Saturday, April 21, 2007

Getting old

No, not me. These power outages.

When Alex is out of town, I vary my bedtime ritual to have a bedtime snack and fall asleep on the couch while watching a couple of episodes of Friends. I never do that when he's around; we either watch a rented movie together or each do our own thing on the computers until somebody decides it's time for bed.

Anyway, he left on Wednesday and I was already looking forward to my nightly RerunFest.

Alas, it was not to be. The power went out on Wednesday evening. Fortunately, I had made the girls' dinner and they were eating it. Unfortunately, I had not made anything for myself yet, so I had to have cookies for dinner. (Okay, the relative fortunateness of that may actually be up for grabs.) It came back about 9:30, by which time we were all asleep.

Well, these things happen.

But when I went down to pick the girls up from school the next day, the power was out down in town (3 miles from the house). It had apparently been out since noon, and came back while we were picking up some things at the grocery store (which had a generator to provide some light and power the computerized checkouts).

When I got home, the power was out here. When it hadn't come back by dinner time, we went over to the restaurant across the street (which also has a generator). The lights came back on while we were there, so the girls were able to get into their pajamas and brush their teeth without candles. They were on the phone with my Mom when the power went back out. It apparently came back at midnight, given the fact that my digital clock (which resets to 12:00 when power is restored) was flashing the correct time the next morning.

Yesterday it went out from 3:00 to 7:30 pm again. Here at my house. Different friends in different neighborhoods have had other patterns. Some of them have lost water as well, but that hasn't happened at my place.

Apparently; nay, clearly, the national power system is in some kind of crisis. Not being a news watcher myself (and not having power at regular news-watching times anyway), I haven't gotten the official word, but everyone seems to have a theory.

Needless to say, the rumors floating around any given neighborhood are generally relayed more authoritatively than anything anyone has heard from an official source, but I've heard it all over the past few days.

Costa Rica gets much of its power from a hydroelectric plant at Lake Arenal. The lake is low at the moment, because we are at the end of the dry season and the rains haven't really begun in earnest. So apparently that's a factor; the supply is simply insufficient to meet the demand.

Then I heard that there was some sort of explosion at Arenal, although that was said to have occurred on Thursday while the first major blackout, affecting most of the Central Valley (and, therefore, over half the population of the country) simultaneously, occurred on Wednesday. (Since then, there seems to be more of a rolling blackout pattern, with the power coming and going on the hour or half hour.)

I also heard there was a problem with an electric plant in Limon, which was damaged or destroyed by fire several months ago. Several months ago? Uh, okay.

The guy who is installing the paving stones on our front walk (which is coming out really beautiful, by the way) says he heard the power would be working normally over the weekend, and that the rolling blackouts would resume on Monday. (He can lay the stones without electricity, but some of them need to be cut to fit, and he can't use his power tool to do that.)

My mother in law says she heard the president of the power company (which is a government monopoly) and some repair techs on TV yesterday, and that they all seemed like nice people, and people do make mistakes. And, too, that this nice young sexologist who is on once a week had some suggestions for making the most of the blackouts.

My own opinion? Whatever it is, they seem to be working on it, and if I could only learn to make the coffee before 3:00 pm everything would be fine. Well, better anyway.


Dad April 21, 2007 8:50 AM  

Googling "Costa Rica" + "Power outages" yielded this:

Power Outage Hits Entire Country
April 20th, 2007
by Rod Hughes

A break in the Arenal-Canas tranmission line, one of the most important in the country, sent Costa Rica back into the 19th century for more than an hour last night, causing traffic jams as traffic lights went out, knocking out cell phone services and even shutting off water in higher areas as electric pumps shut down.

Cause of the shutdown was unknown at the time this newsfeed was filed. The blackout lasted from 8:10 to 9:45 p.m. and was the first nationwide outage since Aug. 21, 2001 when a lightning bolt hit near the Cachi Dam hydroelectric generators, shutting two down and causing a chain reaction across the country.

Well, that seems to explain one night, but not the other two.

Did Robin recover from her sadness at seeing bugs self-immolate in the candle while Mom was talking with her?

Jennifer April 21, 2007 8:55 AM  

Well, no. She didn't. But she was sick yesterday (fine today) and seemed to be content to lie on the couch in the dark last night.

I lit candles (which, as it turned out, were immolation-free) and read in my room, where Julia joined me and soon fell asleep. I carried them both to their beds around 7:00 and the power came on a few minutes later.

I'm not sure that Robin will be content to do that every night (should the pattern continue), but it worked well for yesterday.

Anonymous May 03, 2007 10:40 AM  

On Thursday April 19th there was a countrywide blackout due to a circuit explosion at a reservoir that provides electricity, the power outage lasted about 3 hours or so. Most of Costa Rica’s energy is powered hydroelectrically, dry season in this country is from January to April, this year has been a particularly dry one, causing very low water levels in the reservoirs and lakes that provide the water to make electricity. Due to the low water levels, the electric plants are functioning at a lower than usual capacity. I.C.E. (Costa Rican Electricity Institute), has started to implement temporary rolling blackouts for a few hours at a time in different sectors of the country, one area will have a loss of electricity for 2 – 3 hours then the blackout will “roll” on to another area. Most tourist areas are not very affected by this for several reasons; I.C.E. has limited itself to shutting off power in more residential and metropolitan areas, the tourist spots are pretty much left alone. Many tourist oriented companies have generators to keep the electricity running. You may experience minor inconveniences if staying in the downtown San Jose area.
The blackout is strictly a temporary situation that should be resolved shortly, rainy season starts in May and extends into November or December, meaning it should begin to rain in the next few days, thus the reservoirs can return to full functioning capacity. If you are planning a trip in the next while to Costa Rica there is no need to cancel it, just contact an agent at and they can assist you in choosing an appropriate area, more importantly one that is not affected by the power outages.

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