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Power and connectivity outages

 
wanderer
(@wanderer)
Trusted Member

I've just read on some other discussion board that STX was without power for 5 months after a major hurricane. Is that right? I mean, I understand the "island time" and all that, but 5 months to restore power? I am researching the relocation to STX, so I'd like to understand how I would be impacted, if my work (from home) requires a reliable feed of electricity and internet connectivity. Outside of the major destructive events (like hurricanes), how frequent are the power and connectivity outages? Once a month? Once a week? Daily? Thanks.

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Topic starter Posted : February 22, 2014 4:45 am
Exit Zero
(@exit-zero)
Trusted Member Registered

To rebuild the entire power infrastructure after a storm like Hugo 1989 or Marilynn 1995 does take many weeks and months - pole by pole replaced - after they are shipped here - many miles of cable restrung again after it is shipped here - new transformers installed along the lines - Thanks to many crews from all over the States and Territories that come to help our local crew and then a house by house inspection of the residential power head to ensure safety when the power is activated street by street - it is a massive rebuilding project.

Daily, weekly and occasional outages are common and of unknown duration - many of us have generators now - any electonic clock that resets to a flashing 12:00 is usually just taped over - powerful and costly surge protectors are the norm on any major appliance - no one would consider a flashlight by the bed superfluous - everyone has an alternate plan to draw water from their cistern [ or should] - the islands of STT and STJ experienced an island wide outage for over 30 minutes during the Super Bowl - if you can't fathom an outage -- a whole house, automatic, many Kilowatt generator is a must have - whether the internet will work 24/7/365 is doubtful but improving - a satellite feed would probably work in conjunction with a generator though if you really need it that bad.
Power outages are a great time to take a break from the hustle bustle of work or a busy life ---- head to the beach for a swim, have a glass of wine on the deck, enjoy the dark sky and all the stars, play some unplugged instruments, sing a capella, do some gardening, write a real letter, take a nap with a loved one, read a good book, break out a board game or cards, take a walk, enjoy the wonder of pure peace and quiet!

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Posted : February 22, 2014 5:18 am
wanderer
(@wanderer)
Trusted Member

Thank you, Exit Zero, that's very helpful and informative. What kind of generators are common in residential places? What kind of fuel do they use?

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Topic starter Posted : February 22, 2014 5:29 am
Dareo
(@Dareo)
Advanced Member

Power outages are a great time to take a break from the hustle bustle of work or a busy life ---- head to the beach for a swim, have a glass of wine on the deck, enjoy the dark sky and all the stars, play some unplugged instruments, sing a capella, do some gardening, write a real letter, take a nap with a loved one, read a good book, break out a board game or cards, take a walk, enjoy the wonder of pure peace and quiet!

From what I've read on this forum, power outages seem to be a fact of life in the USVI. I'm sure it's frustrating and probably happens just when you (feel you) most need the power. Exit Zero's lemon-to-lemonade attitude deserves a salute - chapeau!

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Posted : February 22, 2014 7:48 am
Exit Zero
(@exit-zero)
Trusted Member Registered

Thank you, Exit Zero, that's very helpful and informative. What kind of generators are common in residential places? What kind of fuel do they use?

A nice muffled diesel geneator in a shed with a good sized fuel tank - depending on the size of the house if you need full power 10kw and up - automatic switchover in cases of power outage - usually a sine wave converter if you are running computers - or a good Universal Power battery supply.
Solar power setup with a good sized battery bank would work if you own a house with a good sunny southern roof exposure and the investment would eventually pay for itself.

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Posted : February 22, 2014 8:43 am
speee1dy
(@speee1dy)
Expert

hugo was huge, after omar ( cat 3 ) most of the island had power within the week some places a month or more. we had it the next day. hugo was also a different time here. i have heard stories that the government was not wanting the truth of the destruction to get out. i guess they wanted to seem in control and that everything was hunky dory. you know, the ego thing. not everyone had generators. i guess relying of friends and neighbors for certain things. also with an island you cant just have people drive on down, they have to fly here and then have a place to stay. and then food, which was in short supply i would think.

i am sure there are people who will let me know if i have gotten it wrong. but i have heard they did not want outsiders to know how destructive hugo was

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Posted : February 22, 2014 10:50 am
Linda J
(@Linda_J)
Expert

Islands that depend on tourism are hesitant to admit that they are not ready for tourist and will not be for many months.

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Posted : February 22, 2014 11:08 am
OldTart
(@the-oldtart)
Expert

Hugo in '89 and Marilyn in '95 were devastating hurricanes with Hugo hitting STX much harder than STT and Marilyn hitting STT much harder than STX. The rebuilding of the infrastructure was a huge undertaking and entailed bringing in thousands of workers from off island.

Fortunately, hurricanes of such magnitude are rare. Other than that there are power outages on a day to day basis in small pockets but they rarely last more than a few hours max.

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Posted : February 22, 2014 11:59 am
Alana33
(@alana33)
Expert

Prior to Hurricane Hugo in '89 most people did not have generators of any kind.
Now, it is common for the majority of homeowners to have, at least, a small back up/portable generator if not a whole house system to be able to run refrigeration, water pumps/heater for water and some light.

In a major hurricane such as the likes of Hugo and Marilyn, every single aspect of your life and work is disrupted for months on end as the islands slowly rebuilds the basics (electricity and communications) from the ground up.

As I recall with Hugo, our power was off from Sept. 18 to just before Thanksgiving (2 1/2 months) and with Marilyn it was out from
Sept. 15 to a couple days before Christmas(3 1/2 months). For many others it was a longer period of time plus the local phone lines and cell towers were damaged as well. After Marilyn in STT, there was only 1 radio station left Broadcasting during the storm as one by one they were taken out and after that night. These were horrendously and catastrophically destructive Hurricanes and their impacts were felt for years after as rebuilding homes and businesses continued. Island living in the aftermath of a hurricane is not for the faint of heart.

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Posted : February 22, 2014 1:57 pm
divinggirl
(@divinggirl)
Trusted Member

I was going to respond to this earlier but the power was out. True.

We get random, typically short (today was about 20 min) outages. Far fewer than we used to. It used to be common to lose power daily if not a few times a week. Most people have generators of various sizes. Not all are lucky enough (or wealthy enough) to have a shed with a huge generator with a transfer switch. Some of us just have a small one on wheels that we can cart out when needed that will power a few necessities.

You may have a generator for power but if your internet provider is having power issues you still may not be able to get online. If you must have connectivity then you would need to have at least two (if not three) sources of internet. I was able to tether my phone this am when the power was out and get online but that is a very short term solution (uses a lot of data time).

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Posted : February 22, 2014 2:02 pm
wanderer
(@wanderer)
Trusted Member

As I recall with Hugo, our power was off from Sept. 18 to just before Thanksgiving (2 1/2 months) and with Marilyn it was out from
Sept. 15 to a couple days before Christmas(3 1/2 months).

If there is no power for months, it means no water (cold or hot), no refrigerator, no stove. Right? And the backup generator is meant to run for short periods of time, correct? I assume the food stores were closed, too? How was it possible to survive?

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Topic starter Posted : February 22, 2014 3:16 pm
Linda J
(@Linda_J)
Expert

Regarding a generator - they can be and were used for months, if necessary, providing fuel was available.

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Posted : February 22, 2014 3:43 pm
OldTart
(@the-oldtart)
Expert

As I recall with Hugo, our power was off from Sept. 18 to just before Thanksgiving (2 1/2 months) and with Marilyn it was out from
Sept. 15 to a couple days before Christmas(3 1/2 months).

If there is no power for months, it means no water (cold or hot), no refrigerator, no stove. Right? And the backup generator is meant to run for short periods of time, correct? I assume the food stores were closed, too? How was it possible to survive?

It's amazing how adaptable one becomes. No house power for 6 months after Marilyn on STT, had a small generator which ran for 2 hours AM and 2 hours PM. Rigged a water pump from the cistern which pumped the water up into a large rubber container on the roof and also collected rainwater. Water was heated by sun, gravity feed allowed for jerry-rigged outside showers and for dishwater. Refrigerator held up for basic cooling hooked up to generator running as described. Gas stove inside plus BBQ with side burners on deck. Grocery stores quickly got back up with their built-in generators. Didn't have ice for a long time but trailer loads were brought in and you could go and buy bags ice from the back of them which would last in a cooler for a day or so if tightly packed. You just adapt and those who couldn't left on the first flights out.

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Posted : February 22, 2014 4:01 pm
wanderer
(@wanderer)
Trusted Member

I looked into what it was like on STX after Hugo and Marilyn, and it was ugly. Because I am so naive, I asked about power and connectivity. Never mind that. As it turned out, in both cases, there was widespread looting on STX (and some of the looters were police officers!), and racial tensions. Thousands of military police and FBI were sent from the states to stop what they called "total chaos and anarchy". That's a good dose of harsh reality shot up my arm.

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Topic starter Posted : February 22, 2014 4:03 pm
Jim Dandy
(@jim_dandy)
Trusted Member

Inexpensive generators while a bargain when you buy them are not designed to provide power for days at a time. They usually have an inexpensive Chinese gasoline engine. The service life of these engines is usually 500 hours. On a lawn mower this will give you many seasons of cutting your lawn. With a generator running 24 x 7 that is less than a month of service.

If you buy a cheap generator and it fails during a power outage you may not be able to purchase a replacement on island.

If I was purchasing another portable generator I would buy a tri fuel model that runs on NG, Propane and gasoline. Use the propane during short duration outages and for longer outages you can purchase gasoline. A 3KW generator is big enough if you can get by without using your 220V appliances.

I have a Honda inverter generator and it has 300+ hours on it over ten years. Half the hours are from Hurricane Omar in 2008 where we were without power for nine and a half days, Innovative and CATV for eight weeks. BBVI was available most of the time during the Omar outage. AT&T cell phone service was spotty and not all towers were functioning as a result of not being able to get diesel fuel for their generators.

Fuel truck drivers were demand exorbitant tips ($250) from residential customers for fuel deliveries.

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Posted : February 22, 2014 4:12 pm
OldTart
(@the-oldtart)
Expert

I looked into what it was like on STX after Hugo and Marilyn, and it was ugly. Because I am so naive, I asked about power and connectivity. Never mind that. As it turned out, in both cases, there was widespread looting on STX (and some of the looters were police officers!), and racial tensions. Thousands of military police and FBI were sent from the states to stop what they called "total chaos and anarchy". That's a good dose of harsh reality shot up my arm.

Reminds me of the newbie on STX who got caught up in one of the two and proclaimed (this was in a newspaper article at the time) that she feared for her life after "hearing the beating of the native tom-toms" echoing through the hills ... On the other hand there were hundreds of sane, rational and true accounts written which didn't oversimplify or minimize the harsh reality but didn't revel in hyperbole.

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Posted : February 22, 2014 4:25 pm
Alana33
(@alana33)
Expert

I had a small gas powered portable generator which my electrician BF connected directly to the house's meter box.

This meant when we turned on the generator we had power to the house but had to be selective in what could be run at the same time and didn't run it 24/7. Usually this meant refrigeration, water pump/heater and a couple of lights, TV for DVDs (no cable service as those lines were down along with everything else.) Had a propane stove so no problem there. However I could only run the washing machine and the water pump with everything else turned off and no dryer usage as the generator was only a 5000 watt portable gas unit with a
5 gallon tank which would run about 8 hrs. on a tank. (no microwave, no blow dryer for hair and line dry all clothing, etc.) Plus one had to continually fill up your fuel jugs (and lug back and forth and up and down) at gas stations that were open with long lines and get ice to compensate for not running refrigerator 24/7. You can also freeze water in plastic bags and containers to keep items in frig and freezer colder for longer periods (during the night) when generator was turned off.

Months without electricity and all the basics (phone, TV service, internet, etc. while the infrastructure was being rebuilt) which we all take for granted, while living under a curfew, is not easy and extremely stressful. Hurricane season creates PTSD in many who have endured thru the aftermaths of these devastating and life changing hurricanes.

The house I now live in has a full house diesel generator with an auto-transfer switch but I still own that small portable generator that I got right after Hugo. (and it still runs very well and performed amazingly all thru the months of the aftermath of Marilyn as well! )

Prior to life with generators we dealt with candles, flashlights, battery operated radios and lights, oil lamps and lugged water from the cisterns by the bucket full to flush, wash, etc. This was not fun then either but you did what you had to and power was usually back on within a week or 2 after the likes of Hurricanes David and Frederick, and others.

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Posted : February 22, 2014 4:26 pm
rosesisland
(@rosesisland)
Trusted Member

I moved to STX exactly one month to the day that Marylin hit. My house didn't get power until after Thanksgiving! FEMA was here on island to help us out. We did what we needed to do to survive. For us, we got ice, daily, from FEMA and then used the water the next day for cleaning. Hair didn't get washed often as you'd like, but, as the feeders come online, you will be able to find a friend with a shower that works.

I was told that STX was hit just as hard during Marilyn, but, because of Hugo's direct hit just a few years earlier, that, STX had rebuilt stronger with more hurricane resistant features, thus, they were not as devastated as STT.

As for having electricity restored in a timely manner, consider the terrain here and lots of remote housing, you may feel more comfortable being on one of the first feeders to be restored and I believe that those areas are the commerce areas as we will still be consumers.

Before a hurricane arrives, you should have cash on hand, as ATM's won't work and banks will be closed. Most stores with groceries and perishables will be open quickly with generators and will sell you things but, cash only as machines will not work for credit, so why chance it?

I lost a lot during Marilyn, but, learned much through the experience. Island living is just not for everyone! And, then, for some it's a love/hate relationship! I, for one, love it here! But, my husband and I are not dependent on it to eek out a living. At our age we wouldn't probably be living here if we had to depend on it for our finances. Jobs here are getting fewer and farther in between! Keep that in mind, bring lots of money when you come as the islands have a tendency to gobble it up!

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Posted : February 23, 2014 9:53 am
speee1dy
(@speee1dy)
Expert

i live on feeder 1 or 2, we always get electricity back before others. lived in mill harbor and i was told they were on the feeder the hospital was on so always one of the first to get it back. after omar we had power back the next afternoon. some people still did not have power for weeks. omar was not that destructive to us

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Posted : February 23, 2014 11:12 am
sunshinefun
(@sunshinefun)
Trusted Member

If you look at how they string wires up on the utility poles here, its not hard to image why it would take 5 months to get the current flowing again.

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Posted : February 24, 2014 12:10 pm
mtdoramike
(@mtdoramike)
Trusted Member

Power outages are a great time to take a break from the hustle bustle of work or a busy life ---- head to the beach for a swim, have a glass of wine on the deck, enjoy the dark sky and all the stars, play some unplugged instruments, sing a capella, do some gardening, write a real letter, take a nap with a loved one, read a good book, break out a board game or cards, take a walk, enjoy the wonder of pure peace and quiet!

From what I've read on this forum, power outages seem to be a fact of life in the USVI. I'm sure it's frustrating and probably happens just when you (feel you) most need the power. Exit Zero's lemon-to-lemonade attitude deserves a salute - chapeau!

I know what you mean, he's making me want to come back down there to live and sing some of that Capella:)

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Posted : February 24, 2014 2:11 pm
Ping
 Ping
(@Ping)
Active Member

What happens in the power goes out every where is it hard finding store open?

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Posted : February 25, 2014 9:10 pm
OldTart
(@the-oldtart)
Expert

What happens in the power goes out every where is it hard finding store open?

The majority of stores have generators.

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Posted : February 25, 2014 9:40 pm
Ping
 Ping
(@Ping)
Active Member

@ Old Tart, thank you! My husband and I are planning to move down in a year - 2 years (after we sell our home and stuff we don't need) so these things are things I was curious about.

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Posted : February 25, 2014 9:49 pm
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