Report on “Sandy” from our town

Well, civilization has returned. We saw relatively little of the wrath of the storm. On Monday there were occasional gusts of wind but nothing out of the ordinary. However, here and there, by way of warning, the lights flickered for a second or two. I was madly writing “Misi, the squirrel,” hoping to beat Sandy.

Then around mid-afternoon the flickering was less friendly and actually brought down the computer. At this point I decided it was time to stop and retired to watch television. The TV watching didn’t last long. At exactly 6:08 the power went out, this time for good.

It seems, however, that practice makes perfect. Having gone through Irene last August and the Halloween snowstorm at the end of October we were very well prepared. Every large pot, for instance, was filled with water. In fact, we had more water than we actually needed. The chest freezer was almost full anyway, but we put in four gallon jugs of water days before the storm. We also jacked up the thermostat of the freezer to the highest point a day before.

Since we have a gas stove cooking was not a problem. On the other hand, the cold was really pretty demoralizing. On the first day it wasn’t too bad because we also turned up the thermostats fairly high before the storm, but from the second day on the average temperature in the house was 50-52 (10-12C) F. So, I spent at least half a day in bed under several covers and read.

The other problem was daylight. By five p.m. it was difficult to read without a lamp and in the morning it was pitch dark until 7:00. A lantern with fluorescent lights that works on batteries is excellent but not really good enough for hours of reading. Thus one sleeps and sleeps, and sleeps. And waits and waits for news.

As for news. We did receive daily information from town hall about the progress that was being made in restoring electricity. In the first two days not much happened around here, which is not surprising because first utility companies have to remove hazards (like live wires across roads) and restore important spots like hospitals and supermarkets. Then they move on to the heavily populated areas (not us). Our town’s schools were still closed on Friday.

Around Thursday we started getting better numbers until last night it turned out that we were one of the 250 or so households in town still without power (about 30%). This morning the crews appeared on our road. They came from Kentucky and Ohio. A couple of hours later there was light! People who were walking on the road beamed at each other when one of the crew reported “You have power!”

A fairly typical scene  from an area northeast of us /ReminderNews

After having so many devastating storms lately in this part of the world I often think of how well Hungarians would cope with such a disaster. In Hungary local outages often make national news, so I hear that in such and such a town fourteen of forty apartments were without heat because something or other went wrong. These problems seem to be fixed within a reasonable length of time, but the outcry usually is great. There seems to be little tolerance of mechanical failures or acts of God. If there’s a huge snowstorm and a couple of villages are impassable for a day or two, the workers trying to clear the roads meet with little sympathy let alone tolerance of the possible difficulties of the mission.

Of course, there are people here too who don’t cope terribly well. I just had a conversation with a friend from New Jersey, a state that is much worse off than Connecticut, who was telling me that his wife complains from morning till night. He himself was fairly cheerful although they were told that they might not have power for another two weeks. But on the whole there is an attitude of “toughing it out.” For instance, although in our town there was a shelter set up for the night for those without heat, no one showed up.

And finally, since I haven’t had time yet to look at Hungarian news, let me tell you about all the reading I did last week. First, I reread Ignác Romsics’s book on István Bethlen with special attention to his portrayal of Horthy and Bethlen. Then I moved on to Balázs Ablonczy’s biography of Pál Teleki. Here I was especially interested in Ablonczy’s opinion of Teleki’s antisemitism. I finished György Litván’s book on Oszkár Jászi that I had read only halfway through at the time I bought it, and I came to the conclusion that the best representative of the October Revolution of 1918 is not really Károlyi but Jászi. He was one of those men of his generation who never wavered from his democratic convictions and who condemned both Nazism and Communism. And finally, I read with great interest Zoltán Ripp’s excellent book Rendszerváltás Magyarországon, 1987-1990 (Regime Change in Hungary, 1987-1990). It provides a very detailed description of the political events leading up to the establishment of the Third Republic. I learned a lot from it.

I’m hoping that in the next few weeks there will be an opportunity to discuss some  topics from these books, and then of course on to the latest developments in Hungary. I understand that the IMF is fairly adamant in saying no to the Orbán government concerning negotiations as long as there are “differences of opinion” with the European Commission.

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Turkmenbasi
Guest

Good to have you back Éva!

Wondercat
Guest

Make that 165 — and — good to have you back.

Minusio
Guest

Yes, it’s really good to have you back!

The fact that you had no power for almost a week is due to political decisions: China spends 9% of GDP on infrastructure, the EU 5% and the US 2.5%. Here only villages (sometimes) don’t have underground power cables.

But the CEO of Southern Company, Thomas Fanning, said on CNN to Richard Quest that the price/performance ratio of the rickety (and dangerous) electrical grid in the US – which he called the best in the world – was unrivaled. He added that underground cables may be better (although five times as expensive, which I doubt), but when something goes wrong it takes much longer to repair them, which is a blatant lie. I am now pushing 70, and I can count the power outages I encountered in my life in Europe (mostly Germany and Switzerland) on the fingers of one hand. The longest took two hours to fix.

Guest

Welcome back, Eva!

You sound really cheerful too – so it can’t have been to bad, lying in bed and reading all day … :;

Guest

London Calling!

Yes! Eva!

Fantastic that you’re back.

While the Cat was away – the mice played!

We missed you – so good to know you are safe – and warm now!

Regards

Charlie

Member

Nice to have you back Eva.

Guest

If anyone’s interested, here are some pictures that show how bad Sandy reigned on the seashore and in New York City:
http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2012/10/hurricane-sandy-in-photos/100395/
and here a report on some fakes that turned up on the net:
http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/10/sorting-the-real-sandy-photos-from-the-fakes/264243/

At least it wasn’t so bad a few miles from the shore …

Paul
Guest

Welcome back, Éva.

As I said on a post while you were ‘away’, I still find it hard to believe that a country as rich as America has an infrastructure so easily damaged (by, known, normal and even predictable events!).

If only the USSR had known that they didn’t need atom bombs, just enough explosives to blow up a few trees!

On a more serious note – how come, in a country where power goes off for days quite frequently, no one seems to have heating that doesn’t need mains electricity to work?

Hoping
Guest

Yep Eva, good to know you’re safe and well!

Guest

@Paul:

I know from a forum on the USA that many people have generators in/near their houses (the fumes are very dangerous!), at least those who can afford them.

Re infrastructure in Hungary:

Even here near Hévíz power lines are sometimes cut by storms/trees, but repairs take usually only a few hours. We once had one very cold night without electricity (and heating) so we were very happy to be able to use our “kandalo”.

Back to the USA:

The tangle of wires everywhere is one of the first things I saw on my first visit to the USA around 30 years ago and even then I wondered …

But of course a Hurricane this size would create havoc out of every infrastructure.

Cherry17
Guest

I’m happy to hear that you have survived Sandy safe and sound.
A good old fireplace could have solved the problem of heating.

Minusio
Guest

I meant: no other developed country.

Member

Dear Eva,
Your experience in a tale of the small mole (krtek):

Respect Beauty
Guest

Eva- I’m so glad to hear you are well. And I’m glad that you’re back in business. I have such respect for your work on this blog.

Paul
Guest
Eva S. Balogh : Paul : On a more serious note – how come, in a country where power goes off for days quite frequently, no one seems to have heating that doesn’t need mains electricity to work? OK, I will try to explain. On the East Coast almost everybody heats with oil. There are not enough gas lines. Too bad for us because natural gas is a great deal cheaper than oil. But in order to fire up an oil furnace you need electricity. As for water, We are on well water. As long as your cold water tank is full of water you will be able to have water on the ground level as well on the upstairs areas. But in order to pump up more water from the well you need electricity. I’m really not very knowledgeable but I think this is a pretty accurate description of the situation. I assumed this was the case, but it must be possible to design something that allows an oil furnace to continue working for a few days without mains electricity. In the UK this probably wouldn’t sell well enough, as we rarely have need for such a device, but… Read more »
Paul
Guest

Minusio :
In two New York hospitals the back-up generators conked out after a few minutes or wouldn’t start. Imagine! Babys had to be carried from incubators to ambulances. I know no other country where the infrastructure is so rickety and almost purposefully neglected.

You can’t help wondering if this is a manifestation of the ‘American’ fear of the State/’Big Government’ (as in Obama being regarded as a communist because he wants to provide basic health care to (nearly) everyone). Anything that could/should be centrally provided or regulated is regarded with suspicion.

Except, of course, roads.

Paul
Guest

tappanch :
Dear Eva,
Your experience in a tale of the small mole (krtek):
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5sN-SQG2iY?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent%5D

Kis Vakond gets up to some odd things, but this episode has always struck me as his oddest.

And, talking of whom, those of you who grew up with Kisvakond in Hungary in the 70s and 80s but now live abroad might be surprised to discover just how popular he now is back home. Not only can you buy all the episodes and films on DVD, but there is now a huge merchandising business built around him. This has been building up for a number of years, but I was still surprised this summer when we visited a celebration of Kisvakond at the local Culture Centre. They showed all the films, but really it was just an excuse to sell as much Kisvakond merchandise as they could – e.g. soft toys of all the characters from the films, and so many different sized versions of Kisvakond himself that I lost count (and all for breath-taking prices!)

An
Guest

@Paul: Partly that, the fear of big state, yes. Also, the infrastructure is pretty old, but there is no incentive for private companies to modernize it. If you are a private company, you’d want to use the existing, costly built equipment/infrastructure as long as possible, to make money on your initial investment as long as possible. Modernization and advances in technology only happen in sectors where there is fierce competition among businesses (IT, for example), where companies are forced to modernize to stay competitive, but in sectors that are quasi monopolies (like utilities), there is really no business interest to modernize. And that’s where the state could step in, ideally, by either direct regulation, investment, or, if the state does not want to be directly involved, at least by designing regulation that would promote competition between businesses and break up monopolies. I think in Europe it is fairly consciously done by governments… in the US, not so much. My bet is that big business lobbies in the US are just way too strong and influence both Republican and Democrat lawmakers.

CarlosD
Guest

Eva
I realize you probably don’t do requests but…as you are reading and writing about Bethlen I would be very interested to know your impressions of Miklos Banffy. I’ve been reading his “Transylvanian Trilogy” and know that he was briefly a member of the post WWI government…and quit it. Well, if you ever have the time for a post on him I think it would be very interesting.

Sackhoes Contributor
Guest

“OK, I will try to explain. On the East Coast almost everybody heats with oil. There are not enough gas lines. Too bad for us because natural gas is a great deal cheaper than oil. But in order to fire up an oil furnace you need electricity”

Actually, even gas heat requires electricity.If the gas heats the air, you need electtricity for the fans to circulate it, and if it;s a hot water system, you need electricity for the water pumps to circulate it. And of course your thermostats are using electricity and all the furnace controls are electric. An old fashioned one pipe steam system with a very old (and unsafe) steam gas boiler may be the only system npot requiring juice.

I am gald you’re back and you’re safe.

Guest
London Calling! And here Hungary has it right! – Dead right! Although I have mentioned it before – they use the wonderful ’tile stove’ One of Hungary’s rich resources seems to be an endless supply of wood. Most houses around our village have seemingly tons of wood stacked in gardens, out houses and even in the roads outside the house. We have a ‘five’ tile stove in the heart of the house – the five relates to the width of the stove – five tiles wide – which is pretty big. What is amazing is that with just a few logs after the initial ‘firing’ the ‘monster’ will ‘stay in’ (alight!) all night when the air inlets are closed. This radiates throughout the house all night even when the temperature is -14C outside. So in the morning a couple of ‘kitchen-ready’ logs and the fire starts up again – just a few shovels of ash to take out from the bottom – and it can be kept going forever. Smaller rooms can be heated with an additional tile stove – say a ‘three’ tile stove. We are looking for a secondhand one for the other rooms. My partner gets her… Read more »
Minusio
Guest

Charlie: An immersion heater uses electrical power, right? To use this in a central heating system I imagine you are paying through the nose…

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