Elektro Ljubljana power outages

22.02.2014 17:50

Today is Open Data Day. Unfortunately our little local group didn't have an organized event this year, so I thought I would contribute by releasing a little project of my own.

During the glaze ice disaster this month I've been collecting data from Elektro Ljubljana to share with family and friends living on the affected areas and keep them up-to-date with the situation.

Elektro Ljubljana is one of the larger distributors of electrical energy in Slovenia. It maintains the distribution infrastructure in the central and southern regions of the country, including our capital city Ljubljana. They cover 36% of the population according to their website. From the beginning of the crisis they have been publishing reports on the state of their infrastructure several times per day. They continue to do so, since emergency crews still haven't been able to reach some damaged parts of their network.

Distribution network of Elektro Ljubljana

Image by Elektro Ljubljana d.d.

I've downloaded these hand-written reports and converted them into machine-readable JSON format through a hastily written Python scraper (not proud of parsing HTML with regular expressions, but I've been in a hurry). The data starts at the first report on January 31 and continues to the latest report published today.

You can get the extracted data on GitHub as well as scripts that have been used to extract it:

$ git clone https://github.com/avian2/elektro-ljubljana-outages.git

The following graph shows the number of clients without electrical power (red), affected transformer stations in the whole network (green) and affected transformer stations in the Logatec region (where, in addition to my family, also the Log-a-tec network resides):

Elektro Ljubljana outages due to glaze ice

The animation below shows the development of the outages over time. The color of each region shows the number of transformer stations without power. It would be better if the percentage of affected stations would be shown, but unfortunately I do not have data on the total number of stations in each region.

Posted by Tomaž | Categories: Life | Comments »

Story of ice and more ice

20.02.2014 21:36

As you might have heard, the beginning of February has been kind of crazy regarding weather.

I spent the last week of January with my parents in Austrian alps, enjoying a vacation away from the grid. During the days when we were planning to travel back home more than 2 meters of snow fell in the south of the country. This record snow-fall was too much even for the industrious Austrian road services and all connections with Slovenia were closed. We were lucky to be able to wait it out a warm place.

When the Austrian roads cleared on Saturday we headed home. Unfortunately, the worst was still waiting for us on the other side of the border. When we arrived at my parents', the country was covered in perhaps half-meter snow and encased in an inch or so of ice. Trees were already falling due to heavy glaze ice and we narrowly escaped a trunk falling on the road. It took picks and dirt shovels and heavy work until nightfall to dig ourselves through the snow and ice on the driveway to the house.

That evening first the cable TV went dark and soon after that the power grid. The night was something straight out of a nightmare. It wasn't a storm. Just a persistent slow drizzle freezing on everything it touched. There were constant flashes of incredibly bright blue-green light reflected from the overcast sky. Some close, some far away, from shorted transmission lines. The neighbor's house alarm was triggered by the loss of power and then died down. After that the only thing that could be heard from the dark were loud cracks from trees splintering under the weight of ice.

The next morning there was hardly a tree still standing on my parents' yard. The ice was still thickening and wouldn't clear for a week. Most of the country was in state of emergency due to closed roads and destroyed electrical transmission lines. Logatec, city my parents live in, was among the ones that were hit the hardest by ice.

Glaze ice in Logatec

It's a scary feeling to be in a situation like that. The local supermarket opened running on an emergency generator. We were let in through the staff entrance in the back. It was dark, with only the cash registers powered up. The refrigerators with frozen goods were locked. A customer was yelling loudly at a lady behind the counter how outraged he was that he couldn't get fresh bread. I kept thinking whether I should buy more food than usual in case this situation will last more than a few days and whether that would look weird.

It's amazing to what degree we take electric power for granted today. Water and heat run out surprisingly fast without it. Checking for announcements on local government web site becomes highly nontrivial when the battery in your mobile phone runs down and later when the generator at the GSM base station runs out of fuel. Surprisingly, the only service that was working almost without interruptions, at least at my parents' house, was the telephone land-line.

In the age of electric stoves and kilowatt hair dryers mere 2 kW from a generator is preciously little. Even when you think you have everything prepared for an emergency there are still surprises. My father bought a generator exactly for a contingency like this. He serviced it yearly and kept it in good order, but it still took a few overhauls until it was running smoothly under the load of the central heating system. Many people found out that their generators were out of oil or fuel after a few years of gathering dust.

The server handling this website, my mail and a few other services was also knocked off-line. I had an automated duplicity backup, which I regularly used to restore an odd file or two. I was confident that I could rely on it. When I tried restoring the full backup however I hit two bugs that made moving my things to other servers far less than trivial.

According to reports at the height of the crisis one-fifth of the country was without power and the distribution infrastructure in the Notranjska region was almost completely destroyed. While a temporary line was established to my parents' neighborhood after a week and a half, there are still frequent day-long outages.

Even though my place in Ljubljana never lost power, I now keep a few spare batteries and a battery powered FM radio in the top drawer. And I have even more respect for people I know that volunteered in local emergency services and did long shifts to help people in need.

Posted by Tomaž | Categories: Life | Comments »