Thursday August 14, 2003

Its approximately 4:10pm and I'm sitting at the PC typing some emails after just getting home from running some errands. I notice that the room got darker and then about a second later got very bright. At first I though a cloud passed in front of the sun, but it was a clear day. Then it happened again, but I noticed that it was actually the light bulb and not outside at all.

I figured the power might go out, so I log on to my ISP to send my email, just in case. Too late... Just as I connect the power goes out and the UPS starts beeping. I shut down the PC and then go find out what has happened...

4:15pm I get out the binoculars to check out the traffic lights in the neighbourhood (I'm on the 24th floor) and see that there are no lights as far as my 10x50 Bushnell's can see. Not good!!
4:20pm I try to reach my sister to see if the power is out in Scarborough in the east end. I can't reach her so...
4:25pm I start searching for my Walkman and some AA batteries so I can get some news from a radio station in hopes of finding out how much of Toronto been affected and how long the power may be out.
4:30pm I finally find the Walkman and some batteries. I start scanning for some radio stations for news and the first one I find is AM640 Mojo Radio only to hear "...if you're just tuning in, New York City, Brooklyn, Cleveland, Detroit, etc., etc.  are also blacked out along with most of southern Ontario from Windsor to Ottawa and Sudbury." All I think is "Holy crap, this isn't good at all!!!" 
4:40pm After listening to the news in disbelief for several minutes, its time to take stock of the situation.
  • First thought, "I really wish I did some laundry last night!!"
  • Water: just about zilch. I have 1/2 a bottle of Powerade and my Brita water jug only has a glass full left and I have about 1.5L of milk. Since I'm on the 24th floor, no running water. However, I can get some in the laundry room in the basement. A tough climb back up the 24 flights of stairs with a heavy bucket of water though.
  • Food: Good news and bad news. Good news, I was due for a grocery run, so not much in the fridge to go bad. The bad news, not much non-perishable food to eat!
  • Batteries: not sure how much juice left in the AAs, so I make two battery packs using a  D batteries that I can wire into the Walkman's battery terminals if the AAs die.
5:00pm Time to eat and drink some of the perishable foods, save some for later in the evening and leave the non-perishables for tomorrow in case the power is still off.  
5:15pm to
8:30pm
Spend most of the time sitting on the balcony watching traffic and listening to the news on the Walkman. Looks like it could be a while before I have power and water again. The city is saying that we have a 24hr supply of water in the reservoirs and water towers and that it can last for as long as 48hrs if those with water use it sparingly.
8:30pm Dusted off the oil lamp and set it on the dinning room table. Nice to have to light up the apartment rather than using my flashlight.
8:40pm to
10:00pm
My parents called from Halifax to see how I was coping with the situation. They filled me in on what was happening in the different cities.
10:00pm The apartment is starting to get uncomfortable, so out on to the balcony to stargaze. Most stars are normally obscured by light pollution.

The city kind of looked like this from my balcony. Very eerie.

I was surprised at how many buildings have back up generators and even some of the office towers downtown had quite a few windows lit. Luckily there was a full moon a few days ago, so there was lots of moonlight and the city wasn't pitch black as it would have been if a new moon.

11:30pm Well, time to call it a day and hopefully the power will be back when I wake up.

Friday August 15, 2003

8:30am Had a pretty good night's sleep even though it was quite warm inside.
8:35am Still no power. I turned on the Walkman for the latest and all they can say is that 50% of the power has been restored and hopefully 75% by this evening. I take a quick look around with the binoculars and see some areas about 1km to the south has power. That looks promising. Then I hear the weather, sunny 31c with a 39-40C humidex. Oh, just lovely!!

The Toronto Transit Commission won't be running the subways until the power is 100% returned. They don't want to risk trains getting stranded in the tunnels again. With limited TTC service, they decide to postpone the opening the 125th Canadian National Exhibition until Monday. 

8:40am I grab something to eat and drink and think about what to do next since food and water are limited. Two more meals is about it. I decide to wait and see what happens over the next few hours. If the power stays on to the south of me, I'll head out for some food and water. Since its so hot and humid and I have to come up 24 floors, I don't want to leave unless I know I can find something. Walking and sweating for 3 or 4km is not a good idea if I can't get water. 
1:00pm Still no power, but there is still power to the south. I see people are lined up down the block at The Beer Store (nice to see everyone keeping their priorities straight :-) ), I figure its safe to venture out for some food and water. After about a 40min walk, I go into a bustling Food Basics store for some water, Gatorade and start looking for non-perishable foods. Not much to choose from with no working fridge at home so it looks like peanut butter and jam sandwiches and smoked kippers for the next little while. I don't buy too much as I have to hoof it up 24 flights of stairs when I get home. 
3:00pm I get back with the food and water. The stair climb in the hot and humid stair well was not fun! I just took it slow and rested every four floors.
3:15pm I enjoyed a peanut butter and raspberry jam sandwich and some Gatorade.
4:45pm While listening to the news on the Walkman, I notice a strange humming noise. Its the fridge! Hurray!!! After 24hrs and 30mins, the power has finally come back on. They are warning of rolling blackouts so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
5:15pm Hurray!!! I have running water again. I start filling up containers with more drinking water just in case. And I fill some big buckets so I can flush the toilet if we're hit by rolling blackouts. I boil some water so I can take a sponge bath. I feel a little better.
5:45pm Hurray!!! Now there is hot water. I take a very quick shower and feel completely revitalized. I needed that, especially after the trek for food and water.
6:00pm I turn the TV on to see if I can find out more about the current state of affairs. There are still areas without power and are warning of possible rolling blackouts. They're still asking everyone to conserve power and water since we're not in the clear yet as we wait for the nuclear power plants to come online again (45% of Ontario's power in generated at nuclear plants.).
Midnight Just relaxed for the evening and did some planning for a motorcycle modelling project . TV only draws 97 watts, so I watched a couple programs before calling it a day.

Saturday August 16, 2003

9:00am Hurray!!! I still have power and water. Take another refreshing shower after another hot and humid night.
9:30am Another hot and humid day in store. I watched a thunderstorm roll through and there was lightning strikes all around me. Thankfully, it didn't cause any power troubles.
10:00am Talked to my sister and the blackout didn't keep her from picking up her 2001 BMW Z3 last night. The power came on in time for her to work things out with the bank and travel to Kitchener/Waterloo.
Noon Log on for the first time in 44hrs to discovery 117 emails in my Inbox, 114 are spam.
2:30pm Uploaded this Blackout 2003 diary.
3:00pm Time to to power down the PC and go look for some better food and hope the rolling blackouts can be avoided. They say everything should be back for normal on Monday, but that it will be the "Big test". 
4:30pm
Went over to the mall and everything was up and running except the grocery store. There are just bars, no solid glass doors, separating the store from the rest of the mall and you can smell things starting to go bad. Hopefully they get the perishables tossed out before the whole mall reeks of rotten meat, veggies and dairy products. So, just canned food again tonight.
9:00pm
Took a look across the city and there is one section without power. Looks like there will indeed be rolling blackouts. If I lose power, I hope its while I'm sleeping. They say it will be a few more days before everything is back to normal.
Midnight
After a day of conserving power, I treated myself to some online time to catch up on some more news since the TV stations are a virtual news void on the weekends. It looks like rolling blackouts have been avoided thanks for citizens heeding the conservation announcements. I guess the area along the lake shore has been without power since Thursday. There definitely weren't any lights shining last night around 11:00pm.

Some businesses seemed determined to keep their billboards and other frivolous items lit and the city officials were none to pleased to see that when trying to get power into households that are still powerless.

Well time to eliminate all my power consumption, except the fridge, and call it a day.

Sunday August 17, 2003

10:00am Clock radio still had the correct time, so no power outage through the night.

It was a nice and cool night and with the windows open there was no need to even think about using the ceiling fan and I had a good night's sleep.

We're still being asked to conserve power and water. We're been advised that Monday morning will be the "Big test" of the system when everyone goes back to work. Businesses are being encouraged to limit their consumption to 50% of their normal levels, tell some to stay home, or use shift work to spread the load through the day.

Another issue is gasoline supply. Some service station tanks are now bone dry with no gasoline deliveries in sight since the five nearby oil/gasoline refineries are still not operating. Still, to look out the window you'd never know, the traffic volume seems about normal.

8:30pm Finally got to do some laundry. I waited until after 8:00pm so I wouldn't be using the washing machines during the peak load hours. 
9:30pm Spend some time online before calling it a day.

Monday August 18, 2003 thru Wednesday August 20, 2003

We're continually being told to do our best to converse power. I've been doing my best to leave everything needing power until after 8:00pm, when demand drops after the work day ends.

Thursday is supposed to be a scorcher, sunny 33C with humidex in the low 40s. Not only that, but a Smog Alert as well. Hopefully people who don't really need their air conditioner running will have the will power to leave it turned off. Thankfully there will be a breeze to help it make it more bearable. If we make it to Friday evening without rolling blackouts, we should have all the nuclear plants back online and be in the clear.

Lessons Learned

NOTE: Yesterday I learned that province, city and municipal emergency plans assume that citizens have enough food, water, batteries, etc. to fend for themselves for 72hrs. Well, I certainly couldn't. Water was definitely in short supply for me. So...

  • Keep at least 2 or 4L of water around. A bottle of Gatorade or Powerade is good to have since it will replenish minerals needed by your body.
  • Keep enough non-perishable for a few days of meals.
  • Buy a radio that takes C or D batteries so I don't have to walk around with earphones to listen to the radio
  • Don't leave laundry to the last possible moment. You never know what might happen and its nice to know you at least have clean unmentionables!!
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY, continue to conserve power even after things are 'back to nromal'. The last thing we need is for Canada and the U.S. to rush to build more fossil fuel fired generators as a 'fix' for the problem. The truth is we're energy hogs and can do a lot to reduce our wasteful use of electricity. I myself am guilty of leaving the PC running 24-7 up until about two months ago when I suspected my hard drive might crash. I swapped out the HD and now I shut down when I'm finished with the PC. 

    For info on how to reduce your energy use, check the links on the Pollution Probe website.

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Last revised on: October 8, 2003
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