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The Power Failure
From Hell

By Ted Twietmeyer

There you are, sitting fat and happy watching your favorite ball game. It's the bottom of the ninth when WHAMO! A blackout hits and off goes everything powered by AC. The first thing you do instinctively is to look outside for bad weather. But as the sun sets, it's quite clear that it's still the same blue sky you saw all day today. We'll just wait a while and it the power will come back on. It always does.

You call your friend on the other side of town using your cell phone. His power is out too. But you are alerted that your battery is running low, and decide to hang up to conserve it. You ask your family where the flashlight is and put it to work as it begins to get dark. A quick call to the power company yields a soft, melodic voice telling you "Crews are working on the problem. No estimated time of repair is given. Thank you for your patience." Your past experience tells you to forbid anyone to open the fridge, because you want it to retain all the cold you can and keep food in the freezer from melting.

It's getting near midnight and still there is no power. Six hours have passed since it went off. When you try your friend across town, your cell phone shows no signal. That's because the mandatory four hours of backup for the cell tower has long expired. You toss your cell phone down in disgust. Groping around with your flashlight you help your family get to bed. Computers, phones and everything AC powered just isn't working. Everyone might as well go to bed, and so everyone does just that. Things will be better in the morning.

In the morning, you unplug the wireless phone from the wall and plug in your old 70's old faithful telephone from the closet that doesn't need power to work. When you pick it up, there still isn't any dial tone. Then it hits you ­ you and your family are cut off from the world! Out to your vehicle you wander half-dressed, thinking about the food in the fridge starting to melt away into slop. Turning on the car radio yields something you never, ever thought you'd ever hear ­"There was an attack or something happened to the power grid, it's still unclear. Power will not be restored for at least several MONTHS. Stay tuned for more on this emergency radio station for as long as we can still transmit."

Panic starts to set in. Missing last night's ball game suddenly becomes totally irrelevant to you and your family. Your wife hears the broadcast and instinctively looks to you for answers. Her tough, modern-independent-woman persona has suddenly vanished and now she says, "Honey, I'm scared to death - what are we going to do?" The children begin to cry because they too, know this is all bad.

You quickly assess the situation. Fuel is needed to run the generator which you bought right after the last power failure. But five gallons of gas only runs it about 12 hours, so you decide to head up to the gas station with all the empty containers you have. At least you'll be able to bring home enough fuel to run it for a couple days. You begin to drive around, only to find gas stations are closed everywhere. Then you find one, which is apparently still open by the line of cars you see a half-mile long. You look down at your gas gauge as you get in line ­ you've got a half tank of gas. There's no way to tell your wife where you are and that you won't be home for hours.


As you sit in that painful line waiting for your turn, you find that at least you have enough cash to fill the cans and jugs you brought along. While you're waiting, you start seeing National Guard vehicles going by and other vehicles with Canadian flags. "What are they doing here?" you ask yourself. And then there are the super-mad people, who waited in line only to find out they cannot use their bank cards to buy gasoline because the banking networks are down. These people storm off like angry hornets. Finally, two hours later it's your turn to fill up everything you have including your car. And you realize the price has been jacked up to scalp you by more than a dollar a gallon. This simple fuel stop has cost you more than $100.00 - in fact all the cash you had except for the fifty cents left.

Driving back home you turn up the radio again. Why are they talking about condition red? What's that all about? Two hours left to get off the streets? Here and there on major highways you see soldiers starting to set up what look like road blocks, with nearby areas surrounded by Concertina wire. These look like they are for detaining people. Why would they be doing this? "Do they know something I don't?" you ask yourself. You spot a big grocery store, but the sign says "Closed ­ sold out." And there's an army vehicle nearby with two men openly brandishing machine guns and red Maple-leaf flags on their arms, staring right at you. Guess it's time to head home.

As you pull into your driveway you see military Hum-Vs driving around your neighborhood warning everyone that "Martial law has been declared and you are to stay inside your home - or you will be arrested or shot on sight." And they aren't American either! Oh God, they just MIGHT shoot if I go out again! Now it's REALLY getting scary. Your mind races with questions ­ "What about my wife's medications she must take every day to prevent stroke, and my son's Asthma medicine? They can die without these medicines! What about food?"

Suddenly, you feel a terror like you never felt before. How could this happen in America of all places?

Unfortunately, the above scenario is just the beginning of what will happen. No gasoline can be pumped out of storage tanks at gas stations without power, no bank cards will work anymore and very few gas stations have backup generators. Public water will stop working, as generators for the water supply plants, pumping stations and wells run out of fuel.

Los Angeles alone has several giant one thousand horsepower pumps that pump water from the Colorado River over a mountain to LA. This IS their main water supply, and these pumps require so much power to run the facility that it has its own high voltage substation connected to cross-country high tension lines. Food and fuel cannot be delivered to gas stations anywhere because martial law will prohibit the truckers from driving. If a fire breaks out, an entire city or neighborhood can burn to the ground because there will no way to put out the fire without water from the public water supply.

Natural gas pipelines use compressors along their routes, which are actually fueled by the very natural gas they are pumping. These require no AC power to pump natural gas. However, loss of AC power will cause instrumentation to shut down as a needed safety measure, and this could shut down the entire gas pipeline. High pressures are involved, and without instrumentation, metering and computers pipeline operators would be running blind which is too dangerous. No more natural gas for cooking, hot water or heating. And the operators will immediately return home to their families. After all, what do they have to gain by staying at their jobs? There will not be any further paychecks.

Water treatment plants require massive pumps to filter and pressurize water mains. When AC power fails so will the water supply fail, when generators run out of diesel fuel. Water company workers will also head straight home to be with their families when condition red takes place rather than have to live for years at a water treatment plant, eventually starving to death.

Sewer systems today all require massive pumps to process sewage, grind up solids, power rakes that constantly skim and scrape tanks to clear debris and filter the effluent. Gravity filtered sewage treatment plants are a thing of the past. Many neighborhoods in cities across America have pumping stations installed deep below street level. These pumps grind up and pump sewage under pressure up to a sewer line. This is required because the "lay of the land" puts people's basements below the level of the gravity-powered main sewer line. When these pumps go down from lack of power, entire neighborhoods will have toilets back up. Sinks, showers, bathtubs etc will no longer work, and will become serious health hazards. It was sewage material carried by rats that started the Plague of Europe. Cholera is yet another serious hazard, and so is Staphylococcus among others.

Though newer homes have sewer and water main check valves, there is no guaranty they will always work properly when needed. Imagine sewage backing up into your home, and you can't even go outside to get away from it without being shot or arrested. And even worse, there won't be any running water available to flush the filth out of your home. You'll either have to live with it - along with the flies and disease that go with it, or go outside and be arrested or shot.

Now, you think this is as bad as it gets? No it isn't. Without food, tens or even hundreds of millions of people will literally starve to death. Some will resort to cannibalism, as the pain of hunger is beyond comprehension to ordinary people. This is what happened when a group of people in a plane crashed high in the Andes mountains many years ago - they survived by resorting to cannibalism. That is, if you don't literally die of thirst before hand.

Though the water no longer flows from the tap in an extended power failure and toilets no longer can flush, human beings will continue to create excrement of two kinds, as well material from women who menstruate. All this waste must be put somewhere.

Is this the end of it? No, because winter will come sooner or later. That brings on an entire new set of problems if you live in cold areas of America, including the added risk of hypothermia and pneumonia. And through all this you remember some of the last words you heard on your car radio in the garage before it finally stopped working as the result of a dead car battery and no gasoline. "Those who can't deal with the stress are to go out to the curb, lay face down with their hands over their head and wait for a patrol to pick them up. They will be taken to a government camp where their needs will be taken care of."

Other final words informed you that "All bank funds and stocks have been confiscated during martial law to pay for the tremendous costs the government incurred enforcing martial law. This was necessary because revenue from all forms of taxes had ceased during martial law." You suddenly realize that you're penniless and without a job.

But then, what good would your money do you? Without the banking network operational you will have no way to access that money anyway. And even if you had all that cash with you now, what could you buy with it and where would you buy it? Finally you understand the horror ­ you and your family are prisoners in your own home.

The above scenario is an attempt to detail the implications of simply losing AC power in America. Most likely all these same horrors would happen anywhere else in the world this happens, too. Just as the people of Iraq what it's like without power.

Could this be what the future holds under our "New Freedom?" Are we to sit around and simply wait for this nightmare-from-hell scenario to unfold? I'll let the reader fill in the blanks here.

Ted Twietmeyer


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