My Hurricane / Reef Story
by, 09-09-2011 at 06:49 AM (654 Views)
Well, we finally got internet access back last night so I thought that I would update the group on my reefís status and how it made out with a 9 day power outage caused by Hurricane Irene that swept the east coast a few weeks ago. I was prepared only with a D battery operated air pump, air stone and a turkey baster thinking that this would suffice. I was wrong.
The power went out at about 4am on Sunday August 28th as it did for most .Of course the first thoughts were for family and property safety and then, THE REEF TANK HAS NO POWER so I dutifully deployed my battery operated air pump and went back to bed! As we woke up on Sunday morning the wind was still whipping and the rain was intermittently torrential but it didnít appear to be much worse than a really bad rain storm so I was hopeful that the power would be restored quickly. As the wind and rain began to let up I decided to take a walk outside and see what if any damage was done. Our home is very well secluded and surrounded by trees. My worst fear would have been if a tree fell across our long driveway trapping us or worse hit the house or pool. Well, those fears were confirmed and indeed a tree had blocked our passage to the main road. A CHANCE TO USE MY CHAINSAW! Things were looking up! At any rate, I never did get to use my chainsaw because some wonderful neighbors that were going door to door to check on folks cut the tree apart and removed it from the driveway with their bucket loader.
Now that we knew we were safe and that the house and property didnít sustain any damage our eyes shifted to keeping the kids busy and making it a fun, non-scary experience for them. I recall doing the same with my parents and sister during hurricane Gloria and its aftermath and as a kid it was a pleasurable memory.
As night fell and the end of day one without power the novelty of the experience was beginning to wane and it would really have been nice to be able to easily flush the toilets, take showers and see where the heck you were going in the house. The kids also became a bit scared of the fact that we were using small flashlights and candles to get them ready for bed. We settled them down and my wife and I had a great first night just talking, something that you tend not to do much of when there are distractions like television and the Internet.
When the sun rose on day two and the kids were becoming impatient and looking for breakfast the reality of having no power was a little more nerve grating than the day before. Again, we made the best of the experience, lit the fire pit in the back yard and made a nice breakfast on the grill of bacon, eggs and pancakes. Still not terrible but it was high time for the power to be restored and our lives back to normal. We played games again that day and then went out in the car to see how the rest of the town made it through the storm. Well, when we made it out to the main road and took our tour we saw all of the downed trees and power lines for the first time. It was at this moment that I began to realize that power would not be restored for quite some time. Reef panic began to set in and I quickly went into survival mode. The air stone and bubbler was not going to be enough to sustain life and the only other tool that I had at this point was my trusty turkey baster. To top it all off, the house room temperature had plummeted during the night because we had all of the windows open for ventilation and the tank temperature followed suit. Both the house and tank were now at 60 degrees. DOUBLE PANIC! I had no way of heating the tank and thought for sure that this was the beginning of the end. All day I periodically blew some current into the tank with the baster and watched as the bubbles from the battery operated air pump coated the walls, tank and light fixture with salt creep.
As the end of day two fell, one of our fellow reefers became a hero for our family and lent us a small generator that was capable of handling the heater, a power head and a few household appliances like our refrigerators and a lamp so that we could have some light. We are forever grateful to him for this kind gesture! It took the sting out of having no light and some of the tank burden off of me. Additionally we were able to charge our cell phones and access the 3g internet for CL&P updates regarding power restoral estimates. I limited the generator usage to those appliances because I am not all that mechanical and didnít understand exactly how much I could run on the generator and I had no idea if overloading it would have caused damage. I know differently now and may have added a few more things to its load. At this point in time, the water issue was becoming more aggravating and we were at a different house about every night to take showers and give the kids baths. We were concerned about the security of the house because the alarm system was down so we didnít stay away from home long.
The following days were much the same, the tank was on auto pilot and was going to either make it or not. I quickly lost my small HOB refugium to lack of flow, heat etc and it was take apart before the smell could make its way through the house. So far, this was a small price to pay however my biggest tank fears were outweighing this loss. Lack of light and excess nutrient exportation was a concern but there little could be done. I gritted my teeth and stuck with turkey basing off detritus as best I could and hoped for the best.
As time went on the tank was still a huge elephant in the corner but I stopped complaining about it to my wife because she was sick of it, and I donít blame her, the kids were becoming progressively miserable and my patience with the outage was gone and we were all at our breaking points. From what I could see when looking in the tank with a flashlight the tank and organisms were humming along nicely although there was beginning to be a slight musty smell to the water and there was some lack of PE I was hopeful for a quick recovery once the power was returned and I could perform a large water change.
On day 8, Monday, I took the family up to Puppy Center in West Hartford, CT for some replacement supplies and supplements that I felt would help in my recovery process. I was in desperate need of carbon and GFO as well as some new filter bags for these media and figured while I was there and seeing that there was a serious lack of light and photosynthesis that some liquid food meant for stony corals was in order to bring back my PE and help recolor the coral if they had begun to brown. I also bought amino acid and potassium supplements which I had used before during a power head malfunction and subsequent total bleaching incident with much success and would deploy these slowly once power was returned and my refugium and skimmer were up and running.
Well, as it did for most of us in Connecticut, this outage lasted a very long time. In our case again it was 9 days! The water issue, no toilets, showers, sinks etc was the worst for us but we all pulled through just fine. We have a better appreciation for the things that we just took for granted, know now who our true friends are, are stronger as a family and will be better prepared for future outages/disasters. I am happy to say that the tank also survived no worse for the wear. Sure, I had to restart my refugium and change out all of my media and I did lose two zoa colonies and have a few patches of regular old HA that sprouted but nothing catastrophic. I also have a new respect and view for my tank and its inhabitants. While they are fragile, they are resilient. I think also that if you are raising a healthy tank and practicing good husbandry, test your water often and have the correct mix of corals Ie. No toxic leathers that may slime up in an extended outage and chemically pollute the tank killing more sensitive organisms in the process etc etc, that your reef is better prepared to survive during times of stress or less than ideal circumstances. Additionally and after years of reading about fellow reefers who swear by 3 days per month of total darkness to promote better health and overall appearance of their tank in the way of nuisance algae suppression, I now understand their point and will likely be attempting this myself in the coming weeks. The tank has never appeared cleaner and I have yet to perform a water change for lack of time and pressing work and home issues while I get back on track post storm.
All of this said, I have learned a valuable lesson and will be installing a whole house, propane driven, auto transfer Generac in the coming days. I never want to experience the lack of power again or have to worry this much over a hobby that I love.
My family owe huge debt of gratitude to all of the great folks that I have met through my local club CTARS (Connecticut Area Reef Society) who offered assistance, took phone calls and texts from me for advice and gave of themselves to help my family and reef. THANKS so much from the bottom of my heart !
To all of those who were not as fortunate as I, donít get discouraged! You can rebuild! You probably have learned a few tricks along the way since you began and consider it a ďdo-overĒ to create a better aquascape, more avenues for flow and less dead spots, more or less rock depending on your taste etc etc. Have fun with it and HAPPY REEFING!