Seeing the flames, I went out and saw that one of the trees had broken off, taking the power line with it (click here for part 1). The end of the power line was lying on the ground, arcing away. That area of my property is somewhat swampy, so I wasn’t worried about the fire spreading. The power company came, and within two hours we had our power restored. This is unusual, because I live in the country, and the cities usually get first access to the repair crews.

However, the convenience was restored for but a short time. Two hours later, the power went out again. Every time I opened my door to look outside, all that morning, I heard what sounded like rifle shots. But it was branches cracking to relieve the stored strain energy in the trees.

This is essentially the same reason engineered components crack. When the part is loaded, its shape changes. The atoms experience this as stress as the atoms are moved from their rest locations. There are two sorts of deformation that can happen as a result of the loads: plastic or elastic. With permanent or plastic deformation, the energy is used up making internal changes in the atomic arrangement. If the load is not high enough for that, the deformation is elastic. If the situation is preventing plastic deformation and the material is at its limit, it creates new surfaces to use up that excess energy.

That’s what happened when the steel ring spit out that little chunk of tool steel (Fig. 1), shooting the larger piece forward at a much slower, but still painful, rate. And that’s what happened when so many trees and branches cracked off. The second time I lost power, it was for four days.

Since my heating oil furnace uses electronic ignition, I had to go shopping for a propane heater to keep the pipes and self from freezing. Since I have an electric pump for my well, I had to import water. I was stuck at the house tending the propane burners and missed a writing retreat I’d been looking forward to, as well as a failure-analysis conference. One other loss to report: the remains of a carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream turned to soup, so I had to finish it off! So, there we have all the consequential damages of the power outage.

It might not have been so bad if I still had my generator. But after 20 years of suffering frequent power outages, our electricity supplier fixed the problems. So I gave the generator to someone who lived where they were not so lucky!