27 July 2012

Air Conditioning

Welcome back. Are you enjoying the hot weather? I had a manager who judged air conditioning to be the greatest technological invention. I got that second hand, so I can’t vouch for the superlative, greatest; but I’m sure he ranked AC way up there. Me? Not so much, though I sure missed it for a week.

The Derecho
The thermometer says the
temperature isn’t bad…yet.

My wife, Vicki, and I were escaping to Wisconsin. Our meticulously laid plan was to depart dark and early on a Sunday morning. On Friday night, however, we were introduced to a derecho.

“Derecho” to me is Spanish for “straight,” as in straight ahead. I’d never heard of a weather event called derecho. These long-lived wind storms, with rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms, are like tornadoes without the twisting. Destruction is along a relatively straight swath.

They qualify as derechos if the swath is longer than 240 miles and includes wind gusts of at least 58 mph along most of its length. The derecho that modified our plans traveled over 700 miles at nearly 60 mph from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic coast. It killed 22 people and left 5 million without power.

Powerless

Although I slept through the blowing, I arose shortly after midnight, curious about the quiet and my uninformative electric clock. Power lines in our area are underground; power interruptions are infrequent and short-lived. Flashlight at the ready, I listened to the news on a battery-operated radio and wondered if this time might be different.

I proceeded with my usual predawn routine. Jogging, I found our street littered with leaves and twigs and one house’s front yard suffering a large broken tree branch. Vicki awoke at daybreak and headed out to run (she runs, I jog). To her it appeared that our street was one of the few without power.

We reviewed our situation, asking why wait until the next morning to depart. The day’s temperature was heading into the mid-90s; the humidity always overachieves. Perishables in the refrigerator wouldn’t last much longer. Wisconsin’s temperatures were also in the 90s. Although our destination had no AC, it had power for fans and everything else.

We packed, prepared the house, got the cats ready for the pet sitter, and drove off. As best we could determine, our power was restored late that afternoon. How sad that thousands of households lost power for days.

Fans versus AC


Our fan works great
when there’s power.
Enduring Wisconsin’s heat wave for a week without AC was reliving old times. There was always a week or two in the summer in Upstate NY when you suffered. Other than that, fans would suffice. In the Philippines for two years, we had an AC in the bedroom. We turned it on while unpacking the day we arrived and never again. Fans did the trick.

Is AC in cars now standard everywhere? We didn’t have that until we moved to the Washington, DC, area. Vicki uses it; I open the windows. OK, I did throw in the towel for part of the drive to Wisconsin. I won’t blame that on Vicki.

Wrap Up

Climate is changing and we’re not helping. Average temperatures have increased in the U.S., and extreme weather events have become more frequent and intense. It’s all very serious. But from a comfort standpoint, we could deal with it if it weren’t for people like my AC-worshipping manager.

What’s happened to us? Stand up, turn on your fans and forget about the AC (unless you’re driving to Wisconsin). Thanks for stopping by.

P.S.

NOAA Facts Page on derechos: http://www.spc.noaa.gov/misc/AbtDerechos/derechofacts.htm
NOAA summary report on the 29 June 2012 derecho:  http://www.spc.noaa.gov/misc/AbtDerechos/casepages/jun292012page.htm
US Global Change Research Program report: http://www.globalchange.gov/publications/reports/scientific-assessments/us-impacts/full-report/national-climate-change

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