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October 22nd, 2022

The Dead Birds That Saved Lives…

Sometime after I bought the house the furnace that was in it suffered a cracked heat exchanger and my CO detectors went off. Since just then I didn’t know for certain what was causing my CO detectors to alert, my first instinct was to call the gas company. But the gas company says no, first you call the fire department.

Here’s why…

1 dead, 10 hospitalized from carbon monoxide leak after birds alert firefighters

AKRON, Ohio (WJW) – One person has died following a carbon monoxide leak at an Ohio apartment complex in which pet birds alerted firefighters to the danger.

A fire crew had been called to an older man’s apartment for a medical emergency. He seemed confused, disoriented. While they examined him the old man asked about his birds…he had almost a dozen of them. One of the firemen looked over at a cage…and saw four dead birds on the bottom of it. There was a carbon monoxide leak somewhere in the apartment complex.

They went door to door checking for CO in the apartments and looking for the leak.  Behind one door they had to break down they found a family and kids already unconscious and got them to the hospital. In all, one resident was found in their bathroom, dead, and ten were taken to the hospital. 

This is why when, years ago, I called the gas company they told me no, call the fire department. The fire department can break down doors if they have to in order to fight a fire, or track down where a CO leak is coming from. In my case, though I was pretty sure the CO was coming from my furnace, the fire department had to make sure it wasn’t coming from somewhere else, or got into any other units next to or near mine. After they localized it to my furnace, They called the gas company, who came with a more sensitive detector and eventually showed me where on the heat exchanger the crack was, and then put a little Out Of Service tag on my furnace. (Not that I was likely to turn it back on again!)

I had space heaters and it wasn’t so bitterly cold just then, but I ended up having to spend about five grand for an entire new furnace. Upside was the new one is a Lot more efficient than the one that was there.

I’ve written about this previously. My CO detectors probably saved my life. At the time I had two of them, one in the basement near the furnace, and the other in my bedroom. Now I have them on all three floors. They’re a tad pricey and you have to replace them periodically, but they can save your life so just get some. The rule of thumb is you put your CO detectors near the floor, and your smoke detectors near the ceiling.

[Update…] I’m told now that putting your CO detectors near the floor is a myth. Usually people put them there because they often need to be plugged into an electric outlet, but they can go nearly anywhere because CO mixes easily with the air in a room. I would still recommend putting one near your bed at head level…but…wherever seems to be fine as long as one is near the bedroom and none of them are too close to fuel fed appliances like a stove or furnace.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Dead Birds That Saved Lives…

February 11th, 2021

Bridge Freezes Before Roadway

I’m watching Weather Channel reporting on that awful chain reaction pileup in Texas, and noting that it happened on a long overpass.

Some years ago, driving back home from a visit to California family, I ducked as far south as I could because the forecasts were for snow and ice almost as far south as the Mexican border. No kidding, there was snow along I-8 just west of San Diego and I saw people pulling their cars off to the shoulder and kids getting out to scoop up handfuls of snow like they’d never seen it before. Probably they hadn’t. One night I stopped well before the sun went down in Odessa Texas. I stopped early because I was aware the temperatures would drop below freezing after sundown, and I didn’t want to be on the roads then. Even so, I noted in the motel parking lot, little puddles of ice trying, and failing, to melt. I asked the desk clerk about the weather and she told me they’d had an ice storm and only recently got their power back on.

Next morning I packed the car and continued driving east on I-20. And I am not exaggerating here: every bridge and overpass I went by, even if it was just over a small dry run, had an accident on it, or just past it. Fortunately none of them looked fatal. But there were tractor-trailers on their sides, there were banged up cars and pickups. I saw what looked like a brand new and expensive pickup that was all torn up on on the driver’s side where it had bounced off the bridge railings. And I could tell that the locals don’t really grok how snow and ice change driving conditions, because it did that to them so rarely.

Climate change is giving them a new reality on the roadways, and the high local interstate speed limits (85 in most places west of Dallas), combined with a less than intuitive understanding of how bridges and overpasses freeze up before the rest of the pavement does, was a perfect storm of accidents waiting to happen. They have no infrastructure down there for dealing with snow and ice, because that’s costly to maintain and why would you when it gets like that so rarely. But times are changing.

This horrific chain reaction pileup happened on a long overpass and I’m sitting here watching the reporting and I just know what happened. The locals, too many of them I reckon, just don’t get, from lived experience how even if the roads are good the bridges probably might not be, and you have to pay attention to falling temperatures, even, or especially, when there hasn’t been very much rain beforehand. The slightest little bit of wet on the bridge and the temperature goes down and Newtonian forces will do their thing when you transition to the pavement on that bridge. You probably won’t even see the danger. Thin enough ice and it’ll look dry and it isn’t.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Bridge Freezes Before Roadway

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