lessons from the storm
january 12, portland is under a winter storm warning lasting through the morning hours of the 13th. our power went out for the first time later that afternoon. we were not the only ones. at the peak, at least 165k people in the portland metro were also without power from PGE. our power was permanently restored by the following friday. here’s a short timeline of everything between and some lessons we learned.
power went out at 3pm. this is not the first time the power at our house has gone out for winter storms, it did last year as well. but last year, it was restored within 36 hours. so we were naively expecting a similar outcome this time. we went to the local dive bar a short walk from our house, they always seem to keep power. ate warm dinner and slept in bed under all the blankets.
hung out in our blanket lasagna for most of the morning. went back to the dive bar for lunch and to charge our phones. no communication from PGE yet, save the initial message confirming power was out.
in the evening, we used our fireplace for the first time since moving into the house. burnt some scrap wood as i’d never stocked up on firewood. kept the fire going until around 3 am when we ran out of scraps.
it was very cold. the thermostat read 42° F indoors. we probably would have stuck it out another night with blankets, but our cat was absolutely miserable. we knew we had to get her someplace warmer. luckily my mom lives about an hour away and had space. so we got the car packed up with some spare clothes, toiletries, kitty supplies and hit the road about noon.
on the drive over, pge sent their first message estimating power restoration around 10pm tuesday.
i turned 32 in the basement of my mom’s house. not exactly how i envisioned it but it was nice to be warm with family.
there were no additional comms from pge. i checked the outage map around 9:50pm and noticed the estimate had been updated to 10pm wednesday.
at 11:58 pm i receive a text from PGE that power has been restored. but portland is now under a new storm advisory, this time for freezing rain through at least 6am. temperatures are forecast to start warming up, though.
we clean up and prepare to return home around 1:30pm, giving the ice a chance to melt a bit. the roads were basically clear heading back, save for the shady portion of my mom’s driveway.
we get home around 3pm, power is on, faucets are flowing. there’s some minor flooding in the bathroom, presumably from faucets that were running for 10-15 hours. we get those shut off and cleaned up the remaining puddle (no visible damage yet 🤞) and start to do some laundry. the washer is not filling properly… it’s in the garage and we forgot to drain the line before leaving. great. (worked fine once power was fully restored & temps warmed up)
power goes out again at 6pm. estimated restoration time is thursday 10pm. we sleep on the couch with a mass of blankets and no fire. it’s slightly warmer because the furnace had at least been running for half a day.
wake up, still no power. the streets are relatively clear of ice and snow, at least. i head to a couple gas stations and big box stores looking for some firewood, but everywhere is cleared out. all i can find are these pre-cut swedish fire logs from lowe’s. i grab three and head home.
this was probably stupid of us but we burn all three during the day hoping that pge sticks to their estimate. each burnt for about two hours. power was restored around 7pm. some periodic flickers for about an hour afterwards but it never went out.
slept in bed with furnace going.
lost power again in the morning for about 2 minutes around 6:30-7 am. of course it came back. i worked all day friday for the first time this week. no issues with power at all during the workday. lost power again around 6pm. estimated 10pm restoration. restored about 15 minutes later, before 6:30. then we lost power again around 8pm. eta still 10pm. restored about 20 minutes later. it has stayed connected since. thank goodness.
some tips for when you have advance notice of a storm warning, etc
- stock plenty of firewood in advance. if you have a working fireplace… be prepared to use it, even if you haven’t.
- charge battery banks. we have a few, but they weren’t fully charged so didn’t last as long as they could have.
- phone on airplane mode whenever possible to preserve battery
- if temps are freezing, set faucets to drip overnight. potentially shut water off entirely.
- winterize outside hose spigots, if you haven’t already done that for the season.
- drain the water in the washing machine line. the garage gets colder than the house, obviously
- the toilet may need winterizing too. our bathroom has a skylight, so it can get quite cold without power. the bidet attachment needed replacing. ($35, a million percent worth it)
- have some kind of crampons for walking on ice. i ordered some yaktrax that can slip over your shoes or boots for easy on/off.