Sunday, November 27, 2011

Wet Weather Woes, Power Interruptus.

My power went off this morning. I have a sixth sense when the power goes off and wake right up.  Can't say I was surprised, there was a storm that hit the south coast in the last day or so. It rained all yesterday, not hard but steady. It was raining high up the mountain side and all that rain coming down on wet snow with frozen ground under it means trouble. It continued into the night and around 10 o'clock there were a half dozen flashes and thunder that sounded like it was right above me. Then finally at 5 am off it went. I need to get up and deal with the problem to some extent. Theres no pulling the covers over your head and waiting for a hydro guy to come and turn your lights back on. So I stumble around in my unusually dark cabin trying to find my attire I've strewn around the night before. The cabin was still warm through out so I knew the power had gone out suddenly, like something came down the line and clogged the nozzle, rather than say if it was a debris clog on the intake screen that may take awhile to happen all the while there is reduced voltage going to the baseboard heaters, then eventually the hot tub will kick on and the system can't maintain the load and a sensor over at the pelton wheel shack releases a counter weighted diverter that drops in front of the water jet, shutting the system down. Non the less, I need to get up and go over and at least turn off the main valve to avoid the possibility of making things worse.
Heading off the front deck in the predawn darkness I can hear the creek that flows by. I can't see it through the drizzle with my flashlight but I can sense that it has probably grown by threefold over night. Moving away from the sound of the creek I can clearly hear the waterfalls up the mountain behind. They sound like a jet taking off. Somewhere up there in the clouds at the top of the falls was my by now much battered intake screen. It takes only a few minutes to trudge my way over to the pelton wheel enclosure. First thing I check is the pressure gauge, its right up there around 200 psi. I can't read it with normal glasses but I felt tip penned a little mark right at the "needle should be here" point. If it is reading low I know the intake is clogged, but if it reads correct the problem has to be at the nozzle. I turned off the large main valve and elected go crawl back into bed and deal with this further in the light of the new day.
There is a large inspection plate held on with twelve bolts. The foam board is to kneel on. Note the weighted drop arm for the jet stream diverter.
Close up of jet, that is where it generally clogs. Note diverter, there is still a stream of water coming out, I have the main valve closed but I think there must be a little trash holding it open a sliver. At any rate the nozzle appears to be free of obstuction, I expected the usual finger sized piece of bark. Something less than the diameter of a pencil can seriously restrict it, then with some debris like moss or pine needles coming down behind it will cause your electric blanket to go off in the middle of the night. Somewhat mystified I buttoned it back up for a short trial run. Opening up the large wheeled main valve it speeds up but I can tell it has got the pressure, but not the volume, meaning there must be some larger debris a little further in, restricting the flow. That involves pulling apart the taper and nozzle and entails heavy wrenches and a floor jack and a sore back and I need to sort out that valve leakage deal, I can't work on it like that. I may leave that for later, or better yet, tomorrow. At any rate it is not wise to run it until I have learned the fate of the intake screen, the last thing I need is to suck more debris down the line. So the only thing I can do is wait for the rain to abate, and the creek to peak and begin to subside.
I'm kind of set up for this sort of thing but I am by far a happier camper with the power on. I have a gas powered generator I guess I could fire up but I hate pouring gas into the thing. I loaded up the stove and kicked back with a book and waited for the weather.
                                          Cat food powered lap warmer.

Pretty soon with enough getting up and dumping the cat from my lap and looking at the creek it started to drop ever so slightly. That was all the encouragement I needed to break out the Honda and go check out conditions up the hill at the dam. Off I go splashing down the road for about half a klik and get to the dip in the road at the base of logging spur T200 that goes up past my intake pond. There the dip in the road has filled with run off and I wasn't to sure if I wanted to go in there or not.

Of course I had to try and began to slowly nose my way across but chickened out pretty quick when an alternate route came to mind about the time the water was ready to run over the tops of my boots. I backed out and tore back in the direction I had come and did a sharp left up the snow covered bank. The snow had been rained down enough that I was able to bushwack my way across the slope and intercept T200 from another angle.
You may recall in my previous post I mentioned water bars that are cut into road to divert the water and  avoid this type of thing. This is what happens when the water jumps the bar. As it turned out I didn't have much difficulty getting up the mountain to the intake. There was enough water running and and using my previous tracks I could always keep one set of wheels on good traction and the Honda clawed its way up once again.
This is what greeted me at my once docile intake pond.
Some where under the froth is the lip of the dam, and the remnants of my battered intake screen. Its going to have to go down quite a bit more before I can get in there and see whats happened. That elbow you see is a vent for draining the main line (penstock).

 I came back down the hill and headed straight for the hot spring to see how it fared, and if anyone was stranded  there due to  the conditions.
The creek at the hotspring tubs had spillled its banks but nothing too serious, sometimes it comes over top of the walkway. There were 3-4 wet looking campers standing around in the slush down there. The hot spring source had taken in so much rain and snow melt run off that it lowered the temperature enough to make it unsuitable for soaking. The spring  usually recovers back to normal overnight.

Well, anyways, I did manage to get the system running some in the end. I'm having to rough it a little.Not making very much power, but enough for tonight, enough for lights, CBC radio, and computer to sit here and do this. Actually, I've had to write this twice. Often my typing is done with at least one cat draped over an arm. I don't know what Skookie did earlier, but he rolled over and somehow we erased the whole post other than the last sentence, and the first paragraph. I started over without the assistance of a cat this time. Tomorrow I'll have to sort out all the pelton wheel problems, and maybe go up the hill and splash around in the froth at the top of the falls a bit.
Going to be a fun day for sure.

Monday-Well the water continued to recede overnight enough that I was able to get close enough to the pond to fish out the remnants of my beat up screen filter.
The mesh screen is completely tore up, that is that heap of wire and debris sitting on top. I have a new roll of screen here but not quite enough to do the job so I will have to get more on next trip to town. In the mean time I put on a temporary screen, the same one I use in cold weather.

This is the last section of taper on the pelton wheel, you can see the amount of sticks, needles and moss that had packed up behind the nozzle after the screen in the pond up top was damaged.
 I need to make a new gasket every time I remove the pelton nozzle. Simple process on cast, or steel parts, you tap around the sharp edge with a ball peen hammer and it cuts out a professional looking gasket. I remember my dad showing me this technique about 40 years ago, probably something he picked up around grandad's logging operation at Port Douglas when he was young.
I had the system cranked up by noon and all back to normal, that wasn't so bad only being down for a day and a half.



  1. Wow, adventures in paradise, hope its not too difficult to get going again.