Thursday, December 26, 2013

Alaska ingenuity

To begin with, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough in Alaska is huge -- 25,260 Square miles. That's bigger than a few states. It stretches from Anchorage in the South, almost to Glenallen in the north, west almost to Mount McKinley and east almost to Prince William Sound. A few more than 90,000 souls live in that expanse of sub-Arctic Alaska.
Downflow and vibration from the helicopter help clear wires.

Most of those people demand the usual amenities of polite society.  Most, because there is considerable wilderness in that acreage and there are still a few solid folks who live out there, including myself at one time in my life, where in one way or another they provide for themselves.

For the rest, people want running water, and indoor plumbing and things like electricity and telephone. Try to picture how much wire it takes to bring electricity and telephone service to an area that big.  The responsibility of providing that electricity belongs to a cooperative utility called the Matanuska Electric Association.

Then try to picture all those above-ground wires coated in a sometimes six-inch thick layer of heavy, wet snow frozen to them. That's what happened when a heavy overnight snow froze to the wires earlier this week. Power went out everywhere. Trees unable to hold the snow load fell and took down wires with them.  In other places just the weight of snow on the wires took them down.  Here and there across the wide winter wonderland power went out, not general outages as might be caused by a transformer, but isolated ones, caused by a line going to a subdivision, or along a single road, or one neighborhood.  It could have been compared to a fire, not a huge wildfire over thousands of acres but hundreds of little fires of as few as a couple of acres scattered here and there across 25,000 square miles.

Crews would repair one outage and be told there were seven new ones, all of those repairs made in sub-zero temperatures and often deep snow.

MEA kept members informed with a consistent flow of updates on the utility’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Here's a typical Facebook post:

Eagle River, the Butte, Peters Creek, Big Lake, Long Lake, Willow, and Talkeetna are experiencing small outages at this time. Approximately 300 people total are currently affected.
Crews are out there working to get the lights back on as soon as possible.
If you're without power, please report it at...

To give you an idea of the expanse, it's more than 100 miles from Eagle River, an Anchorage suburb, to Talkeetna.

The crews were faced with two phases of the job, No. 1 of course was to repair the damage and restore the flow of electricity. No. 2 was to clear snow off the lines that hadn't broken yet. Nothing says how they were doing it at the beginning of the job, but it became obvious from the start that simply shaking thousands of miles of wire to knock the snow off wasn't going to work.

But, Alaskans are nothing if not creative and resourceful. Here's a Facebook post explaining the plan:


The Willow/Hatcher Pass' lines still have a large portion of ice/snow on them and are proving very time consuming to shake off.

We are planning to shut down that line (affecting about 240 members, with 100 of these folks still without power at this time) from 11:30 a.m. until about 3:30 p.m.
We will be bringing in a helicopter to fly low over the lines and hopefully shake some of the snow and ice off, in hopes of getting everyone back on as soon as possible.

We will keep you updated as we learn more. Thank you for your patience.

The utility hired a helicopter which flew low along the wires, the downward air flow and vibration effectively knocking off the snow.

Matanuska Electric Association Our helicopter plan knocked off the snow and ice from the lines in the Willow/Hatcher Pass area and although it didn't 100% resolve the issue, it's allowed us to isolate the trouble areas and we have contract clearing crews out there now. Hang tight Willow and Hatchers pass. You're all next!
December 23 at 3:47pm · Like · 1

Helicopter time is pretty expensive, but so is sending crews along every foot of line to knock the snow off, plus the helo saves a lot of time as well.

Overall, within about 24 hours the utility had everyone's power restored and for the most part had lines cleared to prevent any future outages. It was a huge undertaking when you think about it and MEA met the challenge and kept up their end of the deal to provide power to residents across that wide area of responsibility and applied some good old-fashioned Alaska resourcefulness in the process.

Someone over there also deserves a lot of credit for keeping people updated on Facebook and Twitter. In the past as far as notification and the possibility and timing of repairs, we were left pretty much in the dark.

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Interesting quotations

· " “Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” — Ernest Hemingway

When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth. Kurt Vonnegut

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a cheque, if you cashed the cheque and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” Stephen King

The thing about ignornance is, you don't have to remain ignorant. — me again"

Never debate with someone who gets ink by the barrel" — George Hayes, former Alaska Attorney General who died recently

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeareon Twitter

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

Best headlines ever

Sister hits moose on way to visit sister who hit moose.

Man loses his testicles after attempting to smoke weed through a SCUBA tank

Church Mutual Insurance won't cover Church's flood damage because it's 'an act of God'

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Meerkat Expert Attacked Monkey Handler Over Love Affair With Llama Keeper

GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality

Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy

Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high

Give me all your money or my penguin will explode

How zombie worms have sex in whale bones

Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower

Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles

Nude beach blowjob jet ski fight leads to wife's death

Woman stabs husband with squirrel for not buying beer Christmas Eve