Storm knocked out all connection to the world - thinking small solar to power things and some radios


Senior Member
Had some strong storms blow through. Took the roof off a couple buildings a few miles from here that I think made national news. It was bad here too but only some smaller limbs broken off trees. Took out power for several hours. UPS on some computer stuff including the main Spectrum box and router but it quickly ran out and internet was out too so that was not much use even when we still had power in the UPS. So we didn't even have weather info to tell what was happening. And our cell phones were nearly worthless too. Had plenty of bars but nothing worked. People with other carriers reported similar outages. Dug out a battery powered radio but surprisingly the local stations were doing normal programming and tuned around but didn't find any stations covering the weather. Got out a weather radio and put some batteries in it but it had forgotten the local stations and couldn't figure out how to set the tuning without a manual which we didn't have (normally would look up such stuff on the net). Power came back on after several hours so we could get OTA TV. Phones started working for voice calls after a few hours but data didn't work until about 6 hours later. Spectrum for internet was out last night but working this morning.

It's not like we have to have internet but it would be good to know what it happening - if a tornado is coming for example. So I am thinking about how to improve things.

Had already been thinking about a small solar power system. Utility does not do net metering so a large array with grid intertie isn't practical and most of them require utility to supply power so that isn't good. Thinking some panels and batteries that uses the grid to top off the batteries if needed and then run some things entirely off the batteries. Network stuff could use DC/DC converters for better efficiency than double conversion through an inverter. Some intelligence for load shedding would extend run time.

Remember my parents had something like a 6 band portable radio that tuned special weather stations, AM, FM, shortwave. Wonder if anything like that is still available...

Need to look into ham radio options as I have my license. A VHF radio would allow some local communication. Packet might allow some weather info. Shortwave would allow longer range communication. I have some equipment on the shelf but haven't used it for years.

Just posting to see what others do and get some ideas...
During a storm there will not be any solar power, maybe after, in a disaster. Batteries would be the only source and a simple grid based charger would be the simplest and cheapest.

Consideration needs to be given if the outage covers a larger area, there may no be any mobile tower system working anyway.

I remember our big blackout. I had to work that night and the traffic lights at intersections were the worst. We were always told the intersection was to be treated as a four-way stop intersection. However most of the vehicles lights would not reach up high enough to see the dead traffic signals and just roared right through without stopping. It was dangerous to be on the roads. I was almost involved with a large flat-bed transport carrying steel on the bed. The next day I realised I went through a few traffic lights, I forgot were there, also.
Not counting on solar power at the time power is needed. Would have some good sized batteries - bigger than typical UPS but smaller than large solar array that covers the whole roof. Could just do a charger from the utility but was wanting to do a couple panels of solar just to get some experience with them. Thinking I will have a utility charger too for when solar isn't quite enough to keep everything going with the solar input. Once I get some use data I could add panels or batteries.

Cell tower had signal but apparently they had trouble with the tower connections to networks so calls and data weren't going through. Not sure if other carriers towers had exactly the same issues but I saw some users saying that other carriers were not working also.

This outage was during daylight hours so less trouble with intersections and traffic lights but still saw a few places where people ran through lights. So I was extra careful at intersections to make sure others were stopping. At night it would be much more dangerous.

BTW, I do have a generator but it seemed like a lot of trouble to fire it up just to get some TV to get some local weather news. I didn't need lights since it was daytime. And OTA TV was all that would have provided.