Happy New Year.

2019 started at midnight with some traditional fireworks by the locals (aka read Birk) and was followed by well-wishes, some more bubble, and a good night of deep sleep.
All ready for a beautiful sunny day.
(readers discretion adviced, this was supposed to be a short Happy New year post and turned out into a much longer soapie post, proceed with caution)

Day One

A beautiful day on the island

We took a stroll with the car (the roads around us were really too icy, we did try, and returned after a few dramatic slides) to take a few beautiful dronies and some fresh air.

All was quiet and calm.
Just like it should be … (dramatic music roll setting in)
A nice candlelight dinner and some Netflix to end the festivities and get ready to get back to work the next day.
Wivi taking pictures with her X-ray goggles and me, well, I had some serious writing to do.


At 20:12 we decided to lower the Xmas lights in our flagpole (don’t ask, a Swedish tradition to light up the dark nights a little more) as they started dangerously waving around and looked more like fireflies than a serene Xmas tree.

Knocking on the door.

At 21:03 Alfrida knocked out the lights completely (and the electricity as well) on our little island and everything turned dark.
Nothing unusual, we are kind of used to the odd outage during winter, and normally it takes between a few minutes to an hour or two, three. The longest I can remember living on the island (the 15 odd years) we were out of electricity was like half a day.
8 hours or so, and that felt longish.

The Kakelung

We filled up the `kakelung´, the Swedish word for tiled stove or masonry heater and we continued to watch the Netflix series (Bad Blood) on our iPad over 4G.
Life was good and romantic.

And indeed, around midnight the electricity, the lights and the corresponding land based internet returned, and all was normal.


03.07. Alfrida hits again.
The winds are howling, the whole island (and large parts of Vaxholm) are dark again.
I have to admit I was a tiny little bit worried when I felt Alfrida pulling at our roof. Trees and flagpoles alike were dancing in the wind.
Gudrun came to my mind.
I had seen her devastating powers a few weeks after when visiting friends in 2005.
By now Alfrida was in her full glory of a Swedish Class Two storm creating havoc north of Stockholm (she managed to get up to Hurricane speed at some places).
I filled up the Kakelung and returned to bed.
Not much more one can do, and being outside sounded like an even more stupid plan.

Day Two

07:46. Wednesday morning, the second of January. SMHI has downgraded Alfrida to a class one storm now in the Stockholm area.
No electricity, and still pretty windy.
Lots of fallen trees everywhere.

On the road, on the electricity grid, and even on people houses and the odd car. The whole island is still without electricity, and the first updates from e-on (the owner of the electricity grid) indicate all will be good by the end of the day (working day that is).
Time to get a coffee (in Vaxholm Baggeriet as they have coffee, and electricity)

09:43 One Latte later, it is amazing to see the difference in wind speed and water waves here in Vaxholm (just a stonecast away) then at our little bridge. I take a little longer tour with the car to make sure that the batteries of telephone and iPads are loaded.
This can’t take much longer … we will have our electricity back soon. And I take some pictures of the icing in our little by while waiting for the electricity to return.


Google reveals that you can keep the food in a fridge for up to 5 hours with a power outage, and given that it is around freezing outside, I empty (most) of the fridges into a basket and place it outside.
A freezer can hold up for 48 hours, so we are still good on that front. I don’t take a sneak peek inside. I am tempted though.

FB is the new Waffle House

The day passes, the sun sets around 15:00 and the wind is calming down. All is still dark. The FB group “we who are living …” are the new Waffle Houses as long as there is 4G.
And according to FB it does not look good for our little island here, as major power lines have been cut.
E-on keeps their website updated and the troops in the field keep on working.

The 4G quality is seriously degraded (no more Netflix) and it is not possible to ‘work’ from home either, but at least we all stay informed and can share who has already electricity, and who not.

Vaxholm is back on the grid, but goes on and off.
People start to complain about the Xmas lights being on in the street (e-on claims the grid get surcharged when it comes online) and other folks happily point out that it is not LED lights that causing the issue, but heating pumps and the likes.

W. comes home with warm Thai Take Away from Vaxholm.

The Odd Couple ….

Some good books (I will finally manage to complete Homo Deus), and games to pass the evening, while we make sure the ‘Kakelung’ is being fed with wood.
Day two is coming to an end.

Day Three.

No electricity.
Fresh snow has come overnight.
I make coffee on the outdoor gas stove we have.
And it actually works.

Me making coffee …

The outdoor temperature is a steady minus 4.
Time to empty the freezer.

I try to work a little at home, but the 3G (yes, we normally have 4G, we got downgraded) is so bad that I barely manage to stay connected and do some emails. No real writing in the cloud to be done.

After making sure the Kakelugn is well filled and all looks good. I head over to Taby, get myself a nice latte in the shopping mall and download some series from Netflix.
One be better prepared.
A little bit more of emailing and coming to the conclusion that my iPad Pro is a beautiful machine, but a limited office workhorse and not a full fledged replacement of my work laptop as the copy protections enforced by our BYOD device make it impossible to do some heavy copy/paste.
I miss my mouse and my dual screen set up and return back to catching up with some mails before I head home, and reload the Kakelugn.

To keep it fully going and keep the house warm, it needs a refill with some wood every four hours, while it will continue to give heat during the night. And it is still freezing outside.

Pizza with a nice glass of red.

That was the plan for dinner.
I checked on my way home with Waxholm pizzeria if they were open (yes, they were, but they had problems with their phone due to the outages) and agreed with W. she would pick up a family one. On my way out, the lights indeed went out again for a minute or two, before flicking on again. A city on reboot.

However when Wivi came home around six, there was no Pizza. Vaxholm had just suffered a slightly longer outage (another tree that was creating a short circuit on the main wiring into Vaxholm, making the backup to overload, or something like that).

We decided on having grilled shrimps with a glass of white instead.

A nice dinner, followed by a movie on the iPad.
With candles.
And the kakelugn keeping us warm.
The prediction of getting electricity back that evening worked for half the island. We live on the other side.

Friday. Day Four.

Another day in paradise.

By now the romance of candlelight dinners start to lose its charm.
I make coffee on the outdoor gas stove.
It is all grey (picture from the day before).
FB and e-on tell me there should by electricity in the morning.
They hope.
The temperature rose to +4 overnight.
With all the freezing food outside.
Not a good start.
I dial into a work meeting.
A traditional telephone number.
The digital alternatives of Zoom and Skype did not like the available 3G capacity on the island and my collegues said I sounded like C3PO.
And I make some last minute arrangements for my trip to India, on my iPad.
At least that one works.
I need to print it out.
And I need a vaccine.
And I should have delivered by now some of the work papers I was going to complete.
A mild form of stress is getting hold of me.

12:01 Still no electricity.

I leave for the drop-in vaccine.
I did not know it existed, but hey, it does.
And I have W. print out my Visa, and I picked up some shirts in the dry cleaner. At least some clean clothes if this madness continues.

15:00 E-on is still positive.

The predictions keeps on being updated.

16:01 We start to prepare for yet another day with candle light. We checked the local restaurant on the island.
It was open.
And it has pizza, and the electricity was steady for the last day.
Good. A plan is forming.
E-on has updated their forecast to “hopefully” somewhere today. And the FB group mentions a couple of hours, if all goes good and no new surprises are discovered.

That three hanging on the powerline outside our backdoor neighbours is still hanging there. I have to admit I start to be sceptic. Or at least not a believer (the image shows a problem only 50 meters away from our door, where the fallen tree over the road hit the cable and is pushing pressure on it. The cable can snap anytime. Also note there is a distribution unit just opposite of the fallen tree. And this tree is still laying on the cable, together with hundreds of others trees (and yes we filed it))

16:32 Wait, what is that. Light.

The lights turns on. The freezer alarm starts to beep. And I wait for the irreversible reboot. The all is black again. The alarm keeps beeping. I close the door of the freezer. And I see that our WiFi has come online and is working.

17:01 We still have electricity. The house feels warmer. I start to prepare the fish soup and walk out to pick up some of the frozen fish that was laying outside. I stop and turn my head. The sound of the hot tub is not normal.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

We ended up with a good 3 days of no electricity with mild winter temperatures outside. In perceived downtime we had a good 67 hours (from January 1st, 21:00 to January 4th 16:30) without electricity. Technically speaking, the continues downtime was only from 2nd January at 03.07, which still makes for 61 hours, and we were not stranded in a remote area. We had access to the mainland, with shopping malls and friends alike, but it was a most interesting experience these three days.

The Good.

  • It is an experiencing that makes you reflect on things. Especially since it happened in that safe zone where for most of us the only true loss would be some material damages that most probably the insurance company will pick up. I am not talking about forest owners or shops, more on that later, and for sure not about those folks just a few kilometers north in Nörrtalje who lost their houses and still have to wait a week for power, I was referring to us on our little island, selfish I know, but do read on.
  • As far as I understand from news outlets and FB groups alike, no people died in this storm. Gudrun ultimately claimed seven lives, and some of the big storms we saw in the US (and Thailand right now) are less fortunate. This is why this is such a good wake up call. This will happen again. We better be prepared.
  • 4G and mobile stayed on all the time. I don’t know the magic here, but this was really key, and this decoupled infrastructure that kept running for a long time was really a game changer. You don’t feel disconnected. It is a full two-way connection stream and this is awesome. Having a spare battery pack is mandatory I would say in every household. But then again, we all have a battery pack standing on the driveway, and we used our car in the past for that.
  • FB is the new Waffle House. I know this is a stretch, but Facebook communities organized around local villages are a true lifeline to stay connected. There was some bitching from grumpy old men on e-on (more on that later), but overall there was a lot of information sharing coming from the people themselves. Not the community top down, or the spokespersons of the grid, but from real people that connected and kept each other informed. And so I could follow the electricity grid coming back up over the island. I could follow the challenges of the local shop that was open without electricity. And in the early hours, there were warnings on which roads were blocked, and where not to walk.
  • The Swedish Kakelung. When we made the very first renovation in our little house on the prairie island, we invested in this because for the cold days that could come. It has served us well in the past, but during these 61 hours it kept the house in nice comfortable temperatures, and it would have done that with even colder degrees (we only had minus 4 to 6).
  • Candles. It is romantic and we used a lot of them. They also give of some heat, and they don’t use batteries. They can be naughty though, and while we had it all good, it can be bad sometimes as well.
  • The Ferry. At all times we had a lifeline to the mainland. Some folks on FB mentioned our ferry never failed to go in the last thirty odd years she lived on the island. I can’t speak for that, but they were a lifeline, just in case it was needed. And with a much bigger “disaster” this good can easily turn into a bad.
  • Bottled water. Since we had a water draught earlier this year, we were well prepared with bottled water (see bad as well).
  • And Ann cut her old dying tree just in time. Thanks, Ann. You were prepared.

The Bad

  • We need electricity. Our power grid is our lifeline, and there are so many things that depend on it. The discussion already (re)started if this could have been prevented, and if it was Big Inc. taking a risk based approach over their profit line. I don’t know. I tend to be a positive person that believes that Big Inc. is looking beyond profit lines, and that they look for the long haul. The bigger picture. I can be wrong, and I am sure time will tell, but Alfrida was not a force majeur, a strike of god. Alfrida was a good old school classic class two storm that we have seen more and more here in the Nordics. Gudrun, Per, Alfrida. And I am sure there will be more to come. When you drive here through the Swedish countryside, 4 swedish miles north (that is 40 kilometers) of the capital of Sweden, you see a lot of the power grid going through trees. This kind of power outage was bound to happen. The question is how fast will e-on address the challenge. How many more outages will happen before it is addressed.
  • By 6 AM on Wednesday morning, about a 100.000 households were without power. 60 hours later most of it is restored, but the economical impact and effort it took is still to be calculated. Wood owners have called this one a disaster as well. I cannot comment on that aspect but wanted to list it as bad as well.
  • No running water. We have our own well, and we pump our water in winter. No electricity makes no running water makes no flushing the toilet. No shower with ice cold water either, as we have our own water pump.
  • We did not have a generator. And it is one of the things on my “bad” list I will have to research. We could have saved the freezer and the fridge. We could have had running water at least for the toilet. And maybe we could have had even warm water.
  • The Cloud (that is you Microsoft, Google, Amazone, FB, and a few others … ) is worth nothing without an electrical grid and a broad connection to the said cloud. A challenge, that can turn ugly pretty quick. On the other end, if there is connection not just to the electrical but also the cloud grid, it could work.

The Ugly

  • I am not sure what I have to list as ugly. We took the opportunity to cleanse the fridges and freezers we had to threw away some food that got defrosted, yet one can see it as a fresh start.
  • The toilet is for sure one of the more ugly experiences we had. Getting down to the water to get some buckets to flush is not the most optimal experience.
  • And I have to admit, I felt kind of ugly when I took a shower on day four with warm water.
  • And then there is that sound. The sound of the “bubble pool” I heard when I walked out to catch the frozen fish for the fish soup. We don’t know yet how ugly it will be, but it could have turned much more ugly, if the temperature had been minus twenty, and we had no power to run the hot tub (not sure my little generator will be able to handle that, another plan B for me to look at). Right now the sound is part of the startup sequence, and we hope to get a service technician out as soon as possible. The pump is running. The water is still +20 and we are keeping a close eye on it.

At least Birk is. As I will need to jump on a plane to India.

60 plus hours without electricity.
A different kind of way to kickstart 2019.
Happy New Year!

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