The strangest thing happened at work this afternoon. The power went out.

Actually, that’s an oversimplification. Though most of our lights stayed on, all our computer screens went dark (as did the computers driving them). In the days of film or videotape that might not have been as awful. Today, everything is on a computer. Everything – even stuff you wouldn’t expect, like video.

Our engineers started scrambling. They knew part of the station was powerless, but they didn’t know why or where the problem was.

Throughout the building there was the incessant chirping of Nextel as engineer called engineer, hoping for some insight or a sign that would lead to a fix.

Where Nextels weren’t chirping, UPS (uninterruptable power supplies) were. Their batteries were quickly draining and they were signaling their own death.

I started to think, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone, what would we do? How would we, or could we, do the news with only limited electricity?

There have been stations in hurricane and tornado areas that broadcast from their parking lot using a ‘live truck’ as a mobile control room. Is that even possible anymore when all the video is on a hard drive somewhere?

Someone asked me if I had any magnetic Suns! I’ve been doing the weather for over 20 years. That era totally predates me.

I watched a production person move through the studio holding a gigantic electrical strip… like an extension cord on steroids.

Our master control operators managed to reroute our feed around the television station, going from Springfield, MA to Mad Mare Mountain in Hamden. We were back. Somehow, with part of our electricity on, another engineer figured out a way to get a camera on live for a news brief. There would be no video from stories, but at least we’d have a live on-air presence.

Soon all the computers returned. I’m not sure what the problem was, but it was fixed.

Back in the weather area I had a dozen or so PCs to bring back to life. Some of them needed to be fired in sequence to bring up the networks that interconnected them.

One by one they came back to life. Little by little the entire building picked up where it had left off. By the time we got on the air at 5:00 PM, it was impossible to know we had been dead in the water less than an hour earlier.

If this was some sort of test – we passed. I just don’t want to have to go through it again… though I’d like to play around with magnetic Suns and Magic Markers.

One thought on “Powerless”

  1. I remember a dimly lit newscast the night of the Hamden tornados in 1989. (I think the tornados cut a swath right down through downtown New Haven) We were in that weird subset of people who had power. I wondered how you guys (I remember Dr. Mel distinctly) pulled it off.

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