Dear Answer Man: What is the deal with the power grid in Chatfield? I’ve lived there for about a year and never before have I experienced so many power outages. Is the grid old or has the weather just been really, really bad?
Also, is there any sort of monitoring system I can get for my home so I know how long an outage lasted? Most times, the only way I know the power had gone out is when I return home from work and find the clocks on my stove and microwave blinking. It’s not that big of a deal to reset them, but I’m getting annoyed by having to do it (what feels like every few weeks) and then worry whether the food in my fridge and freezer is safe to eat.
— Tired of outages
Dear Tired: In Grandpappy Answer Man's day, we didn't worry about power outages — we fretted about candle shortages. But in the immortal words of Bob Dylan "the times, they are a-changin.'" And that change may have a little to do with the outages in Chatfield.
One of the Answer Man's many faithful minions called People's Energy Cooperative to get to the low-down, and President and CEO Elaine J. Garry did not disappoint.
To answer your question quickly re:old grid vs. bad weather, Garry said it's a combination of both.
"Obviously, every one knows we’ve had really difficult weather this year. It is causing more outages on our system than what we typically see," Garry said. "We are also in the middle of a major conversion project — a voltage conversion project in Chatfield."
While the upgrade is specific to Chatfield, the weather has affected the entire Midwest and neighboring energy cooperatives.
"We have just seen so many significant storm conditions come through that it is affecting our systems," Garry said.
People's Energy Cooperative is working on an app it hopes to have up by the end of the year that would alert users when power in their area goes out and when it is restored, according to Garry.
In the meantime, co-op members looking for information about outages after the fact can get it by calling or emailing the cooperative.
As for concern over the food in your fridge or freezer, FoodSafety.gov notes that a "refrigerator will keep food safe for up to 4 hours during a power outage." A full freezer will "hold a safe temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full and the door remains closed). Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40°F or below, however, its quality may suffer."
The site encourages individuals to keep the fridge and freezer doors closed as much as possible. And repeatedly warns individuals to never taste food to determine its safety.
If none of this seems to resonate with you, there is one final possibility — are you paying your electricity bill?