Thursday, May 28, 2009

Peak Oil Preparation: A Power Blackout in Winter, A Comment by R.C., The Oil Drum, May 7, 2009

"I recently experienced one of the most educational periods of my life, as well as one of the more traumatic.

About 5 months ago in the U.S., in the state of Kentucky, we experienced the worst ice storm in our history. It was almost mythic in its destruction, destroying trees, power lines and even structures in an hour after hour ice pile-up which moved over the state like a glacier descending from the sky.

I was made homeless, with the power to my home destroyed, the electric meter sheared from the wiring of the house, and the water frozen and bursted on the north side of the home. The house still sits dark and cold. I was forced to relocate to an apartment some 22 miles away. I left the house at 2AM, using a garbage bag and a flashlight to round up some emergency supplies. When I left the house was 22 degrees Fahrenheit (-9.4 Celsius) inside with water frozen in the kitchen sink and water pipes bursted under the home.

The most important lesson I learned was this: If you are not prepared before the event, you cannot prepare for it during the event. The damage of cold and ice occurs very fast. By the time I realized I could not endure in the extreme cold, saving the house from damage was hopeless. I had stayed under mountains of blankets and wearing a parka and ski sweater and jackets, going to my car every 6 hours or so in an attempt to warm up, but I could not cook food, had no heat and no light, so could not bath or even shave (except for "dry shaving" with a disposable razor, with no way to wash my face afterward) By the time I left the home I was dehydrated, hungry, grungy and cold to the point of it being dangerous.

I know one man who stayed with his wife in his home until his feet began to turn black. He almost lost the feet, and the doctor told him once he made it to the emergency room that he had almost lost his life.

The U.K., like the U.S. has an aging demographic, many with health issues such as high blood pressure, bad circulation, diabetes and heart conditions. A collapse in natural gas/electric production that destroys the ability to heat homes scares me FAR more than any gasoline shortage ever could. The great Kentucky ice storm only proved to me what I had already known, but had not prepared for.

The fact is, the U.S. and U.K. would see great suffering and causalities in an emergency involving major loss of home heating and it would occur VERY quickly, almost before the emergency contingency plans could even be put into play.

If we do not prepare now, we cannot prepare when it happens, it will simply be too late."

(This comment and others are found HERE).

Blog Comment:

Emergency planning for a power blackout is wise.

According to Railton Frith and Paul H. Gilbert (U.S. National Research Council scientist testifying before the U.S. Congress), power failures CURRENTLY could paralyze a nation for weeks or months. When a widespread power failure occurs, it is difficult to get power working again, as much equipment depends on electric power. For example, diesel and gasoline are pumped by electric motors.

In an era of multiple crises and resource constraints, power failures will last longer and then become permanent. When power failures occur in winter, millions of people in the U.S., Canada, and Europe will die of exposure. There are not enough shelters for entire populations, and shelters will lack heat, adequate food and water, and sanitation. (5) Water purification and water distribution systems will fail, leaving millions of metropolitan residents without water. (6) Waste water treatment systems will fail, resulting in untreated sewage that will contaminate the drinking water for millions of residents who consume river water downstream. (7) Transportation and communications failures will cripple federal, state and local governments — leaving and residents without emergency services, emergency shelters, police and fire protection, water supplies, and sanitation etc. (8) Mechanized farming will cease, and harvested crops won’t be transported more than a few miles. (9) Fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides won’t be produced. (10) Due to limited farm acreage near cities (much of it destroyed by suburbanization), most cities and towns will be unable to support their populations with sufficient food from local farming (Paul Chefurka). (11) Homes will lack heating and air conditioning. Even if homes are retrofitted with wood stoves, local biomass is insufficient to provide for home heating, and it will not be possible to cut, split, and move wood in sufficient quantities.

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