedia)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Fairpoint Communications to the Rescue!

Fairpoint Communications Support

Friday, Dec. 21, approximately 9 a.m.: Forty foot white birch crushes utility and phone lines in 30+mph wind gusts.  Sparks aflying, white flames aflaming.  Initial report made to National Grid.
Friday, Dec. 21, approximately 4 p.m.: Plea to National Grid.  "This is no joke -- Utility Line Massacre.  Request reinforcments."
Saturday, Dec. 22, approximately 1 p.m.: National Grid calvary arrives. Repairs line. "That other line ain't ours -- phone company's." "Do you notify them?" "No."
Saturday, Dec. 22, approximately 1:30 p.m.: Call to Fairpoint Communications Support. "How Can We Help?"  -- "By sending in the Navy Seala to rescue your line, about 200 feet of which is on the ground awaiting snow plow blades and about 1/8 mile of which is, shall we say, "hanging low" over the road."  "We're on it. Dispatch made."
Wednesday, Dec. 26, approximately 11 a.m.: Fairpoint repair truck rounds the bend and gets to work.
Wednesday, Dec. 26, noon:  Everything is going to be allllllll righhht!!!  Another chapter in the December 21, 2012 Utility Line Massacre comes to a close.  Life is good.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Thank You National Grid!

I thanked this National Grid crew just before I snapped this photo of them leaving the scene of the December 21, 2012 "Power Line Massacre."  Good guys.  And, given the number of trees down in the area, one day to restore power isn't too bad.  But I must say, or risk my official cranky old fartdom membership, that the power to those lines should still have been turned off sooner due to the risk of fire. 

Of course, nothing is simple.  There's still a thick line down... pushed off the main road, but crossing the driveways of several folks.  The crew told me it's phone company lines (not our job... ).  So I just got off the phone explaining to the Fairpoint Communications customer service representation "Yes. yes... I still have phone and DSL service, but your line is down waiting for the snow plows to come and rip through it. No, it's not the line leading to my house, like I said it's the MAIN line that is strung between poles and connected to a coupler...."  I think I got through.  We'll see.  If not, you won't be seeing a post tomorrow since this blog is powered by Fairpoint DSL Internet service.  And, yes, this blog may appear to have had its layout altered -- somehow, in this fracas, I must have done something to it, but haven't yet figured out what.

Site of the December 21, 2012 "Power Line Massacre"
(NYS Historical Marker pending)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Waiting for National Grid

National Grid Power Line "Aflare"

Power Line Slaughtered - Taconic Lake Way (west)
The tree came down around 9 a.m. this morning, bringing with it about 1/4 mile of power line.  National Grid was immediately notified that sparks were flying -- not just power out.  A safety issue.  Another call to National Grid around 4 p.m., notifying that 4 or 5 white flares were emanating from the wires on the ground.  Surrounded by brush.  Homes in vicinity. At least turn off this portion of the network so a fire doesn't start and fix ASAP.  I was told the dispatch would be made immediately.

I now know how the folks in Queens (NYC) felt during their Tropical Storm Sandy fires and dealings with the Long Island Power Authority.  It's 6pm as I type this.  The power is still out, but I hope National Grid has at least addressed the sparks/flare issue.  I can't tell because I'm inside 1/4-mile away from the "root cause."


The Wind Storm of December 21, 2012

KNYGRAFT2 Weather Graph
These charts are from my weather station.  Note in the chart above, wind gusts have hit the 20+mph range -- and the wind anemometer is about 5 feet above our raised bed septic system -- way below the tops of the surrounding trees.  I think the wind at the tree canopy levels cound approach double this.  So trees are down again.  One was down right outside my office window in RPI's Folsom Library.  Many down on Hoosick Street in Troy.  At least two of my co-workers lost their roof shingles.  One, who lives in the Town of Brunswick, lost all her evergreens. 
Here at the lake, a good size tree came down on the west side of Taconic Lake Way and took the power with it.  An upcoming post on that.  Closer to home, we lost the following smaller tree that was near our raised bed septic system.  Every lost tree is painful.
The good news (at least for us):
1.  I could drive to our house via a route which normally isn't snow plowed because we haven't had significant snow accumulation (yet).
2. The Kohler generator, installed in September, is powering this posting:
But, the propane supply clock is ticking....

Thursday, December 20, 2012

NY-Alert Wind Advisory

NY-Alert (Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES))- Andrew M. Cuomo (Governor)

I subscribe to the NY-Alert service in my blog reader.  Usually, pretty boring stuff.  This one just caught my eye...

Headline: Wind Advisory issued December 20 at 12:05PM EST until December 21 at 1:00PM EST by NWS Albany
Activation Time: 12/20/12 12:05 PM
Expiration Time: 12/20/12 8:15 PM
Issued By: NWS Albany (Eastern New York and Western New England)
Affected Jurisdictions: Albany County (All)
Columbia County (All)
Dutchess County (All)
Fulton County (All)
Hamilton County (All)
Herkimer County (All)
Rensselaer County (All)
Schenectady County (All)
Warren County (All)
Washington County (All)
Description: ...Wind Advisory In Effect From Midnight Tonight To 1 PM EST Friday... The National Weather Service In Albany Has Issued A Wind Advisory...Which Is In Effect From Midnight Tonight To 1 PM EST Friday. * Locations...Western And Southern Adirondacks...Western Mohawk Valley...Helderbergs...Lake George Region...Taconics...And Northern Litchfield Hills. * Hazards...Strong Winds. * Winds...Southeast 20 To 30 Mph With Gusts Up To 50 Mph. * Timing...Wind Speeds Will Increase This Evening...Becoming Strong Overnight Through Friday Morning. * Impacts...Strong Wind Gusts May Bring Down Some Trees Or Tree Limbs...Which Could Result In Scattered Power Outages. Also Loose Objects May Be Propelled.
Instructions: A Wind Advisory Means That Winds Of 31 To 39 Mph Are Expected Or Wind Gusts Of 46 To 57 Mph Are Expected. Winds This Strong Can Make Driving Difficult...Especially For High Profile Vehicles. Use Extra Caution.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Poor Man's Generator

Empire SR Radiant Heater

Vent-free gas-fired radiant heaters.  "Poor Man's Generator."  That's what Dale Wager of Flame-Pro, Inc. in Averill Park calls them.  At a fraction of the cost of a full-house generator, one of these installed in your basement or enclosed crawl space can "hold the fort" in the event of a black-out or boiler failure, preventing pipes (and you) from freezing.  They run on LP or natural gas with no A/C power connection.

We recently installed a full-house Kohler generator, but our boiler is, shall we say, finicky... or too high-tech for its own good.  In any event, I was looking for boiler insurance.  Dale maintains our propane fireplace and he mentioned them to me.  Just what the doctor ordered!  Now installed, it keeps our basement at a proper heat level, and can be cranked up in the event of a boiler failure -- or generator + boiler failure.  Call me paranoid, but we had a frozen pipe "incident" two years ago when the temperature went down to -26 degrees.  Not fun.  Not pretty.  The damage: $1,000!  Plus, trying to find an experienced HVAC technician to respond out our way. I've decided that a full-house generator, and now an unvented gas-fired heater, is part the cost of living in paradise on the Rensselaer Plateau.

Additional Information