Disappointment when the power comes back on

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Cuff, for sharing this column from The Athens News. I’m sure many of us relate to Dennis E. Powell (note this is only an excerpt):

If you lose power at just the right time, it can enrichen your life

This is being written last Monday night.

Several hours after the storms of earlier in the day passed, the sun shining, the birds singing, and all apparently right with the world, the electricity went out. Because there is no cellular telephone service in my part of the county, this necessitated a drive much of the way to Athens to register a report with the power company. The power company’s outage report line is the first entry in my cellular phonebook.

[…]The evening was (and as I write this, is) cool, with a bit of wind passing through the open windows, so there was no panic, as there is when the power disappears in the dead of winter or in the 100-degree summer – both of which I have experienced. But there was no fire to build, no need to think of a reason to drive to town for a few hours in some place air-conditioned.

Instead, I remembered that just a few days ago I had pushed the battery-charge button on one of a couple shortwave radios I have around here, this one a decade-old C. Crane CC Radio SW. It has a big speaker and a pleasant sound, though it’s not the sort of radio you get to dig faint signals out of the mud. It is just right for such an evening as this. So I brought it to the living room, extended its built-in antenna, and fired it up.

Shortwave radio is like Forest Gump’s mama’s box of chocolates, and that’s part of its appeal. Poking around the dial I find some Ohio shortwave amateurs putting on a bit of a panel show, passing the mic metaphorically from one to another. Because they are shortwave amateurs, all they talk about was their shortwave equipment.

The power is out all over the neighborhood, so there is not a single static scratch, no 60-Hz whine of interference. And the ionosphere seems stable, no fading in and out of signals.

Heading up the dial, I find a station in accented but easily understood English. I have to listen for a while before I learn that I am listening to Radio Romania International. That broadcast ended, so I retune and find a cranky man and a cranky woman who are discussing how awful things are and how the only thing you can count on is gold.

Moving along, I find an impassioned man with a deep Southern accent. He, too, is discussing how awful things are – and how they soon will be especially awful for those who put their trust in gold or other things of this world.

There is a broadcast from somewhere – from the accents I’d guess the Caribbean or Africa – that features a man and woman talking spiritedly and sweetly about English idioms.

Now I’m listening to the Argentine national shortwave service, which had a talk program in English though they’ve switched to Argentine music.

[…]I do hope the power comes back. Just not tonight. Tomorrow, maybe. Or the next day.

(Note: Just as I set this to email itself eventually to the Athens NEWS, minutes after I was done writing, the power came back on. And it really was a little disappointing.)

Read this full story via The Athens News online…

11 thoughts on “Disappointment when the power comes back on

  1. rtc

    Good article…but the underlying issue is the
    excessive RFI racket we all have to contend with.
    Here is a current Eham article on RFI.
    Some have found the only solution is to go mobile
    or portable where there is less or no RFI.
    One guy found the perfect spot,no noise,
    peaceful,etc.
    In the middle of a cemetery!

    http://www.eham.net/articles/38695

    Reply
  2. Tom Reitzel

    Delightful. Recently, primarily due to negligence from the power utility to properly maintain easements, we were without power for nearly two days. I made it through the blackout with little problem and enjoyed listening to my portable radios.

    Utilities are a big source of noise while RFI from other sources is less bothersome because those other sources can be more readily identified and addressed, e.g. a local switching power supply.

    Reply
  3. Ed McCorry

    Good article. Speaking of power outages, two weeks ago somebody decided to use the power pole up the street to stop his car. Thankfully he wasn’t hurt but the pole required a new transformer and the whole area lost power for almost four hours. It took me a few minutes to realize that no power meant no radio noise. Out came the Sony 7600 and portable vertical antenna and I spent the afternoon listening to stuff I can never hear normally during the day.

    I enjoyed it so much I’m going tent camping next week at a local state park. And you guessed it, no electricity in the campground either!

    Reply
  4. Christos

    I got confused reading this post as I live in Athens, Greece.
    During the winter, we had sometimes power failures.
    Okay, I finally realized what was going on.

    Reply
    1. Thomas Post author

      I’m afraid many US states have borrowed some of your Greek place names, my friend! There’s also an Athens, Georgia. (There’s a Rome, Georgia, too!). Sorry–I really should have clarified.

      -Thomas

      Reply
  5. Ross

    One of the advantages of living in a rural/remote place in Australia is I have that RFI free environment every day!……. well when I tun of our hefty sine wave inverters.
    My shack is totally DC powered from the battery banks charged by our 14 KVA solar system, and no the regulators and solar panels do not generate RFI .
    I would find it quite frustrating to put up with the constant RFI generated in a city environment.
    To obtain this RFI free environmrnt the trade of is dirt roads, 100Klm round trip for a shop and poor or no cell phone reception.
    But I personally would’nt trade.
    Ross.

    Reply
    1. Thomas Post author

      Ross, I also live in a rural RFI-free zone. Still, not nearly as remote as you! 🙂 My trade-off? Internet speed. It’s dismal here. Incredibly slow.

      When I travel and stay in RFI-dense towns, I really miss the quiet conditions back home. Obviously, I value no RFI over Internet speed.

      Cheers,
      Thomas

      Reply
  6. Dave

    About a year and a half ago my suburb had a major power outage for seven days after a freakish storm caused major damage to local infrastructure. As you can imagine with a long power outage like this most people didn’t know what to do with themselves (shock horror!). In my case I took advantage of the quiet noise levels at my QTH by firing up my trusty Sangean ATS-909. To say that I was amazed with what I could hear would be an understatement. I was pickuing up signals I had never heard before (many NDBs and weaker HF stations) and with such clarity it was startling! Aeronautical transmissions on USB came in crystal clear with no annoying white noise and many MW stations came in so crisp they sounded like stereo AM. I copied a few hams on 30M which was astonishing as I’ve never heard any transmissions on that band at all.

    I was fortunate to have many AA rechargeable batteries that were topped up and this kept me going for nearly the whole time the power was out. I had a real blast listening to HF at night amongst the candles and drinking coffee from a thermos. Pure bliss.

    When the power came back on I sighed and considered myself fortunate to have experienced radio heaven for as long as I did.

    Reply

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