God is my hacker

Sam Smith

If the Review has seemed a little erratic over the past few days, you can blame a gale with 60 mph winds that swept through our part of Maine, leaving 30,000 without electricity in my county alone. Even by Maine standards, this was a good one, with lights, TV and internet down and a few trees across the five miles to town. We got our lights back in about a day, our TV in a day and half and this morning – after two lengthy phone play by plays with Comcast staffers – the router and modem finally came aboard again.

So how did the Review continue at all? One thing is that we’ve replaced our mobile generator with an automatic one. This was its first test and it was wicked good. Second, I have a MiFi device that I use on trips to provide Internet service when needed. In urban America it works pretty well, but Verizon, for some reason, decided that the last two hundred seaward feet of our point of land didn’t really need service, so the MiFi was painfully slow and intermittent. Cellphones here are the same and it’s somewhat disorienting to feel you have to go into the woods to talk on your cell.

Folks around here don’t take such things for granted. First, they like to talk about them and, second, they prepare for them. When we have an outage, the first thing I do is call Central Maine Power which has an automated system that tells me the general situation and then, after pushing enough buttons, whether they’ve gotten other calls from our road. After service resumed, I got three calls from CMP asking whether everything was all right. In a near lifetime in DC, I never got a call from Potomac Electric except when I forgot to pay my bill.

Recent blasts – especially the Patriot Day storm of 2007 – have been particularly damaging to aging softwoods in the state. That blow – causing the 7th highest high tide ever in Portland and 30 foot waves – even outdid the famed “Perfect Storm” of 1991.

One friend tells me that he probably lost 50-60 trees on his six acres in this week’s gale. This is not an unfamiliar tale. My theory is that, after World War II, two thirds of Maine’s farmland went back to woods, and heavily soft woods. These trees are now aging and particularly vulnerable to blow downs.

In any case, the storm is over, the power, TV and Internet is back and so, like everyone else around here, I’m left with only one thing to do: talk about it.

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