Preparing for the Next Snoqualmie Valley Power Outage – Steps for Survival

The stormy fall weather is officially upon us, with a weather jet stream aimed directly at the Pacific Northwest.  Fall storms lead to winter storms, and in the Snoqualmie Vally that typically means flooding, wind, snow and, yes, sometimes power outages.

We’ve lived through a few of those power outages in our 11 years in the Valley.  So far, the worst was December 2006 when the power was out for 5 days.  That year we celebrated our daughter’s 5th birthday in the dark and cooked her cake on the barbeque.  It was our first introduction to the “oh my gosh, I wish we had a generator” feeling.

Last January’s ice storm and ensuing 3-day power outage had us saying, “oh my gosh, so glad we finally have a generator.”

Some of you asked how I was able to keep you updated during that ice storm, so I decided to share our “tricks of the trade” for surviving Snoqualmie Valley power outages with light, heat, television and internet.

Damage on Hgwy 202 during last January’s ice storm

Invest in a generator and transfer switch

When building our second Snoqualmie home, we paid the builder to install a transfer switch/generator outlet.  It cost us about $700 at the time.  You can also add one after your house is built, but the switch allows you to switch over certain breakers in the fuse box to be powered by your generator.

Now, I realize generators are not cheap and not everyone can afford one, but after our past power outage experiences, we decided to make the personal investment.

We invested in a Honda generator.  There are many brands out there, but Honda is reputable and Issaquah Honda sells them nearby.  Just make sure you get one strong enough to power those things you absolutely need during a power outage.

Last year we kept the refrigerator, TV, telephone power box, tankless water heater and a few lights powered.  We could’ve powered more, but the more amps you use, the faster your generator burns through gasoline.  The local gas station was getting sporadic gas deliveries so we were conservative with our usage.

Luckily, our two gas fireplaces kept the house plenty warm so we didn’t have to power the furnace this time.

DSL over Comcast During When There’s no Power

I know.  You’re all going to tell me how much faster your cable internet is than my DSL.  That might be true, but when the power goes, so does Comcast.  That means internet, phone and television are all lost after Comcast’s main system back-up battery packs lose their juice.  And these aren’t battery packs at your home.  These are main system battery packs.

DSL, however, runs on phone lines. If you live in a newer (built after 2005) Snoqualmie home, your house most likely has fiber optic telephone lines instead of standard copper lines.  Ours does.  The great thing about the fiber optic lines is they allow you to get the fastest DSL that Centurylink offers, which is way faster than standard DSL; maybe not cable fast, but still really fast.

Those fiber optic phone lines have a power box in the garage, so without a generator to power it, eventually the back-up battery power will fizzle and phone service will be lost.

Satellite TV Over Cable When the Power Goes

We’ve only used Directv for television service since moving to the Valley.  When we first moved, cable wasn’t even available on our street, so it was our only option.

As I said already, when the power goes, so does Comcast TV cable.  But a satellite dish keeps receiving its feed.  So if you have a generator to power your TV, you will be good to go.

Unfortunately, during January’s outage, our dish iced over and it’s too high to reach in order to clean it off.  BUT… the DVR still worked so the kids were able to watch hundreds of earlier recorded shows.

Note, if you do get Directv in the Vally, invest in their monthly service protection.  With our crazy winds, sometimes the dish can get out of whack and need aligning.  The monthly $5 fee is worth it when a repair man comes out nasty, rainy weather and climbs a 30-foot ladder to straighten your dish.

Invest in Apple TV

During the last power outage our Apple TV proved its $99 worth.  Many local news stations now stream their newscasts to the internet.  With Apple TV, you can click one button and whatever is streaming on your computer magically appears on your television screen.  Just plug the device into your TV with a HDMI cable and you’re set.

The little 4-inch black box will also stream movies, music, pictures, etc. from your computer (or in my case iPhone) to your television.  Last January, I was able to turn Komo News on my iPhone, hit the Apple TV icon and steam the news right to my big screen.

Technology definitely made January’s 3-day power outage a whole different ball game than the 5-day one in December 2006.

Surviving Snoqualmie Valley power outages wrap up:

  1. Get a generator and if you can a generator/transfer switch
  2. DSL computer internet works when Comcast doesn’t
  3. Directv works when Comcast doesn’t
  4. Technology – Apple TV is worth its $99 price tag when the power goes

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  • Friends,

    This article is wonderfully thorough on what to do and how to keep going in the digital age. We have a Honda generator too and it is 19 years old and still starts on the first couple of pulls.
    For those of you who have fiber optics and a generator switch, be aware that some generator switches do not activate all of the AC plug-ins in your unit so you may need to run an extension cord to the battery pack that is just inside your garage. Our battery pack is about 7″ X 11″ and labelled “Cyber Power” and will automagically keep your internet and phone going for quite a few hours but then its battery dies if it is not plugged in to a generator.

    Dave & Kathy Battey

  • If uncle Walt says “You don’t need a transfer switch. You can just do something called a “back feed” into your house and power what you want. ” He is suggesting a deadly alternative that has killed the very people that are trying to restore your power. A properly installed transfer switch isolates the generator power from the transmission line power. The electricity is then safe for you to use and for those working to restore the transmission line.

  • Living Snoqualmie