February 6, 2011
The Butterfly Effect
The idea behind The Butterfly Effect is that the flap of a butterfly's wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the weather. It’s a principle of The Chaos Theory.
A field of study in applied mathematics, the name “comes from the fact that the systems that the theory describes are apparently disordered, but chaos theory is really about finding the underlying order in apparently random data.” The discoverer, meteorologist Edward Lorenz, began experimenting in 1960; after a couple of years of calculating measurements, he stated that it is impossible to determine the weather accurately.
This may seems extreme or absurd, especially to those of you living in California and Florida, but I believe that if a monarch sneezes in Mexico, we lose power. I don’t know how many times during the 24 years we’ve lived here that our electricity has gone out during a minor rain or snow storm. I can see lights ablaze four houses up the street in Cleveland Heights, but in East Cleveland, we’re in the dark, straining to read by candlelight.
Insignificant thunderstorms have felled trees which have caused 24-hour outages. Of course, big storms affect us big time. The thunder-boomer that blew through Northeast Ohio in August of 1994 knocked out power for tens of thousands of people. I was working in Middleburg Heights where the lights flickered, the computers stalled, but everything resumed to normal within hours. Poor Bill was working here at home and when the power went down, it went down. For four days. Of course, he was on deadline. By the time I got home at every night, he was really really cranky.
During this episode, electricity was restored for communities throughout the region within hours, a day, two days. We waited. We lost all the food in our refrigerator. We continued to wait. At least our gas stove worked so we heated water to make coffee in the French press. The a/c was useless so we slept in the living room with the windows open. Four days is a long time for a modern upwardly mobile career couple to be thrown back to the early 1900s.
We bought a generator and it’s saved our, and our neighbors Ed and Marilyn’s, chicken breasts and ice cream many times since. During the Northeast Blackout of 2003 when the eastern grid darkened communities from the Atlantic seaboard into Canada, Bill cranked up the generator and we watched the news on a small TV. By alternating fridge and freezer, nothing spoiled. It’s worth the hassle for Bill to hook up. And the noise. A generator is very loud.
Last week, the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore was in Chicago, which got hit with 20+ inches of snow and ice. The Cleveland talking heads predicted a storm for Greater Cleveland that would down even more trees, cause even more outages, I thought for certain that we’d wake sometime during the night in the dark cold. By the time I went to bed, I was already feeling sorry for Bill having to work outside in freezing temps.
According to NewsNet5, some 10,000 people in Cleveland and thousands of other people in Lorain, Medina, Summit, Stark, Huron, and Geauga counties were without electricity. But not us. Look at the red area on this map.
We’re surrounded, but this time, we’re not a statistic. Yippee! Of the 200,000 households affected, East Cleveland somehow, someway, escaped!
I should not get overly optimistic. Like a car, a generator needs occasional maintenance. The fuel should be clean, the plugs unplugged, oil and all filters changed on a regular basis. Old, watery gas in the bottom of the tank will not let the machine fire up. Do I need to tell you that Bill hasn’t done these tasks for months and months?
And there will always be another storm. The butterfly predicts it.