Monthly Archives: April 2009

What to do before the network goes down: emergency preparation for Michigan summer storms

Every summer there are thunderstorms in southeastern Michigan, and every year some part of the networks (power, phone, cable, cell phone, traffic lights, twitter) go down.  Here's a roundup of some things you can add to your emergency communications checklist so that when the weather goes sour you are prepared to be safe.  I'm leaving a few of them blank where I don't know the answer, so check the comments on this for the fill in the blanks.

DTE Energy: power outage map, storm center, emergency number: 800.477.4747, how to report an outage, link to safety sheet to print out for ahead of time, media contact, how to get a quote for publication

Comcast: network outage map?, customer care number, how to report an outage, how to report on Twitter (@ComcastCares), safety sheet, how to report a downed line, media / pr contact, how to get a quote for publication, blogs and other media outlets

First, know that they depend on stable power, so if you have power problems nearby they need to be resolved before cable comes back online.  This includes downed power lines that might cross and energize cable lines.

Second, they actively monitor email, Twitter, and telephones 24×7, so reporting an issue online will get a response.

Third, because of the nature of cable networks, it may be necessary to trace the broadband network from the cable head end to figure out what is wrong with the infrastructure; one storm may weaken some infrastructure, another may weaken it further, a third might take it all the way down.

ATT: network outage map?, customer care number, how to report an outage, how to track or report on Twitter, safety information, how to report a downed line, media/pr contact, how to get a quote for publication, blogs and other media outlets

T-Mobile: network outage map?, customer care number, how to report, how to track, safety info, impact of power outages on network, impact of congestion on network

911: how to call on a mobile phone, script to follow in an emergency, how to report location, where is it handled, when you live on a boundary, direct numbers, non-emergency numbers, keep your phone book

Weather information, emergency weather band radios, batteries, radio stations in the area that interrupt for weather, Weather Underground, how to report severe weather as a weather spotter, home weather stations, where does the weather come from, tracking weather on Twitter, who to follow out of the area for severe weather reports

Ham radio, how to get a license, emergency communications coordination, ham relay for health and welfare traffic

Mesh wireless, how to set up Wireless Ypsi, use of mesh networks in partial network failure to route to nearest working neighbor, quote from Steve Pierce, how to set up in your neighborhood, policy from service providers


Chickens! How to raise your own yard hens (and deal with The Man along the way)

from Matthaei Botanical Gardens Adult Education:

4/29/2009 – Yard Hens II; Raising and keeping happy, healthy hens at home

Dates: Wednesday April 29, 7-9pm
Fee: $20.00 (
$16.00 for members)
Class Number: 09-AE-19s
Ready for spring chickens? Welcome hens into your yard with Part II of
our wildly successful class, Yard Hens. In this second installment we
expand on Part I and take an in-depth look at how to raise and care for
happy, healthy birds at home. This two-hour class will cover poultry
health and maintenance with a special focus on heirloom breeds. Learn
where to get chicks, receive valuable resources, and connect with a
community of poultry fanciers.
Instructor: Andy Sell
Class Max: 18
registration information

but if you do so, make sure you read the Ann Arbor city ordinances and all of the very, very fine print very carefully:

No permit shall be issued to a person, by the City, and no chickens shall be allowed to be kept unless the owners of all residentially
zoned adjacent properties (see 9:42(3)(j)) consent in writing to the permit. Please attach the Adjacent Neighbor Consent Form to
this application and check the box that you understand and have complied with the terms of this ordinance requirement.

If the requirements of Chapter 107 are not complied with, the City may revoke any permit granted and/or initiate prosecution for a
civil infraction violation. A person who has been issued a permit shall submit it for examination upon demand by any police officer or
code enforcement officer. Fenced enclosures are subject to all provisions of Chapter 104 (Fences). Notwithstanding the issuance of a
permit by the City, private restrictions on the use of property shall remain enforceable and take precedence over a permit. Private
restrictions include but are not limited to deed restrictions, condominium master deed restrictions, neighborhood association by-laws,
and covenant deeds. A permit issued to a person whose property is subject to private restrictions that prohibit the keeping of chickens
is void. The interpretation and enforcement of the private restriction is the sole responsibility of the private parties involved.

What happens if the man doesn't agree with your poultry easement: you get a personal visit from the city attorney (!!!!!) who is apparently the city's only animal control officer.

We decided we were not interested in pursuing the official permit,
as we are a bit out of compliance anyway and do not really feel this
should be required (that this process is more just a way for the city
to ease into a common sense practice). The city attorney hand delivered
a notice telling us of all our waywardness. I will post a
notice/petition of support out front. Please come by and sign it when
you get a chance. Thanks!!

Read the Top Ten Reasons to Raise Your Own Yard Hens

6. Outlaws – Urbanites with chickens are an elite vanguard that gets
to ignore stupid laws

Food safety in a power outage (American Red Cross, USDA, CDC et al)

If the power goes out for an extended period of time, some of your food can go bad.  Here's pointers to documents you can grab ahead of time and print out so that you can know how to sort through things.

From the American Red Cross: Food safety in a power outage

Sudden power outages can be frustrating and troublesome, especially
when they are prolonged. Perishable foods should not be held above 40
degrees for more than 2 hours. If a power outage is 2 hours or less,
you need not be concerned, but how do you save your food when the
refrigerator is out for longer times? Being prepared can help. By
planning ahead, you can save your perishables.

USDA, Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency

Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible
to maintain the cold temperature. The refrigerator will keep food
safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer
will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if
it is half full) if the door remains closed. Obtain dry or block
ice to keep your refrigerator as cold as possible if the power is
going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Fifty pounds of
dry ice should hold an 18-cubic foot full freezer for 2 days. Plan
ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.

CDC, What you need to know when the power goes out unexpectedly

Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of your food right
before you cook or eat it. Throw away any food that has a temperature
of more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the 2003 blackout hit, one of the things that I didn't know was that the Busch's store nearest me had an emergency generator and was online the whole time.  Not every grocery store has uninterruptable power.

The Arborwiki dry ice page has a listing of some companies in the Ann Arbor area that sell dry ice.

DTE power outage on 25 April 2009 is worst in Oakland County, Michigan

Bild 13DTE Energy is Detroit Edison + Michigan Consolidated Gas.

This is a clipping from the DTE power outage map pulled at 11:15pm on Saturday, 25 April 2009.  If you have a network connection, you can get your own copy (as a PDF) from their web site.  The color coding at a glance is simple: outage intensity goes pale blue, pale yellow, bright pink, bright orane, and angry red.  No angry red on this map.

The Oakland Press has news of Oakland County, so I'll defer to them for details.  The power outage story they wrote has a byline credit to Jerry Wolffe

There were at least 120,000 DTE Energy customers without electricity in
Southeastern Michigan, said utility spokesman Scott Simons.

The utility, which has 2.2 million electricity customers in the state,
is calling in repair crews from other parts of the state and other
states, Simons said.

It will take at least a “couple of days” to restore power to customers, he predicted.

Damage from the storm in Oakland County was extensive.

Damage extends to St Clair County – this report from 8pm Saturday from Bob Thomas, twitter user @btcomp

Power out in much
of St. Clair County, Michigan (Port Huron) running generator to cycle
refrig and freezers until 11pm & off till morning.

I know that the Kensington Metropark lost power part of the afternoon because the kids did not get to do the scheduled sheep-shearing; still a fun time.

Brighton, MI was hard hit in the first wave of storms, with soccer games cancelled or cut short and kids running for cover, per a conversation with a friend who was one of those who ran for cover.

Lansing Give Camp had a complete power outage, per @jayharris:

Weather fail at #LansingGiveCamp. Complete power failure. Coding comes to a halt. Epic Fail of all Epic Fails.

but subsequent accounts via twitter make it look like they abandoned their original venue and split up to a variety of locations that did have power and wifi and carried on as planned.

Thanks to Lansing Center and @ehart67 for helping out #LansingGiveCamp with relocation.

All in all a typical summer thunderstorm with trees down, some dislocations and network failures, and quite a few adaptable people.

Michigan morel festivals for 2009, and how to find morels

How-to-find-morels-0472032747 My search logs are starting to show hits for morel season, so it’s time to put this year’s post together.  The early reports from the morel progression sightings map show a few isolated dots in southern Michigan, as of April 22 2009, but typically May is morel month, when and where the May apples are in good form.

Here’s a list of some morel festivals in the state; if I have missed any, please let me know so that next year’s list can be better.

Make your plans for May 8th –10th, 2009 for our
“Golden Anniversary”  50th Annual Mesick Mushroom Festival.
  Mesick is on M-115 NW of Cadillac; they helpfully sell “spore bags” to pickers so that when you go out in the woods looking for morels you can seed new crops for future years.

49th Annual National Morel Mushroom Festival: Boyne City, Michigan May 14 through 17 2009  Brochure (pdf), and the site has the song, the Mushroomer’s Waltz (mp3), which tells you precisely what sorts of locations are good to go picking.

The University of Michigan Press has a book – How to Find Morels, by Milan Pelouch, recipes by Lila Pelouch – which tells all:

While many morel fans remain tight lipped about their favorite subject, in How to Find Morels
author Milan Pelouch freely shares everything he’s learned during his
years of morel hunting. The book covers all aspects of finding and
eating morels: identification of true and false morels; what to wear
(and not to wear) and take with you on mushroom hunts; when to search
for morels; the best places to look for them; cleaning and preservation
methods; and, of course, delicious recipes using morels in dozens of
different dishes, from soups to entrées. Although the author’s
preferred hunting area is northern Michigan, his tips can be used in
any location in the United States.

If you want Scientific Research to go with your morels, see doi:10.1007/BF02858213, a touching account from a Harvard lad fresh to the Michigan woods published as Morchellamania in Michigan, Economic Botany, Volume 33, Number 1 / January, 1979.

Any day you can go for a walk in the woods is a good day!