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Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy Hits the New York Area, and Maybe Us

Hurricane Sandy, the "Frankenstorm" about to hit the New York area, could also have considerable impacts right here in Glasgow. We are already getting warnings from cable programmers like ESPN, that we may face extended outages. Though we don't need to board up our windows here in Glasgow, we do need to prepare.

Though our technology normally functions so well that we completely ignore it, the truth is that beaming live television events to cable systems all over the world involves unbelievably intricate devices working flawlessly, and continuously. For example, when you watch a sporting event on ESPN or a live news program from CBS, NBC, ABC, or Fox, there are satellite earth-stations, many of which are in New York or other places in the northeast, beaming that programming to a satellite parked 22,236 miles over our heads. In turn, that satellite retransmits that programming down to satellite receivers at cable systems and local broadcast stations in thousands of cities across our land. Hundreds of pieces of technology are involved to make these seemingly simple events appear in our homes.

If any component in that route breaks down, your normal television programming is affected. In the case of Sandy coming in right now, the liklihood of breakdown of the satellite uplinks seems considerable. This is something you should know and prepare for.

Of course, we all know power outages to the folks along the coastal areas is assured. Normally their problems would not affect us in Glasgow, but it is not beyond imagination for us to be impacted. The TVA power grid, to which we are attached, is also interconnected with many power grids that will be greatly affected by Sandy. Though unlikely, sometimes trouble in a neighboring grid can ripple out to cause trouble here. Even if the TVA grid is not immediately affected, we will all surely be impacted by the amount of damage about to be done and the amount of electric power distribution hardware which will be consumed to repair the damage. It is likely that we will have trouble finding some conductor and hardware items for the next several weeks, and that can certainly impact our ongoing work to maintain the electric system here in Glasgow.

Finally, spend a bit of time thinking about how the internet might be impacted by Sandy. The area where the storm is hitting is the point where most of the transatlantic cables depart North America headed for other continents. That same area houses dozens of the servers and routers that make your favorite web sites available to us here in Glasgow. If those servers farms should flood or lose power for extended times, our internet service right here in Glasgow will be impacted. It is time to make plans for that as well.

We hope all of our fellow countrymen along the storm's track have good luck and that the plans they have made are effective. This storm is going to present unprecedented problems for us all. I hope we are all ready.     

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