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We lost power last night in the storm

Things I learnt when we lost power:

Take-away pizza by torchlight a bad way to have dinner.

A Smart Meter won’t keep the juice flowing if there’s problems in the local distribution network.

I don’t have enough torches. At least one per person would be good.

The Dolphin mini LED torch I got recently is really good. Will get a couple more of these I think.

Thank goodness for mobile internet, and having a phone that still has a charge in it.

If you’re not sure who your electricity distribution company is, try the list here.

The United Energy Distribution web site is quite good, and accessible via a Smart phone. It shows you maps of the affected area and so on, but is not to be trusted entirely — our area vanished off the list when their estimated recovery time of 8pm passed.

The UED phone service was more candid, with a more up-to-date (?) estimate of after midnight.

The early night didn’t do us any harm. I was glad to get the extra sleep.

Questions I still have:

If the power was off from about 4pm, until sometime overnight (perhaps up to 12 hours)… is the stuff that was in the fridge still okay? The milk seems to be all right (as far as I can smell), but what about frozen food?

PS. Jeremy noticed that some ice that had been loose in a container was still frozen and loose; eg it hadn’t even melted enough to stick together, let alone into water and then frozen again. Which to me suggests all the food should be fine, as (in the freezer especially) the temperature never got very high.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

11 replies on “We lost power last night in the storm”

Definitely had power on at home last night but no train due to lightning knocking signals out at Dandenong (or so we were told anyway) … stuck at Westall for an hour in the rain as several more train loads were offloaded there. A few replacement buses from Grenda’s depot eventually arrived after being told to go to Dandenong station rather than Westall! Annoying as I only had to go a couple of more stops.

Agree with Philip re fridge and freezer. As long as you didn’t stand there with the door open for ages, it would all be good. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to be wary of things like milk that has a shorter life span, but things like tomato sauce, margarine, etc will be fine.

We didn’t lose power here (inner north) yesterday, but we did about 10 days ago, for a couple of hours. When that happens, I try to avoid opening the fridge door. If I’m thirsty, there’s always water from the tap.

I agree with Philip and Rae. Twelve or so hours on a day that wasn’t particularly warm shouldn’t harm the contents of the fridge and freezer, especially if you keep the milk well inside the fridge. It’s surprising how many people store the milk in the fridge door. That’s the place where the temperature varies the most. In a good, well-designed fridge with tight seals, the variation shouldn’t be too great. But with something that spoils as easily as milk does, it makes sense to store it further inside, and use the fridge door for storing juice, beer, soft drinks, and other things that won’t spoil as readily.

Regarding freezer contents, texture can be a useful rule of thumb as to what temperature variation the food has undergone while the power was out. Do you have a packet of frozen peas in there? Give it a scrunch. Are the peas well separated? Then they’re fine. If they’ve solidified into one giant brick, then the packet has thawed, at least partially, and refrozen at some stage. Open the ice cream container and try a spoonful. Is it smooth and creamy, with a light texture? Then it’s fine. Has it lost its foaminess and turned into a sort of heavy frozen custard, or have ice crystals formed? Then it has partially thawed and refrozen. If the peas and the ice cream are OK, then you can be confident the power outage didn’t last long enough to affect them, which means all your other frozen food should be OK too.

Yes, the food will be fine. The site to find out your electric distributor also told me who our gas distributor is, which I did not know. It is so confusing having distributors and retailers. Twelve hours is an extraordinarily long time to be without power just because of a storm. A couple of inches of rain and the world’s most liveable city falls apart.

Power was off on Tucker Road from 9:40 pm to 5:10 am where I live – longest outage period I can remember! The powerpole box (or whatever you call it) at the corner of Hutchinson St was the culprit; there is a crew still fixing it. I wonder if it was hit by lightning – there was a MASSIVE crash of thunder and lightning overhead just before 4 pm, a power surge, and reduced power from then on till the total outage.

Stuff in my freezer thawed out a bit, though I kept the door closed. I’ll take my chances eating it – don’t want to throw out my ice cream!

Thanks all. As I’ve noted in a PS, some ice loose in the freezer was okay, which is probably a good indicator that all was well. It’s a relatively new fridge, seals all good.

Losing power from a thunderstorm is a normal thing in Miami Florida where it thunders almost daily during the summer months. It is usually off for only a few minutes but sometimes for several hours. This will happen several times per year and it is no surprise when the power goes off or the lights flicker during a storm in Florida. After hurricane Wilma in 2005 my power was off for 1 week and some parts of the city were without power for 2 and even 3 weeks.

The food in the fridge is usually not a concern until the power has been off for more than 12 hours. As long as the door is kept shut the food will stay cold for quite a long time.

I think that the power here in Melbourne is quite reliable and I think it has only gone off at my place in St Kilda perhaps 3 times in the past 3 years.

Motion-sensitive battery-powered LED lights are a good idea — about $1 each on eBay plus $4 postage. They only come on in the dark, when someone approaches, and can be set to stay on from 20 to 90 seconds. We use them for scaring possums away from the vegetable patch, but we also have a few in strategic locations like above the toilet.

Back in 2006 we lost power due to a rather large storm for almost a week (tree fell and severed the feed into our house).
It was about three days before we managed to get a backup generator to run some essentials. The things in the freezer were still solid on the second day. So, assuming the seals are good, and you keep the doors shut – shouldn’t be a problem.

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